Top 10 Best Water Dog Breeds

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
Are you looking for a natural born swimmer? If you want a pooch who loves to splash around in the pool, check out our list of water dog breeds!

You’re standing at the edge of a lake and decide to throw a stick into the water for your pooch to fetch. Which breeds are splashing down before the target hits the water and which are sneaking back to the car with their tail between their legs?

Some dog breeds just can’t get enough of the wet stuff while others are born landlubbers who prefer nothing more than the dry warmth of terra firma. These water breeds below love the water.

Why do dogs like the water?

Many dogs love to swim. Seriously, think of the term ‘Doggie Paddle’ and wonder where that came from for a minute. The majority of dogs who love to swim do so for a couple of different reasons.

One is that a dog’s body is often built to swim. The way their body weight is distributed along with their (sometimes) webbed paws and natural instincts makes them great swimmers. Their tails act like a great rudder to steer them along and their water-resistant coats mean that they stay warm and dry quickly no matter the water they go in. Additionally, dogs with longer legs love swimming because –well, they have the legs that are built for it. Long, lean kicks and movements in the water help keep them afloat and when you combine that with their desire to do smart things for their owners (like hunt and point)? Many dogs just love the water because it allows them to please their owners.

Additionally, introducing dogs early on can make them love the water. You shouldn’t ever make your fearful dog get into water if they don’t want to, but take the time to train them and even use life jackets if need be if you’re not 100% sure they’re good. Even though they may be a water breed, they still have normal tendencies that play into their behaviors; be cognizant of that.

Now, If you want to go for a dip, here is our Top 10 list of best water dog breeds.


This gentle giant was just born to swim with his heavily webbed toes and a thick coat designed to keep him warm against chilly waters. Originally bred to help fishermen haul their nets, this 100-plus pound breed is now primarily used for water rescues. In spite of his large size, he’s known for his sweet character and makes a wonderful family dog for those able to provide him with the level of exercise he needs to stay happy. Be prepared when your Newfie gets wet, though. You thought he was heavy when he was dry….

Standard Poodle

In spite of his showy appearance, this working class pooch was originally a water retriever used for hunting. Of note, the special “poofy” cuts you see on show dogs harkens back to a special functional clip that was done to protect the dog’s joints when swimming in cold water. He’s a highly intelligent breed who is easy to train, affectionate and possesses a non-shedding coat which is considered hypoallergenic. You’ll want to make sure that you give lots of stimulation and if you’re swimming with him, you’ll want to be sure he doesn’t overdo it out of love.

Portuguese Water Dog

This breed from the Algarve region of Portugal gained instant media attention when one Bo Obama became the First Family’s, “First Dog” at the White House. Originally bred to herd fish into nets, retrieve tackle and act as ship-to-shore couriers this dog’s webbed feet make him a stellar swimmer who still loves the water – even if only recreationally these days. The breed is known to be an intelligent, easy to train yet fun-loving family companion. They take some work because they’re so intelligent, but it’s worth it.

Irish Water Spaniel

Originally bred in the Emerald Isles to be a water retriever, this relatively tall version of the spaniel is one of the most highly intelligent breeds around. His distinctive, dense, curly-haired coat is water-repellant making him the perfect dog for retrieving water fowl or just a stick thrown into a pond for fun. This playful, agile and high-energy breed is fairly rare but makes a wonderful pet for a seasoned dog owner who appreciates his need to stay active… and might have access to a lake. They are dogs who weren’t just bred for swimming but they typically go crazy for it.

Labrador Retriever

This well-known water-loving breed is actually a mix of English, Irish and Portuguese working breeds. Although his forefathers were used to haul ropes through water, tow boats and retrieve fish and nets from the chilly waters of the North Atlantic most water-work performed today leans more towards retrieving water fowl for hunters. Their gentle, loyal and highly trainable nature makes them ideal assistance dogs for the disabled and wonderful family pets. As they’ve become more a family pet, many don’t actually love the water as much, so it just depends on how you acclimate your dog.

Spanish Water Dog

This hard-working breed was originally used for herding and retrieving. He accompanied fishermen in their boats to retrieve nets and tackle followed by guard-duty on shore as he protected the days catch. Not only strong swimmers, this dog can dive up to six metres under water and stay beneath the surface for extended periods! He’s intelligent, loves to learn new tasks and to have a job, but a strong will and protective personality means he needs an experienced owner.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

This breed’s water-repellant double-coat makes him a natural for cold water swimming and as his name implies, he is known for his ability to “toll” or draw out waterfowl then retrieve when shot. His intelligence, affection and patience towards kids makes him a wonderful family dog while his high-energy levels and outgoing personality means he needs a pet parent capable of meeting his natural exercise needs – including swimming and playing fetch.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

As their name implies, these hardy water dogs originate from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and were used to retrieve ducks for hunters. Their dense, waterproof coat and stamina mean they can tolerate harsh weather conditions and chilly waters. Similar to Labs they were bred for retrieving, but unlike Labs they are rather wilful and require a seasoned pet parent who can deliver the loving discipline and level of exercise (ideally water) this determined boy needs.

English Setter

Swimming is one of this hunting breed’s favorite past-times and once in, he can be hard to get back out of the water. These dogs are highly intelligent and in fact are known for their recollect, so be kind because they won’t forget! While they need regular rigorous outdoor exercise, indoors they can become couch potatoes wanting nothing more than to snuggle up with the kids. His outgoing nature and eager-to-please personality make him a great family pet.

Flat Coated Retriever

This breed loves to retrieve – especially from the water – and his puppy-like personality has resulted in his being nicknamed the Peter Pan of dogs. Originally bred in the UK to be a dual retriever (both land and water) he has a rumoured lineage that leads to the Newfoundland breed. He’s highly intelligent and easy to train but is also full of energy, is highly enthusiastic and can therefore be a bit rambunctious.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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