Do Rough Collies Like Water? – Can They Swim?

do rough collies like water? Can rough Collies swim?

Rough Collies, also known as Long-Haired Collies, are a beautiful breed that can frequently be seen competing in Dog Shows worldwide. You may also recognize this impressive breed as the “Lassie” dog from the classic movie of the same name.

Rough Collies are characterized by their gorgeous, long coats and tapered noses.

While the distinctive features of this pup have certainly contributed to the breed’s popularity, they also lead many Rough Collie owners to ask: Can my Rough Collie swim, and do they enjoy the water?

In this article, we’ll dive into (pun intended) whether this popular breed is built to be a natural-born swimmer and if this is an activity you should encourage your Rough Collie to do!

Do rough Collies Like Water? Can Rough Collies Swim?

While most dogs have basic swimming abilities (we all know the doggy paddle), different breeds have varying degrees of ability and enjoyment when it comes to water sports. Why is this? The answer is it’s both nature and nurture.

Certain breeds are built better to move in water than others. For the breeds where swimming comes easy, there’s a higher likelihood they will also enjoy it. Dogs, like humans, tend to enjoy things that come naturally.

However, this isn’t a certainty. Personality also plays a role here. For example, I have a Labrador mix – a breed notorious for loving water – and my guy barely likes to get his paws wet. Rough Collies fall somewhere in the “mid-range” of natural swimmers.

Because Rough Collies don’t possess all the distinctive anatomy of natural swimming breeds (more on that below), nurture will play a big role in whether a Rough Collie can and will swim.

Focusing on safety, proper water introduction, and positive associations will be important if you want your pup to enjoy swimming. This work, if successful, can pay off in the many benefits of water exercise and play for dogs.

Read on to get a more-in-depth answer to the questions: do rough collies like water and can they swim?

See Also: When Do Rough Collies Calm Down?

Swimming Anatomy

Characteristics of natural-born swimmers:

  • Long legs
  • Webbed feet
  • Water-resistant coat
  • Otter Tail which can function as a rudder
  • Evenly distributed body weight

Examples are breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers.

Characteristics of dogs who don’t naturally do well in water:

  • Flat, wide skulls and heads that are large for their bodies
  • Heavy coats and thick undercoats
  • Short legs
  • Densely muscled
  • Stocky breeds
  • Short noses

Examples are breeds such as French Bulldogs and Pugs.

Rough Collies have long, tapered noses and water-resistant outer coats. They are generally lean and have evenly distributed weight. All these features lend themselves to successful swimming.

However, Rough Collies do not have particularly long legs, and their coat, while water-resistant, is dense and can weigh down a Collie after getting wet.

These factors may make swimming difficult for a Rough Collie and might cause them to dislike the activity if not introduced to it properly.

Swimming Safety Tips for your Rough Collie

As discussed, not all dogs are good swimmers. While the Rough Collie is not a breed we actively encourage to avoid water, it is important to air on the side of caution until you know your dog’s ability level.

Setting up safe conditions for your dog will reduce the risk of any traumatic events that could turn them off from swimming entirely and lead to a more positive experience for you and your animal!

Consider Using a Life Vest

Investing in a life preserver for your dog is a great idea! Just like human life vests, your dogs can keep them afloat should they tire out and could save them in an emergency situation.

For dogs that are apprehensive about the water, a life vest can give them a sense of security, especially in water that is above their heads. Many come equipped with a handle on the back that you can use to help steer and lift your dog if needed.

Keep your Dog Close

In the beginning, your dog should always be close to you. Don’t let them swim off out of reach. Canines will swim until they can’t anymore and even the best swimmers can tire quickly. If your dog becomes distressed or exhausted, it’s important you are nearby to help.

Have basic knowledge of safe swimming in the area you choose to take your dog. If you are swimming in the ocean, it is extremely important to understand the currents to avoid your dog getting swept away.

Many rivers can look calm on the surface but have strong rapids flowing just below. Be aware!

Keep Some Fresh Water on Hand

If your Rough Collie is swimming in a pool, ocean, or even a fresh-water lake or river, it’s very important you have fresh drinking water available to give to your pup.

Assume the water isn’t safe unless you know for certain it is.

Swimming will work up quite a thirst and dogs don’t know the difference between safe and unsafe drinking water. To avoid them slurping down the nearest water (which could certainly make them sick) always have fresh drinking water to hydrate them.

Have an Exit

Your dog should always have a way to exit the water safely if they need or want to. This is especially important for swimming pools.

Roughly 5,000 family dogs drown in backyard swimming pools in the US annually. Help reduce this devastating number by teaching your dog how to exit your swimming pool on their own should they fall in or tire out.

Have a plan in place when bringing your dog to any body of water. Watch your surroundings and know how you’ll get them out quickly if needed.

How to Safely Introduce your Rough Collie to Swimming

Introducing a Rough Collie to water slowly and safely will help build a positive association with the activity and lead to more enjoyment for your animal. Never force your dog into the water. This can be extremely traumatic and is a sure way to get your dog to hate swimming.

If your dog is apprehensive about the water, there are tips you can use to make the introduction more positive:

1. Choose water that is calm and shallow to start

The ocean is probably not the best place to take your dog for their first swim unless the surf is very calm. Waves and currents are scary things and can deter an unsure pup.

The calmer the water, the better. It’s also helpful if your dog can stand and get used to the feeling of the water so pick a shallow place to enter.

2. Get in with them

Your dog likely views you as a source of comfort and security. Getting in the water with your dog will help calm their nerves and allow you more control if they start to panic.

As we stated above, your dog should not be out of your reach before you understand their limits. Even then, keeping them close is a good idea.

3. Consider Using a Leash and Life Vest

We mentioned life vests are a helpful tool when introducing your dog to water and even after they become proficient swimmers. Hold the back handle on the vest to guide your pup into the water and let them know you’re next to them for support.

We also encourage you to secure your dog on a leash while they are learning. You want to avoid your dog jetting off both into the water and out of it – a leash will help you maintain control!

4. Support the belly

Your dog might need a bit of help learning to swim for the first time. They will likely begin to paddle their front legs naturally. When this happens, gently lift their hind legs to teach them how to balance and float.

Don’t let go!

This can be jarring and cause them to panic. Support their belly and allow them to become acclimated to the feeling of being suspended in water as they begin to swim.

5. Use Positive Reinforcement

Don’t get discouraged if your dog doesn’t jump into the water right away, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn to love it. Introduce your dog to water in the same way you would to any new and potentially scary experience.

Have patience and use positive reinforcement! This means providing lots of their favorite treats and plenty of praise!

4 Ways Swimming can Benefit your Rough Collie

After proper training and introduction, if your dog still hates the water, it may just not be for them. However, if you followed these steps and found your Rough Collie loves to swim, there are some amazing benefits in store for them!


Swimming is an excellent, full-body exercise. This low-impact activity is joint-friendly and a great way for aging dogs to stay active. Swimming as a regular form of exercise can strengthen your Rough Collie’s heart and lungs, improve circulation and increase their metabolism. It is also a great way to facilitate weight loss in an overweight dog.

Physical Therapy

Swimming is often used as a form of physical therapy for injured dogs as it can reduce pain and build muscle. This is generally done in warm water with assistance from a trained canine physical therapist. If you have a dog recovering from an injury/surgery or dealing with chronic pain, swimming can be an excellent form of therapeutic exercise.

Water Play

The water can be a great place to play and engage with your dog! There are so many games and water toys available for both you and your Rough Collie to have a blast. Collies love to pursue anyone and anything, this is part of their herding dog heritage.

Bring a floating ball or frisbee to play fetch. If your dog really enjoys the water, get a deep-diving toy for them to retrieve. Find a stick to throw around or take your dog on a paddleboard. There are so many options!

Mental Stimulation

Rough Collies are known to have a lot of energy. If they are not given a proper outlet, that pent-up energy can lead to bad behaviors and an anxious dog. Swimming is a great way to reduce stress, provide mental stimulation, and give your pup the play and activity they need to live happy, balanced lives.

What are Rough Collie Owners Saying?

On the Rough Collie Reddit page, owners reported their Collies do not enjoy swimming due to how heavy their coats get when they are wet.

One user commented: “Our [Rough Collie] detests water and barks at us when we’re in the pool.

He accidentally fell in once and swam to the steps and made it out, but he was so weighed down with water, he was miserable.”

However, there are certainly exceptions, with another weighing in, “Our collies x2 have loved pools, streams, etc!”

Ultimately, it really boils down to the personal preference of your individual Rough Collie and how they are introduced to the activity.


It’s really up to chance on how much your Rough Collie will enjoy water activities. Their breed and build have certain advantages and disadvantages for swimming.

Whether your Rough Collie is willing to overcome those disadvantages will likely come down to their personal preferences and how positive you make the experience for them.

If you’re hoping to have a water-loving Rough Collie, following the tips above will certainly raise your chances!

Related Questions

Are Rough Collies good off-leash?

Rough Collies are a very intelligent breed that is eager to please and learn new tasks. This means training them to have good recall shouldn’t be difficult.

However, we do not recommend allowing them off lease until you are confident in their recall abilities.

How often should I groom my Rough Collies coat?

Rough Collies have double coats and shed a lot! You will want to brush through their hair frequently to keep down the shedding and prevent matting.

However, it is not necessary to trim your Collies coat and you should never shave them!

Is Chlorine bad for a Rough Collies skin?

Chlorine in moderation should be fine but repeated, frequent exposure to the chemicals in a chlorinated pool can lead to dryness and irritation of their skin and coat.

It’s best to only allow your dog in chlorine in moderation and give them a freshwater rinse after swimming.

Using a conditioning shampoo when you bathe them can also help keep their skin and coat from drying out.

Shannon Maguire

Shannon Maguire is a seasoned traveler, reader, animal lover, rescue advocate, and pack mom. Her zest for life and its adventures has always contributed to her deep passion for storytelling. This love of stories became intertwined with her love of animals during the slow summer walks of her childhood with her beloved Golden Retriever named Guinness. Today, she lives in Los Angeles with her rescue pack - 2 dogs and a cat - who inform much of her writing and are always keeping her on her toes!

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