From waterfowl retrievers to hunters with eyebrow-raising swimming skills, these water dogs and water-loving breeds are perfect for fishermen and families alike.

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grey poodle and a smiling young girl in a lake
Credit: Johner Images / Getty

Just like some people are wired to adore spending time in the water, so too are certain dog breeds. In fact, an entire group of breeds known as water dogs were bred to work in the water, so when it comes to hunting, retrieving, rescuing, or simply being ready to assist in the waves, they're canine rock stars. And some breeds might not sport the title of "water dog" in their name, but they're just as capable of diving in.

If you're looking for a furry friend who was born to be your companion on the high seas—or just a nearby lake or stream—you'll want to consider any of these 12 breeds.

Portuguese Water Dog on rocky beach
They're not called water dogs for nothing—these guys love to splash and swim whenever they get the chance. They even have webbed feet!
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Portuguese Water Dog

Folks who enjoy fishing and swimming are sure to love the company of an athletic, affectionate (they're considered a total Velcro dog), adventurous Portuguese water dog. "They are incredibly smart, generally healthy, and very easy to train," explains Laura Robinson, DVM, a veterinary advisor for Pawp who practices in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.

However, these talented swimmers do require more exercise than other breeds so would do best in an active home with lots of playtime together, adds Robinson.

spanish water dog sitting on mossy rocks near the ocean
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Spanish Water Dog

A hard-working, playful breed, Spanish water dogs were bred to be herders and waterfowl retrievers. They are affectionate and social, can play well with other dogs if socialized as a puppy, and are good with kids, explains Sarah Wooten, DVM, veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance.

The Spanish water dog is also well-known for their unique, curly, wooly coat. "While they are considered to be low maintenance when it comes to grooming, the hair does form cords that need daily attention," says Wooten. "It is recommended for first time owners to work with someone who is experienced in their coat care, rather than trying to brush the dog themselves."

closeup of a brown barbet with his tongue out looking at the camera
Those curls need a lot of TLC to look this good! Before bringing home a barbet puppy, know that you're in for a demanding grooming schedule.
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Barbet (French Water Dog)

Another long-haired pup who adores splishing and splashing in the nearest body of water, the Barbet, sometimes called the French water dog, does well as a family dog. However, they're best suited to an active family that loves to get out of the house.

"They require regular, daily exercise because they were bred to be athletes," explains Robinson, who adds that these pups are also very intelligent, social, and easy to live with.

But like their fellow shaggy dogs, Wooten warns that they will require ​​daily grooming, due to their dense, curly hair coats, or they'll suffer tangles, mats, and debris build-up.


Irish Water Spaniel stand in a field of tall grass
With their curly brown locks, Irish water spaniels are often confused for poodles.
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Irish Water Spaniel

These working dogs are the tallest spaniel and are known for their signature "rat tail," explains Wooten. In addition to being talented swimmers, Irish water spaniels are also very playful, affectionate, and highly trainable, notes Wooten. You can usually anticipate that an eager-to-please Irish water spaniel will get along well with other dogs and kids.

Brown and red English Setter portrait at Golden Hour
English setters have cute, floppy ears. But because they don't get much air movement, their ears can quickly become gunky and require weekly cleaning.
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English Setter

One of the first known hunting breeds, the English setter is medium-sized and has a long, silky white coat with various speckles that does require a decent amount of time spent on grooming, explains Robinson.

"They are typically gentle, mild-mannered, and friendly," she notes. That's why they've earned a reputation as the "gentlemen of the dog world." In other words, these loving pups make great companions and are good with children.

Lagotto Romagnolo near water
The Lagotto Romagnolo's curls do more than give her a cute, teddy bear-like look. Her fur also repels water, making this breed an avid swimmer.
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Lagotto Romagnolo

The truffle-hunting and water-loving Lagotto Romagnolo—which translates to "lake dog from Romagna"—is affectionate, lively, eager to please, and easily trainable, says Robinson. They're also known to be good family dogs as long as they're socialized early, she notes.

Wooten also points out that this smart breed, who hails from Italy, will require daily mental stimulation with play or training. They're especially big fans of problem-solving, so a doggie puzzle toy can be a great way to give them the brain-enriching stimuli they crave.

But you will want to take special care when it comes to grooming them, as they have a curly, water-resistant double coat that can get matted after enjoying the surf.

black newfoundland looking at camera
Newfoundlands have big brains to match their big bodies. They're intelligent dogs and respond well to positive reinforcement training.
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Newfoundland

One of the largest dog breeds out there, Newfoundlands are gentle giants who usually weigh more than 100 pounds up to 150 pounds. They sport a flat coarse exterior coat that helps them be avid swimmers in cool waters.

"Sadly, they have a shorter life span than other breeds, usually only living until around 8," says Robinson. "They are very sweet, good companions, and big couch potatoes."

It also bears noting that these big lovers tend to drool profusely, shed a lot, and are prone to ear infections. Wooten says you'll want to keep a close eye on those floofy ears so you can catch any signs of an ear infection before they turn nasty.

boykin spaniel in grass field
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Boykin Spaniel

Wholly developed within the 20th century, the Boykin spaniel loves hunting and water retrieval. They're beautiful, all brown, medium-sized spaniels who are also extremely smart, sweet, and love being around families, explains Robinson.

These pups require regular exercise, given how athletic and energetic they are. They'll do best with active people who can give them at least an hour of vigorous exercise every day, notes Wooten.

She adds that minimal grooming is required, but just like the Newfoundland above, a Boykin's ears should be checked for infection on a regular basis.

Outdoor portrait of Chesapeake Bay retriever, profile view
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Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The only American-bred retriever is a beloved family dog, the Chesapeake bay retriever, or "Chessie," is as active and athletic as they come. "They are skilled hunters and retrievers and love the outdoors, including swimming," says Robinson. It helps that they have thick, water-resistant double coats.

Personality-wise, Robinson says you can expect a Chessie to be very sweet and calm, which makes them great service dogs.

grey poodle and a smiling young girl in a lake
Credit: Johner Images / Getty

Poodle

One of the smartest—not to mention most elegant and trainable—breeds out there, standard poodles are very playful and active and require a ton of exercise. Although their low-shedding coat is good for people who have allergies, Robinson points out that these dogs will still require regular grooming.

And because they're naturally adventurous, it's no surprise that the breed—which also comes in toy and miniature sizes—take quickly to being in and around the surf. In fact, the AKC notes that the name poodle stems from pudelin, a German-language reference to the breed's adoration of water.

Blond labrador retriever running through pond
Descended from St. John's water dogs, Labradors were bred to retrieve ducks and keep fishermen company. Today, their history translates into a love for water and swimming.
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Labrador Retriever

The most popular breed in the U.S., Labrador retrievers, or Labs, as they're known for short, descended from St. John's water dogs, and were originally bred to retrieve ducks and be the fur-ever friends of fishermen. These days, Robinson says the breed continues to be well-loved—in no small part because of their easy trainability. When they're not being put to work hunting and retrieving, the obedient Lab can also be found working as a service dog. In addition to being so industrious, they're also very sweet and good-natured, so they make wonderful family companions.

Even though they are so athletic, they are prone to being overweight so they do require regular exercise and a healthy diet.


Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever sitting in boat on the water
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Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Bred to help hunt ducks, the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is an outgoing, loving medium-sized sporting breed with an eye-catching golden copper coat. "They are very intelligent, affectionate, and eager to please," notes Robinson. And a "toller" might be perfect for your family if you enjoy hunting, hiking, camping, and of course, swimming—just beware their notorious "toller scream," a high-pitched cry that makes this pup a poor choice for apartment-dwellers or folks with close neighbors who enjoy their peace and quiet.

And given their love of the outdoors and athleticism, Robinson adds that a toller needs to be exercised routinely and generally love playing fetch.