The best part about going for a swim? Shaking off the water all over the next available human! Many dogs love to paddle, especially in the summer months when it lets them cool down. But do Border Collies like water? Do they like to swim? Do they have webbed feet? Are they waterproof? We will answer all of your water/Border Collie related questions – including how to train your collie to enjoy water more!
Do Border Collies Like Water? Most Border Collies enjoy swimming and playing in water. This may be because of their herding instincts and ancestry – dogs who herd livestock often have to wade through water or cross rivers in order to keep the animals together. However, every dog has their own personality and preferences and some prefer to stay on dry land.
Border Collies have a fascinating relationship with water, they often seem drawn to as if they have some ancestral connection with the waves. Of course, in a way they do. They may not be classic ‘water dogs’ but a splash and a swim certainly enrich many collies’ lives. Keep reading to find out more about this and everything you need to know on the topic of Border Collies and water – including:
- 10 Training Tips (Get your Border Collie to swim!)
- 11 Life Saving Tips (Staying safe around water!)
- 12 Questions Answered! (Border Collies and water Q & A)
This includes buckets of swimming advice, safety tips, beach games and facts to impress your friends (webbed feet? Really?!!). Let’s dive in!
Do Border Collies Like Water?
Border Collies may not be an Irish Water Spaniel, an Otterhound or a Portuguese Water Dog. BUT, do they like water? For the majority of Border Collies, the answer is a definite yes! They love swimming and playing in the water. Some Border Collies will even try to herd any fish they see in a pond or river! This is not the case for all collies, their affinity for water depends on their individual personality and past experience. Some even have a fear of water.
Border Collies and water often go together. Many will enjoy playing in water and even taking a nice long kayak ride with their human! They really do love the water, especially in hot weather when this helps them keep cool. Some dogs will play in a puddle all day long while others need to be waded through deep water in order to complete their imaginary ‘herding work’.
Whether your dog likes water or not, it’s always important to keep an eye on them when they’re near any large bodies of water just in case they decide to take a swim and need some help out of the water or get into trouble. Find out more about their safety and ‘water intoxication’ below.
Do Border Collies Like To Swim?
Border Collies as a breed are natural swimmers and often have a great instinct to go into the water. Although they are not a traditional ‘water dog’ or ‘aquatic dog’ breed, they can often keep up with (or overtake!) a human swimmer. So, if you have a beach, doggy pool or a pond nearby it is possible/probable they will go for a splash… whether you like it or not!
Do Border Collies like to swim? Most Border Collies can swim and enjoy swimming sessions. They will doggy paddle with their front legs and paws which are partially webbed thereby helping propel them through the water. Border Collies tend to use their tails as rudders while they’re swimming in the water helping them steer. They are able to dive and hold their breath underwater. However, some individual collies may be afraid of water if they have had a negative experience.
It is usually easy to teach a dog to swim – in fact, you will likely not have to do much teaching! As natural swimmers, collies normally pick up the technique quickly. However, if you have an extremely fearful or anxious collie, then it may be tougher for them to learn since they will become distracted by their fear. Follow the 10 step training tips below – or go for professional doggy swimming lessons, if your pup is willing!
How Do I Get My Border Collie To Like Water? (10 Training Tips!)
If your dog is not a fan of water or swimming, then don’t worry! Swimming may seem to be a personal preference, but in most cases collies can be trained to love swimming and overcome their fears.
Here are 10 training tips to help get your Border Collie to like water and enjoy swimming:
- Set expectations – The first and most important step in teaching your dog to swim is setting expectations and knowing your dog. Some dogs may never take to swimming – it all depends on their breed, personality and general interest level. It is fine if your collie never wants to swim, it should be fun!
- Patience over force – Don’t force your dog to get in the water right away. If you do, they are likely to develop a fear of water. Instead, introduce them slowly. Generally, the more exposure to water that your dog has had, the more likely they are to become good swimmers.
- ‘Exposure therapy’ – The best way to get your dog used to swimming is by slowly acclimatizing them. One way is to introduce running water from a shower or hosepipe, then add the sensation of getting the paws wet when walking through puddles, then finally put their feet into a pool of water before putting the whole body in, taking care not to spray directly in the face.
- No big deal! – Simply play with your dog near any body of water, or throw a stick or their favorite toy progressively further into the shallows for them to retrieve. This will help your Border Collie to enjoy swimming and playing in water; over time until eventually they are comfortable enough to wade through shallow waters or splash around.
- Deeper waters – Once they are used to walking through small amounts of water, try introducing your dog to deeper bodies of water – many Border Collies will be happy to play around in the water once they get used to it, building up from kiddie pool to a deep pool or slow-flowing river.
- Natural swimmers? – Some collies will simply pick up swimming on their own, while others need some help learning the ropes. Most, however, will be natural swimmers and just need their confidence building gradually. Some dogs may not know they are strong swimmers until it’s time for a quick swim in the river upstream, chasing that frisby!
- Getting out! – Depending on if your dog falls in or jumps in, they may need a little help getting back to dry land. If your dog isn’t a good swimmer, you may have to help them stay afloat or get them out of the water using a branch or rope.
- Lead the way! – Border Collies love chasing, and following you. SO, if you are brave enough to go swimming, they may try to follow you in. Just be careful the water is safe and not too cold for you both – and that you have a banks person with a throw rope and buoyancy aid ready to help out!
- Fetch sticks and stones – If you throw something into the water that your dog can retrieve, they will naturally want to swim out and get it. Many dogs, especially collies, have a natural instinct to ‘fetch’. If your dog starts to enjoy their time in the water, try throwing some toys for them to fetch or teach them the game of tug-of-war. This will help them see swimming as an opportunity to have fun – whether it be with you, another dog or a toy.
- Water world – You can also try taking your dog to local lakes, rivers or beaches where they will be exposed to the water while it’s still pretty warm. If you take them at a time when there are lots of people in the water, opportunities for dogs to play with other dogs and toys then they’ll start to see that swimming isn’t such a bad thing.
- HEALTH AND SAFETY: Safety around water is critical for both you and your dog. Read the section below for more on how to keep you and your special pal safe!
How Do I Keep My Border Collie Safe Around Water? (11 Life Saving Tips!)
NOTHING is more important than the safety of you and your family and your Border Collie. Sadly, many 1000s of dogs die every year due to drowning, including in family pools and in wild habitats such as rivers or the ocean. To add to this tragedy, humans die all too often, drowning whilst attempting to save their companion. This may be a depressing thought, but important to remember safety rather than getting carried away – in more ways than one!
How do I keep my Border Collie safe around water? 1) Be aware of your surroundings and potential hazards; 2) NEVER leave your dog unsupervised near water. 3) Check the temperature of the water; 4) Maintain voice and eye contact whilst your dog is in the water; 5) Use caution when walking on slippery surfaces; 6) Make sure your dog always has a way out of the water; 7) Teach your dog safety commands like “come” and “stay”; 8) Have TWO lifejackets and a throw rope on hand just in case (NEVER put yourself at risk); 9) Make sure they take breaks from swimming often; 10) Consider inviting a friend as ‘banks person’ if you are entering the water; 11) Watch out for signs of saltwater ingestion or water intoxication. Phone a veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns.
Here are some general health and safety guidelines around water for both Border Collies and their owners – expanded with a little more detail:
- Always be aware of the dog’s surroundings and potential hazards, such as currents, drop-offs, submerged objects, currents and large waves.
- Just like we must never leave young children unattended near bodies of water, the same is true for your dog. NEVER leave your dog unsupervised near water.
- Check the temperature of the water before letting your dog in – it should not be too hot or too cold.
- Stay within close proximity of your dog when he or she is in the water, maintaining voice and eye contact. They should always stay within hearing and sight range – your dog will naturally want to explore, but if they should not stray too far away from you whilst swimming.
- Always use caution when walking on slippery surfaces near bodies of water.
- Make sure your dog always has a way out of the water, especially if there is a current.
- Teach your dog how to swim and basic safety commands like “come” and “stay.”
- Have TWO lifejackets and a throw rope on hand just in case. If your dog gets into trouble you can throw the life jacket attached to the throw rope, and your dog can climb aboard. The second life jacket is for you. But NEVER put yourself at risk, assess the situation calmly and rationally.
- Swimming can be tiring for dogs, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them and make sure they take breaks from swimming often.
- Consider having another human buddy with you as ‘bank’s person’ – for the company and for safety, especially if you are entering the water.
- Watch out for signs of saltwater ingestion or water intoxication (ingesting too much water), such as vomiting, limping, collapsing or seizures. Phone a veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns after a swimming session.
Border Collies and Water Q & A: 12 Questions Answered!
Swimming and playing at the beach or water’s-side provide you and your companion with plenty of physical activity and an enjoyable experience. Perfect for both Border Collie owners and their four-legged friend, with their seemingly never-ending energy reserves!
Here are 12 of the most commonly asked questions about Border Collies and water:
1. Do Border Collies Need Swimming Lessons?
No. While a small number of Border Collies may need a little help to learn to swim, they are natural swimmers and usually do not require any swimming lessons. If your dog is very young, old or has an injury then a professional aqua aerobics pool session and lessons may be worthwhile to ease them in. If you enjoy swimming yourself then it would be fun to take your collie with you! (Follow health and safety guidance above!).
2. Is Swimming Good For Border Collies?
Yes. Swimming is an excellent exercise for all dogs, especially Border Collies who have huge energy reserves, helping tick the ‘mental and physical stimulation’ box. So swimming can be an excellent low impact way to keep your collie active and fit without risking injury due to jumping or running on hard surfaces. Swimming increases muscle mass and helps protect from arthritis and joint injuries. It is also very refreshing for your dog, especially during the hot summer months.
3. Why Do Border Collies Like Water?
Border Collies, like many breeds of dogs, have been bred to do a specific job. In the Border Collie’s case, this job is herding sheep, with origins in the Scottish borders. Genetic selection and breeding over many 100s of years has selected for Border Collies with an affinity for water as they were required to herd sheep whilst wading through water. Because of this breeding, many Border Collies have partly or completely webbed feet! this also means they often have an instinctual curiosity and love for water.
4. Can Border Collies Get Water Intoxication?
Border Collies can take on board lots of additional water when swimming. This is especially the case with collies that bite the waves or ripples as they swim! This can lead to water intoxication which is potentially lethal. This condition causes electrolyte imbalances within the dog’s body which can lead to excessive hydration. Symptoms include vomiting water and mucous, limping, whimpering, collapse and seizures. Contact a veterinarian immediately if you suspect water intoxication.
However, Border Collies are more likely to become dehydrated than develop water intoxication, so always providing them with sufficient fresh water is essential.
5. Do Border Collies Have Webbed Feet?
Border Collies have partially webbed feet. While their feet may look somewhat “floppy” or “webbed” due to their long fur, they are not true webbed feet. The partial webbing helps them to move quickly and effortlessly through water and mud, and also provides extra traction on icy or slippery surfaces. In addition, their paws have a soft pad on the bottom that helps them grip surfaces.
Breeds of dogs with fully webbed feet include Golden Retrievers, Labradors and setters. All dogs are born with webbed feet, but in most breeds the webbing disappears as they grow older.
6. Are Border Collies Waterproof?
Border Collies have a partially waterproof double coat which helps keep them dry and warm during light rain (they don’t mind getting wet!). However, they are not waterproof! They will therefore get soaked through if immersed in water. If your dog is swimming or falls into a big body of water, make sure their fur is dried out as soon as possible.
7. Is It Safe to Swim With My Border Collie?
Border Collies are often very strong swimmers and they love the water, especially if you are joining them. If you are a strong swimmer and the conditions are safe (water temperature, currents, waves etc) then this should be perfectly safe as long as you do not stray too far from the banks. However, there are always risks associated with swimming and having your dog with you can multiply these. Therefore carefully consider health and safety measures (including those outlined above).
8. What Can I Do If My Border Collie Won’t Get Out of the Water?
Border Collies can get carried away and don’t know when to stop, especially whilst enjoying the water and they may need a little help getting them out! Make sure their fur is free from sand or dirt, then try to help them out by offering a favorite toy or a treat. If your dog is still struggling to get out of the water, try pushing on their backside or guiding their front legs. Don’t be afraid to go in yourself if they need a little more help!
9. Do Border Collies Herd Fish?
Border Collies are notorious for herding ducks, geese and even fish in ponds and rivers. This is because they instinctively want to herd them into a tight pack, so your dog will try and do the same with anything in water. When you see your dog trying to herd the ducks or fish when swimming, tell them “leave” or “off,” then throw a toy in the water to distract them.
Also, spend some time watching wildlife like dicks calmly and in silence with them by your side so they learn these are not to be hearded. This will help train your dog not to herd animals when they are near water.
10. Can Border Collies Swim Underwater?
Many Border Collies are excellent swimmers and can stay underwater for extended periods of time. In fact, some Border Collies have been known to rescue people from drowning! All dogs are instinctively able to hold their breath while swimming underwater. Diving and breath-holding underwater is quite an amazing feat that gets better with time and experience. Put on your snorkel and goggles and enter their world, eye-ball to eye-ball underwater!
11. Do Border Collies Like The Beach?
Yes! Border Collies love sand and sea, making them one of the most popular breeds for beach-goers. If you want to go to the beach with your Border Collies, keep in mind that they are likely to bury their nose in the sand while swimming. This is totally natural and nothing to worry about – some dogs even dig holes for themselves before getting into the water! Keep a close eye on them when they are playing around on the shore and follow the health and safety tips above.
However, not all dogs love the sun and heat, so make sure your Border Collie has plenty of shade to protect his or her sensitive skin. They also need protection from biting insects such as sand flies, ticks and mosquitoes!
If you are planning a trip to the beach, bring along their leash and harness and be prepared to help if needed – even strong swimmers can get tired. Also, ingesting too much salt water can also cause vomiting and diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns after a trip to the beach.
12. What Activities Can Border Collies Do At The Beach?
Beach activities for Border Collies can vary depending on their age and health. Younger dogs may love digging holes in the sand, while older dogs prefer lounging under a shady palm tree or swimming.
Many people think of the beach as a place to relax on holiday, but it can be so much more than that if your dog is allowed to join in on the fun! In general, Border Collies love playing just about any sort of game with their owners.
Keep your Border Collie active and happy by trying out these six fun beach games:
- Fetch at the Beach – Bring a few balls to the beach and play fetch in the shallow water! Be sure to bring an extra towel along so you can dry off your pup when he’s done playing.
- Hide and Seek – This game is a favorite for both dogs and kids! Have your dog find you by hiding behind a sand dune or in some nearby vegetation.
- Frisbee – A classic beach game that never gets old. Make sure there is plenty of space for your dog to run around and catch the Frisbee.
- Kibble Scavenger Hunt – Fill a few small containers with kibble and bury them in the sand for your dog to find. This is a great way to keep him entertained and busy for a while.
- Tug of War – This game can be played either on land or in the water. Just make sure you have a good grip on the rope – you don’t want to end up being pulled into the waves!
- Beach Ball – This is another game that can be played in both the water and on land. Make sure your dog knows not to chew on the ball, as this can damage his or her teeth.