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Can Dogs Hold Their Breath Underwater? 7 Surprising Answers

Can Dogs Hold Their Breath Underwater

Your dog enjoys swimming so much…

They splash and paddle around the pool. Sometimes they even seem to dive.

That’s why it makes you wonder if they can hold their breath underwater.

And if they can, are there any consequences?

You’re about to discover:

  • If it’s bad for dogs to go underwater.
  • How long can dogs hold their breath underwater.
  • If you can teach your dog to hold their breath on cue.
  • And many more…

Can dogs hold their breath underwater?

Dogs can hold their breath underwater. It’s due to the innate mammalian diving response. That’s the same instinct that humans have when going underwater as well. The difference is that dogs aren’t aware of this natural physiological response.

How long can dogs hold their breath underwater?

Dogs can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds at best. There’s no exact number that’s been reported yet. Moreover, the duration will depend on the dog’s breed. Dogs with shorter noses don’t do well on holding their breath. Then, large dogs can hold it for long because of their big lungs.

How do dogs hold their breath underwater?

Dogs hold their breath underwater automatically. It’s due to a physiological occurrence called the mammalian diving instincts. It controls certain systems in your dog’s body to preserve oxygen.

The mammalian diving response is a natural phenomenon that happens. It gets triggered whenever your pooch goes underwater.

They don’t have control over it, nor do humans.

The difference is that humans are aware of such experiences. And we can feel it once it begins to lose its ability slowly.

What I mean is that time when you begin to feel out of breath.

On the other hand, your pooch just listens and follows their body’s response. They don’t know how long they’ve got…

Dogs aren’t aware of when to remove their face from being submerged in the water.

If they can, it’s still a theory. And it’s hard to prove since it’s a challenge to conduct such an experiment.

They can’t also estimate the effort needed to go back to the surface.

Moreover, dogs can’t hold their breath underwater on cue. It’s their body that automatically does it for them.

So, diving even further into this instinct…

How exactly does it work?

The mammalian diving response at work

Dogs Hold Their Breath Underwater Because Its Their Diving Response At Work

Edmund Goodwyn first introduced this diving reflex. It was the year 1786 when he did so.

However, it didn’t get recognized until 1870. That’s when Paul Bert introduced the idea in a publication.

So, how does this response save mammals from drowning?

It assists mammals in conserving oxygen when underwater by doing 3 major things.

According to a study, those are:


This is an automatic stop in your dog’s breathing.

This only suspense breathing temporarily. By doing so, there’ll be less oxygen that will come out. 

A study says when apnea happens, there’s a 55% drop in the oxygen saturation of the blood.


It’s the instinct automatically slowing your dog’s heart rate.

If the heart beats faster, more oxygen is used and required. 

That’s why this limits the work of the heart to prevent unnecessary oxygen consumption. 

Peripheral vascular resistance

This is the tightening of muscles around blood vessels.

This is necessary as it limits oxygen use in muscle areas. With that, there’ll be more left for vital organs that need oxygen.

Then, it lets your dog’s body function in the best way it can underwater.

Is it bad for dogs to go underwater?

It can be bad for dogs to go underwater. For a short amount of time, there’s no problem with letting your pooch dive. However, your dog doesn’t know the consequences of staying longer underwater.

Don’t get me wrong…

You can still take your dog swimming.

And yes, you can still let them go underwater.

However, only do so when you’re 100 % focused on them. 

It’s as necessary as watching a child in the pool.

Your pooch needs your supervision when they’re underwater.

That’s because of many factors. Namely:

It depends on their breed

The first one is the fact that dogs can only hold their breath for a few seconds. There’s not an exact number given by experts yet…

Moreover, a dog’s breath-holding ability depends on their breed.

Brachycephalic dogs

If your dog is brachycephalic, then they’ll need more attention. 

That’s because their short noses make it hard for them to breathe underwater.

With that, they can only stand being underwater for a short time.

After all, this type of dog already has difficulty breathing on land. That’s why dog parents catch their brachycephalic dog suddenly panting.

Dogs bred for the water

Some dogs do well in the water.

That’s why certain dog breeds are trained and assigned to rescue in bodies of water.

AKC says those dog breeds are:

  • Barbet.
  • Otterhound.
  • Newfoundland.
  • Boykin Spaniel.
  • Standard Poodle.
  • Labrador Retriever.
  • Irish Water Spaniel.
  • Spanish Water Dog.
  • Lagotto Romagnolo.
  • Flat-Coated Retriever.
  • Portuguese Water Dog.
  • Curly-Coated Retriever.
  • American Water Spaniel.
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

Large dogs do well in water, too

Dogs who are large also have huge lungs.

With that, they have a higher lung capacity. That lets them breathe longer underwater.

An example of a large breed dog that can swim are Huskies. However, they don’t enjoy the activity that much.

Dogs aren’t aware of when to stop

This is where the problem starts…

Yes, your dog’s body automatically goes into overdrive when they go underwater…

As I said, it’s due to the innate mammalian dive response.

However, that only slows down oxygen consumption in the body. After a while, carbon dioxide will reign in your dog’s system. 

But for your pooch, they might just go swim and swim as much as they can.

Dogs don’t have the kind of rationality that humans have. They don’t know the amount of distance it takes to get to the bottom of the pool…

Then, they’re also not aware of the effort required to go back up.

So, by the time they realize they’re out of breath, it might be too late…

PetMD describes it as hypercapnia. It’s when your dog’s blood vessels increase its carbon dioxide amount.

It can cause your dog to breathe abnormally and get weak.

And when this happens as they’re underwater, Fido has a risk of drowning.

It causes nasal blockage

Imagine this:

Your pooch dunks their head into the water…

After a while, they reemerge from the pool.

Some more moments after, you notice that they begin to sneeze.

When you check them, you notice that they’re sneezing some water out.

That can stop after a while.

However, you should keep an eye on them. That’s because nasal blockage can cause discomfort in your dog.

You might also like: 9 Odd Reasons Why Your Dog Sneezes In The Morning + 5 Tips

Can dogs be taught to hold their breath?

Dogs can’t be taught to hold their breath, present lack of evidence suggests. When underwater, dogs can only hold their breath due to an instinct. There’s still no way to make a dog hold their breath if asked on cue.

Sure, dogs are creatures that can hold their breath.

However, they’ll only do so on their own. And sometimes, they might not even be aware that they’re doing it.

As for you, you might catch your dog holding their breath.

One of the signs is when they pant around without any recent exercise. That’s when you know that your pooch has been holding their breath.

But, as I said, you can’t train them to do this.

It’s not the same as training your pooch to sit or stay. 

Moreover, there won’t be ways to confirm if your dog’s holding their breath. Unlike when you ask them to roll, you’ll see them do so.

That’s why there are no studies available about this idea. It’s because there are still no known ways to test this.

People also ask:

Can dogs dive?

Dogs can dive if they choose to. However, some dog breeds don’t have the physical ability to do so. And for those who can, there are still limits.

Some dogs can dive if they choose to do so. Those that do can enjoy the activity.

You can check to see if your dog can dive.

All you have to do is throw something in the water for them to retrieve.

Note: While they do so, make sure to watch their movements. Be mindful of the time they’re spending underwater. Don’t take your eyes off of them until they’re out and safe.

Once your pooch retrieves the object, then you have your confirmation.

However, that success story can only be claimed by dog breeds that have the physical ability to dive.

Those dog breeds that I mentioned before can do well in this activity. 

Then, as I said, brachycephalic dogs have a hard time breathing underwater.

So, if your pooch is one of those dogs, you ought not to try the activity anymore. Doing so might cause startling effects.

Watch the YouTube famous Scuba dog in action here:

How deep can dogs dive?

How deep a dog can dive depends on their ability. They can also be trained to dive in deeper waters. 

Dog parents report different limits on their fur babies’ diving abilities.

Some dogs can retrieve things off the deepest waters. I’m talking about 8-foot deep pools.

And get this, there’s news to top that…

A dog parent is spotted with his 2 dogs cruising near the water. The advocate who found them also acquired an interesting story…

Alex Schulze, the dog parent, trained his dogs to dive for 2 years. 

He’s an animal lover and founder of Devocean. It’s a business that aims to help save sea turtles in his area. 

Now, back to diving again…

It’s an activity that his Labradors are enjoying…

How deep can these dogs go?

Lila and Maverick, his dogs, can dive up to 15-feet deep in the water.

According to Alex, he had to train them to move their back legs when diving. Then, to also let their momentum get the dogs down.

And do you wanna know more?

These Labs love the activity because they fetch lobsters when they dive.
They went for a swim, but they also provided Alex with his dinner.