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Can Cocker Spaniels Swim? Breed Facts & Safety Tips

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Dogster Team

cocker spaniel dog swimming in the river water

Can Cocker Spaniels Swim? Breed Facts & Safety Tips

What do we love most about Cocker Spaniels? It’s the cute ears, big, lovely eyes, and pup-like personality, of course. However, these dogs are so much more than just adorable pets. Cocker Spaniels are very strong, enduring, and capable buds with stamina for days. On top of that, they are big swimmers. That’s right: Cockers enjoy water very much and can paddle like champs!

So, how come these loyal canine citizens are good swimmers? Do they like to be bathed, too, or will you have to train them for that? Can a Cocker Spaniel parent teach it to be a better swimmer? And finally, how do you protect the doggo from skin and ear infections? Keep reading to find the answers!


Do Cockers Like to Swim? Are They Good at It?

Absolutely! These dogs are excellent swimmers. As long as the water is calm and not very deep, most Cocker Spaniels don’t need any training or reassurance to start swimming. They feel at home in the water and like to play in a pool with their favorite humans. Now, most pooches with long, dense coats don’t like to get their fur wet. That’s because it takes ages to dry off.

A quick note: this breed is not a big fan of oceans. Instead, it prefers to go into ponds, lakes, and water streams (unless the current is really strong). So, if you have a pool on the property, you best believe many Cockers will jump right in if you throw a ball into it!

Golden Cocker Spaniel puppy dog swimming in a lake with a yellow ball in his mouth
Image By: Life In Pixels, Shutterstock

What About Washing or Bathing?

Thankfully, many Cocker Spaniels are always ready to take a bath. Since they’re naturally good swimmers, you won’t have to trick or “bribe” them for a quick bathing session. Also, dogs are creatures of habit. So, start washing a Cocker while it’s still a pup.

This will help it get used to the water at an early stage of life and develop a fondness for it. Begin by brushing the dog’s coat and cleaning its face. Next, put a non-slip mat underneath its feet in the tub. Once the water reaches a comfy temperature, cover the coat in water and shampoo it. Finishing up, rinse the water off and dry the dog.

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Webbed Feet: The Key to Efficient Swimming

Cocker Spaniels have webbed feet, just like geese, frogs, and many fellow dog breeds. And, you could say that it’s their “secret weapon”. The webbing makes it easier to stay afloat and swim without putting much strain on the muscles and joints. At the same time, the larger surface area allows these pets to travel faster and cover longer distances in one paddling motion.

Also, webbed paws help Cockers walk on various surfaces (like ice, snow, and sand). Thanks to the membrane between their paws, these dogs don’t slip or sink nearly as often as other canines with little to no webbing. And since water is often surrounded by mud, this bonus feature will definitely come in handy.

closeup of cocker spaniel paw
Image By: O_Lypa, Shutterstock

How Does the Hunting Background Help Cockers?

Originally, Cocker Spaniels were bred with a single purpose: to help in hunting. More specifically, they were trained to hunt the Eurasian Woodcocks in the UK. Now, these birdies like to set up shop near water where they can hunt and drink. So, for a Cocker to be effective at tracking and retrieving the Woodcocks, it had to be a top-notch swimmer.

So, when the bird shut down by the hunter fell into the water, it was the dog’s job to bring it to the owner. This didn’t happen overnight, of course, but thanks to decades of breeding and training, today, these dogs are the kings and queens of ponds and lakes. Therefore, even if your pet Cocker has never been around water, it will naturally be good at swimming.

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Can You Train Cocker Spaniels Into Better Swimmers?

Just like other dogs, pets, and humans, every single Cocker is different. And it might be that your doggo is a bit hesitant about jumping into a pool or even taking a bath. The good news is, if you practice patience and cheer the fluffy champ up with treats and positive reinforcement, it will become a better swimmer. Go slow: a quick shower every other week will help the dog get accustomed to the water.

If you have a backyard pool, do the “baby steps” there. Next, take the dog to some place where the water is shallow and not too deep and encourage the dog to go in. Once it becomes comfortable, throw a ball into the water for the Cocker to retrieve. Give the doggo some time, and it will come around!

black and white english cocker spaniel running
Image By: rebeccaashworth, Shutterstock

Safety Tips: Avoiding Ear & Skin Infections

Swimming is a great sport. It doesn’t only keep the doggo happy and entertained but helps strengthen its muscles and joints. That’s right: Cockers that like to paddle have a higher chance of staying healthy. But there is one downside to swimming: infections. Since these dogs have long, fluffy ears, and thick, lush coats, they often get ear and skin infections.

Moisture gets trapped in the ear canals and in between the fur, serving as the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. So, how do you avoid that? For the ears, regular cleaning after each swim/bath (or once a week) should help prevent infections. As for the coat, brush it regularly and always dry it after bathing your bud. Start with a towel and then switch to a dryer. Keep it 2–3 inches away from the coat, though!

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The Grooming Routine: A Detailed Guide

To keep that luxurious coat in shape and avoid tangles, you need to stick to a strict grooming schedule. If you miss a session or two, that could quickly lead to a furry disaster. So, arm yourself with a pro-grade dog comb with medium spacing between the metallic teeth. A soft brush, in turn, will help “smooth out the edges”. Don’t rush anything: comb the coat gently and thoroughly.

Invest in a premium-quality shampoo product, and make sure you rinse the fur off properly not to leave any soap residue behind. Bathe the pet once in 2–3 months if it mostly stays on the couch. In contrast, a Cocker Spaniel that likes to play outside and helps in hunting should be bathed every other week. Be careful, though: if you do it too often, that might lead to hair loss and dry skin.

cocker spaniel taking a shower
Image By:, Shutterstock



While it might come as a surprise to someone who’s never owned a Cocker Spaniel, these dogs are quite the swimmers! While you can (and should) train them at an early stage to help master the art of swimming, they’re naturally very good at it, thanks to their upbringing. Now, many pooches see bathing/washing as torture.

But Cockers enjoy their regular showering sessions. So, all that’s left for you to do as a pet parent is to encourage the doggo to swim and always be there to lend a helping hand. Also, make sure to have a towel handy to keep your four-legged bud dry and bacteria-free, and brush its coat regularly. That’s it!

Featured Image Credit: Andrea Izzotti, Shutterstock

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