The Best Water Dog Breeds

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The Best Water Dog BreedsThose who live near a river, lake, or beach, will probably look for energetic dogs that love water sports; your best bet would be on these water dogs. We’ve curated a list of the best water dog breeds that aren’t just great for water activities but will also give you a lot of exercise due to their high energy levels. Depending on your needs and your preferences, you’re sure to find a great companion that’s a good fit for you and your family.  

Best Water Dog Breeds 

If you’re a dog-lover looking for avid swimmers who will also make for great family pets, here are some of the most popular dog breeds that will happily swim with you.

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador RetrieverThe Labrador Retriever is among the most popular breeds in the United States according to the American Kennel Club. But did you know they were first introduced as a bird dog in Newfoundland? They are also known for their active and easy-going personalities and are one of the friendliest dogs in the world.  

As a sporting breed, these dogs are known to be strong swimmers, making them ideal hunters and family dogs. However, this energetic breed will require regular exercise to stay physically and mentally fit. This can include swimming, backyard games, daily walks, and outdoor exercise.  

2. Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water DogHardy and intelligent, Portuguese Water Dogs are happy to spend as much time in water as they would on land. As proof of their love for the water, they come with webbed feet that they use to lead fish into nets and retrieve items lost in lakes and rivers. Thanks to its waterproof coat, this dog is the perfect pet to take with you on your wet and wild adventures; just don’t forget to give them lots of exercise.     

3. Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water SpanielDeveloped in Ireland and England during the 1800s, the Irish Water Spaniel is among the oldest retrieving breeds and has excelled as a waterfowl hunter using its water-resistant coat. These pups possess determination and bravery in the field while being excellent swimmers and family dogs. It is a hard-working dog that will make for a great canine companion that will entertain the whole family. 

4. English Setter

English SetterDating as far back as 400 to 500 years ago, the English Setter was first developed in England to help hunt birds; but instead of retrieving, they excelled at “pointing” towards the game. When given a little encouragement, these dogs will love nothing more than swimming and spending time with the family. Known as a “gentleman” among dogs, these pups have a great temperament and are always elegant and polite.   

5. Spanish Water Dog

Spanish Water DogThis intelligent breed is capable of serving as a water dog and herding dog, a combination you won’t find often in the world of canines. These dogs are at their happiest when doing jobs for their owners, excelling at hunting both on land and water. The Spanish Water Dog comes with a wooly coat and will need lots of work and daily exercise to keep it healthy and happy.   

6. American Water Spaniel

American Water SpanielDeveloped during the 19th century in Wisconsin using a number of different breeds such as the English and Irish Water Spaniels, this breed is the state dog of Wisconsin. As such, you’ll find that this dog will be just as at home in rivers, lakes, and beaches as it would be in your home. This rare breed is one that’s worth searching for — the American Water Spaniel is known for its enthusiasm and energy and is the perfect size hunting dog for canoes.    

7. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay RetrieverThe Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a powerful and rugged gundog that never tires of hunting waterfowl such as ducks. This dog loves the water and its wavy, thick coat serves to protect it from the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Great physical characteristics, independence, and high intelligence make this breed a great watchdog and will thrive with an active family. 

8. Golden Retriever

Golden RetrieverInitially bred as a companion dog for waterfowl hunters, the Golden Retriever is characterized by its affectionate and gentle nature and gorgeous golden coat. While it excels in hunting and retrieving, it is one of the most friendly and recognized breeds in the country. They are outgoing, and playful, and can easily make friends with anyone they meet.    

9. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling RetrieverNova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are intelligent dogs that were bred to hunt and trap water birds; they can lure ducks into ponds using their playful antics and then retrieve the birds. While these dogs are small compared to other retrievers, they come with the stamina and energy to work and play all day. These athletic dogs are upbeat and do best with active families and individuals who will take them on swimming, hiking, camping, and hunting adventures.  

10. Boykin Spaniel

Boykin SpanielFirst bred in South Carolina to hunt for birds around swamps and lakes, the Boykin Spaniel comes with webbed toes that make it an ideal hunter in water. They are easily recognized by their thick, brown coats and are known for their highly-trainable and merry nature. Despite being determined field workers, they are also very sweet and charming members of the family.   

11. Flat-Coated Retriever

Flat Coated RetrieverFlat-coated retrievers come with water-repellent coats that protect them from harsh weather and cold water, which is why they excel in fetching and swimming. Because they’re so adaptable, friendly, and cheerful, they can become wonderful family companions. However, they also come with youthful energy so be sure to give them enough exercise and mental stimulation.    

12. Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto RomagnoloThe Lagotto Romagnolo is an ancient breed that’s thought to be where all waterdogs come from and its roots go all the way back to Renaissance Italy. This waterfowl retriever comes with a sensitive nose that was trained to look for truffles along with fur that’s similar to a teddy bear. A water-loving dog breed, these dogs are prized for their endurance and strength as well as their happy-to-please nature.    

13. Standard Poodle

Standard PoodleDespite their reputation as high-maintenance dogs, Standard Poodles are actually tough and powerful work dogs. Originally bred in Germany as a water retriever and duck hunter, it has a curly coat that protects it from harsh elements. These dogs are also very good swimmers and highly intelligent, which makes them easy to train and a good choice for both work and home.   

14. Irish Setter

Irish SetterBoth athletic and beautiful, Irish Setters have a playful, outgoing, and affectionate nature. They’re also strong swimmers who love to hang out wherever their pet parents want to be, whether that’s by the backyard pool or at the beach. These dogs are also highly popular with U.S. presidents, where Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Harry Truman have taken up these dogs as their pets. 

15. Barbet

BarbetThis French water dog is uncommon in the U.S. but is highly popular in their native France and has been around since the 16th century. These canines are athletic and agile, working hard to flush out and fetch waterfowl, but also have a sweet and cheerful temperament. As retriever breeds, they can be great sporting dogs and fantastic house companions with proper socialization and exercise.  

16. Cocker Spaniel

Cocker SpanielsKnown to be natural swimmers, Cocker Spaniels love to play in the water and are among the best swimmers in the canine world. One reason why they’re such great swimmers is because they were purposefully bred for hunting woodcocks around Europe where swimming and wading are required. They’re highly loyal and will follow their owners wherever they go; be sure to take them on walks to keep them healthy, so they can become the ideal pets you’re looking for.  


There is a wide range of water breed dogs that you can choose from and a majority of dogs in this list may just be the one you’re looking for. Some will even be easy enough to take on as your first dog, so if you’re close to an area with water, you’ll want to carefully consider the options above. Other breeds to consider include German Shorthaired Pointers and the Curly-Coated Retriever, two more dogs that are just as excited for adventure as you are.