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How Well Can a Basset Hound Swim? Facts & Training Methods

Written by: Patricia Dickson

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

Basset hound dog standing in the water

How Well Can a Basset Hound Swim? Facts & Training Methods

Basset Hounds are cute and cuddly, and with those puppy dog eyes and long, droopy ears, you just want to squeeze them to pieces. These dogs were bred to be hunting dogs, so many pet parents think they should be able to swim.

However, while Basset Hounds can technically swim, they are not good at it and are incredibly poor swimmers, in fact. Why can’t the Basset Hound swim very well? We’ll answer that question and discuss how to teach a Basset Hound to swim and more below, so join us.


How Well Can a Basset Hound Swim?

Basset Hounds are not natural swimmers, which makes sense because they were never meant to be. The Basset Hound was first developed in medieval France and used as a hunting dog. The breed was bred for its scenting skills and was used to hunt small game like rabbits and foxes.

It needs to have a lot of stamina but not be too fast for the hunters to keep up with, so the Basset’s sturdy but small body is perfect. Although it can swim, the Basset Hound’s unusual body structure makes it difficult.

Why Is The Basset Hound a Poor Swimmer?

The Basset Hound’s body is a massive detriment to its swimming ability. Genuinely, everything about the Basset Hound seems it was designed to make swimming as difficult as possible. Their body is very front-heavy, leading to their back half slipping beneath the surface and tipping them backward. Their legs are short and stumpy, which makes getting any power out of kicking difficult.

On top of that, the Basset Hound has a heavy skeleton for its size. Fifty percent of the dog’s weight is its skeleton; this makes sinking much easier. Combine that with the fact that swimming tires them out fast, and you have a dog that struggles to keep its head above water.

Despite all of that, the Basset Hound can learn to swim. With enough perseverance and patience, you can teach them to swim.

Female Basset Hound
Image By: Ewa Studio, Shutterstock

divider-pawHow to Teach a Basset Hound to Swim

Many Basset Hounds are weary around the water due to everything mentioned above. The Basset Hound knows it isn’t meant for the water, so many are paranoid around it. Under no circumstances should you ever push or force your Basset to swim; a negative experience in the water could keep them out of it permanently.

Before you begin teaching your Basset Hound to swim, ensure the dog is calm. Training a hyper dog to swim is difficult, and it’s better when your pet has been fed and walked before swimming. You need to buy a life jacket for them; this is essential to teaching them to swim. A life jacket ensures they stay above water and prevents them from sinking. You’ll also need treats for your Basset Hound to reward them during training. You can use two methods to teach your Basset Hound to swim.

1. Method One

The first step is to get a kiddie pool and place it in your backyard. Then you should get your Basset to enter the pool by choice; they’ll probably be pretty hesitant to get in the water, so the easiest way is to place a treat or their favorite toy in the center of the pool. You can use a Frisbee or another floatable container to hold the treat or toy in the water.

Repeat step two until they get into the pool without hesitation. Then, once they’re comfortable in the kiddie pool, move to a larger pool. Make sure to put on their life jacket before putting them in the large pool.

Once in the larger pool, you can teach them how to paddle by moving their paws back and forth; chances are you won’t have to show them much, and instincts will take over. Make sure you never put them in the water without the life jacket; if they sink, they’ll probably fear the water forever, and all your progress will be erased. If you teach the Basset Hound to swim in a pool with chlorinated water, be sure to bathe them thoroughly after the swimming lesson.

Bloodhound basset hound mix breed dog swimming in the pool
Image By: GoDog Photo, Shutterstock

2. Method Two

The second method starts with taking your Basset to a large body of water, like a lake. Put on their life jacket and take them to a calm shallow spot. Ensure you get in the water first, then bring them with you; having you there with them will make your Basset feel safer. Move around a bit and encourage your dog to follow. Once they become comfortable, you can move them out somewhere deeper and begin teaching them how to paddle.

If you take your Basset to the beach to learn to swim, make sure you are never more than a few inches away from them. Even small waves can be enough to drag them out into the deep, and that can be very traumatic and dangerous for them.

divider-dog paw


Basset Hounds just aren’t good swimmers. They pretty much sink like a rock when put in the water. However, if you’re determined that your little Basset Hound should get out on the water and swim, there are a couple of methods that we listed above that you can try.

Remember, no matter which body of water you’re around, your little Basset Hound is not a natural swimmer. You must take every precaution to ensure your pet’s safety by fitting them with a life vest and keeping an eye on them whenever they’re in or around the water.

Featured Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

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