The Reason Why Pit Bulls Can’t Swim Well

Swimming is one of the exercises that indulges almost all the muscles in the body and can benefit both humans and dogs. Dogs just like humans, require exercise to strengthen their bodies and improve their flexibility. Aside from these factors, other common benefits of exercise for dogs include improving the overall health of the dog, offer low-impact exercises, which can also be performed by dogs that have sustained injuries, relieve stress, and offer a cooling solution for dogs during summer. While swimming has many benefits, not all dogs have the ability to swim well. For instance, pit bulls have trouble swimming even because of their anatomic structure.

History of Pit Bulls

The American pit bull was introduced in the United States in the 19th century and was bred for bull-baiting purposes. The breeding focused on increasing the body mass of the dogs that would be used in the farm to ensure that they would be able to battle bulls, while at the same time remain energetic. The breeding process resulted in dogs that had large jaws, strong muscles, a fleshy nose, a square face, and a short tail. With reduced engagement in agricultural farming in American and increased domestication of pets, individuals who owned pit bulls began using them as house pets because of their friendly nature towards children. Since they were originally bred to bait bulls, they are often aggressive towards other animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association banned unregulated breeding of dogs because of the unknown species that would result from such breeding practices.

Here are some reasons why pit bulls can’t swim well:

Pit Bulls have short and thin limbs

Pit bulls have short and thin limbs, which prevent them from padding the water like other dogs when they swim. Their legs cannot perform strong doggie paddles, which are essential in ensuring that dogs easily move in water and remain afloat. Their short and thin limbs when compared to the ratio of their body suggests that they strong thrusts to propel them in water. As such, they are likely to get tired faster than other dogs when swimming.

Dense Muscular Frame

Unlike most pet dogs, pit bulls have a lean and dense muscular frame. Their muscular frame was designed to equip them with adequate strength for bull-baiting. According to an article on swimming published on the Scientific American website, muscle is denser than fat meaning that a dog with more muscles would have a difficult time staying afloat when compared to one with lower muscle fat and slightly higher fat mass.

Large Square-Shaped Heads

Pit bulls have a large square-shaped head that is quite heavy when compared to the heads of other dogs. Dogs are required to keep their heads above the water when they swim. Pit bulls struggle with keeping their heads above the water because of the overall mass of their body and their characteristic short stature. Lifting and keeping a large head afloat for long durations, while at the same time maneouvering the techniques of paddling in water is a major struggle for pit bulls. Their large square-shaped heads, which are characterized by wide jaws also make it difficult for them to avoid drinking a lot of the pool water. Pit bulls that are not well trained are likely to drink large amounts of pool water. Their inability to float also increases their likelihood of panicking. They can also become aggressive when trying to grasp anything that might be close to them.

Thin Coats and Short Hair

Pit bulls are renowned for their thin coats and short hair. They are single-coated dogs, which means that they do not have an undercoat. While the short hair might making their grooming easy, its ineffectiveness in repelling water. Their single coat also makes them prone to hypothermia because of the lack of an undercoat to retain their body temperature.

Here are some tips on how to help pit bulls swim:

Early Training

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), early training can help dogs develop better swimming techniques, regardless of their anatomic limitations. AKC explains that not all dogs are natural swimmers, and some like pit bulls may require early training the help them get used to being in the water and adopt swimming techniques that can help them remain afloat. Dog owners can also support their dogs by placing their arms under the dog’s belly during training them.

Life Vests

Life vest can help pit bulls float on water. The buoyant nature of life vests will counteract Pit bulls’ heavy muscle mass. Life vests are also effective in reducing the risks of drowning. Owners who opt to buy life vests for their dogs should ensure that they get the right size and buckle the vests correctly to avoid obstructing the dog’s airway.

Limiting Swimming Time

Since pit bulls cannot swim for prolonged periods without getting fatigued. Owners need to limit the swimming time. Pit bulls left in the pool for prolonged periods can develop a fear of water or drown. Limiting the time pit bulls stay in water can also reduce the risks of hypothermia.

Practice in the Shallow End

Pit bull owners should teach their dogs to swim in the shallow end to help them adapt to being in the water. Pit bulls were naturally bred to stay on land. As such, they might be afraid to get in a swimming pool. Pit bull owners should train their dogs in shallow waters before introducing them to the deep end.


While the anatomical structures of pit bulls make it difficult for them to swim, acquiring the right swimming gear can improve their swimming experience. It is important to note that buying a life jacket or vest to help pit bulls swim better should not be substituted with supervision. Even with a life jacket, pit bulls might still struggle, especially if left in the swimming pool for prolonged hours. Adhering to these guidelines could reduce the risks of illnesses, accidents, cases of drowning, or death. Pit bull owners should be patient with their dogs and understand that the anatomic structure of dogs differs based on their species.

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