As a dog parent you want to make sure that your Husky is getting enough exercise.
And swimming is a great way to exercise, but…
Can Huskies swim?
Here you’ll find out…
- 4 hidden dangers.
- Whether Huskies can swim (and if they like water).
- How to end a swimming lesson and why it’s so important (tip #5).
- And much more…
Table of contents
Can Huskies swim?
Huskies can swim – but they do not particularly like to. However, under the right conditions and with the proper training, Huskies can become adept swimmers and actually grow to enjoy being in the water.
The keys to getting your Husky adept as swimmers are:
- Having a firm understanding of the facts regarding Huskies and water.
- The dangers and warning signs when teaching your Husky to swim.
- The proper training methods and conditions for getting your Husky comfortable in the water.
7 truths about Huskies and water
Some people see videos on the Internet of dogs jumping into the water to save their owners and automatically assume since their Husky is so athletic and good at everything else that their Husky will naturally be an elite swimmer.
This is not necessarily the case, and there are many important truths you should know about Huskies and water before making erroneous assumptions.
#1: Huskies are not natural swimmers
Most dogs were bred with a specific purpose in mind, such as for showing or for hunting. In the case of the Husky, they were bred to thrive in extremely cold terrains.
Therefore, purebred Husky breeds, like Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Huskies, do not naturally like water for a couple of reasons:
- While living in such cold environments, getting water on their coats could lead to the dog freezing or developing some other temperature-related illness. Therefore, their instinct is to remain dry at all times.
- Many purebred Huskies worked as sled dogs, working as a team to pull cargo over otherwise impassable terrain. As part of this, water would impede any sled trip, so Huskies’ natural instincts as sled dogs tell them to avoid water at all costs.
Now, some people may be thinking, ‘My Husky has never lived in Russia or Alaska’ or ‘My Husky has never been a sled dog, so why would he or she be scared of water?’
The answer is that…
… Dogs’ natural instincts instruct them to behave a certain way, regardless of what kind of environment they are in.
This is why dogs who are bred to herd sheep can be seen playfully circling and fencing in little kids on the playground, or why dogs bred to be guardians will give a menacing growl whenever a stranger passes by.
Another consideration is that with so much cross-breeding going on over the years, it can sometimes be rare to find a purebred dog unless you specifically search for one.
As such, if your Husky has traces of other breeds in it, its natural reaction to water may be different than that of purebred Huskies.
#2: Huskies’ reactions to water will differ based on the temperature
Since Huskies come from cold climates where getting wet can have serious consequences, they are much more likely to avoid water if the outside temperature is cold than if it is warm.
In fact, if the weather is warm outside, there is a strong likelihood that even purebred Huskies may enjoy splashing around in the water.
Therefore, when teaching your Husky to swim, always make sure you are doing so on a warm day, as your dog will already be more likely to want to go for a splash.
If it is cold, even the best-laid efforts for swimming lessons will be met with significant resistance and, perhaps, outright refusal.
#3: Huskies can learn to love swimming
Just like a little kid who does not like to eat vegetables, in time, even your purebred Husky who hesitates to go swimming can learn to love water, even though he or she may not be predisposed to jump right in on his or her own.
For your Husky to learn to love the water, though, some specific and intentional steps must be taken to ensure that their resistance to water is lessened and not magnified.
Always consider the following points when introducing your Husky to the water:
- Know your Husky’s temperament.
Although a certain breed may be bred to act or perform a certain way, not all Huskies will be carbon copies of one another, with some more adventurous dogs taking to the water faster than those who are a little shyer and reserved.
- Consider the age of your dog.
As with humans, the minds of young Huskies are more malleable and better able to process new ideas. You will probably have an easier time teaching a young Husky to swim than a much older one.
- Be aware of the dangers.
Do not try to force swimming on your Husky. If you take him or her to the water and notice excessive struggling or any other indicator that may signal that the Husky is in pain or not enjoying him or herself, then call it a day and come back later.
- Have a training plan in mind.
This includes developing a method for introducing your Husky to the water. Do not just simply drop your dog in the water and come back an hour later, expecting it to be an expert swimmer.
- Do not overdo it too fast.
Just like the little kid with vegetables, do not try to force too much swimming on your Husky too fast. Start slow – perhaps a few initial splashes in the water in the beginning – before allowing your dog to get more and more aggressive with its forays in the water.
- Always keep a watchful eye.
Make sure all your Husky’s swimming attempts are closely monitored. If you are not paying attention and your Husky has a particularly traumatic experience in the water and is left wet and alone, there is a good chance he or she may never want to swim again.
When you consider these points, one day your Husky might love to swim (like one of the Huskies in the video below):
#4: Huskies learn faster in water when watching other dogs
While it is true that purebred Huskies are predisposed to stay away from water, there is another truth about your Husky’s genetic makeup that should not be ignored as it pertains to teaching it to swim: huskies work very well in packs.
As part of their sled-dog nature, Huskies are very good at looking at other dogs and seeing what they need to and copying their behavior to complete a task.
Therefore, if possible, try to get your Husky around other dogs when you are introducing him or her to the water.
If your Husky sees other dogs swimming and having a good time in the water, it will very likely follow suit.
If you do not have other dogs with which to train your Husky, or do not know other people who have dogs that they take swimming, there are a few ideas to help you socialize your husky with the water:
- Find a beach.
Beaches are a favorite place for people to spend time with their dogs and will likely give your Husky ample opportunities to see other dogs at play in the water.
- Check out the dog park.
Many dog parks feature streams or small ponds, making them an ideal place for your Husky to see other dogs in action in the water.
- Join online communities.
There are many apps, such as Meetup, that allow users to get together with other users of similar interests. Such apps feature no shortage of dog lovers, so you will likely be able to make connections and set up swim dates for your Husky to learn from other pups.
#5: Huskies often look to their owners for guidance
When speaking of a Husky’s genetic predisposition, the breed is known for being exceedingly loyal, which is a major reason Huskies make such outstanding pets.
And while it is a stretch to assume that a Husky would be able to save a drowning owner without ever having learned to swim first, they are much more likely to experiment with water if they see their owners swimming and having a good time.
If you are on dry land and urging your Husky to go for a swim, it is likely to want to stay by your side, not only because it is reluctant to go swimming, but also because it thinks it is a good pet.
As such, if your Husky is reluctant to get its feet wet, then you should try getting into the water yourself first.
Your husky’s desire to stay out of the water will likely be overridden by its urge to be at your side.
You might also like: Pomeranian + Husky = Pomsky (Yes, They Can Breed)
#6: Huskies adapt to swimming better with proper introduction
There is an old saying/joke among some circles of people that if you want to teach a person to swim, drop him or her in the deep end of the pool and let him or her figure it out.
While this method is of dubious efficacy for humans, it should definitely be avoided when it comes to teaching your Husky how to swim.
It is well established that purebred Huskies are predisposed to stay away from water. As such, water, in the minds of Huskies, is something foreign and dangerous.
If you simply take your Husky and drop it into a pool, it is likely to go immediately into panic mode and fight for its life.
This would be a traumatic experience for any creature, and your Husky is likely to be irreparably scarred by this initial interaction with water.
Therefore, when possible, try to introduce your Husky to water at the beach as opposed to the pool.
The beach will offer several advantages to training your Husky to swim over a pool…
… Including the following:
- Gradual introduction.
Whereas in a pool, your Husky kind of has to ‘jump right in,’ the beach allows him or her to progress into the water slowly. Your Husky can start by getting its paws wet, then go deeper and deeper until it is fully submerged.
- The bottom is accessible for running.
Swimming on a first introduction to the water may not be the best idea. As your Husky familiarizes itself with getting wet, it may be a good idea just to let it run around in the water. This is easily attained at the beach, not so much in a pool.
- There are many other people.
As mentioned, Huskies are good learners. At the beach, they are likely to see dozens of other people and dogs swimming and frolicking in the water, making the proposition seem easier and less foreign as your dog observes others.
- You can pair activities.
Even if your Husky is not having fun in the water, the beach offers miles of shore to go for a walk or run – activities your Husky is sure to enjoy. By pairing swimming with enjoyable activities, swimming is likely to be positively associated with good feelings in the mind of your dog.
If you do not have access to a beach, try to find other ways to introduce your Husky to the water gradually.
Some ideas include:
- Buy a kiddy pool to let your Husky splash around in.
- Make sure you are giving your Husky regular baths. This is likely a staple for those Huskies who live indoors but may get neglected if you have an outside dog.
- Use a hose to make puddles for your Husky to splash around in.
While some people may think that sprinklers and/or spraying gently with a hose could serve as a gradual introduction, it is not recommended.
Although the amount of water is minimal, the projectile nature of the stream will likely be confusing for your Husky, causing fear of water that may not have existed if the Husky was first introduced to still bodies.
#7: Huskies respond very well to reinforcement
Huskies are exceptionally smart dogs, and when their instincts are telling them to stay away from water, getting wet can actually cause them cognitive dissonance – the feeling that they have done something wrong.
On the flip side, however, the benefits of them being such loyal and intelligent dogs are that they respond very well to positive reinforcement.
If you use positive language, gestures, and, perhaps, treats, whenever your Husky gets in or does something good in the water, then it is likely to quickly associate being in the water as good behavior and continue it in the future.
4 dangers to look out for when teaching your Husky to swim
You should not be scared when teaching your Husky to swim.
In fact, it is a reason for excitement, as you are opening the door to a whole new means of fun for him or her.
However, there are more swimming considerations you need to be on the lookout for with your Husky as opposed to teaching other dog breeds to swim since swimming does not come naturally for Huskies.
The following factors must be closely monitored when introducing your Husky to water.
#1: Keep a close eye on the temperature
Warm temperatures are a double-edged sword when it comes to teaching your Husky to swim.
On the one hand, they are necessary for introducing your Husky to the water, as Huskies are genetically predisposed to avoid the water in cold temperatures.
On the other hand, however, Huskies have very thick coats to keep them warm in these cold temperatures, so if they are exerting a lot of energy in their attempts to learn to swim, they can quickly overheat.
Therefore, avoid swimming lessons in very hot temperatures, and even for those temperatures that are only moderately warm, try to limit their length.
#2: Watch for signs of fatigue
Huskies are very active dogs and thrive when given a proper dose of exercise.
However, swimming lessons can cause them to use muscles that they are not accustomed to using, and their excitement at learning something new can cause them to bite off more than they can chew.
Their thick coats, combined with the excessive force, can cause them to go into heat stroke if not closely monitored.
Some signs to look for that may indicate your Husky is fatigued and ready to call it a day include the following:
- Open mouth, heavy panting, and tongue flopping out of the mouth.
- Listlessness and lack of desire to get back in the water.
- Reluctance to move out of shaded areas.
In addition to watching the temperature, make sure that swimming lessons, especially initial swimming lessons, are limited to a moderate length, and that rest breaks and water are liberally offered.
#3: Look out for treacherous water conditions
While the beach is a great place to get your Husky acclimated to the water, it can be a little bit tricky at times to teach your Husky to swim there.
If your Husky gets too far out, there will be some waves that come crashing down over its head, which may frighten your dog. In addition, a violent sea can be impossible to navigate for even the most experienced swimmers, so avoid the beach on particularly windy and wavy days.
Other outdoor places where you take your Husky swimming, such as streams or lakes, can also become difficult to swim in at times.
Be on the lookout for forceful waves and currents.
Once a Husky has gotten used to the water and has shown a willingness to swim, the best place to teach him or her would be a shallow pond.
Swimming pools are ideal as well, but not all will allow dogs.
#4: Make sure your Husky always has supervision
After your Husky becomes an adept swimmer, there can be a temptation to let him or her have free reign of the water while you go do your thing.
However, this is not a good idea for a multitude of reasons, including the following:
- As Huskies are not natural swimmers, they will never be completely at home in the water. They may not be aware of their own limitations and will need you to keep an eye on them.
- When Huskies start having fun in the water, they may not realize how quickly they are overheating; by the time they start to feel hot, their heavy coats can keep them trapped in a furnace from which they cannot escape.
- If Huskies do become too hot and/or exhausted, they may need you to transport them to a place where they can get some shade or air conditioning to help them rest and cool off.
- Huskies may not be aware of changing weather conditions and need you there to get them out of the water before particularly strong winds cause currents to become dangerous.
5 things you can do to teach your Husky to swim safely
Now that you know some facts as they pertain to Huskies and water and are aware of some of the associated dangers, you are ready to start teaching your Husky to swim.
Many of these steps may seem common sense, but just like teaching a small child to swim for the first time, you can never be too careful when teaching a new skill that does not come naturally and can be dangerous and/or fatal if not appropriately mastered.
#1: Use a life jacket
Just like when teaching a small child to swim, a life jacket can provide a safety net that gives your Husky confidence when going in the water.
The following are a few tips that can increase the efficacy of the life jacket as a tool for teaching your Husky how to swim:
- Find the right size.
Not only will a well-fitted life jacket have greater buoyancy and life-saving properties, but it will be more comfortable for your Husky and increase the likelihood that he or she wants to wear it.
- Introduce the life jacket early.
You will want to include the life jacket in your earliest attempts to familiarize your Husky with water. If you try to include the life jacket after your dog has already gotten some experience in the water, your Husky may reject it and go with what it already knows.
- Go as light as possible.
Spend the extra money, if necessary, to get the lightest jacket possible. As Huskies already have thick coats, you do not want to add excessive weight that can expedite heat exhaustion. Also, try to get the life jacket in lighter colors that will not absorb as much heat.
#2: Play games with your Husky
If your Husky responds well to games on dry land, such as fetching a ball or stick, try playing these same games with your Husky in the water.
Simply throw the ball or stick out into the water and have your Husky bring it back to you.
Every time he or she brings the stick back, throw it a little further. This will encourage your dog to go deeper into the water.
Once the Husky realizes that deep water is nothing to be afraid of and that it can use its feet to paddle back to you with the stick in its mouth, then it will become increasingly easier to get your Husky to swim without the use of a game.
#3: Go swimming with your Husky
As mentioned, Huskies are very loyal pets and like to mimic the behavior of their owners.
By simply getting into the pool yourself, you go a long way toward enticing the Husky to get into the water.
If your Husky is still a little hesitant, you can use your hands to guide the dog along the water’s surface gently. As trust and confidence are built, you can reduce how much hands-on you use once the Husky becomes skilled at paddling with its feet.
#4: Have an easy exit available
While swimming in a pool is great for teaching your Husky to swim in a controlled environment, it can cause problems for exiting the pool, as Huskies do not have hands to pull themselves up and out of the water.
This can make the dog feel trapped in the water and make them want to avoid it the next time out.
Therefore, it is important that your Husky knows how to exit the water easily. If swimming at the beach or in a lake, a gradual exit is built in.
However, when using a pool, make sure that the dog knows where the entrance ramp and/or stairs are before starting the lesson.
#5: End the Lesson on a positive note
If you end a swimming lesson only when the dog gets too tired to swim any more, he or she will associate swimming with exhaustion, which is something that nobody wants to go through.
On the other hand, if you end the lesson when the dog did a great job and is rewarded with praise and a favorite treat, the Husky will want to get back in the water as soon as possible to repeat this pleasant experience.