Do Belgian Malinois Like Water?

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

I met a good friend of mine from college last week. She is now a dog mom to a fantastic healthy Belgian Malinois. He is named Damzee, is currently five, and is supremely active. 

She started talking about how Damzee gets super excited every time they walk along the beach. He will pull her towards the ocean. I asked her if she knew Belgian Malinios are good swimmers and can be trained to show interest in the activity. She was surprised! I helped her understand the training process, and now I am sharing the exact steps with you. 

Before that, we need to understand a few things.

Not Every Dog Is A Natural Swimmer

It is crucial to understand that your canine friend may or may not be comfortable with swimming. Certain breeds like Labrador Retriever and Portugal Water Dog were born to swim as they were developed for underwater jobs. They were fisherman helpers or helped in waterbird hunts. Irish Water Spaniel has a distinctive water-repellent coat. 

Some breeds like Bulldogs have a weight distribution that makes it impossible for them to swim very well without a life vest. Going out into the water voluntarily and floating around with a purpose is what classifies them as swimmers.

Then some dogs are biologically not most compatible. Like if your dog is a short-legged or long-bodied breed, or is both, like a Dachshunds, then they can struggle in the water without a vest and training. 
It is also essential to keep in mind some young puppies lack muscle development for swimming and are advised against it. It is better to wait till they grow a little older. The same situation is with old dogs too. 

Another important factor is your dogs’ personality and previous experiences in and around water. Every dog is different. 

Shier and more timid dogs may have difficulty learning to enjoy the water, while the more courageous dog might find it relatively more straightforward. Their previous experiences probably play the most significant role, though. If they’ve had a bunch of exposure and fun playing in the water, then they are much more likely to take to it like a playful sport when swimming. 

It is a myth that all dogs are natural swimmers. Some dogs can learn to swim with the right encouragement and the right temperament if they have it. Teaching a dog to swim requires patience and building confidence in them, just like a child.

Get To Know Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois are proud alert herders, squarely built with height around 22 to 26 inches. They are solid and well-muscled, have significant webbed feet, and cannot be considered stereotypically bulky.  

They are an intelligent and eager breed. An essential thing to know is that Belgian Malinois are extraordinarily energetic and, if bored, can turn to destructive behavior like chewing and barking. They need frequent exercise and mental stimulation.  
A healthy Belgian Malinois needs hours of robust activity each day. His energy reserves are endless, and just walking is simply not enough to wear him out. They demand an owner who can give them the exercise they require. 

Belgian Malinois have the stamina for long bouts of training or dog sports. They are very sensitive, and hence pet parents need to be very careful while training them.

Can Belgian Malinois Swim?

Belgian Malinois are solid swimmers, and many of them even enjoy swimming. They are an intelligent breed. And they will learn commands quickly. Thus it will be relatively easier to train Belgian Malinois to swim with the proper process and precautions.

Should I Teach My Belgian Malinois To Swim?

Belgian Malinois are entertaining activity partners. You will have a lot of fun spending time with them in the water swimming. It is essential to understand a few things, though.

Your dog jumping in the water without any prior training or precaution will lead to potentially fatal injuries. As a dog trainer, I have heard too many such fatalities in my years of experience, and it is soul-crushing. The incidents are mainly because the dog did not know to swim or could not get out of water. 

Thus it is essential to train your dogs to swim. Teach your dog to get in the water and getting out. If they struggle to do so, then avoid water bodies. Your Belgian Malinois learning how to swim is a life-saving skill added to their abilities. 

I am here to explain the process and give you hints and pointers which will help you train your Belgian Malinois in becoming a pro swimmer.

Where To Teach My Belgian Malinois To Swim?

The first step is to identify the teaching spot for your canine partner. It can be a lake or pool, but “The American Kennel Club” advises having a gradual slope into the water. The bright blue color of the swimming pool might make your dog reluctant to get in. A lake or pond will give them a more natural setting. But trust me, water is water, and if your Belgian Malinois is inclined to swimming, it will gradually get in.   

There are few precautions to take whenever your Malinois is near or in water. You need to check the temperature of the water and air. Both should be at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit before your dog gets in to swim. If the water is too cold, your dog suffers from a cold tail, also known as a swimmer’s tail or limber tail, where it cannot wag or lift its tail. 

Your dog can also experience hypothermia which can lead to a serious problem and even worse. Please keep in mind if your dog gets in the cold water and begins to shiver or not use its tail, immediately seek a veterinarian. 

Another crucial thing to keep in mind is water toxicity when a dog swallows too much water while swimming. You can understand this if your dog shows signs of throwing up after swimming. The suggestion is to keep the sessions small, a maximum of 10 minutes at a go. Feed your dog some dehydrated or freeze-dried food after they come out of the pool. This will help absorb the excess water in the stomach. 

Provide access to shade and fresh, clean drinking water whenever your dog is outside in the sun. Or else your dog might be tempted to sip from the pool, ocean, or lake. This isn’t the healthiest option. Do carry sun protection to avoid any form of sunburns but do not put it on your Belgian Malinois’ nose.

How To Start With The Process Of Swimming?

Belgian Malinois have shorter limbs which means that swimming exhausts them considerably faster than it would a human. Muscle cramps can also happen and be dangerous. The best is to keep the sessions short and stop at the first sign of your dog being tired. Let your Belgian Malinois learn at its own pace. Any negative experience may make him or her reluctant to swim at all.  
Here are a few basic steps that you can follow along with your Belgian Malinois in beginning your swimming journey together:

  • Your Belgian Malinois considers you the alpha, the pack leader. Hence, it will follow in your footsteps. Once you have found a place for training your Malinois, invite him or her to follow you. In the beginning, you just want your dog to be comfortable standing in water. Your dog should be able to touch the ground when in water, so select a height accordingly. 
  • Keep on repeating this process till your Malinois gets very comfortable in the water. So, let them take their time and wait patiently. 
  • The next step is to gradually take your Malinois a little deeper in water where their feet are not touching the ground anymore. Be very observant and beside your dog at all times. If there is any problem or your dog panics, intervene immediately. Place either one or both hands under your dog’s stomach and lightly lift them to help them float. This will help them get more comfortable and better supported in the water. 
  • Keep doing this till the point your dog is absolutely comfortable. Consider this phase, the training wheels stage. 
  • Once your Belgian Malinois gets comfortable at this stage, they should swim comfortably and paddle their legs easily without you holding. But for any immediate intervention, do stay close to avoid anything going wrong. 
  • Many dog clubs and dog swim training classes where your Malinois can train to swim if you are not comfortable doing it alone.

Choosing The Best Flotation Device

Belgian Malinois is a swimming breed. Thus it is vital to get the best-suited style of a life jacket. Your dog might become exhausted or get flustered in water. The extra buoyancy will help them with safety and security. A flotation device can be a lifesaver when you are out with your Malinois in water as they might fall overboard, and the rough, strong water current can cause extreme harm. 

It is essential to get life jackets. Make sure that they are durable and made of waterproof materials.  Ensure that it is adjustable so you can provide a proper fit for your dog. You might also consider a flotation piece under the chin to keep your dog’s head above water for any kind of additional support is needed. Get a brightly colored fabric for better visibility.

The Importance Of A Dog Life Jacket

Godlevski from the “American Kennel Club” advice, “Buy a doggie life vest that fits your dog comfortably. No matter what breed you have, you always want that first experience to be fun and not scary.” 

Your Belgian Malinois will be much more confident and feel braver in a Dog Life Jacket. It is vital to purchase a vest fitting your dog well. Your Malinois in a life vest will simply float while they get their training. It helps them realize they can paddle their feet. 

For a newbie Malinois in swimming, the vest acts as a “front-wheel drive.” Dogs under training only paddle their front feet while their back legs dangle down, trying to find the ground. If you have a life vest on your Belgian Malinois, the dog’s rear stays in level with the water. It then occurs to the dog that they do have “four-wheel-drive” and all four paws paddle together. This will help them learn smoothly and provide more effortless movement in the water. 

Ensure the device has a sturdy handle. This can help you lift your Belgian Malinois out of the water, grab them if they are struggling, and guide them as they learn to swim. Make sure it is not too tight or loose, which might cause discomfort to your dog. Your Malinois can have dislike learning to swim if the vest does not fit well, and the experience is terrible. A good fit of the handle helps you feel confident as a trainer as well. 

What To Do After My Belgian Malinois Is Out Of Water?

Get a sizable handy beach towel to dry your Belgian Malinois super dry once they are out of water. You can brush their thin coat and get them prim and proper. It is also necessary in case your dog runs into any bugs when swimming. But the essential part is drying them, or your dog will be stinky and catch a cold. 


Your Belgian Malinois should be able to swim as long as they are fit and healthy. Pace yourself while training them, put their safety first and put their comfort over yours. Make everything as fun as possible. You teach with love, patience, and meticulously, and your Belgian Malinois should enjoy a swim in the water in no time.