17 Water Dog Breeds That Give a New Meaning to ‘Doggie Paddle’

Water dog breeds are canines who not only love water (duh) but excel at swimming and retrieving! These are dogs developed over time to either tirelessly paddle after waterfowl, herd fish into nets or a little bit of both (and more). Some have curly, waterproof coats and webbed toes. Others have sleek fur and strong noses that can smell farther when submerged than they can above water. Folks looking for great family pets could definitely browse this list. Many water dog breeds have developed two distinct dispositions, meaning they are outgoing with batteries fully charged all day long (so they can swim and hunt) but serene and calm in the evening when it’s time to turn in for the night (so they can cuddle with you). No matter what, water dog breeds need enough exercise to keep their minds and bodies sharp. Without proper outdoor time, many will turn into unhappy campers (or try to go camping with all your stuff while you’re out).

35 Working Dog Breeds That Are as Strong as They Are Cuddly

water dog breeds american water spaniel

1. American Water Spaniel

Height: 15-18 inches
Weight: 25-45 pounds
Personality: Charming, active
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Low
Life Expectancy: 10-14 years

Say hello to a rare breed and Wisconsin’s state dog! The American Water Spaniel Club estimates only 3,000 of these chocolate, curly-haired pups exist at any given time. Developed by duck hunters to fit into small boats easily, American Water Spaniels enjoy learning commands and train easily. They can be aloof around new people, so socialize them early. Happy American Water Spaniels get lots of outdoor time.

water dog breeds barbet
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2. Barbet

Height: 19-25 inches
Weight: 35-65 pounds
Personality: Cheerful, Tireless
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Non-shedding
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Say bonjour to a French water dog! Barbets are friendly companions who were bred to hunt waterfowl. Their curly coats are more hair-like than fur-like and developed over centuries to keep them warm in chilly waters. Calm and loyal (as long as they get daily exercise), Barbets take to new commands quickly. Grooming will definitely become a hobby for you with a Barbet in the family, but it’s worth it for their sweet, dedicated disposition.

water dog breeds boykin spaniel

3. Boykin Spaniel

Height: 14-18 inches
Weight: 25-40 pounds
Personality: Cheerful, adaptable
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-15 years

Originally bred in South Carolina and used by turkey hunters, Boykin Spaniels quickly became the go-to dog for hunting in the area’s messy marshlands, in part due to their webbed toes. These medium-sized pups are energetic, affectionate animals who make great family pets. Their silky brown coats are pretty low-maintenance and only require weekly brushing (and baths when necessary).

water dog breeds chesapeake bay retriever

4. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Height: 21-26 inches
Weight: 55-80 pounds
Personality: Loyal, sensitive
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-13 years

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, or Chessies, are loyal canines built for wet, wintry hunting expeditions along America’s eastern coastline. They are sensitive souls who love their families but have independent streaks (necessary for making decisions when out hunting in the cold). Smart and athletic, Chessies won’t stand for being left behind! Train early and firmly to ensure a well-behaved adult dog.

water dog breeds curly coated retriever
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5. Curly Coated Retriever

Height: 23-27 inches
Weight: 60-95 pounds
Personality: Intelligent, gentle
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Low to Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Curly Coated Retrievers will give you a run for your money when it comes to learning tricks and commands. Teach them early and try to keep up! They get it quickly. Their curly, waterproof coats do not require much brushing (unless you like frizz). Curly Coated Retrievers make good family pets as long as the whole crew is consistent with training and commands. They love playtime more than anything else, so be sure to give them a yard or frequent trips to the dog park.

water dog breeds english setter

6. English Setter

Height: 23-27 inches
Weight: 45-80 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Mellow
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

It’s believed that about 500 years ago Springer Spaniels, Spanish pointers and a variety of water dogs were bred together to create the English Setter. These dogs are ideal family pets as they adapt well to a variety of environments and thrive on loving companionship. Curious and playful, English Setters do have a high prey drive, so beware when out on walks in areas with lots of rabbits!

water dog breeds flat coated retriever
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7. Flat Coated Retriever

Height: 22-25 inches
Weight: 60-70 pounds
Personality: Outgoing, playful
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 8-10 years

Flat Coated Retrievers are different from Labrador Retrievers in that they are leaner and have slightly longer coats. They’re used to retrieving ducks and birds on hunting trips and will happily follow you to the ends of the earth - especially if you give them a job to do. Flat Coated Retrievers are known for their puppy-like behavior well into adulthood, so these aren’t dogs for people who move at a slower pace.

water dog breeds german longhaired pointer

8. German Longhaired Pointer

Height: 22-28 inches
Weight: 55-80 pounds
Personality: Friendly, sweet
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Boy oh boy, do these dogs love water. German Longhaired Pointers will grab a duck for you, take a swim off the dock or simply trudge through puddles. They’ve been around for a while, so they are versatile and thrive in households where hunting is a regular activity. Not a hunting family? As long as you take these pups on frequent outdoor adventures, they’ll be happy. Always brush their coats after being outside to ensure they didn’t trap burrs or bugs.

water dog breeds irish water spaniel

9. Irish Water Spaniel

Height: 21-24 inches
Weight: 45-68 pounds
Personality: Playful, alert
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 12-13 years

You’ll be able to tell an Irish Water Spaniel apart from other shaggy dogs by their slim tails. They’ve got waterproof, hypoallergenic coats that should be trimmed down every couple of months. Playful and eager to be an active member of the family, Irish Water Spaniels get along swimmingly with other pets.

water dog breeds labrador retriever
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10. Labrador Retriever

Height: 21-25 inches
Weight: 55-80 pounds
Personality: Outgoing, Fun-loving
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Ah, the Labrador Retriever. The number-one most popular breed in America. These are outgoing, adaptable, intelligent dogs who train easily and learn quickly. You can catch them working as therapy dogs or hunters and everything in between. Labs hail from Newfoundland in Canada where they worked with fishermen and duck hunters alike, year-round, using their thick tails to help them swim.

water dog breeds lagotto romagnolo
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11. Lagotto Romagnolo

Height: 16-19 inches
Weight: 24-35 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, lively
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Low
Life Expectancy: 15-17 years

Though they got their start retrieving waterfowl for Italians during the 1500s, today Lagotto Romagnolo dogs are known for being the world’s best truffle dogs. Their low shedding curly coats act more like human hair than fur. Lagottos do need exercise but compared to the other outdoorsy water dogs on this list, they’re much more mellow.

water dog breeds newfoundland

12. Newfoundland

Height: 26-28 inches
Weight: 100-150 pounds
Temperament: Friendly, Loving
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
Life Expectancy: 9-10 years

It’s hard to ignore a Newfoundland walking towards you. These are giant dogs with thick, coarse fur that developed to keep them warm in icy Canadian water. Known for assisting fishing boats with daily hauls and working rescue missions, Newfoundlands are strong and patient animals. If you can handle their size and drool, you won’t find a better kid-friendly dog.

water dog breeds nova scotia duck tolling retriever

13. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Height: 17-21 inches
Weight: 35-50 pounds
Personality: Smart, affectionate
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Based on the name alone, we know the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a duck dog from Canada. But! Did you know this is the smallest retriever and it only comes in hues of red and gold? These pups require lots of exercise and don’t give up easily. While they learn quickly, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers can be stubborn. Teach early, practice often and don’t forget the treats.

water dog breeds otterhound

14. Otterhound

Height: 24-27 inches
Weight: 80-115 pounds
Personality: Friendly, sensitive
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Low to Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-13 years

Today, otter hunting is illegal. Back in Medieval England, Otterhounds used their webbed feet to swim after (and keep up with) otters. When they’re not frolicking around in water, Otterhounds enjoy playtime with kids and other pets. If they catch a whiff of something they like, don’t expect them to slow down as their sensitive noses will carry them far.

water dog breeds poodle

15. Poodle (standard)

Height: 15+ inches
Weight: 40-70 pounds
Personality: Intelligent, active
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 10-18 years

Several centuries ago in Germany, Standard Poodles were avid duck hunters. According to the American Kennel Club, the quintessential Poodle look (with shaved legs, neck and tail) is actually a practical choice made by humans. It allowed the dogs to swim freely while keeping their chest, hips and joints warm in cold water. Poodles of all sizes are known for their intelligence and athleticism, so don’t skimp on training tricks and commands.

water dog breeds portuguese water dog

16. Portuguese Water Dog

Height: 17-23 inches
Weight: 35-60 pounds
Personality: Smart, Athletic
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 11-13 years

Portuguese Water Dogs are herding dogs in a way—they’ve been used to herd fish into nets! These avid swimmers are energetic and always excited to see the people they love (and to make new friends). Their hypoallergenic coats do need regular grooming, including trimming and brushing. Portuguese Water Dogs learn quickly and are eager to please.

water dog breeds spanish water dog

17. Spanish Water Dog

Height: 15-20 inches
Weight: 30-50 pounds
Personality: Active, Protective
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

A Spanish Water Dog’s bouncy curls come in a variety of colors and should never be brushed! They are charming animals who enjoy playing with and protecting their families. Overexercising them as puppies could damage their joints, so go easy on the action until they are a few years old. Then, have at it with hikes, swims and more!

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Freelance Writer

Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...