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18 Dog Breeds Who Love Water and Swimming: With Pictures & Facts

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

black labrador dog jumping on the water

18 Dog Breeds Who Love Water and Swimming: With Pictures & Facts

Some dog breeds are water dogs that absolutely love water and swimming, while others avoid water like the plague. Some dog breeds, such as Retrievers, were even developed specifically for the water. If you’re a water lover, owning a water-loving dog can make a fun and suitable addition to your family, especially if you’re a hunter, boater, or frequent beachgoer.

If you’ve considered getting a canine water pal, take a look at our list of 18 dog breeds that love water and swimming. Then, you can decide on the best, suitable breed for you and your family.

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How Are Water Dogs Classified?

What classifies a dog as a water dog? For starters, water dogs are equipped with webbed feet or webbed toes for easy paddling and are specifically bred and developed to excel in and around water. Secondly, water dogs typically have waterproof coats and are almost always retrievers, but not always.

Dogs who love to swim are naturally attracted to water and have no fear of getting wet. They are usually medium-sized and have strong physiques that enable them to be exceptional hunters, both on land and in water.

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The 18 Dog Breeds Who Love Water and Swimming

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever dog swimming
Image Credit: Wasitt Hemwarapornchai, Shutterstock
Origin: Newfoundland
Lifespan: 11 to 13 years
Height: 21 ½ to 24 ½ inches

The Labrador Retriever is probably one of the most recognizable water dog breeds. These dogs were specifically bred to retrieve waterfowl, even under harsh conditions. They also excel in dock diving and other water sports. With their sweet temperaments and easygoing attitudes, Labrador Retrievers are among the most popular dogs to own.

This breed originated in Newfoundland during the 1800s and was at one time referred to as St. John’s Water Dog. They can have black, yellow, or chocolate coats and are big dogs, ranging from 55 to 80 pounds in weight. Friendly, outgoing, sweet-tempered, and adaptable, you cannot go wrong with a Lab, especially if you’re a water lover yourself.

2. Flat-Coated Retriever

Flat Coated Retriever on the water
Image Credit: tomas.klacek, Shutterstock
Origin: Britain
Lifespan: 8 to 10 years
Height: 22 to 24 ½ inches

The Flat-Coated Retriever is a good-humored, cheerful, and optimistic dog. They are gundogs that excel in retrieving downed waterfowl and are capable of retrieving on both land and water. The flat coat is of moderate length and comes in black or liver colors and feathers at the legs and tail; it is also water-repellent. The flat coat is designed to protect them against harsh and icy conditions, and they are energetic and remain young at heart.

These dogs hail from England, dating back to the early 1800s, and were initially known as the Wavy-Coated Retriever. They were bred for hunting birds and other prey and became a popular water-retrieving dog to own in Britain.

3. Curly-Coated Retriever

black curly coated retriever dog on the beach
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock
Origin: Great Britain
Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
Height: 23 to 27 inches

The Curly-Coated Retriever is an exceptionally intelligent dog with a confident and proud temperament. These durable gundogs have a waterproof and thorn-resistant coat that enables them to retrieve game in just about any condition, and they are tireless swimmers. They are more independent and less needy than other retrievers. These dogs have a strong work ethic when it comes to hunting and require tons of outdoor exercise.

Curlies, as they are often called, are among the oldest retriever breeds and are likely descendants of the 16th-century English Water Spaniel, Retrieving Setter, and possibly the Irish Water Spaniel. It’s believed they originated in the 1700s.

4. Golden Retriever

Young golden retriever dog running at the beach
Image Credit: Volodymyr Burdiak, Shutterstock
Origin: Scottish Highlands
Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
Height: 21 ½ to 24 inches

The Golden Retriever is undoubtedly one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. These dogs are loyal, super affectionate, and have an exceptionally divine temperament that appeals to dog owners. These highly intelligent dogs have dense, luxurious golden coats, are hard workers in the field, and make incredible family companions. Not only are they excellent family members, but they also excel in search and rescue and as service dogs for people with disabilities.

Developed in the 1800s in the Scottish Highlands, the breed took off in the U.S. in the 1970s and remains highly popular among dog owners, ranking third in popularity according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).

5. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Dog in the lake
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock
Origin: Nova Scotia
Lifespan: 12 to 14 years
Height: 17 to 21 inches

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, also known as the “Decoy Dog” or “Tollers,” is an outgoing, intelligent, and affectionate breed. According to the AKC, they are considered the smallest of retrievers, but this doesn’t deter them from their sharp hunting skills. They also have a water-repellent double coat that protects them while in the field hunting ducks and waterfowl. These dogs love the water, so much so that they will yelp a high-pitched excited yowl when close to any body of water, and they have abundant energy.

Hailing from the Little River District of Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth County, these gundogs were developed in the 19th century. These “toller” dogs have an interesting hunting method of mimicking a fox, which attracts waterfowl, therefore bringing them into gunshot range.

6. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog Swimming with Ball
Image Credit: John Funk, Shutterstock
Origin: Maryland, Bay region
Lifespan: 10 to 13 years
Height: 21 to 26 inches

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, also called “Chessies,” have been popular retrievers in America since the 1930s and are recognized as Maryland’s state dog. They are loyal, upbeat, affectionate, and tireless. The top double coat is wavy and slightly oily to protect the breed from icy waters, while the undercoat is wooly and fine. They make excellent hunting companions; however, they are more independent than other retrievers and have a mind of their own, though they respond well to consistent training.

They are one of the few dog breeds developed in the United States, but their exact history is a bit fuzzy. Legend has it that an English vessel became shipwrecked off the coast of Maryland in the early 19th century. On the ship were two young Newfoundland breeds, which started the development of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. They were recognized by the AKC way back in 1878.

7. American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel resting
Image Credit: Steve Bruckmann, Shutterstock
Origin: Upper Midwest
Lifespan: 10 to 14 years
Height: 15 to 18 inches

The American Water Spaniel is a charming and happy dog with a luscious brown coat that can be tightly curled or wavy. These dogs were bred for work in the Great Lakes region, with a coat capable of protecting them from the icy waters and marshy banks the region is known for. Recognized by the AKC in 1940, these intelligent and versatile dogs have padded webbed feet and have small enough medium-sized bodies to jump off a boat without causing much movement.

The breed was named Wisconsin’s state dog in 1985 and was developed during the 1800s. They are likely a cross between the Curly-Coated Retriever, the now-extinct English Water Spaniel, and the Field Spaniel.

8. Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel at the beach
Image Credit: PhotoDOGraphy, Shutterstock
Origin: Ireland
Lifespan: 12 to 13 years
Height: 21 to 24 inches

The brave and hard-working Irish Water Spaniel is the tallest of all spaniels, standing 12 inches for females and 24 inches for males at the shoulder. The crispy curled coat is naturally water-repellent and resembles that of a Poodle’s, and they are known for having a skinny “rat-like tail.” They love to swim and are excellent at retrieving objects. The breed is active and energetic and requires much physical and mental stimulation.

Renaissance writings lead us to believe that this breed lived during that time period; however, the Irish Water Spaniel we know today began in the 1830s and is a descendant of the Poodle, Barbet, and Portuguese Water Dog, which was confirmed through DNA testing.

9. Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel dog standing on the rocky stream
Image Credit: David Brian Williamson, Shutterstock
Origin: Spartanburg, South Carolina
Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
Height: 14 to 18 inches

The Boykin Spaniel has a medium-length, solid-brown wavy coat. They are friendly, eager, and lovable dogs with webbed toes, allowing them to swim like seals. Known for their hunting abilities, they are also wonderful family companions and sweet-natured.

The Boykin Spaniel was developed in the 20th century and named after the small South Carolina community from which they came. A resident named Alexander White found a little brown dog hanging around outside his church, and he befriended the dog, taking him on hunting trips with his other retrievers. Realizing the dog’s natural ability for flushing and retrieving the game, he started a breeding program, crossing the dog with the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker, English Springer, and American Water spaniels.

10. Spanish Water Dog

young spanish water dog at the beach
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock
Origin: Unknown, Spain Is Speculated
Lifespan: 12 to 14 years
Height: 16 to 20 inches

The Spanish Water Dog is just as excellent herders as they are water dogs. They are athletic, sturdy, and exceptional swimmers. Their hallmark coat is wooly curls, which, if grown out, form tight, tapered cords. They are affectionate, energetic, and love having a job to do. While the development of the breed is not clear-cut, it’s believed they were developed to herd livestock. This breed has the natural ability to herd and perform tasks in the water, making them extremely versatile and worthy.

As mentioned, the breed’s history is unclear, but they are thought of as an ancient breed with a history dating back to the Spanish countryside for roughly 800 years.

11. Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog in the water
Image Credit: Lynda McFaul, Shutterstock
Origin: Portugal
Lifespan: 11 to 13 years
Height: 17 to 23 inches

The Portuguese Water Dog is an athletic, web-footed breed with an adventurous and affectionate temperament. They were bred to be an all-around fisherman’s helper, with a coat covered in tight, low-shedding curls. This breed is built for water work and is easy to train, as they are eager to please their humans.

This is an ancient breed, tracing back to pre-Christian times, where the breed was generally considered sacred, with severe punishment for anyone who killed one. In 1297, the first written description of the breed was mentioned by a monk’s account of a dying sailor being rescued from the sea—the description indicated a dog with a “black coat of rough hair.” They are thought to be descendants of the Irish Water Spaniel, the Poodle, the Kerry Blue Terrier, and possibly the Portuguese Water Dog.

12. Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto Romagnolo dog sitting on a rock in the lake
Image Credit: Grapsole79, Shutterstock
Origin: Italy
Lifespan: 15 to 17 years
Height: 16 to 19 inches

The Lagotto Romagnolo gets its name from càn lagòt, an Italian phrase meaning “water dog.” These dogs were bred to retrieve waterfowl and work in wet marshlands in the 19th century. They have tight, curly hair that feels similar to human hair, and they have a bright, affectionate, and undemanding temperament. They are known for their lavish beards, eyebrows, and whiskers. These dogs require moderate physical and mental stimulation to be happy and are not for sedentary dog owners.

This breed not only retrieved fowl but also made exceptional truffle hunters due to their magnificent noses, which is what they are mainly used for today.

13. English Setter

english setter dog in the water
Image Credit: TamaraLSanchez, Shutterstock
Origin: United Kingdom
Lifespan: 12 years
Height: 23 to 27 inches

The English Setter is a fun breed to own. These bird dogs make amazing family companions with their friendly, gentle, and easygoing temperament. As if that were not enough, they are alert and watchful over their humans and love children. They also make excellent companions for other pets in the home; however, due to their history as bird dogs, take care not to pair the English Setter with feathered pets.

This breed originated in the United Kingdom during the 14th century, from crossing the Spanish Pointer and the Springer Spaniel. While they are known as gundogs, English Setters were accustomed to crouching down to alert the hunter to the presence of birds, at which time the hunter would throw a net for the catch. These dogs have gorgeous, long, red silky coats, and their webbed feet make them excellent swimmers.

14. Irish Setter

red irish setter dog at the beach
Image Credit: Olga Maksimava, Shutterstock
Origin: Ireland
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Height: 25 to 27 inches

The Irish Setter is a fun-loving breed with a majestic look. They are athletic, outgoing, and playful, making excellent canine family members. They are naturally strong swimmers and love hanging around water, making them a fun beach or lake dog. Their webbed feet enable them to swim with ease, and their personality makes them overall fun dogs to have out on the water. They have a silky mahogany coat and are considered one of the most beautiful dog breeds.

These dogs originated in Ireland in the 19th century and are believed to have descended from the English Setter-Spaniel-Pointer-Gordon Setter mix. They were developed as a solid-colored breed of the Red and White Setter, where they were considered exceptional hunters and went by the names of Red Setter or Red Spaniel.

15. Standard Poodle

white Standard Poodle at the Beach
Image Credit: Svetlana Valoueva, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Lifespan: 10 to 28 years
Height: Over 15 inches

The Poodle comes in Miniature, Toy, or Standard. They have curly, hypoallergenic coats that come in apricot, black, or white. These dogs are highly intelligent and make wonderful companions. They are also athletic and love the water. These dogs are highly popular among dog owners due to their exceptional learning ability and high intelligence and are ranked 5th in popularity according to the AKC.

Despite being dubbed the national dog of France, the breed originated in Germany as a duck hunter over 400 years ago. The word “pudelin” means “splashing water.” The curly coat was designed to protect the dogs against harsh conditions.

16. Newfoundland

newfoundland dog walking in the water
Image Credit: rzoze19, Shutterstock
Origin: Newfoundland Island
Lifespan: 9 to 10 years
Height: 26 to 28 inches

The Newfoundland dog breed is known as a gentle giant, weighing between 100 and 150 pounds. Due to their dedication to man, these dogs are patient, sweet-tempered, and devoted to their owners, making them the world’s most beloved dog breeds. They have partially webbed feet and are natural-born swimmers capable of saving a grown man from drowning due to their enormous strength. They are particularly gentle with children—they are even known as dog nannies.

The Newf, as they are affectionately called, hails from Newfoundland Island, hence the name, where they were used as effective hunters and guard dogs. They are trustworthy and highly trainable with positive reinforcement and respond well to gentle guidance.

17. Otterhound

otterhound dog in the park
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock
Origin: England
Lifespan: 10 to 13 years
Height: 24 to 27 inches

Otterhounds are big dogs weighing between 80 and 115 pounds. They have a boisterous personality, a good sense of humor, and an even temperament. These dogs have a shaggy, waterproof double coat and are expert swimmers with webbed feet. Their strength and endurance allow them to swim all day without getting tired, and that double coat allows them to withstand cold water.

Otterhounds were developed during medieval times in England, where they were used for the now-banned activity of otter hunting. Their size and strength permitted them to take on 20-pound otters with razor-sharp claws and teeth.

18. Barbet

french barbet dog on the lawn
Image Credit: Annabell Gsoedl, Shutterstock
Origin: France
Lifespan: 12 to 14 years
Height: 19 to 24 ½ inches

The Barbet is a smart and devoted breed, but you may be hard-pressed to find one, as they are a rare breed. They have shaggy, dense, water-repellent coats and webbed feet, enabling them to be notable swimmers and easily retrieve waterfowl in icy or mucky conditions.

These medium-sized, rustic dogs hail from France, where they are known as the French Water Dog. The breed was developed in 1894 and was originally bred for flushing and retrieving waterfowl. They are also known as versatile gun dogs with jovial temperaments. The breed nearly went extinct after World War II; thankfully, they were rejuvenated through the ongoing dedication of fans of the breed. Today, they are known as exceptional working dogs and family companions.

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Dogs who love to swim are fun additions to any water-loving family. Even if your dog is not used for hunting, a water dog’s natural ability to swim provides impressive exercise, keeping him physically and mentally stimulated. If you’ve considered getting any of the breeds mentioned above, we hope our list provides you with the information you need to decide which breed is right for you.

Featured Image Credit: el-ka, Shutterstock

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