10 Dog Breeds That Love the Water

labrador retriever in water

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Dogs have been man's best friend for centuries, and they've been loyal companions on dry land and vast seas. Of course, some breeds make better dogs on boats than others that prefer solid land beneath their paws. This can be a matter of early training, but it's also true that dogs bred for the water tend to be more adaptable and ready to get their feet wet.

Many of the top dog breeds that love water were bred to be hunting companions for waterfowl. These dogs often have thicker coats and webbed toes, along with a sturdy build that enables them to swim with stamina. Check out these top dog breeds that love to make a splash.

  • 01 of 08

    Portuguese Water Dog

    Portuguese water dog leaping into water
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    Portuguese water dogs have such a natural affinity for water, that it became part of their official name. These avid splash masters don’t have to be asked twice to enter the water. They were originally bred for life as a fisherman’s friend, so it’s a natural sight to see these dogs on boats. The Portuguese Water Dog made a name for itself assisting Portuguese fishermen by swimming in between boats, herding fish into nets, and even retrieving lost tackle and gear.

    Today, they’re often used in dock diving competitions, water trials, and agility competitions. They’re a natural fit for water-loving families and will happily spend the day aboard a vessel. They’re also a hypoallergenic family pet.

  • 02 of 08


    Standard poodle sitting on deck

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    You might imagine a poodle to be more at home strolling a city street than pouncing into the water, but the truth is that these are true water dogs at heart. The name ‘poodle’ derives from the German word ‘pudl’ which translates as “to splash in water.”

    The characteristic curly coat served to keep the dog warm as it plunged into chilly water to retrieve birds and other game. The familiar puff balls of fur over the dog’s knees, feet, head, body, and tail were originally a functional grooming choice to keep these vital areas warm, rather than a fashion statement. It’s interesting to note that standard, toy, and mini poodles are all the same breed—and they can be equally water adept.

  • 03 of 08

    Labrador Retriever

    Black lab with ball in water

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    Labrador retrievers have long been one of America’s most popular pooches, and these dogs are happy on land or sea, as long as they’re with their people. However, the lab was bred with waterfowl hunting in mind and claims the St. John’s water dog as its ancestor—which is a combination of the Newfoundland and small spaniels.

    With that in mind, these dogs are always game for hopping into pools, ponds, lakes, oceans and anything else wet—especially if there’s a ball involved. Perch these dogs on boats and they’ll be ready to go for a ride before happily plunging in to retrieve a favorite toy.

  • 04 of 08

    Chesapeake Bay Retriever

    Chesapeake bay retriever in lake

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    Also known as just a Chessie, these lesser-known retrievers are a slightly stockier retriever with a thicker, denser coat. This double coat is oily and provides excellent water-resistance as well as insulation, which makes it perfect for a water-loving dog like the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

    These dogs were originally bred in Maryland and Virginia to be hunting companions for waterfowl. Their warm coat combined with strength and stamina made these dogs a natural fit for spending hours and hours in the wet estuaries of the mid-Atlantic region.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

    Three Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers in water

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    One of Canada’s most treasured breeds is a small-stature, water-loving retriever that possesses a unique ‘tolling’ talent. The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, sometimes referred to as just a toller, gets its name from it peculiar ability to ‘toll’ or lure ducks within range of the hunter using playful antics. Once the waterfowl is downed, the toller is happy to jump into the water and retrieve the game.

  • 06 of 08


    Newfoundland dog standing in water

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    The Newfoundland, or Newfies as they’re affectionately referred to, are known as gentle giants. But what you might not know is that they’re really gentle water giants. It’s believed that this big breed got its start when European fisherman that brought dogs on boats landed in Newfoundland, Canada. These men lived and worked by the sea and they began breeding a capable, hardworking companion that also had a knack for water rescue.

    The Newfoundland’s large size and intuitive ability to help a person in distress have made them a literal lifesaver. If you keep a Newfie for a pet, you’ll have a loyal companion that is right by your side at all times and always ready for a swim in the pool—just make sure it’s big enough for your Newfie and you!

  • 07 of 08

    Curly-Coated Retriever

    Curly coated retriever lying down

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    Like other retrievers on our list, the curly-coated retriever is a natural fit for life by the water. The tight, curly coat of this retriever assists it in staying warm and maintaining its body temperature when diving into lakes or rivers on a hunt.

    These dogs have a rich heritage tied to the water; they’re descended from two extinct breeds that formerly served as water dogs—the English Water Spaniel and the Retrieving Setter. It’s also believed that the poodle may be responsible for lending this breed some of its characteristic curls—and no doubt its natural affinity for the water.

  • 08 of 08

    Boykin Spaniel

    Boykin spaniel standing in river

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    Hailing from the south, the Boykin spaniel has a reputation as an easy-going family companion that’s well-suited for life on the lake—or pond, ocean, stream, or river. Really, any body of water will be a welcome sight to the Boykin spaniel, whose webbed toes and compact but athletic body are well-suited for swimming. Take this dog on the boat or out for your next duck hunting adventure and you’ll have a happy pal that’s always ready to go!

Did you find your water wingman in one of these dogs? While this list contains some of the top dog breeds that love the water, there's an abundance of happy canine companions that are ready to make memories with you on solid ground or at sea!