Do Golden Retrievers Like Water? Training, Tips, and Fun Games to Play


It’s no secret that unlike cats, most dogs enjoy the water and they have the best time swimming or splashing around in the water, mud, or snow – just anything that requires cleaning them afterward.

However, not all dogs enjoy the water and there are some pooches who are terrified of bath time and they can’t be around pools or any body of water without trying to run away. So, what about golden retrievers? Do they like water or are they terrified of being around it?

I’m glad you asked, because this is actually a really good question.

So, Do golden retrievers like water?  Yes, most golden retrievers love water and they like to swim, however, you should introduce them to the water when they are still young to help them get used to it, if your golden retriever is too scared from the water you can join them for a swim just to give them the courage. 

That was just a part of the answer, keep reading to learn more about your golden retriever and their love for the water. 

Why Do Golden Retrievers Like Water? 

golden retriever swimming to illustrate why do golden retrievers like water

To understand why golden retrievers like water, I need to take you back in time to show you the beginnings of the golden retrievers.

Golden retrievers were bred to retrieve prey for hunters and in order to fetch their prey and bring it back. However, they were being bred in Scotland, where it’s mostly lake and small ponds, so golden retrievers had to go in the water a lot, so they had to be really good in the water as they are on land.

Their initial breeding process started by crossing a water spaniel and a yellow flat-coated retriever and then once more crossing the offspring with water spaniel and other breeds.

That is why they have a dense water repellent outer coat and a thick undercoat, it insulates them from the cold and the upper layer repels water.

So all of that makes them perfect when it comes to swimming plus they are energetic dogs that love swimming. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for golden retrievers because just a 5-minute swim in the pool is equivalent to running over 3 miles and it will take your dog nearly an hour to walk the 3 miles.

Can All Golden Retrievers Swim? 

No, not all golden retrievers can swim, swimming is something you teach them and they are not born with it.

So just like anything else, if you trained them to swim, they will swim and will be great at it but if they weren’t exposed to water when they were young or nobody trained them to swim they will be afraid of being near any water.

However, most golden retrievers love to swim and they will not make training them pretty easy. Does this mean that some golden retrievers don’t like swimming? Absolutely, and some golden retrievers even hate it. You can learn more about why some golden retrievers don’t like the water here.

5 Things That Make Golden Retrievers Good Swimmers 

Here are 5 things that make golden retrievers such good swimmers;

  • The ears 
  • Their coat
  • The long legs 
  • Their cute webbed feet 
  • The natural ability to swim 

Let’s quickly discuss how each of these reasons play a role in making golden retrievers excellent swimmers;

The ears 

Besides giving them their cute looks, the long floppy ears have a great role in helping golden retrievers to swim.

Many dogs can develop ear infections after swimming, so dogs with floppy ears such as golden retrievers, beagles, bloodhounds, poodles, English cocker spaniels, bloodhounds, basset hounds, and coonhounds are most susceptible to swimmer’s ears.

Their ears reduce air circulation, which means it creates an attractive environment for both bacterial and yeast growth and will lead to an ear infection – the scientific name is “otitis externa”.

The golden retriever’s interior ear is an L-shaped structure and it’s a problem for dogs because the ear shape makes it difficult for them to shake out the residual trapped water.

Their coat 

Golden retrievers have a double coat that protects their skin from the elements and insulates their skin from water as well, making them excellent swimmers.

Their undercoat keeps them warm so they are well-suited to swim in the cold water for long periods of time.

Their topcoat is like a shield for them from dirt and debris, it’s also water-repellent so it will keep their skin dog nice and dry.  

So when the golden retrievers are exposed to cold temperatures for long periods. You can learn more about golden retriever coats in my post on why you should never shave a golden retriever.

The long legs 

One of the things that makes golden retrievers great at swimming besides their strong muscular build is their long legs which help them to stay afloat.

Just to be clear, it is not required for your dog to have long legs so they can swim, but if they do. it will just help them in the water.

However, dogs with short legs such as corgis are great swimmers. 

Their cute webbed feet 

You probably did not expect that one, but their cute paws are so much more than about looks. their paws evolved with time, and now every little part in their feet has a purpose.

You already know that the pads on the bottom of their feet protect them and provide some grip as they walk.

However, the golden retriever’s webbed feet help them swim faster, also a small little fact about their webbed feet, it helps them move more dirt while digging. You can learn more about how retrievers’ webbed feet make them better swimmers here.

The natural ability to swim 

Even though golden retrievers need to be trained to swim but they do have the natural ability to swim, a little confused? Well, let me explain.

Golden retrievers have strong limbs, webbed feet, waterproof double coats, floppy ears, and long legs and all of that makes swimming easier for golden retrievers more than most dogs.

So, you can say that their bodies naturally make them swimmers, but to be truly good swimmers, you need to train them from a young age.

15 Steps to teach your golden retriever puppy to swim 

Want to teach your golden retriever how to swim? Here is a proven 15-step process to teach your golden retriever puppy to swim:

  1. Choose a warm day and get ready to wear something you don’t mind getting wet
  2. It’s better if you take them to shallow water (the pool is the perfect place because you can join them)
  3. Have someone else assist you but let them wait outside the water
  4. Get a swimming vest to build their confidence in the water and to make sure that nothing bad happens to them.
  5. Pick up your puppy and get into the water and stand where the water only covers your thighs and face the person who is here to assist you.
  6. Now, slowly lower your pup into the water while you are still holding them
  7. Have one hand secured at the base of their tail
  8. The other hand should be under their belly 
  9. While you are holding them speak to them in a gentle voice and praise them
  10. Slowly lower them into the water but still without releasing them
  11. When the puppy’s legs are in the water they should start paddling on their own and when they do that start praising them in an upbeat voice 
  12. Let the other person call your pup to them and remove the hand from their belly but keep the other hand at their tail to keep them balanced 
  13. When they get close enough to the person release their tail and let them get out
  14. When they finally reach the person, let that person give them a treat 
  15. Repeat the whole thing and every time increase the distance just a little bit 

Want even more instructions and info? I found videos to be helpful as well, and you can watch the video below to learn how to teach your golden retriever to love swimming:

When to take your golden retriever puppy swimming

You can take your golden retriever puppy swimming once they are eight weeks old, do not try to take your puppy before that for their own safety otherwise if they had a risky or a bad experience in the water at such young age, they may hate the water.

So, start teaching them to swim when they are 8 weeks and start in shallow waters such as pools where you can also join them.

How to clean and dry your golden after a swim? 

Your furry friend has a gorgeous double coat, so you really do need to clean and dry them after every swim to keep their coat healthy and shiny.

Cleaning your dog will kinda depend on where you took them for a swim. We have three main scenarios to discuss:

  • Pool 
  • River or a lake 
  • Beach 

Pool 

As we all know that pools have chlorine in them and it’s no secret that chlorine dries out our skin and hair so why would it be different for dogs? 

Chlorine makes dogs suffer from itchy, dry coat and skin, also, the other chemicals in the pool water strip their coat and skin of natural oils.

If your golden retriever has a dark coat, the chlorine may bleach their coat a little bit.

So, how to avoid that from happening? 

  • Before your golden retriever jumps in the pool, spray them with some coat conditioner to protect their coat and skin from drying 
  • If you can get a coat conditioner with sunscreen, it would be even better
  • After the swim, rinse their coat with cool water to remove all the chemicals and the chlorine from their coat.
  • After washing their coat from the chemicals, you can either dry them with a blow dryer or a towel 
  • After you dry them, apply a coat conditioner one more time and use a comb to remove all the dead hair and skin mats.
  • Repeat the process any day they decide to jump in the pool, always remember to groom them to avoid any tangling hair.
  • After cleaning and drying them, dry their ears with cotton. You can check my complete guide on cleaning and drying golden retriever ears here.

For the coat conditioner, I love using the Burt’s Bees Conditioner for dogs, these things work perfectly with golden retrievers – it’s almost like it was made with them in mind. You can check Burt’s Bees hair conditioner spray for dogs on Amazon here or by clicking on the image below.

River or a lake

If you live near a river or lake and your golden retriever loves swimming in it but you are worried about them because many lakes contain high levels of pollutants, so, here is what to do if your golden retriever jumped in one.

  • After a swim in the lake or the river, your golden retriever will need a full bath and grooming.
  • Use plenty of shampoos (choose one without detergents to avoid damaging their coat and skin) to make sure that there is no mud stuck in their coat. Here is my full list of shampoos recommended for golden retrievers.
  • Use a coat conditioner after the shampoo to moisture their coat and skin 
  • Brush through their coat to make sure that there are no tangled spots.
  • Dry their ears with a cotton ball to prevent their ears from drying out.

Beach

If you like to take your family and dog in the summer to the beach, it will be a perfect opportunity for your golden retriever to have so much fun swimming.

However, you need to prepare yourself and your dog for a couple of things such as the sand that will make them itchy, the sun which could damage their coat and skin, and finally, the salt which will just make them uncomfortable.

So, you need to make sure that you have these things with you anytime you go to the beach with your golden retriever. 

  • Towel 
  • Doggy sunscreen 
  • Bristle brush 

You can check my recommended brushes here, and this excellent Epi-pet dog sunscreen on Amazon here.

Here is what you should do to prepare your golden retriever 

  • Before you take your golden retriever to the beach, apply the sunscreen to protect their coat and skin 

Now, for how to clean and dry your golden retriever after the swimming;

  • Before you give them a shower, brush through their coat against the direction of hair growth, and then with it, make sure that you get all the loose stuff out.
  • Give them a good shower to rinse the salt and any dirt from their coat.
  • Dry them with the towel and work with your fingers through their coat to get rid of the salt and loosen the sand.
  • If they seem itchy then you may not have gotten out all the dirt and the sand and you will need to give them a bath as soon as you get home.
  • Use an oatmeal shampoo to help with the itching and to soothe irritated skin.
  • Finally, dry your golden retriever’s ears even with the towel to make sure that their ears aren’t wet because it will make a perfect environment for yeast and bacterial growth.

Make sure to keep your dog hydrated, after a long day in the sun they will need to drink lots of water, so don’t hesitate to give them a break while they are playing or swimming to drink some water.  

7 Fun Games to play with your dog in the water 

You can make swimming more fun by playing some games with your dog and they will love nothing more than playing and spending time with their favorite people, so here are some games to play with your dog in the water and make sure to bring a life jacket for your pup’s safety)

  1. The Water fetch  
  2. The ball of treats
  3. The Keep away 
  4. The Dock diving
  5. The play pirate 
  6. The water hoops 
  7. The raft riding

Let’s quickly discuss each of these games and how you can have fun playing them in the water;

The Water fetch

Make sure that your dog is all set in the water. Now, stand at the shallow end of the pool, throw a toy or a ball to the other end and wait for your dog to retrieve it.

When they get to it, encourage them to bring it back and talk to them in an upbeat voice.

You can also try to stand out of the pool and let your dog use the steps to bring the toy back to you but I personally prefer the first one because when we are with them in the water they become more confident.

The ball of treats

Prepare some treats and place them in plastic sealable balls and stand near the steps, toss the ball to the other end of the pool and when they bring it back, open the ball and give them the treat.

Close the ball and repeat.

The Keep away

To play this game you will need another person and their favorite toy or ball but make sure that the toy or the ball are floating objects.

Stand at a distance from the other person and keep your dog in the middle and toss the ball from one person to another and let your pup swim in the water between you two to chase the ball and make sure to let them win from time to time. 

The Dock diving

In this game, you will both be outside of the water and you will toss a ball or a toy over the water for them while your pooch jumps into the water trying to catch their ball.

The goal of this game is for your pooch to jump as far as possible. 

The play pirate

If your dog is not that great at swimming or they just started swimming then this game is not for them. Your dog needs to have some experience swimming to have fun playing this game.

The main point of this game is to teach your dog to dive, so start by putting your pooch’s favorite toy in shallow water so it’s easy for them to retrieve it at first.

When your pooch picks up their toy from the bottom of that shallow water, reward them with a treat and praise them.

After your pooch learns to retrieve the toy easily, increase the water depth a little bit every time until your pooch masters diving for their toy. 

The water hoops 

If you have a hula hoop, then you can make a fun game for your pup, try to encourage them to jump through the hula hoop on the ground first and reward them with their favorite treat and praise them.

Raise the hula hoop off the ground a little and reward them each time they jump through it and keep raising the height of the hula hoop and keep giving them treats whenever they jump through it successfully.

Once they master it on the ground, take them to the pool with the hula hoop and repeat that again but do not make it too high for them. Remember to keep it fun, you are playing with your dog and not training a circus tiger.

The raft riding

If your pup likes to chill more than playing but they like to join you in the water then it’s okay too, the pool isn’t built for just swimming.

You can get a small raft for your pup and let them sit on the raft on the ground first before taking them to the pool.

Put a treat on the raft and let your pup get it and praise them and give them a treat and when they get used to staying on the raft, you can move it to the pool. 

There are plenty of good rafts for dogs, but I love this inexpensive one from SwimWays that make it very easy to slide the dog around and it’s large enough for my big goldens. You can check the SwimWays raft for dogs on Amazon here.

Do Golden Retrievers Need life vests in the water? 

Yes, golden retrievers need life vests in the water when they are young and they can use life vests in the water even after they’ve been swimming for years if you’re going swimming in deep waters as it can keep them safe and potentially save their life.

So when you are first teaching them how to swim, you must use life vests to guarantee their safety. As they grow older and get more experienced, you can take the vest off and let them swim freely.

Even if one day you decide to take your dog on a boat, have your golden retrievers wear a life jacket specifically designed for them to keep them safe.

I always recommend the Outward lifejackets for dogs, they are just perfect for golden retrievers and very inexpensive considering the great quality. You can check the Outward hound life jacket for dogs on Amazon here.

Make sure to check the size that fits your dog, scroll down on the Amazon page to see how to choose the right size for your dog.

How to choose a good dog swimming pool for your golden? 

When you are choosing a swimming pool for your golden retriever, you need to check for a couple of things first.

  • First of all, you need to ensure that the pool is stable
  • The best material, in this case, is hard plastic and PVC
  • Make sure that the pool is portable 
  • Check if the bottom of the pool is lined with the same material to avoid Water leakage or any collapse.
  • You also need to choose the right size depending on how large your dog, whether you have multiple dogs, and whether your dogs are splashers or will just chill in the water.

I currently have a slip-resistant pool that my dogs (and my neighbor’s dogs) love, and you can check it here on Amazon or by clicking on the image below.

If you found this article useful, you can share it with your family and friends, it might help them with their dog and without a doubt, I will appreciate it tons.

Related Questions 

What dog breeds hate water?

Here are 11 dog breeds that do not like the water

  1. Yorkshire terrier
  2. Chihuahua 
  3. Pug 
  4. Shih Tzu 
  5. Boxer
  6. Pekingese
  7. Maltese 
  8. Pomeranian 
  9. Bichon Frise
  10. Dachshund  
  11. Greyhound   

What dogs like to swim?

Here are 7 best dog breeds for swimming 

  1. Portuguese water dog 
  2. Labrador retriever 
  3. Irish water spaniel 
  4. Newfoundland 
  5. Golden retriever 
  6. German shorthaired pointer 
  7. Chesapeake bay retriever 

Do dogs drown easily?

Dogs can drown easily if you didn’t teach them how to swim or if they are trapped in the water, they may panic and they will not know how to act so the might drown, so you need to pay attention to your dog if you have a pool and if you take them to a beach always bring a life jacket with you.

Helpful Resources 

How to Teach a Dog to Swim

Chlorine in Pools: Is it Safe for Pets?

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