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6 Dogs Who Were Bred to Love the Water

Of course Newfies and Labs are on the list of dogs who like to swim, but a few of the other entries may surprise you.

Lynn M. Hayner  |  May 31st 2017


Not all dogs are Olympic swimming hopefuls. Some can hardly dog paddle. The Greyhound’s low body fat and the Bulldog’s top-heavy weight, for example, keep them off most swimming podiums. Any individual dog may love water or boat outings, but some breeds have a history soaked in sea stories and marine memories. A few of them may surprise you.

1. Newfoundland

Newfoundland courtesy Newfoundland Club of Seattle

Newfoundland courtesy Newfoundland Club of Seattle.

Well, I’m no surprise here. We’re renowned swimmers, bred to tolerate frosty waters and work with fishermen. We have a drive to rescue people in trouble in the water (but please take your own swimming lessons). Now I admit we match up better with large boats than tiny ones. That being said, we’re relatively quiet and calm in water vessels, which beats many of the bouncy breeds I see perched in canoes. And with my webbed feet, water-resistant coat, and powerful stroke, I’ll have no trouble swimming ashore if we do capsize.

2. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever6 Courtesy Bev Browne

Labrador Retriever courtesy Bev Browne.

Shiver me timbers, you can’t be astonished to see me on this list. My Lab predecessors worked all day with fisherman, and yet saved energy for twilight family play-times, too. I have great gusto for any activity, and that goes double if the activity includes water and retrieving. You’ll see me involved in a wide variety of water adventures. I collect accolades at any dock diving competition, and I’m Game On! for beach frolics. Here’s a tip  about our sea legs: If you put a rubber mat on the canoe hull’s bottom, I can balance nicely and keep all paws on deck.

3. Havanese

Havanese courtesy Joan Esworthy

Havanese courtesy Joan Esworthy.

Ah, my inclusion on this list may be initially surprising! But while we were bred for companionship and not water-work,  we have quite the sea story to tell. Our ancestors likely came to the island of Cuba via trading ships. We became popular with Cuban and European aristocracy, and traveled aboard many a ship. Some of us love to swim; almost all of us thrive on both land and water outings with our family. But tis true I’m no Navy Seal. How about a life jacket? And here’s a perk breeds like the Newfie can’t offer: You won’t struggle lifting me back in the boat if I bounce out, for I only weigh about 10 pounds.  Hoist the sails!

4. Spanish Water Dog

Spanish Water Dog courtesy Nancy Valley

Spanish Water Dogs courtesy Nancy Valley.

The Portuguese Water Dog gets more press than we do (probably because of his White House publicity!), but our name is revealing. We’re great water buddies. We were bred as all-around farm dogs in Spain. And because we were also developed to help fisherman, we’re eager swimmers, dock divers, and boating companions, too. Our compact mid-size frame (about 40 pounds) allows us to fit in just about any-sized boat. Our water-loving nature and athleticism allows us to boat all day, no nap needed. Just give us a chance to hop out and swim now and then.

5. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever courtesy Jessica O'Dell

Chesapeake Bay Retriever courtesy Jessica O’Dell.

Bred to retrieve waterfowl and handle rough water, I’m one of the toughest canine swimmers out there. I also, however, can sit calmly in a boat. Since my historical job also included guarding the day’s catch and the boats, I tend to stick close by you while you steer your vessel. I’m an excellent first mate. And when you’re ready to dive into the water, I’ve got the strength and endurance for swimming, too.  And you can count on me to clear the water of ducks. Pepper-crusted duck breast for dinner?

6. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever courtesy Geri Yaccino

Golden Retriever courtesy Geri Yaccino.

Well if the Lab and Chessie (retrievers) are named on this admirable aquatic list, we insist on sharing our passion for water, too. We were developed in Scotland as a gun dog to retrieve fowl for hunters. But here’s the aquatic angle: Lord Tweedmouth fine-tuned us specifically for a love of water. Today, most of us can’t even resist a puddle of muddy water, let alone a river or lake. Although bred tough for rough terrain and swimming, we yet have a gentle mouth and equally gentle spirit. Nothing makes your festive boating or swimming day more golden than a Golden!

Did I forget your swimming-suited breed? Share a photo!