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Top 18 Water Dog Breeds: Pictures, Facts & History

Written by: Jordyn Alger

Last Updated on July 13, 2024 by Dogster Team

group of dogs

Top 18 Water Dog Breeds: Pictures, Facts & History

Are you drawn to the water? Whether you go boating, fishing, or swimming, having a canine companion along for the ride is always more fun. If you’re looking for a dog that will keep you company while you’re out on the lake, you have come to the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss water dogs so you’ll always have a friend to enjoy the outdoors with.

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How Are Water Dogs Classified?

The breeds in this list aren’t just any dogs; they’re water dogs. For centuries, water dogs have been bred to flush out or retrieve game. They have also worked on ships by reclaiming fallen overboard objects or delivering messages between vessels.

While some of these dog breeds may not be used for their initial purpose as often, they still retain excellent swimming abilities and a high tolerance for cold water. Many water dogs even have waterproof coats and webbed feet, setting them apart from the average canine.

The 18 Water Dog Breeds

1. Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese water dog stands in the forest
Image Credit: Brook Robinson, Shutterstock
Origin: The Iberian Peninsula around 200 B.C.
Lifespan: 11–13 years
Height: 23 inches

The Portuguese Water Dog was bred to be the ideal companion of fishermen. This medium-sized, robust dog is athletic, intelligent, and biddable, making them a dependable partner.

They are full of energy and hard-working, so owners of the Portuguese Water Dog must provide them with plenty of exercise even when bodies of water are nowhere in sight. Their curly coats don’t shed very much, but they require a lot of upkeep. Grooming the Portuguese Water Dog can be a great time to bond with them.

2. American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel
Image Credit: Bennett Walker, Shutterstock
Origin: The breed’s origin is not well-known but may have originated from the midwestern part of the United States
Lifespan: 10–14 years
Height: 15–18 inches

The American Water Spaniel earned the title of Wisconsin’s state dog, and it’s not hard to see why. This charming and biddable breed makes an excellent pet for all sorts of family dynamics. Since the American Water Spaniel was bred to be a retriever, they love hunting and swimming.

Keeping this dog active will be vital to ensuring their happiness, as an understimulated American Water Spaniel may be prone to destructive behaviors. Their dense, waterproof coats and thickly padded feet are designed to brave the frigid waters of the Great Lakes. No matter where your adventurous spirit takes you, the American Water Spaniel will be ready to follow bravely.

3. Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel standing on grass
Image Credit: Julie Morrish, Shutterstock
Origin: 1830s Irelan
Lifespan: 12–13 years
Height: 21–24 inches

The Irish Water Spaniel is one of the oldest Spaniels and is a rare breed. If you are one of the few dog lovers with the pleasure of owning an Irish Water Spaniel, you will know that they are hardworking in the rugged outdoors yet affectionate while at home.

Some mistake the Irish Water Spaniel for a Poodle since their curly coats and top knots give them a similar appearance. However, a quick way to tell the difference is to check the tail. The Irish Water Spaniel is well-known for their thin, rat-like tails.

4. Spanish Water Dog

Spanish Water Dog outside
Image Credit: Daz Stock, Shutterstock
Origin: Possibly brought to the Iberian Peninsula from Northern Africa or Turkey
Lifespan: 12–14 years
Height: 15.75–19.75 inches

If you’re looking for a unique and highly affectionate family dog, look no further than the Spanish Water Dog. The Spanish Water Dog is relatively uncommon, but those who live with them say they are playful and upbeat.

At the same time, the Spanish Water Dog is a hard-working companion. They love to have a task to accomplish, as they were initially bred to retrieve waterfowl and herd cattle. They are full of energy, eager to please, and make excellent pets.

5. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever dog standing on the lawn
Image Credit: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock
Origin: 1800s Newfoundland Island
Lifespan: 11–13 years
Height: 21.5–24.5 inches

As one of the most well-known and beloved dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever is also an excellent water dog. Their enthusiasm and athleticism make them a great partner for swimming, retrieving, and various outdoor activities. With a biddable nature and high adaptability, the Labrador Retriever is the ideal companion for practically any activity.

At home, the Labrador Retriever is spirited, affectionate, and patient. They are perfect pets for households with children or other dogs, and their friendly natures allow them to fit into any family dynamic.

6. Golden Retriever

golden retriever chewing tennis ball
Image Credit: Hollysdogs, Shutterstock
Origin: Scottish Highlands in the mid-1800s
Lifespan: 10–12 years
Height: 21.5–24 inches

Much like the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever is a beloved companion and a great water dog. This dog was bred to endure rainy weather and rugged terrain, making them perfect for outdoor adventures.

While the initial purpose of the Golden Retriever had been to create the ideal outdoor sports dog, the Golden Retriever is no less suitable for family life. They’re social, affectionate, and excellent with friends and strangers.

7. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

chesapeake bay retriever
Image Credit: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock
Origin: Chesapeake Bay in the 19th century
Lifespan: 10–13 years
Height: 21–26 inches

Few dogs embody the spirit of a retriever as well as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. This breed is tireless, loyal, and intelligent. With their keen amber eyes and waterproof coats, they are noble in appearance and personality.

Compared to other retrievers, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever can be occasionally stubborn. They are intelligent, capable of training, and eager to please, but they can be stubborn.

8. Curly-Coated Retriever

Curly-Coated Retriever
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock
Origin: Unknown, but the breed is believed to have descended from the English Water Spaniel and the Retrieving Setter prior to the 1700s
Lifespan: 10–12 years
Height: 23–27 inches

The Curly-Coated Retriever is an old retriever breed and is amazingly versatile. They have been described as “wickedly smart,” making them highly adaptable and trainable.

Their coat, as their name suggests, is made of tight, waterproof curls that are resistant to thorns and bramble. The Curly-Coated Retriever is built to withstand the roughest parts of the outdoors.

They are affectionate with their loved ones and remarkable with young children. Their playful nature makes them ideal for families, though they can be aloof and wary when meeting strangers. This vigilance makes the Curly-Coated Retriever a decent watchdog as well.

9. Standard Poodle

white standard poodle dog sitting by the lake
Image Credit: nieriss, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany, over 400 years ago
Lifespan: 10–18 years
Height: 15 inches or more

Are you surprised to see the Poodle on this list? As peculiar as it may seem, it’s true–the Poodle was designed to be a water dog. Their unique coats are built to withstand cold temperatures, allowing them to stand at the side of duck hunters no matter the weather.

The Poodle can be separated into three breeds: the Toy, Miniature, and Standard Poodles. However, only the Standard Poodle is considered a true water dog.

Some consider the Poodle to be among the most intelligent dogs in the world. They are also athletic, adaptable, and biddable.

10. Flat-Coated Retriever

Flat-Coated Retriever
Image Credit: KimKuehke, Shutterstock
Origin: Mid-1800s Britain
Lifespan: 8–10 years
Height: 22–24.5 inches

Flat-Coated Retrievers are merry, self-assured canines with boundless energy. Their stunning coats are the focus of admiration for many, but they serve a greater purpose than mere beauty. The Flat-Coated Retriever’s coat protects them from the icy water and harsh elements.

These tireless retrievers love to swim and are adept at it. They are energetic and never seem to grow out of their puppyish attitude. This makes the Flat-Coated Retriever a great family companion, and they are highly affectionate and great with children and other dogs.

11. Lagotto Romagnolo

lagotto romagnolo
Image Credit: Kristina Chizhmar, Shutterstock
Origin: Italy during the Renaissance
Lifespan: 15–17 years
Height: 16–19 inches

The Lagotto Romagnolo is an Italian water dog with an exceptional nose. While they were initially bred to retrieve waterfowl, today, they are commonly used to sniff out truffles with their keen senses of smell. Many consider them the greatest truffle dog in the world.

While hunting for truffles may not be on your list of things to do, you can still bring the Lagotto Romagnolo along for your outdoor adventures. They are adept swimmers with thick, wooly curls and an endless supply of energy.

12. English Setter

black and white English setter in a field and sunshine
Image Credit: zoyas2222, Shitterstock
Origin: England, over 400 years ago
Lifespan: 12 years
Height: 23–27 inches

English Setters are graceful animals with elegant and unforgettable appearances. They are adored for their charm, affectionate natures, and mellow attitudes. But don’t let the English Setter’s friendly disposition fool you–this dog is no slouch when it comes to hunting.

They are skilled hunters who sit quietly when they have located prey. Plus, they were bred to adjust to the vastly different terrains of Ireland, England, and Scotland, so you can embark on any adventure with the English Setter at your side.

13. Newfoundland

newfoundland dog standing outdoor
Image Credit: PH888, Shutterstock
Origin: Newfoundland Island, prior to the 1800s
Lifespan: 9–10 years
Height: 26–28 inches.

The Newfoundland is a tireless water dog with a massive, robust frame and a hard-working attitude. They were bred to work on boats and to rescue those at risk of drowning. Weighing as much as 150 pounds, this vigilant canine is not one strangers want to mess with.

Despite their intimidating size, the Newfoundland is exceptionally sweet. Their easygoing, devoted natures make them great family dogs. Some have even referred to the Newfoundland as a “nanny dog” due to their unrelenting patience and kindness toward young children.

14. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

nova scotia duck tolling retriever at the shore
Image Credit: Karsten Madsen, Pixabay
Origin: Nova Scotia, 19th century
Lifespan: 12–14 years
Height: 17–21 inches

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever may be the smallest of the retriever breeds, but that doesn’t diminish their abilities. This clever canine has an endless supply of energy and will always need an outlet.

Bringing them on hikes, hunting trips, and swimming excursions is a great way to burn off their energy. This dog requires a lot of attention and activity, so make sure you’re ready to keep up!

15. Irish Setter

close up red irish setter dog barking
Image Credit: Irina Nedikova, Shutterstock
Origin: 1800s, Ireland
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Height: 25–27 inches

Like the English Setter, the Irish Setter is adored for their athleticism and beauty. They are affectionate, playful, and social, making them a perfect addition to dog-loving families.

The Irish Setter is a great family dog and a talented hunting dog. They are excellent swimmers and ideal outdoor dogs.

16. Otterhound

Otterhound puppies playing
Image Credit: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock
Origin: Medieval England
Lifespan: 10–13 years
Height: 24–27 inches

Otterhounds were bred for a now-illegal form of hunting, otter hunting. Perhaps due to the outlawing of this sport, the Otterhound is now a scarce breed. The Otterhound’s broad chest, muscular shoulders, and webbed feet make swimming a breeze.

With their waterproof coat, they can endure the coldest waters while hunting. Their sense of smell is exceptional, allowing them to track their prey underwater. If you want a hunting companion that can find and subdue prey, the Otterhound is an excellent choice.

17. Boykin Spaniel

Boykin spaniel at an empty beach
Image Credit: Zadranka, Shutterstock
Origin: South Carolina in the 1900s
Lifespan: 10–15 years
Height: 14–18 inches

The Boykin Spaniel is a tenacious birddog. They were bred for flushing and retrieving prey in lakes and swamps, making them highly adaptable. Their persistence makes them exceptional hunters.

While they may be relentless during the hunt, the Boykin Spaniel is a lively, cheerful friend at home. They are affectionate with family members and great with children and dogs.

18. Barbet

Barbet dog
Image Credit: Ysbrand Cosijn, Shutterstock
Origin: 16th century France
Lifespan: 12–14 years
Height: 19–24.5 inches

The Barbet is a rustic canine and an agile athlete. They are recognized by their broad heads and dense, curly coats. Their coats often come in dark colors such as brown, gray, or black, but they can also be seen in fawn or with white markings.

With their shaggy coat, the Barbet has been lovingly referred to by the American Kennel Club as “a Muppet come to life.”

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There are many remarkable water dogs that would make excellent companions for adventurous owners. If you are looking for a water dog of your own and don’t know which to choose, consider their personalities outside the water.

Are they welcoming or wary of strangers? Do they tolerate young children, or are they excellent with them? Do they need lots of activity, or are they comfortable with having a lazy day? These questions can help you decide which water dog is best for your family.

Featured Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

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