Can Staffies Swim? [How to Teach a Staffy to Swim]

Staffies have masses of abilities and talents, but one thing they aren’t renowned for is their superb swimming abilities. Some dogs absolutely excel at anything to do with water, and it’s obvious they were born swimmers. But can Staffies swim?

From my experience, both Toffee (our American Staffordshire Terrier) and Runa (our young Staffordshire Bull Terrier) both like water. But they hate to be out of their depth and will avoid swimming at all costs.

And, to be honest, having seen both of our Staffies “attempt” to swim, I am not too encouraged to make them try much more.

Think I’m exaggerating? Below is a video of Toffee trying to swim across a small stream (admittedly with a ridiculously big stick in her mouth which she refused to drop):

But can you teach a Staffy to like water and even become a good swimmer?

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Do Staffies Like Water?

Dogs are the same as people; some enjoy being in the water, whereas others avoid it like the plague. I’ve always thought an excellent guide to go by is bathtime; if you’re Staffy gets excited and loves to paddle around in the water, then it’s safe to say he likes water. That doesn’t mean your Staffy can swim or relish the idea of being in water where his feet don’t touch the ground.

Some Staffies will even enjoy going for a paddle but hate going out in the rain. Someone really needs to point out that it’s the same substance.

On the whole, I would say Staffies generally tend not to like water and avoid even paddling.

Are Staffies Afraid of Water?

It seems strange talking about a Staffy being afraid of something because typically, they’re scared of nothing and nobody.

Undoubtedly many Staffies have a dread of water and will not go near it, bathtime or not. Others enjoy paddling and getting their paws wet but don’t go any further. 

But are Staffies afraid of water? I would say it’s more of a dislike because some Staffies refuse to go near any water, so they haven’t given themselves a chance to be afraid. 

Do Staffies Like Swimming?

It could be a matter of confidence; for example, many Staffies will happily paddle on the edge of a lake, river, or pond, but they won’t venture into deeper water. 

On the other hand, other Staffies love to swim and will jump in any body of water they come across. Many Staffy owners take their dogs to dog hydrotherapy pools, and they report their Staffies love it. The owners kit them out with little life vests, and the dogs swim against a current. Owners claim it’s a brilliant way of exercising the dog, it takes the weight off their bones and joints, and after 10 minutes, they’re exhausted.

If your Staffy is a little overweight, I would say it’s an excellent way to get the amount of exercise they need.

Can Staffordshire Bull Terriers Swim?

If you were designing a dog to be the perfect swimmer, it’s doubtful the finished design would look like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. With broad chests, short legs, short muzzle, and oversized head, Staffies are the anti-swimmer design. Shorter muzzles work against the Staffy because he needs to keep his head above water so he can breathe. That immediately puts him at a disadvantage because his whole body is now at a downward angle.

This design flaw doesn’t mean you can’t teach a Staffy to swim because with enough time and patience, they will learn; the question is, will your Staffy even want to get in the water?

How to Teach a Staffy to Swim

To teach your Staffy to swim will take some time and patience, as mentioned. A slow start will be crucial, and that means taking him to some very shallow water where he just gets his feet wet while he paddles. If he absolutely hates it, you might have to forget the whole idea.

But if he seems okay, you can move to the next step where the water is deeper. If you want this work, you will have to get into the water with your Staffy.

Fit your Staffy with a life vest and support his body weight and let him start to doggy paddle. One thing all dogs have in common is the doggy paddle.

When your Staffy starts to feel more confident, you can let him go, but stay very close in case it all goes wrong.

With such short legs, they’ll have to work extra hard, and that can tire him out more quickly than you imagine, so stay close at all times, in case he needs your help.

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Pete Reynolds

Pete is the founder of Staffy Dog and the proud owner of two Staffies: Toffee (Amstaff mix) and Runa (Staffordshire Bull Terrier). When he's not playing with his dogs, Pete is a keen writer, an avid sports fan and an advocate for urban cycling.

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