Water Dog Breeds

Some dogs disdain water, while others may dip their paws in from time to time. However,  many dogs were bred for water activities such as rescue, hunting, and retrieving. Because of selective breeding, these dogs just love playing in the water.

If your goal is to find a companion to spend long summer days with or you want to enjoy the lake, beach, pool, and waterfalls with your dog, water-loving breeds are perfect for you. The following dogs are the best breeds to take swimming.

Dogs That Love Water

You’ll notice the dog breeds that love water the most are usually medium to large in size. These dogs are descendants of water dogs and have been specially bred for water activities.

Dogs that love water have physical traits that make them strong swimmers, such as thick, water-repellent coats, webbed toes, and athletic builds. These breeds are also typically full of energy.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever dog on nature in the forest park

The smallest of the retriever family, the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, is a crafty breed created to lure waterfowl for hunters. These dogs are outgoing, extremely energetic, and can easily outsmart their owners.

This playful dog has a thick inner coat and an oily overcoat to protect the dog from cold water. Webbed toes and an impressive amount of energy and stamina help this retriever to swim.

Try out dock-diving, water retrieval, lake swims, surfing, or other intensive activities with the Nova Scotia to keep the dog active.

Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto Romagnolo on a beige background

Characterized by a coat of dense water-resistant curls, the lagotto Romagnolo is an Italian breed originally known for its waterfowl hunting abilities. Today, this breed is better known as the only purebred dog that specializes in truffle hunting.

The lagotto Romagnolo, or “the lake dog of Romagnolo”, is thought to be the original water dog from which all other water breeds descended. This rugged and sporty dog is ready to do almost any job, and mostly enjoys a good swimming session, boating trip, or other water-based activities.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever dog enjoying outdoors at a large grass field at sunset, beautiful golden light

The golden retriever is one of the most popular dogs in America and also one of the most avid swimmers. Hunters originally bred these lovable pets from water Spaniels and other retriever breeds to fetch waterfowl.

Physical traits that make the golden retriever perfect for the water include its thick undercoat to provide insulation, a dense outer coat to repel water, and partially-webbed feet.

Training a golden retriever is easy, even for new dog parents, and getting the dog accustomed to water is just as simple. Simply throw your golden retriever’s favorite (waterproof) toy into a lake or the pool and slowly guide the dog into the water. If your dog resists the water, don’t force it to swim — gently try again later.

Once this dog learns to enjoy the water, it will enjoy playing water fetch, learning to dock dive, or just swimming around with you.


Newfoundland dog in the autumn park

The Newfoundland dog, or newfie, is a large dog bred to retrieve fishing nets and perform rescues. The dog has a strong lung capacity for swimming long distances, a thick coat to keep it warm in cold water, and partially-webbed feet.

These dogs are loyal, sweet-tempered, protective, and clever, making them a superb choice for active families with children.

Newfoundlands are happiest when they’re near water. Teach your newfie water retrieval, water rescue, or take the dog boating.


Portrait of Otterhound looking to the left with tongue out

As its name suggests, the otterhound was originally bred for hunting otters in Britain. The dog is now a rare breed because, as otters gained protected species status, people stopped using this dog breed as an otter hunter. The otterhound is now classed as an endangered species.

These powerful dogs are excellent swimmers and superb companions for active owners who love outdoor activities. Otterhounds have oily, water-repellent coats and webbed feet for swimming.

The breed is boisterous and full of attitude and energy, making it an exceptional partner on boating or swimming trips. You can even try to race this dog in the water, but don’t expect to win. Be sure to provide a ramp for the otterhound to get into the pool or onto the boat because this breed is prone to joint issues.

Labrador Retriever

A blond labrador retriever on a blue tur

The Labrador retriever was bred from the Newfoundland dog to retrieve fishing nets and fetch waterfowl. These lovable pups are almost as popular as the golden retriever, and the two retriever breeds share common traits such as their intelligence and eager-to-please natures.

Labs have a short double coat to keep them warm, webbed feet, and a signature, otter-like tail that works as a paddle to help the dog swim. The Labrador retriever is a fun-loving, protective, and super friendly dog that loves everyone.

Any swimming activity will keep your lab pup happy, as long as people are involved. Water fetch and dock-diving are two great ways to play with these dogs and to keep them healthy and happy.


A cute french barbet, a water dog hound breed in late summer outdoors

The barbet is a popular French water dog bred to assist sailors and fetch waterfowl in lakes and muddy swamps — earning this breed the nickname “mud dog.” These dogs are outgoing, kind-hearted, intelligent, highly energetic, and love water. The barbet’s waterproof coat and webbed feet prepare it for long swim sessions.

The breed is an excellent choice for families with children because this dog is friendly to everyone. To introduce this dog to the water, use gentle coaxing and let the dog follow your lead.

Once used to the water, the agile barbet will want lots of time playing a long game of water fetch or just swimming around. Barbets are highly social and love group swimming sessions with other dogs.

Curly-Coated Retriever

Black curly coated retriever dog lying on the grass

The curly-coated retriever (CCR), one of the oldest retriever breeds, was bred to fetch large aquatic birds for hunters — even in icy-cold water. These dogs have unusually curly, thick, waterproof coats to keep them warm in the water.

This dog is proud, super-intelligent, and has an almost regal poise — until, of course, it catches sight of water and gracefully jumps in. Like all retrievers, the CCR is lovable, mischievous, and affectionate. This breed is more independent than other retrievers and needs plenty of exercise to keep out of trouble.

Curly-coated retrievers don’t need much encouragement when swimming for the first time. These dogs love a good game of water fetch or dock-diving.

Boykin Spaniel

Profile portrait of a Boykin Spaniel facing right

The Boykin spaniel is a medium-sized breed created to fetch waterfowl and wild turkeys in the swampy marshes of South Carolina. These dogs have thick double coats and webbed toes to swim efficiently.

The Boykin spaniel loves families, is eager to please, and has an affectionate personality. Once these dogs are in the water — after a slow introduction — they’ll enjoy dock-diving, swimming, fetching games, and boating.

American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel resting

The American water spaniel is a rare, medium-sized breed from the water valleys of Wisconsin, where the dog was bred to assist hunters in and out of the water. These active pups have a thick, water-resistant coat and the combined traits of spaniels and retrievers.

This dog makes an enthusiastic and loving pet. The American water spaniel, makes a great addition to an active family that enjoys hiking, camping, and — of course — swimming. This spaniel prefers to be the only pet in the family and needs a fenced-in yard where it can safely expel its abundance of energy. A pool in the yard is a big plus for these dogs.

Once your American water spaniel is comfortable in the water, help the dog stay active and healthy by teaching it water games such as water fetch, hunting, or dock-diving.

Flat-Coated Retriever

Close-up of a flat-coated retriever on a green grass background

Covered in a beautiful coat, the flat-coated retriever is another enthusiastic water dog that was bred to retrieve animals from hunters on land and in the water. Known as a fun-loving family companion, the dog loves water activities like a fun splash in the pool.

This retriever breed is eager to please, easy to train, affectionate, and makes a perfect addition to an active family. The flat-coated retriever has a long coat to protect it from water and cold weather.

As a highly energetic breed, this retriever is skilled enough to join you for a surf in the sea, a game of water fetch, or dock-diving.

Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese water dog in autumn

A true fisherman’s friend, the Portuguese water dog is an active dog that was originally bred to assist fishermen by pulling in fishing nets and collecting lost equipment from the water. The breed is highly intelligent and easy to train, and its thick and curly coat keeps it warm even while wet.

This pup is instinctively athletic in water and makes a great companion for surfing or playing dog-friendly water polo. The Portuguese water dog is great at retrieving and returning balls. This breed even enjoys taking part in water-work competitions.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Portrait of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers laying outside

Bred to brave the icy Chesapeake Bay waters, the Chesapeake Bay retriever was originally known for its work fetching waterfowl, bringing in fishing nets, and even rescuing fishermen. The breed is strong, energetic, and rugged, making it the perfect choice for an outdoorsy family who enjoys water activities.

This retriever has webbed toes for swimming, and an oily, waterproof outer coat to stay warm and dry off quickly after a long time in the water. This breed is great at dock-diving, swimming, surfing, and water fetching.

Spanish Water Dog

Spanish water dog puppy sitting on a beach

Often considered a top herding dog, the Spanish water dog is also a great swimmer and was originally used for land and water hunting trips. This breed is sturdy, strong, and has a shaggy coat, webbed feet, and an athletic build.

Spanish water dogs love swimming, water fetching, and any other water activities with their owners. This loyal, playful, and intelligent pup is the perfect pet for you if you’re an avid boater looking for a companion for trips.

English Setter

English Setter in the field

Originally bred as a birding and hunting dog, the gentleman-like English setter is athletic and enthusiastic in the water. These companion dogs are full of energy and need plenty of exercise and water time to stay happy.

This friendly pup is a skilled competition dog that has the ability to point, set, and fetch. Teach the English setter water retrieval, swimming, and dock-diving.

Standard Poodle

White standard poodle in a garden

The standard poodle was originally bred in Germany for duck hunting, and in France to retrieve waterfowl. Today, The breed is known as an excellent obedience and agility competitor. This athletic dog is highly talented and can do much more than just strut the runway.

The poodle is equipped with a water-resistant coat, webbed feet, stamina, and intelligence to expertly navigate all types of water. Dock-diving, water fetching, and walks on the beach are fun ways to spend time with — and exercise — your poodle.

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish water spaniel in the spring garden

Originally bred to fetch waterfowl, the Irish water spaniel is a rare breed that has a thick water-repellent coat, webbed feet, high endurance, and great intelligence. This highly skilled water dog needs lots of mental stimulation and exercise.

The Irish water spaniel is loyal to its family, wary of strangers, and always up for a splash in the water. This breed will enjoy any water activity whether it’s a game of water fetch, paddleboarding, or simply swimming around.

German Shepherd

German shepherd dog lying on grass

Unlike the other dogs on this list, the German shepherd was not originally bred to swim, but rather for herding, protection, tracking, military work, and search and rescue missions. However, the dog’s naturally athletic build, great confidence, and high endurance make this sturdy breed an excellent swimmer.

The German shepherd has muscular legs that help it paddle, and a long snout that makes breathing easier while the dog swims. The dog’s thick, double coat is water repellent and an insulated inner coat keeps the dog warm.

Since German shepherds aren’t natural swimmers, it’s important to introduce them to water gently and slowly. Dock-diving, boating, and even surfing are great options for these agile and athletic dogs.

SchipperkeCute schipperke in beautiful landscapes

The Schipperke, which translates to “little captain,” was bred in Belgium as a watchdog and a rat exterminator on ships and in the dockyards. While this breed isn’t naturally a swimmer, its thick coat, high energy, and agility make the dog well-suited for swimming.

This pup is fearless, curious, playful, and lively, making it a great pet for a family with children. Try out intensive water activities with your Schipperke — like surfing, paddle boarding, or boating — to see this dog’s incredible agility.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Wirehaired pointing griffon standing in the water

The wire-haired pointing griffon was bred to retrieve game, pheasants, and quail from land and water. These rugged, athletic dogs are great swimmers because of their webbed feet and their Otterhound, Spaniel, and setter ancestry.

Keep these intelligent, loyal, athletic, active dogs entertained with water retrieval games, dock-diving, and regular swimming.

Dog Breeds That Don’t Do Well in Water

Chihuahua and pug sitting together

While almost all dogs instinctively start paddling when placed in water, this doesn’t mean that the dog can — or likes — swimming. There are a few dog breeds that don’t do well in water at all and often don’t like water very much. Breeds that aren’t natural swimmers are typically short-nosed, short-legged, and top-heavy. Smaller dog breeds, especially those with single coats, are also often unable to tolerate even mildly cold water.

While you should monitor any dog — whether it’s a natural swimmer or not — around water, there are a few breeds to take extra care of when close to bodies of water. These breeds include the bulldog, boxer, pug, Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian, Pekingese, dachshund, and the Yorkshire terrier.

These breeds and many others tend to have trouble staying afloat in water. The dogs struggle to breathe and keep their head above the water. If the dog has short legs, it will also tire more easily.

Use a dog-specific personal flotation device for your non-swimming dog when near water.

About John Woods 299 Articles
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.

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