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Boykin Spaniel swimming in a lake.
©Field Dog Imagery

While some dogs aren’t fans of swimming, there are other dog breeds that can swim easily and happily. These breeds were developed to work in the water, whether for hunting, retrieving, rescue, or as all-around helpers. Even though they’re perfectly happy on land, they’re truly delighted to hit the beach, lake, or anything wet. If you’re looking for a canine companion that revels in boating and swimming, one of these is perfect for you.

American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel standing outdoors.
Bennett Walker/Shutterstock

This charming little water dog is just the right size to hunt from a canoe or a skiff. Combining traits of a retriever and a spaniel, they are used to working in water, everything from the marshes of the Great Lakes to icy expanses. The American Water Spaniel is pretty rare, but those in the know love their eagerness and energy.


Barbet standing in profile outdoors.
©Stacy Able Photography

Although a rare dog breed in the U.S., the Barbet has been a popular French water dog since at least the 16th century, when Henry IV hunted waterfowl with his Barbet. Friendly, outgoing, and energetic, the Barbet is drawn to water, even muddy tracts of swampy land. In fact, their nickname is “Mud Dog.”

Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel leaping into a lake.
©Field Dog Imagery

Those who hunt wild turkey and waterfowl in the swampy and marshy terrain of the American South treasure this medium-sized breed of spaniel. The Boykin Spaniel is a great companion for an active family — lovable, trainable, and eager. And they will outlast you in the water, every time.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever sitting outdoors.
ktatarka/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever‘s name says it all. With their oily, waterproof coat, strength, and endurance, this rugged gundog was born to work the rough, often icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay. This versatile, energetic breed thrives with active, outdoorsy families.

Curly-Coated Retriever

Curly-Coated Retriever laying down in a field.
Aly Tyler/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

This English dog is one of the oldest retrieving breeds. Hard-working, versatile, and extremely smart, the Curly-Coated Retriever will retrieve in the iciest water, and they are still a favorite of hunters. Some call them “the thinking man’s retriever.”

English Setter

English Setter standing in a field.
©Field Dog Imagery

For such an amiable, sweet, and well-mannered dog, the English Setter is also an energetic athlete. Originally bred as a bird dog to point, they are happy out on the water. With proper training and encouragement, swimming can be one of their favorite things, along with hanging out with their people, of course.

Flat-Coated Retriever via Getty Images

This breed’s beautiful coat is actually quite functional. It protects them from harsh weather and icy temperatures. Originally bred to hunt on land and water, the Flat-Coated Retriever is better known today as a happy, energetic, water-loving, and forever-young family companion.

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel wearing a harness standing in a field off leash.
Julie Morrish/Shutterstock

One of the largest and oldest of the spaniel breeds, this dog has a naturally water-repellent coat, along with intelligence, endurance, and an eager attitude. These traits combine to make the Irish Water Spaniel a versatile gundog, especially for waterfowl. They are also a lovely companion, often called the “clown of the spaniel family.”

Labrador Retriever

Yellow Labrador Retriever hiking across a stream in the woods with a man and woman.
©Gorilla -

One of the most popular breeds in the country, the Labrador Retriever was bred to retrieve waterfowl, often under difficult conditions. They are an ideal family dog and sporting dog, always, always ready for a swim. In fact, they are excellent swimmers and will happily spend the day retrieving from the water.

Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto Romagnolo fetching a stick.
@2015 Zlatko Necevski -

The Lagotto Romagnolo is thought to be the original breed from which all water dogs are descended. Originally used as a gundog to hunt waterfowl, they are prized today for their ability to hunt for truffles. In fact, they are the only purebred dog recognized as a specialized truffle searcher. However, they haven’t lost their natural water dog qualities, so they are excellent swimmers.


Hello, Here is my submission for the 2017-2018 photography competition. It may be one of the last but hopefully not the least! The color photograph contains my Newfoundlands Tug, Denali & Ruger (all siblings, left to right). The black and white photo is of my Newfoundland therapy dog Denali. Thank you so much for your consideration! Have a wonderful day. I love your competition! Kara Miller D.V.M. Class of 2017 Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine (540)-808-9271
©Kara Miller

You might not think of this giant sweetheart of a dog as a water dog, but the Newfoundland was developed as a water rescue dog. They have natural lifesaving instincts and, with a large lung capacity, can swim long distances to bring a victim to safety. On land, they are used for carting or drafting… or just being an adored family pet.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever leaping into the ocean.
©annaav -

This beautiful, medium-sized dog is the smallest of the retrievers. Intelligent and outgoing, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has the energy to work or play all day long, and then some. Tollers were developed to lure waterfowl within gun range and then retrieve the dead or wounded birds from the water. They’d lure ducks with their playful activity along the shoreline, which would attract the ducks’ attention


Otterhound laying outdoors.
LourdesPhotography/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Rarer than the Giant Panda, the Otterhound was bred for hunting otters. They are big, boisterous dogs, humorous, friendly, and affectionate. Fans of the breed call them “the clown of the hound group.” Their rough double coat and webbed feet are ideal for the water, and they are exceptionally strong swimmers.

Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog standing in profile outdoors.
©Zottelhund -

This intelligent and athletic dog is truly the fisherman’s friend. In their native country, this web-footed breed was used to “herd” fish into the nets, as well as to swim out and retrieve broken nets and lost equipment. The Portuguese Water Dog needs a great deal of exercise and attention and will be even happier if all this takes place in the water.

Spanish Water Dog

Spanish Water Dog wading into a pond.
Copyright (c) 2021 Pumbastyle/Shutterstock

It’s unusual that a top-notch herding dog is also considered an excellent water dog, but this breed is both. In fact, Spanish Water Dogs are happiest with a job to do. Although their origins are unclear, we do know that this is an ancient breed used for herding and hunting on both water and land. Athletic and sturdy, they are an expert swimmer.

Standard Poodle

Two Standard Poodles, one white and one black, standing outdoors in the yard.
ivanastar/Getty Images Plus

Despite their elegant looks, the Standard Poodle is more than just a runway model. With their athleticism and intelligence, they excel in obedience and other dog sports. In Europe, Poodles were used as waterfowl retrievers and still enjoy a good swim today.

 At AKC Marketplace, we can help you find your dream dog. You can find AKC-registerable puppies from responsible, passionate breeders, and we provide the tools you need for every step of the process. Visit to start connecting with dog breeders in your area!

Related article: How to Go Boating and Kayaking With Dogs
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