A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

The Best Swimming Dogs for All Your Summer Water Activities

By: Brianna Gunter

Four dogs of different breeds play together in water during summer.

The term “doggy paddle” is a bit of a misnomer. Not all dogs like to swim. In fact, some rival many cat breeds in their disdain for getting even the slightest bit wet. So, if you’re a prospective pet owner who enjoys water activities and would like a four-legged friend to join you, a swimming dog breed may be a good choice.

What are swimming dog breeds?

These are dogs who are either known for their love of water and/or have evolved to be excellent swimmers. Many of these breeds have longer snouts that can stay above water, and some even have extra skin or “webbing” between their toes to help them paddle better.

It’s worth noting that while certain character traits (such as a love of water) are commonly seen in certain dog breeds, they are not a guarantee. Dogs are still individuals with their own personalities, and even one from a dog breed known for swimming may have their own aversion to getting in water, for whatever reason. Additionally, water safety should be practiced at all times with dogs who are swimming.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the top breeds known to be swimming dogs!

8 dog breeds that like to swim

Take one of these pups to the lake, and there’s a good chance they’ll want to get in.

1. Labrador retriever

Close-up shot of a black Labrador standing in water wearing a pink collar.

If your dog has “retriever” in his breed name, he’s likely to be an avid swimmer. These dogs were initially bred to hunt and retrieve waterfowl, so swimming is basically in their DNA. You can also observe some physical characteristics in Labrador retrievers that help with paddling around as well. Look closely between their toes, and you’ll spot extra connective tissue that acts as webbing (they’re like the ducks of dogs!). Their dense fur coats also helps keep them insulated in cold waters.

For the record, both the golden retriever and the Labrador are known for swimming prowess. However, we’ve selected the Labrador for this list only because their shorter, sleeker coats may be a bit easier for pet parents to manage when wet.

2. Chesapeake Bay retriever

A Chesapeake Bay retriever heads into water.

We’ve already discussed how much retriever dog breeds tend to like swimming, but the Chesapeake Bay retriever deserves its own mention. As its name suggests, this four-legged swimmer was bred in the Chesapeake Bay area of the eastern United States as a sort of jack-of-all-trades water dog—pulling fishing nets, rescuing fishermen, retrieving waterfowl, and more.

The dog’s webbed toes and dense double-coat speak to its ability to swim with ease in chilly waters. The Chesapeake Bay retriever’s large chest is also believed to help the breed break through thin surface layers of ice, but for safety reasons, we don’t recommend letting your dog swim in such frigid temperatures.

3. American water spaniel

An American water spaniel stands in the shallow end of a body of water.

Another indicator of a dog breed that swims is “water” in the name. This includes the American water spaniel, which was developed in the state of Wisconsin specifically to withstand cold lake temperatures during hunting. Though not the fastest swimming dog breed, water spaniels have insulated coats and strong muscles, giving them endurance for entire afternoons of activity around the water.

4. Portuguese water dog

A Portuguese water dog stands on a rocky beach next to water.

Among Portuguese speakers, this pup is often referred to as the “cão de água” or literally, the “dog of water.” For those who have witnessed the breed in water, it makes perfect sense. Bred for herding fish into nets in southern Portugal, Portuguese water dogs are strong swimmers with swift, balanced strokes. This is aided by a tail that acts as a rudder and a light, single-layer coat that is believed to help with buoyancy.

5. Cocker spaniel

A cocker spaniel swims with a tennis ball in its mouth.

They may not look like it with their flowing fur and smaller statures, but Cocker spaniels are excellent swimmers. Bred as versatile hunting dogs, Cocker spaniels have webbed toes and strong endurance levels (they’re actually the smallest dog designated as a sporting breed by the American Kennel Club). And that beautiful coat? It’s water repellent.

6. Beagle

A beagle splashes around in shallow water outside.

Beagles are highly energetic canines, and as pet owners have discovered, a lot of these dogs like to exert themselves through swimming. Their strong, broad chests make it easy for them to float, while their short, wide legs serve as excellent paddles. Beagles also tend to be curious dogs with a penchant for trying new activities, making them ideal candidates for water adventures. Bred to hunt in packs, beagles may prefer swimming alongside humans or with other dogs.

Want a dose of cuteness? We found this video of a beagle swimming in the sea just for you!

7. Drentsche Patrijshond

A drentsche patrijshond dog runs in grass with wet feet.

The Drentsche Patrijshond—otherwise known as the “Dutch partridge dog” or simply “Drent”— is a type of water fowl hunting dog that bears close similarities to spaniels and setters. Lively and friendly, this pooch enjoys spending long periods of time outdoors, and many pet owners of the breed report its love of playing fetch in ponds, lakes, and streams.

8. Newfoundland

Two newfoundland dogs swim in water with a stick.

If you’ve seen a Newfoundland or “Newfie” on dry land only, it may come as a shock that this large, sturdy pup is a skilled swimming dog. Developed in Canada’s easternmost province (Newfoundland and Labrador), the Newfoundland has webbed paws, high lung capacity, and a muscular build hiding beneath its fluffy-looking double coat. The breed has a long history of water rescues, both in fresh water and the ocean. For this reason, it has been dubbed “the St. Bernard of the water.”

What swimming dog should I get?

The right swimming dog for you will depend on the amount of space you have, your lifestyle habits, and of course your own personal preferences. Before you decide to welcome any of these wonderful canines into your life, however, you’ll want to do three key things:

  • Research your breed of choice to learn their specific needs, quirks, and health risks.
  • Be prepared to protect your new friend from the unexpected with dog insurance.
  • Make sure you have the time and energy to properly care for a dog.

Swimming dogs require a lot of exercise, and the best dog owners are dedicated to that. While these types of canines are known for taking to water, they will also enjoy plenty of energy-burning activities on dry land. In fact, some breeds that love swimming will even grow restless or depressed if they are not getting enough exercise.

To learn more, check out How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need Every Day.

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We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

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