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The Staffordshire bull terrier is a hugely popular and very common dog breed in the UK, and one that most of us regularly see out and about in the dog parks and on the streets all over the country.
This medium-sized dog breed has a lot of good traits that make them versatile enough to suit a great many different types of homes and owners. However, they are also one of the breeds most commonly seen surrendered to rehoming shelters by inexperienced owners who underestimated the care and commitment required of dog owners, or that failed to properly train and manage their dogs and so, found themselves with problems they didn’t bank on.
No dog should be bought or adopted on a whim, and it is vitally important to do plenty of research into any breed of dog you’re considering buying before you go ahead with a purchase, to find out everything you might need to know about their care, core traits, temperament, and how to keep them safe and happy.
If you’re looking into Staffordshire bull terrier ownership, one question that tends to come up sooner or later among prospective owners is “can Staffordshire bull terriers swim?” The simple answer to this is no, but there are occasional exceptions; and sometimes you can even tell which dogs will be the exception to the rule just by looking at them, if you know what you’re looking for!
With this in mind, this article will tell you in more detail about why Staffordshire bull terriers can’t swim as a rule, why there are some exceptions, and if there is any way to take a Staffordshire bull terrier swimming safely. Read on to learn more.
No, not usually. The average Staffordshire bull terrier that is a middle of the road example of the breed generally won’t be able to swim. Some dogs of the breed might be able to stay afloat in water for a couple of minutes but would then sink, but some would not even manage that.
However, like all dogs, Staffordshire bull terriers instinctively make the relevant swimming motions if they’re in water too deep to stand in; but they cannot usually achieve propulsion and stay afloat even so. This is due to the traits of the Staffordshire bull terrier’s conformation.
Why can’t Staffies swim? It’s to do with their conformation. Whilst not everyone knows this, Staffordshire bull terriers are actually brachycephalic, although moderately so. This means with a shorter than usual muzzle – which in some better-known brachycephalic breeds like the pug and French bulldog, results in their signature flat faces.
Staffordshire bull terriers don’t have anything like the same degree of flatness to their faces as these other breeds, but their muzzles and so, noses are shorter than the healthy and natural norm for dogs, and to swim and breathe, dogs need to be able to keep their noses above the water as well as stay afloat.
The Staffy’s shorter nose means that to keep their nose out of the water, their head needs to be held up at an acute angle, which in turn makes them struggle to stay horizontal in the water and so, swim. Added to this, the weight of the dog’s head and neck naturally pitches them forwards, meaning in many cases, dogs of the breed cannot keep their noses out of the water at all and this causes them to sink instantly.
The breed as a whole is of course stocky and muscular, built for strength rather than athleticism, and their legs are comparatively fine for the build of their bodies, which all contributes to the problem.
A small number of dogs of the breed whose conformation is a little outside of the breed norm may, however, be able to swim for a short period of time (a few minutes) although they’re unlikely to be good swimmers. This would potentially apply to Staffies with a leaner build, longer muzzle and notably, not such a heavy head and neck, with legs more proportionate to their bodies than most.
Hydrotherapy is a great, safe and fun way to get a Staffy swimming, as this is undertaken in a carefully managed environment in water of a stable temperature and using flotation devices and assistance.
You can also buy buoyancy aids for dogs, some that will keep them afloat if they fell into water (such as you might use if you took your dog on a boating holiday) and some to use specifically for swimming to counteract the buoyancy problems outlined above within the breed.
Generally, Staffordshire bull terriers aren’t dogs that will naturally seek out water and want to go swimming, but there will always be exceptions, so proceed with caution if you’re taking your dog somewhere they might be able to jump in and you’re not sure how they will react!
Some dogs of the breed will paddle in shallow water happily enough, but as a rule, and quite a convenient one given the risks, Staffordshire bull terriers are not a water-loving dog breed at all.
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