The Portuguese Water Dog is a water dog from Portugal, where it was used to herd fish into fishermans’ nets. They were also employed to retrieve broken nets and lost tackle and are still very good swimmers.
The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds for family companionship but they were originally bred for retrieving game in water. Because of their heritage, the breed is full of excellent swimmers that absolutely love water whether they’re retrieving ducks or toys.
The Barbet is a rare water dog from France, where it was used to retrieve waterfowl and assist sailors on their boats. They are intelligent dogs that need ample exercise to be suitable as family companions.
The Otterhound is a very large British dog originally bred for hunting otter. They are powerful dogs and exceptionally strong swimmers, making them unsuitable for many families as a companion.
This Italian breed is considered the “Lake Dog of Romagnolo,” where it originated. It was used primarily as a gundog for waterfowl but has also been used to hunt truffles. They are excellent swimmers and workers that are happy to have any job.
Why do some dog breeds love water?
In most cases, certain breeds of dogs love water because they were originally bred to be used for water activities, like retrieving waterfowl during hunting.
“Dogs that have historically been bred to work in and around water usually love to swim,” Dr. Coates told The Dodo. “Some of these breeds have developed physical characteristics that serve them well in the water. For example, Labrador retrievers have more webbing between their toes to help them swim, and Chesapeake Bay retrievers have oily coats to help them repel water.”
This giant dog was born to swim, with a thick coat designed to keep them warm in chilly waters. Originally, this breed was bred to help fishers haul their nets, but this furry lifesaver now primarily helps with water rescues.
Dog Breeds that LOVE Water!
Just like some people are wired to adore spending time in the water, so too are certain dog breeds. In fact, an entire group of breeds known as water dogs were bred to work in the water, so when it comes to hunting, retrieving, rescuing, or simply being ready to assist in the waves, theyre canine rock stars. And some breeds might not sport the title of “water dog” in their name, but theyre just as capable of diving in.
If youre looking for a furry friend who was born to be your companion on the high seas—or just a nearby lake or stream—youll want to consider any of these 12 breeds.
Folks who enjoy fishing and swimming are sure to love the company of an athletic, affectionate (theyre considered a total Velcro dog), adventurous Portuguese water dog. “They are incredibly smart, generally healthy, and very easy to train,” explains Laura Robinson, DVM, a veterinary advisor for Pawp who practices in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
However, these talented swimmers do require more exercise than other breeds so would do best in an active home with lots of playtime together, adds Robinson.
A hard-working, playful breed, Spanish water dogs were bred to be herders and waterfowl retrievers. They are affectionate and social, can play well with other dogs if socialized as a puppy, and are good with kids, explains Sarah Wooten, DVM, veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance.
The Spanish water dog is also well-known for their unique, curly, wooly coat. “While they are considered to be low maintenance when it comes to grooming, the hair does form cords that need daily attention,” says Wooten. “It is recommended for first time owners to work with someone who is experienced in their coat care, rather than trying to brush the dog themselves.”
Another long-haired pup who adores splishing and splashing in the nearest body of water, the Barbet, sometimes called the French water dog, does well as a family dog. However, theyre best suited to an active family that loves to get out of the house.
“They require regular, daily exercise because they were bred to be athletes,” explains Robinson, who adds that these pups are also very intelligent, social, and easy to live with.
But like their fellow shaggy dogs, Wooten warns that they will require daily grooming, due to their dense, curly hair coats, or theyll suffer tangles, mats, and debris build-up.
These working dogs are the tallest spaniel and are known for their signature “rat tail,” explains Wooten. In addition to being talented swimmers, Irish water spaniels are also very playful, affectionate, and highly trainable, notes Wooten. You can usually anticipate that an eager-to-please Irish water spaniel will get along well with other dogs and kids.
One of the first known hunting breeds, the English setter is medium-sized and has a long, silky white coat with various speckles that does require a decent amount of time spent on grooming, explains Robinson.
“They are typically gentle, mild-mannered, and friendly,” she notes. Thats why theyve earned a reputation as the “gentlemen of the dog world.” In other words, these loving pups make great companions and are good with children.
The truffle-hunting and water-loving Lagotto Romagnolo—which translates to “lake dog from Romagna”—is affectionate, lively, eager to please, and easily trainable, says Robinson. Theyre also known to be good family dogs as long as theyre socialized early, she notes.
Wooten also points out that this smart breed, who hails from Italy, will require daily mental stimulation with play or training. Theyre especially big fans of problem-solving, so a doggie puzzle toy can be a great way to give them the brain-enriching stimuli they crave.
But you will want to take special care when it comes to grooming them, as they have a curly, water-resistant double coat that can get matted after enjoying the surf.
One of the largest dog breeds out there, Newfoundlands are gentle giants who usually weigh more than 100 pounds up to 150 pounds. They sport a flat coarse exterior coat that helps them be avid swimmers in cool waters.
“Sadly, they have a shorter life span than other breeds, usually only living until around 8,” says Robinson. “They are very sweet, good companions, and big couch potatoes.”
It also bears noting that these big lovers tend to drool profusely, shed a lot, and are prone to ear infections. Wooten says youll want to keep a close eye on those floofy ears so you can catch any signs of an ear infection before they turn nasty.
Wholly developed within the 20th century, the Boykin spaniel loves hunting and water retrieval. Theyre beautiful, all brown, medium-sized spaniels who are also extremely smart, sweet, and love being around families, explains Robinson.
These pups require regular exercise, given how athletic and energetic they are. Theyll do best with active people who can give them at least an hour of vigorous exercise every day, notes Wooten.
She adds that minimal grooming is required, but just like the Newfoundland above, a Boykins ears should be checked for infection on a regular basis.
The only American-bred retriever is a beloved family dog, the Chesapeake bay retriever, or “Chessie,” is as active and athletic as they come. “They are skilled hunters and retrievers and love the outdoors, including swimming,” says Robinson. It helps that they have thick, water-resistant double coats.
Personality-wise, Robinson says you can expect a Chessie to be very sweet and calm, which makes them great service dogs.
One of the smartest—not to mention most elegant and trainable—breeds out there, standard poodles are very playful and active and require a ton of exercise. Although their low-shedding coat is good for people who have allergies, Robinson points out that these dogs will still require regular grooming.
And because theyre naturally adventurous, its no surprise that the breed—which also comes in toy and miniature sizes—take quickly to being in and around the surf. In fact, the AKC notes that the name poodle stems from pudelin, a German-language reference to the breeds adoration of water.
The most popular breed in the U.S., Labrador retrievers, or Labs, as theyre known for short, descended from St. Johns water dogs, and were originally bred to retrieve ducks and be the fur-ever friends of fishermen. These days, Robinson says the breed continues to be well-loved—in no small part because of their easy trainability. When theyre not being put to work hunting and retrieving, the obedient Lab can also be found working as a service dog. In addition to being so industrious, theyre also very sweet and good-natured, so they make wonderful family companions.
Even though they are so athletic, they are prone to being overweight so they do require regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Bred to help hunt ducks, the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is an outgoing, loving medium-sized sporting breed with an eye-catching golden copper coat. “They are very intelligent, affectionate, and eager to please,” notes Robinson. And a “toller” might be perfect for your family if you enjoy hunting, hiking, camping, and of course, swimming—just beware their notorious “toller scream,” a high-pitched cry that makes this pup a poor choice for apartment-dwellers or folks with close neighbors who enjoy their peace and quiet.
And given their love of the outdoors and athleticism, Robinson adds that a toller needs to be exercised routinely and generally love playing fetch.