Why Swimming is Such A Great Activity for Dogs

Swimming is a great activity, as can be seen by the following benefits:

Integumentary system

Water increases circulation, which can help skin and coat condition and can help stimulate all the touch receptors.

Muscular system

Water increases relaxation, which can help pain and spasms. 

When moving in water, the resistance is 15-20 times that of moving in air, so muscles are being used without the stresses of weight bearing.

It strengthens and tones the muscles without putting pressure or stresses in the bones and joints.  Stronger, toned muscles help to protect dogs against injuries sustained during normal exercise, such as running or chasing a ball, or during more demanding exercise such as agility and flyball.

Nervous system

Water can calm and sooth the nervous system and decrease stress.

Water can stimulate the sensations of joint position and re-establish sensation channels.

Circulatory system

It strengthens the cardiovascular system.

Warm water can increase body temperature, causing blood vessels to dilate and increase circulation and detoxification, delivering nutrients and oxygen and carrying away wastes.

Buoyance and hydrostatic pressure counters the effects of gravity, increases the blood return from lower extremities and increases blood volume centralisation.

Soft tissue is compressed, which increases circulation, lymph movement, oxygen in the blood and respiration.

Endocrine system

Water can increase metabolic functions and hormones which regulate many processes in the body.

Lymphatic system

Water can increase lymph drainage, decrease inflammation and improve the immune system.

Respiratory system

Water can increase the depth of respiration through pressure on the lungs.

Digestive system

Water can increase smooth muscle activity (digestion) which provides nutrients to cells and eliminates through the faeces.

Urinary system

Water can increase blood flow through the kidneys, ridding the body of toxins (including anaesthetic) and removing waste products.  This process can help regulate and balance water and electrolytes in the body.

Reproductive system

Water and its stimulating effects on the body can help enhance the role of hormones which influence all other systems of the body.

Skeletal system

In its supportive ways, water can help increase the range of motion of the skeletal system as the non-gravity environment can enhance stretches and movement.

It does not have the impact of concussive exercise on land and the associated damage that it may cause.


Swimming provides a form of supported exercise, which will burn calories and improve the metabolic rate.  Together with a good diet, swimming can help bring obese dogs to their optimum weights.

It can provide exercise without over-stress the joints in an overweight dog.

Stride characteristics

Swimming positively affects the strides of healthy dogs.  In tests, dogs were found to have significantly better stride characteristics after swimming.

Medical conditions

For dogs with medical conditions that restrict or prohibit concussive exercise, swimming is important for overall health and recovery.

With any orthopaedic surgery, it is important to build up the supporting muscle prior to the operation.

After surgery, once the site has had an appropriate amount of time to mend, swimming provides weightless exercise to improve joint movement, increase circulation and build supporting muscle.  Concussive exercise, such as walking, can possibly cause damage to the newly reconstructed area.

The buoyancy that water provides helps arthritic dogs work their joints, maintain muscle mass and move around comfortably whilst minimising discomfort.

Emotional benefits

It’s fun!

It’s an activity you can do together, whether you get in the water with your dog or you throw a ball, play chase or find some other way to interact.

It changes the routine and environment and keeps the dog challenged and mentally stimulated.

It can help dogs relax and release pent-up energy.

For working dogs, such as rescue, police, drug enforcement and assistance dogs, swimming helps them improve their spirits and mental well-being.

Water allows an old or injured dog to move fearlessly with a sense of freedom.  It enhances a feeling of well-being.


It is a form of exercise that can be done year-round from as young as a year old.

1 minutes’ swimming is equivalent to about 4 minutes of running, according to Dr Arleigh Reynolds, a Veterinary Surgeon and Canine Physiologist.

Return to Exercise, Obesity & Weight | Return to Hydrotherapy

error: Content is protected !!