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The 17 Best Swimming Dog Breeds

image of dog swimming at the waters surface


Considering adding a dog to your family but want a pup that will happily join you in the pool or at the beach?

Not all dogs can or want to get their paws wet. But a handful of breeds have swimming in their DNA and love nothing more than going for a dip.

If you're a water baby and want a dog to match your personality, these 16 breeds are the best dogs for swimming. 

(Though not listed here because they weren't bred for swimming, you'll find plenty of German Shepherds, English Setters, and German Shorthaired Pointers that love to swim.)


Retriever Dogs

The American Kennel Club recognizes six breeds of retrievers. And, all were bred to be strong swimmers. (How else were they supposed to retrieve ducks and geese?)

In other words, they have a natural affinity for the water that's literally built-in.

Several, even have webbed feet to help with their swimming ability.

labrador retrievers love water

Labrador Retriever

The most popular dog in the United States for more than the past 20 years is none other than the genial Labrador Retriever.

And, while we can't say their popularity is just because they're one of the best swimming dog breeds, who doesn't love a good romp on the beach with their Lab?!

Labrador Retrievers originated in Canada (most likely from Newfoundland), as working dogs trained to help fisherman haul in lines and nets and retrieve fish.

To help with this, fisherman bred the dogs to have physical traits that enabled their swimming skills. Like large, webbed paws that help with paddling and thick, rudder-like tails that help them steer in the water. They've also got a double-layered, water repellent coat that dries quickly.


Golden Retriever

Not far behind Labs on the list of most popular pups in the U.S. is the Golden Retriever, another of the best dogs for swimming.

Like labs, part of what makes Goldens such happy swimmers is their water repellent fur. Thick and oily, it protects them from cold water and dries quickly after a good shake.


Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Considering that this breed is descended from the interbreeding of several other water-loving dog breeds, it's unsurprising Chesapeake Bay Retrievers make the list of dogs that are good at swimming.

Chessies (as lovers of the breed call them) are hardy and well-suited to cold water. They've got webbed feet, and short, thick fur with a dense, water resistant undercoat and a wavy, wind-resistant outer coat.


Curly-Coated Retriever

One of the oldest of all the retriever breeds, the Curly-Coated Retriever is another dog that loves to swim.

Thought to be the product of breeding between English Water Spaniels (now extinct), Newfoundlands, Poodles, and at least one breed of retrieving setter, Curly-Coated Retrievers have short, tight, water-resistant curly hair.

They're energetic and love nothing better than a summer day spent frolicking at the beach.


Flat-Coated Retriever

Closely related to the lab, though it looks more like a black-haired Golden Retriever, you'll find Flat-Coated Retrievers on any list of swimming dog breeds.

Bred to retrieve ducks from lakes, the breed has webbed feet and a double-layered coat to protect it from icy water and harsh weather.


Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Not commonly found in the United States, this retriever is a fantastic swimmer. The dog's name come from its skill at "tolling," where the dog plays along the water's edge in a way to draw the attention of birds so they come closer to the shoreline.

Like other retrievers, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has a double-layered, water-repellent coat. It also has more webbing on their paws than most other dog breeds with webbed-feet, making them one of the most agile dogs in the water.


Water Dog Breeds

Another group of dog breeds that top the list of dogs that love to swim is the "water" dog. Similar to retrievers, water dogs are working dogs that were bred and trained to flush and retrieve game (mostly birds) from the water. (There are some dog experts who believe the modern retriever breeds descended primarily from water dog breeds.)

Water dogs are recognizable by their tight waterproof coats, that are often long and curly.

Most, but not all, have the word "water" as part of their breed name.

Poodles love dogs


One of the few water dog breeds without the word "water" in its name, the Poodle is nevertheless a born and bred water dog. Anyone who's ever had a Poodle knows: these dogs love to swim.

In fact, the name Poodle comes from the German word "pudelin," which means "to splash." (This despite the fact that they originated in France where they were bred to retrieve waterfowl.)

Poodles are among the group of web-footed dogs, but their coat is not oily like most other doggy swimmers. It is thick, tight and curly, though, which helps to keep them warm in cold water.


American Water Spaniel

Like all water dogs, American Water Spaniels love to be in and around the water. They're native to the Great Lakes regions of the upper Midwest and were bred to have a crinkly-looking, oily outer coat that repels water, as well as webbed feet.


Irish Water Spaniel                                                                                                                        

Another of the dog breeds that like water, the Irish Water Spaniel will happily follow you into the pool. It has a dense, crisply curled, water-repellent coat, making it ideal for the cold waters of Ireland where it was first bred.


portuguese water dogs love to swim

Portuguese Water Dog

You'll find Portuguese Water Dogs atop any list of best swimming dogs, along with Newfoundlands and Labrador Retrievers. And, like those dogs, they were bred to help fisherman. Their tight, curly coat, webbed feet, and strong, athletic build helped them herd fish into nets, retrieve lost equipment, and even ferry messages between ships and the shore. Today, the breed is sometimes used for water rescues.


Spanish Water Dog

The Spanish Water Dog looks more like a sheepdog with its long, wooly curls. And, historically, it's been used just as much for herding as for waterfowl retrieving. But it loves getting wet and is always up for a game of lake-side fetch.


Barbet (or French Water Dog)

Another sheepdog-looking dog that loves to swim, the Barbet has a coat of long, dense, shaggy hair that sweeps down over its eyes. They were originally bred to locate, flush out, and retrieve waterfowl. It's a fairly rare dog to come across these days, but if you find one, know you'll always have a friend to hit the waves with you. 


Lagotto Romagnolo (or Romagnolo Water Dog)

Basically, the Italian Water Dog. (The name comes from Romagnol can lagot, which means "water dog.") Today, the Lagotto Romagnolo is more well-known for its truffle-hunting abilities than anything. But it was bred to work in and around the marshlands of the Ravenna region of Italy. It's got a double coat of waterproof, wooly curls designed to keep it warm.



An endangered breed, the Otterhound dates back to medieval England when it was bred for otter hunting. It's got broad shoulders and large, webbed feet for strong paddling and a dense, shaggy, water-repellent coat that dries quickly.


Other Dog Breeds that Like Water


There are three more dog breeds that are known for a serious love of the water including one of the breeds that tops almost every list of best swimming dogs: the Newfoundland.

These dogs share many of the same characteristics and breeding histories as the above dogs but don't fall into the same categories.


newfoundland dogs love to swim


Generally speaking, large dogs are not excellent swimmers. Nor do they enjoy the water. The exception to that rule is the powerful Newfoundland.

Newfies love to swim.

Originally bred to help fisherman haul in the nets, Newfies are powerful swimmers thanks to their broad shoulders, muscular legs and large, webbed feet. They've also got thick, quick-drying, water-repellent coats that keep them warm, even in chilly water. Like the Portuguese Water Dog, they're still used for water rescues thanks to their affinity for water and overall strength.


Boykin Spaniel­

A lesser-known Spaniel and also one of the youngest breeds recorded, the Boykin Spaniel is happiest when there's a lake nearby. Bred to retrieve waterfowl and wild turkey in the lakes and swamps of South Carolina, they've got webbed feet just like many other swimming dogs.