Top 10 Swimming Dog Breeds

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 1, 2015
Image: Annette Shaff / Shutterstock

Dogs that LOVE Water

It’s often said that all dogs are born knowing how to swim— at least knowing how to do the so-called “dog paddle.” While that may not be true (and a good reason why you should never just toss a dog into a lake, pool or ocean), there are certain breeds that are often more adept at swimming. These dogs have generations of ancestors in their blood that were bred to retrieve from water. Here are just a few of those dog breeds…

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1. Standard Poodle

This dog actually derives its name from the German word pudeln, which means “to splash.” Hopefully your Standard Poodle won’t splash you in the eyes. That’s so annoying!

Image: Annette Shaff / Shutterstock

2. Newfoundland

Don’t let its size fool you, the Newfoundland breed hails from the coast of Newfoundland, where it was a popular working dog, both on land and water. Among its chores, towing lines from ship to land in choppy seas and rescuing errant swimmers. In fact, the breed was so accomplished in its ability to save the drowning that there was a time when Newfoundland dogs were required at lifeguard stations along the British coast. That must have been a rather furry Baywatch photo spread.

Image: Annette Shaff / Shutterstock

3. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is often regarded as the toughest of the water retrievers. Many “Chessies”, as they are sometimes affectionately called, actually swim and dive into ice cold water. This is probably because their coat, which is nearly waterproof, consists of a dense undercoat and a rough, wind-resistant outer coat.

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4. English Setter

English Setters often feel more at home in the water than on land. It was originally bred as a bird dog to point and retrieve game in English moors.

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5. Irish Water Spaniel

One of the oldest spaniel breeds around today, the Irish Water Spaniel was originally bred as a sporting dog and water retriever. Its beautiful double coat and tight curls help resist harsh outdoor conditions.

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6. Irish Setter

The result of combining the best traits from several breeds, including the English Setter, the Pointer, the Irish Terrier and the Irish Water Spaniel, the Irish Setter has just as much fun out in the field as in the water.

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7. Portuguese Water Dog

Once found all along the coast of Portugal, the Portuguese Water Dog was used mainly to herd fish into nets, retrieve lost fishing equipment, and act as a boat-to-boat or boat-to-shore courier. Nowadays the Portuguese Water is just as happy playing in a backyard pool.

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8. Labrador Retriever

America’s most popular dog also happens to be one of the best swimming dog breeds. This is probably because the modern Labrador Retriever is the ancestral result of a popular fishing and retrieving dog from Newfoundland and Labrador, an Atlantic coastal province in Canada near the Labrador Sea.

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9. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever, part of the sporting group of dogs, was originally bred as a hunting companion for retrieving waterfowl. It continues to be a favorite among hunters and families who want a dog that loves to swim!

Image: Jorge Salcedo / Shutterstock

10. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The smallest of the retrievers, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was originally bred in the southern region of Nova Scotia to toll, lure, and retrieve waterfowl by playing on-shore. 

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A Few Swimming Safety Tips

Don’t assume your dog can swim just because his breed was previously mentioned. Every dog will need to learn how to swim and will take time to feel comfortable in the water. Take it slow. You don’t want to traumatize him. Additionally, teach your dog how to get out of the water should he become tired or panicked — be it out of the pool, into a boat or towards the shore. Lastly, be careful for dangerous creatures in or around bodies of water. Dogs can seem like a tasty snack for animals like alligators, snakes or sharks. Parasites and bacteria may also harm your dog. Use caution when taking your dog to unfamiliar bodies of water and speak with a veterinarian should he seem sick after a swim. If your dog is on flea and tick preventatives, a vet can instruct you on the proper way to apply certain medications. Oral preventatives are often recommended for dogs that frequently swim.