12 Water Dog Breeds

Published March 15, 2019
Golden Retriever Dog Running into Lake

Many dog breeds enjoy a hike through a stream or bounding on a dog-friendly beach. If being near water and swimming is a regular part of your life, consider choosing a breed that doesn't just like the water but absolutely loves it!

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

This breed clearly loves the water since they take their name from the Chesapeake Bay by Maryland and Virginia. These dogs were bred to assist hunters by jumping into the icy cold water of the Bay and retrieving ducks and other waterfowl. These smart, affable dogs make perfect companions for people who love outdoor adventure. They're hardy and won't blink an eye at the chance to swim in an alpine lake along a hike or dive into the ocean surf.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever pup

English Setter

English Setters are excellent hunting dogs who were bred to point out game birds and handle wet, marshy environments. They require a great deal of exercise and swimming is a physical outlet sure to please this dog. Their high activity level coupled with a gentle temperament makes them a very good choice for an owner who loves to do outdoor activities like hiking and swimming. The English Setter is also the smallest of the Setters so he's a good choice for someone who enjoys the Setter temperament and energy but wants a dog in a smaller package.

Wet English Setter Running

English Springer Spaniel

Known for their friendly and outgoing personalities, the English Springer Spaniel is a medium-sized dog that will love splashing about in water. Whether it's swimming in a pool, tackling a wilderness lake or playing in rain puddles, this is a breed that doesn't need coaxing to get wet. The breed was originally developed as a hunting dog and does well in wet weather and environments.

Leaping English Springer Spaniel

Irish Setter

Despite their elegant appearance, the Irish Setter is not delicate at all when it comes to the outdoors. This dog was bred to work with hunters to search out game and tackling wetlands is part of their heritage. Irish Setters are friendly dogs with a high energy level and an owner will need to provide them with a lot of exercise to keep them happy. Swimming, whether it's in your own pool or in a lake or ocean on regular outings, will be much appreciated by these dogs.

Irish Setter enjoying on the water

Golden Retriever

One of America's best loved family dogs, the Golden Retriever is a terrific choice for an active household that enjoys water sports. Bred originally to help hunters in a variety of sometimes wet environments, this breed has a heart constitution and thick coat that handles splashing into cold water as second nature. Like most sporting breeds, they also need a lot of exercise and swimming is a good fit for their energy level and temperament. It's also a great low impact activity for older Golden Retrievers who are known to suffer from joint problems like hip dysplasia.

Golden Retriever In Lake

Labrador Retriever

Another immensely popular breed, the Labrador Retriever is a true swimmer at heart. The breed was originally developed to jump into cold lakes and ponds to retrieve water fowl for hunters. Their dense coat is designed to handle icy water temperatures but they're just as happy taking a dip in warmer bodies of water as well. Labrador Retrievers are another excellent choice for an owner that loves to hike and go to the beach and they'll happily leap into lakes or the surf to retrieve a toy. This is also a great form of exercise for them and your Lab will need a lot of physical activity to keep them calm until they're fully mature.

Chocolate Labrador Retriever


The Labradoodle is a cross between a Poodle and a Labrador Retriever, two breeds that are known to love being in water. The benefit of a Labradoodle over their progenitors is their reputation for being hypoallergenic although the extent to which they actually are will vary from person to person. The Labradoodle is also a good choice for the owner active in outdoor sports who prefers a smaller dog, as you can find them as small as 25 pounds, and as large as 75.

Black Labradoodle Playing Fetch


If you want a canine swimming companion who tends on the larger side, the gentle Newfoundland is a perfect choice. These dogs were developed specifically to work in water by fishermen who needed a dog who could assist with pulling in nets. They even have webbed paws and a water resistant coat. From there they became a favorite breed of water rescue personnel who needed a dog strong enough to pull people out of the ocean. The Newfoundland, or Newfie, is not for everyone as they can weigh up to 150 pounds when fully grown and they do require grooming.

Newfoundland Dog In Sea

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Affectionately known as the Toller, these medium size dogs were bred to retrieve ducks from the cold lakes and rivers of Nova Scotia. They have webbed feet and a coat ideally suited to handling the coldest water temperatures. Tollers are energetic, intelligent dogs that are also the smallest of the retrievers and are a good option for someone who enjoys a water-loving sporting breed but needs a smaller dog than its larger retriever cousins.

Nova scotia duck tolling retriever


The Poodle is the epitome of the fancy, expertly coiffed show dog. People unfamiliar with the breed may be surprised to learn the Poodle was originally developed as a hardy hunting dog and their hairstyles were designed to assist them with retrieving game in cold water. The breed has a water-resistant coat that helps to keep them warm and enjoy swimming. It's also a great option for someone looking for a smaller dog as all sizes of Poodles have the same coat and water-loving nature, whether it's the toy, miniature or standard. If you choose to take your smaller size Poodle for a swim, just be sure to observe basic safety as their smaller size makes them more susceptible to stronger tides and currents.

Poodle by the sea

Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog, or PWD, was not as widely known until the early 2000s when the breed became a "presidential" dog. As their name implies, this breed was developed for working in the water and has webbed feet and a thick, insulated coat. These dogs absolutely adore water and will be happy getting as much swimming as possible as part of their regular exercise routine. They're also known for friendly, affectionate personalities and make a great choice for the family with kids and a swimming pool.

Portuguese Water Dog


If your water activities focus on boating, the small but lively Schipperke is an awesome choice. These dogs were developed as "barge dogs" in Belgium and living and working on boats was part of their daily routine. Their name even means "little captain" in Flemish. They're generally low maintenance dogs with intelligent, active personalities who will fit nicely on any size boat and most won't mind a romp on the beach as well.

Schipperke Dog Looking Up

Finding the Water Dog Breed for You

While most water-loving breeds are on the medium-to-large size, there are still many excellent choices to fit any size household. Make sure you're prepared to deal with the high exercise needs for many of these dogs and always have plenty of towels ready around your house and car!

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12 Water Dog Breeds