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The French bulldog is the most popular dog breed in the UK and the one that is most numerous and common across the UK as a whole. This means that every year, tens of thousands of people pick the French bulldog as their next pet, and picking a Frenchie means doing plenty of research first, as this is quite a complex breed to own and care for.
However, one thing that even conscientious French bulldog buyers don’t always think to ask is “can French bulldogs swim?” Many people assume all dogs can swim, and this is sort of true; all dogs instinctively propel themselves along to try to stay afloat when in the water.
Not all of them succeed at this though, for various reasons; and the French bulldog is one of them.
So, can Frenchies swim? No. This article will talk about this in more detail, and explain why French bulldogs cannot swim, if there are any exceptions, and whether or not French bulldogs can ever swim safely. Read on to learn more.
No, French bulldogs cannot swim, and they’re not alone in this respect – there are actually several different dog breeds that cannot swim, and this comes down to a range of different factors, all relating to their conformation.
To say that a French bulldog cannot swim is slightly more complex than this, however; it is an instinctive response in all dogs to make swimming movements with the legs that theoretically propel them forwards and keep them buoyant. So, what’s the problem? It’s the French bulldog’s conformation.
As mentioned, if you put a French bulldog in water, they’d begin making a swimming movement; but they’d sink at the same time. So the answer here is that a French bulldog cannot both keep their nose above the water and so, breathe, at the same time as propelling themselves along.
Being unable to keep their nose above the water means drowning, and failing to be able to propel themselves along means sinking too; and this combination of problems comes down to the French bulldog’s conformation, largely relating to their flat or brachycephalic faces.
When you look at a side-on view of the French bulldog, their faces are flatter than that of most breeds, and flatter than the healthy norm for dogs as a species. Dogs need to be able to keep their noses out of the water in order to breathe; and as you can imagine, if a dog has a longer nose, this means just a slight upwards tilt of the head to keep the nostrils up and breathing.
French bulldogs, on the other hand, would need to get more or less their whole head up at a much more acute angle to achieve this, otherwise their nostrils would be under the water. However, the degree of the angle a French bulldog would need to hold their head at in order to keep their nostrils out of the water is too acute; it would need to be 45 degrees or higher from the vertical, which is physically impossible to achieve whilst keeping the dog’s body horizontal in the water.
Therefore the dog has two choices; achieve propulsion whilst drowning as their noses are under the water, or raise the head back on the neck so far that their bodies become more vertical than horizontal, stopping them from being able to move forwards and causing them to sink.
Coupled with this, the breed has other conformation traits too that worsen the issue; proportionately, their heads are large and heavy and so hard to keep above the water full stop, plus their hind quarters tend to be finer and less muscular than their chests and necks, making them rather weak when it comes to providing propulsion.
French bulldogs that have very moderate faces for the breed; reasonably long noses (in contrast to the modern norm and fashion for very flat-faced dogs, even given the associated health problems very flat faces cause) may potentially be able to keep their noses out of the water just enough to swim for a few minutes.
This is very unusual, however, and they still have their heavy heads and leaner hindquarters working against them.
French bulldog cross-breeds that are crossed with non-brachycephalic dogs might be able to swim, although they will rarely be able to swim as well as a dog with no degree of brachycephaly at all, and may still not be capable regardless!
French bulldogs can be taken for hydrotherapy and managed, supervised swimming because they are constantly attended and fitted with buoyancy aids to rebalance them and enable them to breathe whilst in the water whilst also moving forwards.
You can also buy such buoyancy aids for your dog to enable them to be safe in the water at the beach if paddling and in other capacities; but the breed itself is certainly not one with an affinity with the water, nor one that should be considered to be a safe swimmer in and of itself.
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