This breed is extremely devoted to its owners and gets along with every member of the family, including kids and other pets.
French bulldogs are curious creatures that can get themselves into a little trouble if they’re not watched carefully. They are a ton of fun and can be zipping around like maniacs one minute and sleeping the next.
Add some hot summer fun to the equation and your little Frenchie will be on cloud nine, especially when surrounded by family and friends. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that kind of fun? The problem is that French bulldogs might charge into the water without hesitation.
Unfortunately, they do not have the physical characteristics necessary to be good swimmers.
If you’re reading this post right now, you’re probably wondering what to do with your little buddy during hot summer days when everyone else is keeping cool in the pool.
In this post, we’ll explain why brachycephalic breeds like French bulldogs can’t swim safely. We’ll also give you tips on how to keep your lively companion happy and safe during the dog days of summer. Yes, your little buddy can keep cool safely.
Before we get into that, however, there are a few things you should know.
Why French Bulldogs Can’t Swim
Hot summer days are ideal for cooling off in the pool, lake, or ocean. There’s nothing quite like sharing a large expanse of water with family and friends. Of course, that includes our canine companions.
If you’ve got a golden retriever, Labrador retriever, or another similar breed, you’re in luck. Those dogs can (and should) swim during the hot weather season. When considering which dog breeds are good swimmers, think about what they were originally bred for.
Some dogs, like the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, were bred to hunt in icy waters. They have a water repellant coat, strong lungs, agile legs, and a tireless work ethic.
French bulldogs were designed as companion dogs. They won’t win any gold medals in an Olympic swim. It’s not their fault, of course. Frenchies have a long history of being companions to all walks of life. Thankfully, the modern era has brought us a plethora of wading pools, canine life jackets, and other ways to enjoy the water safely.
The following physical characteristics of the French bulldog make it impossible for him to swim safely in water that’s over their heads.
Flat Snouts and Short Muzzle
Brachycephalic breeds like French bulldogs, pugs, English bulldogs, and other brachycephalic dogs were simply not designed to swim.
These little bundles of energy have shortened heads, flat faces, and pushed in noses. Let’s just imagine for a minute that a French bulldog could manage to keep his bulky body afloat enough to swim. He would have to keep his face turned up and out of the water the whole time.
Dogs that are naturally good swimmers instinctively know to keep their heads up out of the water.
Some dogs, like the Newfoundland dog, has webbed feet and jowls (loose flaps of skin that are on either side of the mouth). These features allow the dog to easily push through the water. The jowls actually help keep water out of the mouth and lungs by trapping a large air bubble.
Frenchies are cute, but they can’t do that.
Those of us who love brachycephalic dogs also love their flat faces, big eyes, and expressive grins. Unfortunately, those features don’t offer any protection from splashing waves. A French bulldog doesn’t have the strength to keep his head far enough above the water to avoid drowning.
Large Heads and Bulky, Squared-Off Torsos
There’s nothing like a perfectly formed French bulldog with their square little bodies.
They are top-heavy and have a wide skull which makes them better suited as anchors than swimmers. Unfortunately, unless a French bulldog is wearing a well-fitted life-jacket, his/her little body is going to sink like a stone in deep water.
Let’s face it, Frenchies simply don’t have the proper weight distribution to float. Combine that with their short legs and short muzzles, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
When of the big controversies around breeding French bulldogs has to do with potential respiratory issues. Some dogs develop brachycephalic syndrome because their soft palates are too long for their faces. As a result, it ends up extending too far towards the throat, making it difficult to breath.
Most French bulldogs have a hard enough time breathing properly on land. Put them in water and your little dog will soon run out of air and energy.
Wait…Some French Bulldogs CAN Swim!
You may have seen videos of French bulldogs paddling around in the water without a life jacket on. The truth is that they may be able to swim very short distances with difficulty. It’s difficult for them to keep their bulky torsos afloat and must strain their necks to keep their heads above water because of their short snouts.
Their center of gravity is lowered when they tilt their heads up to breathe, which makes it much harder for them to maintain buoyancy. With their short legs and large torsos, they are not designed to float.
Sure, some may be better at others than doing the doggie paddle. The truth is, however, that their inherent health concerns (respiratory issues in particular) make swimming very dangerous.
You’ll see a paragraph on dry drowning below that you should find helpful.
Videos of French Bulldogs Swimming with Life Jackets On
Need more proof that Frenchies need the extra support of a life jacket in the water? Watch this YouTube video by Little Paws Training
How to Keep Your French Bulldog Safe Near the Water
Keep an eye on your Frenchie anytime he/she is near water. Sadly, Frenchies can drown in any body of water that is over their heads when standing. One small mistake can have lethal consequences.
Keep a close eye on your little buddy. Don’t totally rely on a life jacket. Yes, a good quality, well-fitted one will do the job it was designed to do. Unfortunately, things happen. Life jackets get loose. Someone may take the life-jacket off of the dog, etc.
French bulldogs have a lot of energy that tends to be expended in a short period of time. They are surprisingly active dogs but, as a general rule, can’t maintain that high level energy for a long time. This is why it’s a great idea to keep an eye on your dog, especially if they are in little pools that are deeper than they are high.
Not all dogs are born with the instinct to swim. We know French bulldogs are not natural swimmers, but did you know that they are susceptible to dry drowning?
Dry drowning (also known as secondary drowning) occurs when a dog inhales water into the lungs. This can happen in deep or shallow water.
Brachycephalic breeds, like the French bulldog, don’t have traditional snouts. In fact, their snouts are so close to their faces that it doesn’t take much for them to aspirate water into their lungs.
Your dog may cough up some water or you may even notice some draining from the nose. This doesn’t mean there isn’t residual water left in the lungs. This can lead to pneumonia and can kill a dog up to three days after the initial event.
This is why it’s a good idea to always keep an eye on your dog, even if he/she is wearing a life jacket. That life jacket can save your dog from drowning unnecessarily. French bulldogs, however, may be at even greater risk because of their flat faces.
French bulldogs should always wear life jackets around water, just don’t completely rely on the jacket. Always keep a close eye on your canine companion.
9 Best Life Jackets for French Bulldogs
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on small dogs around bodies of water. Some small dogs can swim better than others, but it’s still a good idea to keep them in sight. If you have a French bulldog, or any dog that isn’t a natural swimmer, keep him or her away from water that is over their head.
The following are some backyard pool alternatives that may help keep your dog happy and healthy during the hot summer months.
TIP: Most life jackets are sized based on the girth of your dog. While that’s important, remember that French bulldogs have thick necks as well. You want to make sure the neck fit is comfortably snug, but not too tight.
If you fit the neck first and then adjust the life jacket to accommodate your dog’s girth, you should be good.
1. Queensmore Dog Life Jacket
This jacket offers high buoyancy and a strong fastener system. Not only is the shark fin detail cute, it also allows you to quickly spot your dog in a pool of water.
You’ll be able to adjust the nylon straps so that the jacket fits well on your dog. There is a rescue handle, leash hook, and a reflective design. The jacket is waterproof and is made of mesh and nylon.
Available in 4 colors and sizes from x-small to xx-large.
Click the image below to be taken to Amazon for more information.
2. ThinkPet Dog Life Jacket
ThinkPet is rated 4.5 out of 5 and is a great choice for French bulldogs. It is tear resistant, provides extra buoyancy and has a neoprene lining designed to keep the skin feeling comfortable.
To measure your dog for the best fit, measure your dog around the chest girth and neck girth. Follow this table for help.
|Chest Girth||Neck Girth||Size|
|10″ – 11 ” (26 – 29 cm)||8″ – 10″ (21 – 26 cm)||XS|
|12″ – 16″ (30 – 40 cm)||12″ – 14″ (30 – 36 cm)||S|
|17″ – 20″ (44 – 52 cm)||16″ – 18″ (40 – 46 cm)||M|
|22″ – 28″ (56 – 70 cm)||18″ – 22″ (46 – 57 cm)||L|
|26 – 29″ (65 – 74 cm)||23″ – 29″ (59 – 74 cm)||XL|
|31″ – 39″ (78 – 100 cm)||25″ – 30″ (63 – 76 cm)||2XL|
Click on the ThinkPet image below. You’ll be brought to Amazon where you can read more about the product and what you can expect.
3. Vivaglory New Sports Style Ripstop Dog Life Jacket
Want to take your little buddy for his first swimming session? Don’t do it without a life jacket! The goal is to get your dog used to the water while being safe and secure.
This safety dog swim vest has highly visible reflective strips and is available in bright colors to make it easier to spot. As always, you need to find a life jacket with a sturdy grab handle for better control. The last thing you want is a floppy, inefficient handle.
Remember that life jackets are made differently, depending on the manufacturer. You may need to try a few different ones before setting on the best one for your French bulldog.
Click the image below for more information on the Vivaglory New Sports Dog Life Jacket.
4. Queenmore Dog Life Jacket
This particular life jacket is a little less expensive than some of the other ones but is suitable for smaller dogs. Although they do come in sizes XX Large, I think it’s better suited to small to medium sized dogs.
This jacket is made with high floatation material and mesh. The grab handle sturdy and prominent on the back, making it easier to grab your pup out of the water.
It’s easy to put on and take off this life jacket thanks to the easy-to-act closure. The belly and neck sections are closed by hook and loop and is reinforced by strong buckles.
Have a look at the life jacket by clicking on the image below.
5. Kuoser Dog Life Jacket
This jacket has a telescoping neck closure that can be adjusted to fit a range of dog sizes. You can expect premium oxford and nylon fabric which is not only ripstop, but also allows for quick drying and drainage.
Your dog will have a great range of movement while staying buoyant on the water.
Click on the image below for more information.
6. Asenku Dog Life Jacket
This jacket comes with high ratings for good reason. Expect high grade fabric and a special under-the-chin front float to help your little bud keep his/her head above water. Of course, you should always be near your dog in water, even when they are wearing a life jacket.
Comes in many colors and sizes from x-small up to xx-large. Click on the image below for more information, including a sizing chart.
7. Malier Dog Life Jacket, Ripstop
This jacket is a little less expensive than some others but still comes with strong buoyancy and durable protection. There is a small but durable rescue handle that appears safest for small dogs. The heavier the dog, the heartier the handle should be.
This jacket is available in a range of sizes from small to xx-large.
Recent upgrade improvements include:
- 600D tear-resistant and waterproof Oxford fabrid
- breathable mesh
- sleek inner lining that allows your dog to move comfortably in the water
- underbelly mesh lining that dries quickly
8. French Bulldog Life Jacket
This particular life jacket is marketed specifically to French Bulldogs. You get the full adjustability along with a secure neck float with superior buoyancy. In addition, the neck float should help to keep water out of your dog’s nose and mouth.
Not every dog is good at swimming. French bulldogs and English bulldogs (for example) have short legs and short noses that make swimming dangerous.
This jacket has a durable rescue handle and D-ring which is perfect for a dog leash.
Click on the image below for more details and price.
9. Kurgo Surf n’ Turf Dog Life Jacket
This flotation life vest is perfect for swimming and boating. Comes with a sturdy rescue handle and reflective accents. This is a little more expensive than other brands, but does have unique features that you might be interested in.
- Fabric is nylon
- water resistant
- two perpendicular handles for easy water extraction
- bright color and reflective trim
- customers rank this high for it’s easy-to-hold feature, safety features, and range of motion provided to the dog
Just click on the image below for more information.
French Bulldog Swimming Lessons – Is That a Good Idea?
There are plenty of videos and posts out there that explain how to train a French bulldog to swim. The reality is that these dogs simply don’t have the body structure required to swim safely. While you can make your dog more comfortable in the water, teaching your furry friend to swim might be a waste of time.
That doesn’t mean you can’t bring your French bulldog into the water! You can always hold your dog in the swimming pool to help cool him or her off on a hot day.
Many French bulldog parents opt for a kiddie pool to help their canine friends enjoy a splash while being safe.
Some good options for shallow pools include the following:
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The best way to keep your French bulldog safe around water is to be creative and diligent when watching over them. You don’t have to fill a kiddie pool to the brim. Just add enough water to keep your dog cool. Add some floatable toys and sit back to watch your family friend have a ball.
If you do have a swimming pool with deep water, be sure to keep it fenced off so that little doggies (or children) cannot sneak in.
Keep in mind that your Frenchie may gain or lose weight which will impact how the life jacket should be adjusted. Watch for signs of wear and tear, particularly around the snaps, buckles, and handle. A life jacket is only as good as its quality. If it’s wearing out you should look at buying a new one.
Richard. “Can French Bulldogs Swim? – 3 Reasons Why They Sink.” The Smart Canine, 14 June 2022, thesmartcanine.com/can-french-bulldogs-swim.
“In Honor of National Swimming Pool Day: How to Prevent Dry Drowning In Pets.” Veterinary Village, www.smallanimalclinic.com/services/dogs/blog/honor-national-swimming-pool-day-how-prevent-dry-drowning-pets. Accessed 12 Sept. 2022.
“How to Avoid Losing Your Pet to Secondary Drowning | MSAH – Metairie Small Animal Hospital – New Orleans, LA.” MSAH – Metairie Small Animal Hospital – New Orleans, LA, 20 May 2020, www.msah.com/services/blog/how-avoid-losing-your-pet-secondary-drowning.
L. (2021, February 11). Can French Bulldogs Swim? Tips to Help Them. Little French Dog. https://littlefrenchdog.com/can-french-bulldogs-swim/