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Dog Breeds That Are Good Swimmers

Jun 9th, 2023

We all want a pet that we can share our life with — and our activities!

If you’re a swimmer or enjoy water activities, then you’ll want a dog that can not only swim confidently, but who is built just for the activity!

Here are a few dog breeds that are perfectly suited for swimming and other water activities!

Physical characteristics helpful for swimming

Dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes can enjoy a good splash in the pool or a paddle in a pond, but just like any physical activity, it’s easier if they’re suited to the specific task.

Just as a greyhound’s eyes are well suited for hunting, a beagle’s ears are good for tracking and a border collie’s endless supply of energy is good for herding sheep, certain dog breeds possess physical features that help them survive in the water. 

First, of course, is a thick skin — literally. Dogs that have a thick double coat of fur will stay warmer for longer, even when their outside layer of fur is wet. While this characteristic is obviously helpful for swimming in colder waters, it’s also good for warm climates where long periods of time in the water can still induce mild hypothermia. 

The second characteristic that makes for good swimming dogs is webbed feet. Not like a duck’s feet, of course, but more like the slight webbing us humans have connecting our fingers. If you’ve ever looked at a puppy’s feet, you may have noticed a thin membrane connecting their tiny little toes — that membrane usually disappears, but in some dog breeds that membrane remains all their life. Dogs that possess that webbed-foot characteristic are well suited to swimming!

Next up is a strong, wide chest that allows dogs to float well in water. You won’t see too many ultra-slim dog breeds used for water sports, and that’s because their chest cavities aren’t big enough to keep them afloat while they’re paddling. 

Speaking of paddling, that’s the final characteristic that makes for a good water dog. If the dog has strong legs that are also long enough to produce a good stroke, then they’re going to be more powerful swimmers and won’t tire out as quickly as some other breeds (like corgis or dachshunds, for example).

Dogs well suited to swimming and water sports

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is a popular breed of dog that originated in Newfoundland, Canada in the 19th century. They were originally bred to hunt and retrieve waterfowl (hence “retriever”), and are still used for this purpose today. Their size, thick fur and strong legs means they can confidently swim through water while carrying birds in their jaws.


The Newfoundland is a large, gentle giant of a dog that also originated in Newfoundland, Canada. They were originally bred to work on fishing boats where they pulled nets and rescued people who fell overboard. Because they’re strong and well suited to cold temperatures, they’re also used as rescue dogs at ski resorts and snowy areas. 

Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog is a medium-sized breed of dog that originated in Portugal in the 20th century. With a thick coat of curly fur and higher intelligence, they were originally bred to herd livestock, guard property and retrieve waterfowl. 

Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel is a large, wavy-coated breed of dog that originated in Ireland. Though smaller in height than their Canadian Newfoundland peers, they’re still strong and were used extensively for hunting and retrieving waterfowl. 

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Take a Labrador Retriever and give it a velvety, suede-like coat and you’ve got a Chesapeake Bay Retriever! Bred for hunting waterfowl here in the United States in the 19th century, this water dog is well suited to the colder waters of the Northeastern U.S. 

Curly-Coated Retriever

Don’t get these strong working dogs mistaken for a labradoodle! The Curly-Coated Retriever is a breed in its own right and was being bred for hunting waterfowl as far back as early 19th century England!

One way you can distinguish these sweet pups from their labradoodle cousins is by their faces — Curlies have curly hair all over their bodies besides their faces, which have totally straight hair!

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized, duck-tolling breed of dog that originated in Canada in the late 19th century. They were originally bred to lure waterfowl into nets for hunters by imitating the darting and sneaking behaviors of foxes. 

American Water Spaniel

Native to the upper Midwestern region of the United States, the American Water Spaniel was bred to work in the cold, frigid water of the Great Lakes during hunting season. Though not as large as a retriever, these water dogs are small and light enough to run through marshes and easily jump into boats. 

Boykin Spaniel

Originating, surprisingly, out of South Carolina, the Boykin Spaniel is a perfect cross between hunting dog and household pet. Small, powerful and expert swimmers, these merry pups were bred to hunt turkey, ducks and waterfowl in the humid lakes, marshes and swamps around the state.


The Otterhound is a large, water-loving breed of dog that originated in early 19th-century England. They were originally bred to hunt otters (makes sense!) which, in the hunting world, is one of the hardest animals to hunt due to its intelligence, strength and size. The Otterhound proved to be an equal match for the sneaky otters thanks to a powerful nose, a strong swimming ability, a high intelligence and an even higher level of courage!

If you’re an avid water adventurer and are looking for a pup to join in on your adventures, then keep these swimming dog breeds in mind! Chances are you’ll be hard pressed to keep up with them anyways!


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Featured photo courtesy Pexels/Thijs van der Weide

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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