Survival is innate in all living creatures, so it is no surprise if German Shepherds know that they cannot breathe when underwater.
For those of us who are familiar with the different forms of swimming, we would know the popular style called “doggie paddle” and may we have the unfortunate view that all dogs can swim, hence the name.
Regrettably, this is an assumption and not a proven fact.
Just like humans, some dogs can swim, some can learn to swim and some sink while in the water and should be forever prevented from ever going near large bodies of water.
The doggie paddle requires one to leave their head above the water and use their four limbs to move while in the water. This suggests that dogs know they cannot breathe while underwater, hence their heads are above it when swimming.
When a GSD is in water, like humans, it would either try to float, get out of the water or panic.
Dogs that panic end up sinking and may eventually drown. I do not suggest you try this experiment but just as you would monitor kids when they are around water, you should monitor your dog to ensure that the pet would not panic if it ends up in the water, which leads to fatigue and then eventually drowning.
German Shepherds drink water by placing their nozzles and mouths into bowls, fresh-water lakes and ponds or other types of vessels and masses.
While doing so, the dogs actually stop breathing. Unlike humans, dogs do not have cheeks and cannot suction the water into their mouths.
They use a lapping action with their tongue to get the water to enter their mouths. This action is done so rapidly that the reflex action is to stop breathing.
Maybe, and we won’t know unless dogs themselves can speak our language, dogs associate water with holding their breaths.
There was an experiment that went viral in December 2017 where a Russian scientist proved that dogs can, in fact, breathe underwater.
While the experiment itself was inhumane, the scientist wanted to prove that when the lungs are pumped with oxygen, mainly liquid oxygen, one can breathe underwater for at least 30 minutes.
The dog used in the experiment was seemingly distressed with the procedure, maybe he too knew that he could not breathe underwater, hence the distress.
We simply cannot know what may have been going through his mind at that moment or while he was submerged in the water.
One photographer did an underwater shooting of a dog that refused to stay out of its owner’s pool.
Since then, he has become famous, receiving calls from all over the globe, to do underwater portraits of other dogs.
All these animals jump into the water to retrieve an object, dunking their entire bodies into the pool, their only aim is to capture the object into its mouth.
While these are all domesticated dogs, we can assume that the dogs have all had previous exposure to pools and would go swimming from time to time.
Whether they know they cannot breathe while underwater, is probably discovered through trials and errors.