Dog Paddle is a basic swimming technique that you can use to stay afloat and swim short distances. The movements look like the ones of those used by a dog when it is swimming, hence the name.

A man swimming dog paddle

Dog paddle allows to swim short distances

Swimming Technique

The following video demonstrates dog paddle:

Here’s how to do the dog paddle:

  • Push off the ground and assume a prone position, floating on your chest.
  • Extend your arms forward, with your palms facing down.
  • Flutter kick: keep your legs long and supple and move them quickly up and down with toes pointed. This keeps your lower body afloat and provides some propulsion.
  • Extend your chin forward and keep your forehead and eyes above the water.
  • Alternately move each hand forward and downward, then backward and upward, using circular movements. In fact you are using your hands to push water forward and downward, which lifts your upper body and provides some propulsion.


If you move your limbs quickly enough, it is possible to keep your face above the water and you can breathe without constraints.

However, if you watch the video above closely, you can see that I keep my mouth below the surface most of the time. As a consequence, I don’t need to move my limbs as quickly and I can save my energy. When I need to breathe I push down the water more forcefully so that my upper body rises.

Learning Dog Paddle

To learn this swim stroke, I suggest that you practice the following swimming drills:

  1. Flutter kick in a prone position.
  2. Head-lead prone balance.
  3. Hand-lead prone balance.
  4. Paddling with your arms while standing or crouching in shallow water.
  5. Paddling with your arms while floating in a prone position and using a pull buoy to support your legs.
  6. Attempt to swim dog paddle.

Practice in shallow water to be safe if you are a beginner.

Swim Stroke Advantages

Dog Paddle has the following advantages:

  • Your position is static and your arms and legs use simple movements.
  • The head above water position allows you to breathe without constraints and to have good visibility.
  • As a consequence, dog paddle is one of the easiest and less stressful swim strokes to learn.

Swim Stroke Disadvantages

Dog Paddle has also a few disadvantages:

  • You can get exhausted quickly because you need to move your limbs continuously and because there is no glide phase.
  • The head position can be awkward and strain the neck.
  • It is slow.

As a consequence, it is best to only use this swim stroke for short distances.

Swimming Tips

Here a few additional tips that can be useful while learning Dog Paddle:

  • You can put a swim noodle under your armpits for additional support.
  • You can use a swimmer’s snorkel for breathing if it is difficult to keep your face above water with your arm movements.
  • You can use short swim fins if you have trouble keeping your legs up with the flutter kick.

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