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Can Scottish Deerhounds Swim?

It’s a good question to ask as many dogs are perfectly happy to have a swim in a river, stream, lake, sea or any body of water but as we all know, the deerhound is just different from most breeds. It is not only different for the obvious reason (it’s a very large dog) but in so many other ways, as their owners will appreciate.

Personally, I’m not sure these dogs realize that they are actually a dog. My Dad has a Scottish deerhound and apparently ‘Willoughby’ seemed truly disappointed the first time he looked into a mirror and discovered he didn’t look like the rest of us – he’s not looked into one since!

Anyway, I digress – the purpose of this article is to understand whether the Scottish deerhound can swim or whether you need to observe extreme caution when around a body of water.

The Scottish deerhound is able to swim but because of its low body-fat ratio, it isn’t very buoyant. This means that unless it keeps swimming there is a good chance it will sink.

The Size of the Scottish Deerhound

Well, the size of the Scottish deerhound was always going to be a factor in this, right? Not that it is necessarily a direct reason for any problems the deerhound might have – I mean, an aircraft carrier can float, so why would a deerhound have a problem?

The problem deerhounds have with buoyancy is to do with their physical make-up. If you’ve ever spent time with one you will appreciate that although they are large, the majority aren’t exactly fat. In fact, when you stroke a deerhound you will discover that actually, they are quite bony! It is because of this bony structure and lack of fat which means that their density is a little on the high side for them to be comfortable in water.

This doesn’t mean that they can’t swim. Indeed, they can swim. It’s more of a problem that they can’t float very well so they have to keep moving to avoid sinking!

Body Fat of the Scottish Deerhound

If you were to measure the body-fat on a deerhound you would discover that it is very low, somewhere in the region of between 0-4%. Although, this number can change depending on how much exercise they get. As they get older they are less enthusiastic about going outside and playing and it is during this time that you can see the pounds start to increase and with it the body fat.

Can Scottish Deerhounds Swim?

The low body fat this breed of dog (and other similar breeds, like the greyhound) has is primarily responsible for their lack of buoyancy. There’s not a lot you can (or should) do about this as it is just the way they have been made. They are meant to be lean and as their fat levels increase, their health can decline.

The Deerhound Likes to Play

The deerhound, especially when young, likes to play, explore and be mischievous. What this means to you is that you will need to keep a close eye on them when you are around any body of water. There’s more on how you can do this below but typically, problems occur when their owners become complacent.

As they have never gotten into trouble previously, it’s easy (and understandable) to think that they won’t get into trouble today. However, it doesn’t take much for things to start going the wrong way and it is unfortunate that things can go downhill quickly as soon as their snouts dip below the waterline.

Therefore, you just need to keep your wits about you when they are in the water. If you’re in the water with them, would you be able to help them if they were to get into trouble? The deerhound, fully grown, is about 110 lbs. This is around the weight of an average 14-year-old boy. So, if you think you’d struggle with that then you’re going to struggle with your deerhound!

How can you keep the Scottish Deerhound safe?

Well, the best way to keep them safe is to not let them into the water! However, that’s perhaps overkill as life isn’t always that simple. The best way you can keep them safe therefore is to keep them close and consider using a life-jacket for them.

This is easier said than done though as it’s difficult to find one that will fit. In fact, the only life jacket for large dogs that I could find that might be fit for us was this life jacket over at Amazon (opens in a new window).

Do though always bear in mind that any life-jacket shouldn’t be relied on. You should see it as just giving you a few extra seconds to rescue them. In fact, the best way to treat any dog when it comes to water is to treat them the same as your child.


So, it’s pretty clear that although the Scottish deerhound can indeed swim, it’s certainly not the best dog at it. This isn’t its fault though, of course, it’s because of its construction. The deerhound, being very lean and with a low body-fat ratio means it takes a bit of effort for the dog to stay afloat. Therefore, extreme care should be taken when venturing into water with the deerhound and ideally…you should do something else!

Finally, if you want to know what I believe to be the ‘best’ dog – then take a look here!

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