How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Breath Underwater?

How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Breath Underwater

Almost all dogs love getting into water. Whilst some are not great swimmers, most are, and will even go underwater for brief moments. But if you’ve ever wondered how long a dog can hold his breath underwater, then here’s what I’ve found after my own research.

The general opinion appears to be that dogs can hold their breath underwater for as long as 5 to 10 seconds. However, the length of time a dog can hold his breath under the water also appears to dependent on breed. Some breeds have an advantage as they can go beyond five minutes holding their breath. But for others, five seconds is the maximum.

There’s a lot to learn about dogs and their underwater breath-holding ability. Keep reading as I reveal surprising details about how they do it, what can happen to their body if they stay underwater longer than they should and much more!

Can dogs hold their breath underwater?

Yes, dogs can hold their breath underwater, but the length of time they hold their breath will depend on multiple factors. Here’s all you need to know…

Not all dogs are fond of water.

But for those that are, summer is often a time to show the world how gifted they are in the swimming department.

Can we blame them, though? There’s nothing better than an aquatic adventure on a hot day.

Besides enjoying a nice soak with their head above water, some adventurous water-loving dogs will make the most of their pool time by going after toys thrown to the chlorine pool surface. The internet is filled with pictures and videos of dogs having the best time of their life underwater.

Like many others who marvel at these canine diving abilities, you’ve probably wondered how long dogs can hold their breath underwater when submerged.

Well, the simple answer is dogs cannot hold their breath underwater for very long. Dogs under water can hold their breath for around 5 to 10 seconds.

Handy Hint: If you are worried your dog drinking chlorine water from a swimming when attempting to breathe underwater, then read this first.

What dogs breeds can hold their breath underwater longest?

Breeds, considered excellent swimmers, like Newfoundlands and Labradors, might be able to hold their breath for longer than five seconds because of their large lung size. A bigger lung capacity means they will have more oxygen in their lungs to sustain their diving mission whilst holding their breath.

And if they’re properly trained on diving matters, these fantastic furry swimmers can spend slightly longer than ten seconds underwater. Some dogs are even able to smell underwater, it’s amazing!

dog hold breath underwater
Some dogs can hold their breath underwater for longer (

On the other hand, flat-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs generally have breathing disadvantages because of their short noses and narrow nostrils. They mostly rely on their mouths to breathe.

So, when submerged, a flat-faced dog can’t hold their breath underwater for more than five minutes.

Compared to the average person who can hold their breath underwater for as much as 30 seconds, it’s obvious that a dog’s breath-holding duration isn’t that impressive.

But that’s because, unlike humans, dogs dive in unprepared.

Most of us often take a deep breath before going underwater, giving our lungs an oxygen boost as we submerge. These pre-diving warm-ups don’t exist in the dog world.

Our canine pals simply go in as they are!

How do dogs know not to breathe underwater?

Dogs don’t prepare themselves psychologically to hold their breath before diving.

You know why? It all happens naturally. See how you automatically close your eyes when someone blows air on your face?

Breath-holding in dogs also occurs the same way — naturally. They don’t make a deliberate choice to do so. Rather, submerging triggers a body response that makes dogs unconsciously hold their breath.

There’s a name for this natural body response in diving dogs: Mammalian diving reflex.

It works a little like this.

When a dog gets underwater, the olfactory receptors in their nose are instantly activated. These receptors immediately send information (to the brain) that the dog’s face is submerged.

Once the brain quickly processes this information, the dog’s airway closes to ensure no water gets through to the lungs. Then, a couple of oxygen-conservation changes occur in the dog’s body, which enables them to survive underwater without breathing:

  • Their heart rate will slow down, which means their heart won’t have a high oxygen demand underwater — well, at least for the few seconds the dog is in water.
  • The lower heart rate will also ensure there’s oxygen moving in the dog’s brain as they dive. Without a slow heart rate, the dog’s heart would use up much of the already-limited oxygen, leaving the brain with very little.
  • Blood vessels in the parts like the legs and skin constrict a bit to allow more oxygen-carrying blood to circulate in the dog’s heart, brain, and lung.When there’s restricted blood flow to the “non-priority” parts, the vital organs will be able to work just fine as the dog dives briefly.
  • Their spleen, which acts more like a reservoir for extra oxygen-carrying red blood cells, will contract. These contractions will ensure oxygen is expelled from the spleen to the dog’s body as they dive.

And all those factors above are how a dog knows not to breathe underwater. Simple really.

Why dogs shouldn’t be underwater for too long

Experts often advise dog parents with skilled furry swimmers to closely observe them as they swim underwater. Dogs will not last long underwater so as soon as you see them go under, be prepared to hook them out in case of breathing trouble.

Even if your dog is the type that enthusiastically dives in the pool like they were born to do it, you shouldn’t be too confident to leave them unattended.

Here’s the thing.

Unlike humans, dogs don’t have the cognitive ability to understand why their time underwater should be strictly limited. Without supervision, they can easily spend several seconds underwater chasing stuff without coming up to catch their breath.

As much as the mammalian diving reflex protects a dog’s brain and heart when they are busy grabbing toys from the pool surface or chasing their canine mates underwater, this body response can only do so much within a very short time.

When a dog is submerged, they don’t have the luxury of taking in more oxygen through breathing. Their vital organs simply rely on the limited oxygen circulating in the dog’s body.

Without an extra source of oxygen (through breathing), things can go horribly wrong if a dog takes their sweet time underwater.

Their brain cells will suffer damage. And cardiac arrest is also a possibility.

Reason is, the dog’s brain and heart will have already consumed the limited oxygen and desperately need more. And if they don’t resume breathing, they will lose consciousness underwater.

Research shows that a dog can’t survive if its brain goes without enough oxygen for three to five minutes. So, when a dog loses consciousness underwater, they can die in minutes – they won’t last long underwater at all.

How to keep your dog safe as they dive

Your dog can still enjoy swimming without the fun ending with an emergency vet visit. Or worse, death. You can avoid these heartbreaking endings by taking a few precautions:

  • Make sure your dog has several breaks as they dive to catch toys in the pools. This will give them enough time to replenish oxygen in their body before they dive back in.
  • Be present as your dog dives, so you can call them up or swim in to check on them if they’re taking too long to come up.
  • Whether you have a flat-faced furry friend or a dog with exceptional diving talent, it’s best if they always have a life jacket on every time they enter the pool.
  • Never force your dog to dive just to test how well they can do underwater.
  • Consider installing a dog-friendly pool ladder that will act as your dog’s pool exit. Teach them to always use the ladder.

Handy Hint: If your female dog is in heat, here are tips on letting her swim during her period.

FAQs on dogs holding their breath underwater

Will dogs hold their breath underwater?

Yes, that’s correct. As discussed earlier, our canine friends instinctively hold their breath when they submerge. It’s a natural instinct.

How long can a dog last underwater?

This mostly depends on the breed. Some dogs, specifically the shot-muzzled breeds like pugs, can’t last more than five seconds underwater.

In contrast, others like Labradors and Newfoundlands can survive underwater for up to 10 seconds (or even more, if well-trained).

How long can a dog go without breathing?

According to research, a dog won’t survive if they go for about three to five minutes without breathing.

How do dogs know not to breathe underwater?

Dogs don’t deliberately choose not to breathe underwater. Instead, their bodies have a natural response mechanism known as the mammalian diving reflex. This body response makes dogs unconsciously hold their breath when submerged.

How do dogs see underwater?

Just like humans, dogs will not be able to see 100% clearly underwater and it will be blurred. But again, just like humans, they can see underwater because it’s possible to open their eyes due to outer layer, formed by the cornea and sclera.


Anytime you come across beautiful snaps of dogs retrieving their favorite toys underwater, do you ever pause and think: what’s the longest a dog can hold its breath when submerged.

Well, as you can now see, theirs is no exact time, as just like humans, all dogs are different.

Some dogs can hold their breath underwater longer than others.

You might also like…

Dog swimming pic in header via

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

Recent Posts