Do Border Collies Like Water?
[Updated Guide]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Many people who get border collies want to know, “Do Border Collies Like Water?” This is a good question if you want a pet that can go hiking or swim with you. Border Collies are great with kids, and they are well known for their herding instinct and for being good family dogs.

For many Border Collie owners, there is nothing that their collie can’t do, and they will sing their praises daily. If you are looking for a dog who likes to go swimming, read on to learn more about the Collie breed and see if a Border Collie is the right pet for you!

The Border Collie Breed

Collies are smart, nimble, and kind. They are a great pet if you want to take a dog with you when you do family activities. Border collies like adults and kids, and they are great canines to have around if you will be hanging out with friends who also have dogs. As a rule of thumb, Collies get along with almost everyone and everything.

A common question about Collies is if they are easy to keep clean. Border Collies come in red merle and blue merle, as well as black and white coat colors. They have long, soft hair coats that clean up well and dry off easily. This makes them a good fit if you like outdoor activities.
This unique haircoat means that your dog can roll in the mud, play in the water, or go on a hike without getting filthy. It is a huge blessing if you like outdoor activities to get a dog that will not need to go to the groomer each time it goes outside.

If you need to send your Border Collie to a groomer, make sure that they are trained to deal with this coat type. Often you can accomplish just as much yourself at home with a bath and a careful brushing. There have been instances where a groomer who did not know how to groom a Border Collie’s coat has caused lasting damage to this type of coat.

Collies have an excellent instinct for problem-solving, and they make really wonderful dogs for obedience classes and training. They also make great family friends or can be used as herding dogs in competitions. This is a versatile breed, which makes it a great choice if you like to compete with your pet and want the dog to enjoy the other people in your house.

Can Border Collies Swim?

However, the real question that needs to be answered is, do Border Collies like to swim? Many dogs can doggy paddle, especially if they are wearing a life jacket, but that does not mean that they are natural swimmers or enjoy swimming.
Most herding dog breeds are capable of swimming. The Lab is an excellent example of a breed that is a good swimmer. Not every working dog breed is a good water dog, however, and many dog owners are disappointed when they get a pet and find out that it hates the water.

While Labs will always be the best at swimming and water retrieval, Collies can run a close second. Border Collies are very athletic, so they rarely find a job or task they can’t do with great skill. It is rare to find a sport or a trick that a Collie can’t do.

Thankfully, Collies actually do love to swim, and many of them will volunteer to jump into a river or a lake if they get the chance. They might even choose to swim in your pool if you don’t train them not to do so. Border collies are often like fish. Their instinct for water is that strong.

Border Collies do many things based on instinct, and swimming is one of these things. They don’t need any training to be good swimmers, and they love to fetch items thrown into the water. Collies can often keep up with Labs and other water dog breeds at dog sports that include water.

It’s worth mentioning that you should be careful of your Collie pup around water because sometimes they will jump right in before they are strong enough to swim well. Pups are often curious about the world around them, and you may need to give your Border Collie puppy a life jacket if they are going to be around water unsupervised for brief periods. 

Always consider making sure that dogs of any age are not left alone near water for too long. Even dogs that are talented swimmers can get into trouble when left unsupervised near a lake or a pool. Think of your pet as you’d think of a child. If you would not leave your kid unsupervised in a space, your dog should not be left alone there either.

What Are the Benefits of Swimming for Border Collies?

So your Collie loves to swim. That is excellent news! You might be wondering if you should put energy into training them for this activity. There are lots of ways to exercise your Collie, and the dog park is one great option.
You might be cheating your Collie pup out of some great health benefits if you choose not to let them use their natural preferences for water, however. Many dog owners will tell you that their Collie has so much swimming ability that they would rather go visit the water than herd livestock.

Think about it this way. Swimming is a full-body exercise. If you have gone swimming before, you know how tired even a few minutes can make you!

Your Border Collie will gain muscle strength, stamina, and mental stimulation from swimming. Even getting to go visit the water once a week can help your dog be healthier and happier.

Best of all, in the case of the Collie breed, their coats are so easy to clean up that you won’t have any struggles related to grooming them after they are done in the water. What other long-coated breed can you say that about!

Collies like to swim, and dog owners who allow them to enjoy this fun activity will reap the benefits. Better joint health, a longer life span, and a better mental outlook are all health improvements from taking your Border Collie swimming.

What if a Border Collie Won’t Swim?

If your Border Collie refuses to swim, there are some common reasons that they may not want to get in the water. Not every pet is a born swimmer, and even if you have other dogs who love the water, that does not mean that your Collie will want to join them.

If your dog seems reluctant to exercise, it never hurts to take them to a veterinarian. Border Collies are high-energy dogs and are quite fearless, so it might be a sign that something is hurting them or that they are not feeling well if they don’t like to swim.
If you have ruled out a health reason for your Collie refusing to get in the water, don’t fret. Sometimes dogs just have to learn about swimming in small steps. Not all dogs understand that the water is safe and also fun!

To show your dog that they can enjoy the water, take some treats and a favorite toy with you to the water. Encourage them to fetch the toy when it is just barely out into the water and reward them with a treat when they do so.

After a few minutes of practice, they might realize that the water is not so bad after all! This process can be much easier if you already have other dogs in your home that feel secure in the water. Your Border Collie may just follow them right out and start swimming by example.

Always be open-minded if your Collie just doesn’t want to swim. Just like people, some dogs do not enjoy the water. Your Border Collie might be one of these pets. And that’s okay. Your dog does not have to like to swim to be a good pet for your family.

What About a Border Collie Who Can’t Swim Well?

The other issue that sometimes crops up is a Collie who loves to swim but isn’t very good at it. This can be related to a lack of physical skill for swimming or due to their long, thick haircoat.

You can buy a doggy life jacket for your Border Collie, which will help them not panic when they first go into the water. You can also go swimming with your timid dog, allowing them to gain confidence in the water.

Your canine friends are just like your children, and you can help them learn new skills with patience and some guidance. Some dogs even learn to swim in the bathtub or the pool at home, so don’t be afraid to start with a smaller body of water before taking your Collie to the lake or a river.

A reward system is always an excellent way to help reinforce new skills, and adding treats to the mix can really help cement your Border Collie’s confidence in their new swimming skills!  Make sure that you don’t ever force your dog to try new things. If you encourage them to feel safe and brave, they will learn to love any activity you want them to do with you!

Things to Remember

Remember that, unless you plan to take your dog on boating trips or to the lake every day, it’s perfectly all right if your Border Collie never learns to love water. Not every dog will like the same things that you do, and you can’t be mad at them if they are happy watching you swim in a lake without joining you.

If you are teaching your Border Collie to swim, just be patient and understanding. They will probably learn to love the water if given enough time and training to get used to it. Being calm and patient is the right way to handle any dog training task that you undertake, and teaching a dog to go swimming is no different.

What We’ve Learned

Border Collies are an excellent herding dog breed, but they are almost always happy to take a swim. Their great attitude and bravery are things that Collie owners rave about all the time. 

If you have a Border Collie and have never taken them to a river or a lake, nothing is stopping you! They usually love to go swimming, and you will be helping them stay healthier and happier by taking them to enjoy the water.
Follow the advice in this article, and you and your Border Collie will be able to enjoy water activities together or a hike near a lake. Teaching a dog to swim can be fun and is relatively easy if you let them follow their instincts. Being able to enjoy the water with your Collie and being sure that they are safe around water when you aren’t around is worth every moment you put into teaching them to be a good swimmer.