The terrier breeds are not particularly famous for being good swimmers, they were originally bred to kill rats, vermin and guard their families’ homes or barns.
Unlike water dogs like the labrador retriever, the golden retriever, or The American Water Spaniel that literally has water in its name they were not bred for water jobs.
This of course does not mean that terriers can not swim, in fact, most dogs can swim unless they have physical difficulties that make it hard for them.
Most terriers like water and will enjoy swimming and water games, even though they were not originally bred for water jobs, usually it’s the short-legged, deep-chested built, and dogs with flat faces and extremely short snouts that have a hard time swimming and none of the terrier breeds have these characteristics.
Life jackets, constant supervision, and sometimes swimming lessons are important, not all terriers are natural swimmers, especially the smallest breeds like westies.
Terriers that like water
Almost all terrier breeds like water, they enjoy swimming, splashing, and water activities, except for a few small and hairless breeds.
Airedale terriers are well known for their love of water and would not want to come out of the water unless forced to.
Rat terriers are an exception when it comes to small terriers, they love to swim and are relatively good swimmers despite being a small breed, it’s their long-legged bodies that make them good swimmers.
Terriers that don’t like water
Cesky terriers, Cairn terriers, and American hairless terries are the terrier breeds that like water the least, they are not natural swimmers and would avoid water most of the time, at least when their feet can’t touch the bottom.
Most small and short-legged terriers don’t like water, they can’t keep their snouts above water all the time and will end up getting too much water in and that makes them uncomfortable.
Hairless dogs, in general, don’t like to be in the water, they can not hold their body temperature and do get cold easily, and the American hairless terrier is no exception.
The best terrier swimmers
None of the terrier breeds are on the list of best swimming dogs, they were not built for water jobs, but some have the physical characteristics and retrieving instinct to be fairly good swimmers.
Airedale terriers are regarded as the best swimmers of the terrier breeds, they are well-designed for swimming and tend to enjoy water activities a lot.
The Irish Terrier, Kerry blue terriers, and Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are also good swimmers, although some Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers hate water, they are good swimmers anyway.
Why do terriers like water?
Almost all terrier breeds are very energetic dogs, and they can be overwhelmingly too active for new dog owners, that’s what makes them playful.
Water games and any sort of outdoor fun are great for terriers and they’ll enjoy it, they are not necessarily the best swimmers but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying it.
Terriers are working dogs and need to be always doing something, activities like swimming are very appreciated and fulfilling for them.
Water retrieving games and swimming are their favorite water games, although there are plenty of games that they can enjoy, in the pool, at the sea, in a lake or the backyard.
Are all terriers natural swimmers?
Not all terriers are natural-born swimmers, some terriers seem to like water and are able to swim from the moment they see water, while other terriers just don’t see the point in swimming.
With some swimming lessons and a life jacket, all terriers would be able to get around in the water, but each dog is different and some dogs will just prefer to keep their relationship with water to the usual bath.
As long as your dog has a way out of the water, they can instinctively paddle their way out, short-legged breeds will have a hard time though.
Where can terriers swim?
Terriers that can swim and love the water can generally handle swimming in a pool, a lake, or even at the sea, and they will not miss a chance to jump in the water no matter where it is.
Smaller breeds can have a hard time swimming at the sea, it’s harder for their small bodies to handle the waves and currents.
Do terriers use their tails to swim?
Terriers don’t use their tails to swim, and most dogs for that matter, some breeds, and individual dogs have learned this skill like labradors, but it’s rare.
Most dogs will just paddle their way in the water using their legs, that’s why even dogs with small tails can swim.
How long can terriers stay in the water?
How much a terrier can stay in the water will depend on many factors, like the terrier breed, the size how often the dog works out on land, and the type of water he’ll be swimming in.
All terriers are very energetic and active dogs, they are working dogs so they have enough stamina for long exhausting activities.
However, it still depends on how much exercise your terrier gets on land, the longer they spend playing and exercising, the longer they can stay in the water.
Airedales and rat terriers are intrepid swimmers and can go for up to an hour or two without showing any signs of exhaustion.
Swimming in pools a,d lakes is generally less exhausting and terriers can stay in the water for longer compared to the sea.
In the sea, the dog has to fight the currents and waves which consumes energy very quickly especially for small breeds like the rat terrier.
Can terriers drown?
All dogs can drown not only terriers, even water dogs, no matter how good swimmers are dogs have a limit when it comes to how long they can swim.
If a dog has no way out of the water, and he’s tired he will eventually drown, and unfortunately, it does happen.
Dogs are generally good swimmers but supervision is important, that’s why backyard pools should always have an accessible exit for dogs.
Should your terrier have a life jacket in the water?
Like we’ve explained even the best swimming dogs can drown, that’s why it’s very important to have a life jacket on your dog when in the water.
The life jacket is especially important if your terrier is not a natural swimmer and you’re teaching him to swim, you always want that first experience to be fun, and not scary.
It is best to choose a life jacket that is adjustable so it can be properly fitting, one that is made of waterproof materials, and reflective trim is always a good idea for an evening swim.
We recommend using the Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket (check on Amazon) it has all the features we listed above and it’s reliable.