Can Golden Retriever Puppies Swim? (And Is It Safe?)

One of the best things you can do with your Golden Retriever is to take them to a lake, a pool or another body of water for a day of fun and swimming with the family. Adult goldens naturally do well in the water, but what about puppies? Can Golden Retriever puppies swim?

Golden retriever puppies have a natural instinct that makes them good swimmers. Many Golden Retriever puppies can hit the water for the first time and learn how to swim very quickly. It is best to take precautions and stick near your puppy when they first start swimming to make sure they stay safe. 

While swimming is a natural instinct for a golden, it still takes a bit of learning and practice for a puppy to figure out how to swim.

In this article, we’ll explore why Golden Retrievers love to swim so much, why it’s likely your puppy will take to the water right away, the steps you can use to safely teach your puppy how to swim, and some basic safety precautions you should take when you head to the water with your golden retriever pup. 

Golden Retrievers Love Water

Most Golden Retrievers love the water and spending time in any body of water. Many take naturally to the water and will learn to swim with very little encouragement. In fact, a golden is a natural swimmer because they were bred to retrieve birds and other game in the water during hunts. 

In the past, Golden Retrievers were bred to help retrieve waterfowl that was downed during a hunt. To do this, they would need to have strong swimming muscles to get out into the water, get the animal, and bring it back to their owners. Thanks to this breeding, most Golden Retrievers are just naturally strong swimmers. 

A golden retriever puppy swimming.

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When take your puppy out to the water to swim, you can enjoy some peace of mind compared to other animals. There are a lot of genetics at play that help your dog to be a good swimmer, including strong legs, the ability to keep their energy up, and an inherent instinct for swimming. It’s always best to be careful, though, and stay near your puppy the first few times they enter the water. 

When Can a Golden Retriever Puppy Start Swimming?

If you have a new golden retriever puppy, you may first want to know how old they should be before introducing them to the water? It’s safe to say that the first couple of months of a young goldens life is spent learning how to walk confidently and regulate their body temperatures. So don’t try to swim too soon.

In most cases, it’s best for a golden retriever pup to be at least 2-3 months old before attempting their first swimming lesson. At this point they have developed enough to begin to be able to handle the water.

Your Golden Retriever Puppy and Swimming

While goldens love the water and seem to take to it naturally, don’t assume that a Golden Retriever puppy can just jump in and start swimming immediately. Some do well and don’t need to learn much, but others may need a little more encouragement to bring out their inner swimmer. 

Always begin by assuming that your puppy can’t swim. Then you can take the time to help them adjust to the water and teach them how to swim and be safe. You may find that just a few times on the water is all your puppy needs to take off and want to spend all afternoon swimming. Other times your puppy may need a little more guidance and help. 

This little guy didn’t need much in the way of encouragement. He took to swimming like…well, like a Golden Retriever!

How to Keep Your Golden Retriever Safe on the Water

Even if your dog does know how to swim, there are a few things that you can do to help keep them safe. Dogs, just like people, need to be safe anytime they’re near the water, and these tips will help. 

Remember the Sunscreen

Humans and dogs are quite similar when it comes to sun exposure. While we can agree, there are big differences between the species, there is one similarity in that the sun can be as harmful to the skin of your dog as it is to your own. Golden Retrievers, particularly those with light colored fur and pink noses can get sunburned too, and it’s just as painful and uncomfortable for them as it is for you. 

So while it’s best to avoid the mid-day sun, it’s also a good idea to bring along sunscreen for your dog as well. It’s helpful to get at least SPF 30 to make sure their skin stays safe when out in the water with you.

A good brand to try that works as a spray and is safe for all types of dogs is Emmy’s Best Dog Sun Skin Protector Spray (amazon). It’s nontoxic and will protect a goldens skin and coat from the harmful rays of the sun.

Give Them a Life Vest

If your puppy is just starting to swim, or you plan to be in some choppy waters, then it’s a good idea to have your dog in a life vest to make sure that they stay safe. This will make it easier to swim in the water as they are learning, and will keep them afloat if they get tired.

A good life vest for your golden retriever is the Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket Vest (amazon). It’ll not only keep your furry little buddy safe, it comes in many bright colors which will make your puppy easier to spot out on the water.

Don’t Let Them Get Tired

It’s easy for your golden retriever puppy to get worn out when swimming. They are not used to this new activity and may not have the endurance to spend that long in the water. If you let them overexert themselves or swim for too long, they can get overly tired.

This increases the risk of drowning. Short little spurts into the water are best. This allows your dog to get used to the water and swim a bit, building up her endurance, so she can swim for longer and longer as time goes by. 

Watch how fast a litter of golden retriever puppies learn to swim! So cute!

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Short swims also allow your golden retriever puppy to develop a sense of their own level of endurance. They will begin to learn just how much effort it will take to swim a specific distance.

If you’ve ever seen a dog swimming in the ocean, they don’t just keep swimming out to sea. Eventually they realize they’ve reached the furthest distance they can go and still make it back to land. A young puppy will learn the same thing over time.

How to Teach a Golden Retriever Puppy to Swim

Many Golden Retriever puppies are good at swimming and don’t really need much training at all. You’ll need to stay with them and watch, so they don’t get too tired, but most do well in the water. 

If you have a puppy who seems to struggle a bit in the water and isn’t catching on that quickly, there are some steps you can take to help train them to become master swimmers. These steps include:

  1. Take your puppy to a small, calm lake or swimming pool. You and someone else should go into the water in case something goes wrong. You don’t want to pick anywhere with a lot of people, heavy waves, or anything else that can slow progress. 
  2. Gently guide your puppy into the water. If they’re nervous, carry them in, walking until you make it to your thighs. Let the puppy feel the water a bit before turning back towards the other person you brought with you. Keep them close to the shore or steps of the pool. 
  3. It’s time for your puppy to get wet. Lower them down into the water, but hold on firmly, so they know you aren’t just going to drop them. The best way to do this is to have one of your hands on the stomach and the other at the base of the tail. This is a good time to talk gently to your puppy and be positive and upbeat. Tell them what they’re about to do and let them know how exciting this is. 
  4. Once their legs are under, you should notice that even while holding them, your dog is moving their legs and paddling. This is the time for praise and positive reinforcement to let the dog know they are doing well. 
  5. The other person on the shore should call for your dog to come to them. You can release the dog a bit, adding a bit of balance as necessary. When you feel they are comfortable and ready, release completely and let them swim the rest of the way. 
  6. Continue with this. Take them back out into the water and let them swim back to the person on the other shore for as many times as it takes. 

Before you know it, it will be hard to keep your golden retriever puppy out of the water, and they’ll have become very strong swimmers!


Your Golden Retriever puppy is sure to love spending time on the water with you and the rest of the family. There are a few simple precautions you can take to make sure that your puppy will be safe when they bounce into the water.

But if you learn how to watch them, protect them from getting too tired or too burnt, and you teach them how to swim, your puppy will have the time of their lives. 

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Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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