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How to Dog Paddle – Swimming Technique and Exercises

Dog Paddle is a basic swimming technique that you can use to stay afloat and swim short distances.

The movements are akin to the ones used by a dog swimming, hence the name of the technique.

Dog paddle allows to swim short distances

Swimming Technique

Here’s how to do the dog paddle (see the video further below for a demonstration):

1) Push off the ground and assume a prone position, floating on your chest.

2) Extend your arms forward, with your palms facing down.

3) Flutter kick: keep your legs extended and supple and move them quickly up and down with toes pointed. This keeps your lower body afloat and provides some propulsion.

4) Extend your chin forward and keep your forehead and eyes above the water.

5) 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.

Dog Paddle Video

The following video demonstrates dog paddle:


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

However, if you watch the video above carefully, 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 with my hands, so that my upper body rises.

Learning Dog Paddle

To learn this swimming 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.

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

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 also has 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 only to use this swimming stroke for short distances.

Additional Tips

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

1) You can put a swimming noodle across your chest and under your armpits for extra support.

2) You can use a snorkel, such as the Finis swimmer’s snorkel, to make it easier to breathe if you have trouble keeping your face above water with your arm movements.

3) You can use short swim fins if you have trouble keeping your legs up with the flutter kick.

Related Pages

You may also be interested in the following articles that cover basic swimming techniques:


Tuesday 19th of April 2016

Hi, I am a beginner.

In dog-paddle, as soon as I keep my face above the water level, I am unable to kick with my legs.

How can I improve this?


Tuesday 19th of April 2016

Hi Bindu,

It is difficult to give advice with your description. Why are you unable to kick with your legs as soon as you keep your face above the water surface?

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