Why Do Some Dogs Like Swimming More Than Others?

They LOVE the water 💦💦

pug in a floatie in water

Some dogs are just born loving the water — and sometimes it seems like they can be even better swimmers than you.

While whether or not a dog likes the water is due in large part to his individual personality, part of it can actually be tied to his genetics! Some dog breeds are predisposed to love water because they were bred specifically to be comfortable with swimming (even though every dog is different).

So just for fun, The Dodo reached out to some experts — Emily Brown, a veterinary technician with HelloRalphie; Dr. Sabrina Kong, a veterinarian at Lathrop Veterinary Center and veterinary writer; and Dr. Jennifer Coates, part of the advisory board for Pet News Daily — to find out which types of dogs are most likely to love the water and why they’re so good at swimming.

Why do some dog breeds love water?


In most cases, certain breeds of dogs love water because they were originally bred to be used for water activities, like retrieving waterfowl during hunting.

“Dogs that have historically been bred to work in and around water usually love to swim,” Dr. Coates told The Dodo. “Some of these breeds have developed physical characteristics that serve them well in the water. For example, Labrador retrievers have more webbing between their toes to help them swim, and Chesapeake Bay retrievers have oily coats to help them repel water.”

Here are 16 dog breeds that love water. (Though, while these breeds are typically more fond of water and swimming than others, you should keep in mind that each individual dog is different, and your pup might not love the water even though he’s a water-loving breed — or he might love water even if he’s not one of the breeds on this list!)

Labrador retriever

two labrador retrievers

The first dog who might come to mind when you think of dogs that love water is a Labrador retriever.

“Labs are notoriously fond of swimming, and their bodies are made for it,” Brown told The Dodo. “Labs have a thick coat with a water-resistant outer layer that keeps their skin dry and staves off the cold, plus it dries quickly. They also have webbing on their paw pads that helps them propel through the water.”

“Equally happy on land or sea, Labrador retrievers were bred with waterfowl hunting in mind,
which is why they have no problem with getting wet,” Dr. Kong told The Dodo.

Golden retriever

golden retriever in pool

Golden retrievers probably come in a close second behind Labs when it comes to dogs that love water.

Quite possibly, the first image that comes to your head when you think of a dog playing in the water is a golden retriever,” Dr. Kong said. “These proactive dogs have water-repellent coats, which is what makes them great for this kind of activity.”

Chesapeake Bay retriever

chesapeake bay retriever in woods

Chesapeake Bay retrievers are super strong and energetic. Like Labs, Chesapeake Bay retrievers were bred to retrieve ducks (hence the name) in the Chesapeake Bay.

“They have an even more oily, waterproof coat than Labs, and the fur is wiry and has a wavy pattern that helps them both move through the water and prevent getting too cold,” Brown said. “They also have webbed feet and a powerfully built body that can even break through ice in winter.”

Standard poodle

poodle in water

While you might think of a poodle as being a well-groomed housepet, they’re extremely athletic dogs.

“They were traditionally sporting dogs on both land and water, and some of these hunting and
retrieving instincts are still prominent in the breed,” Brown said.

They also have curly, water-resistant coats that are great for swimming.

“Poodles were bred for water activities, and its characteristic curly coat that keeps them warm in cold waters is the most significant proof of that,” Dr. Kong said.

Portuguese water dog

portuguese water dog in water

This breed literally has “water” in the name, so that gives you an idea of how well these dogs do in water. Portuguese water dogs’ original job was to help fishermen herd fish into their nets, so they spent a ton of time swimming.

“They have webbed feet and a powerful body shaped perfectly to cut through the water
with ease,” Brown said.

Portuguese water dogs’ coats are similar to poodles’, with tight waves or curls to keep the water from getting to their skin.

Newfoundland

newfoundland dog in life vest

With all that fur, you might not think of Newfoundlands as particularly buoyant dogs, but their thick coats are actually designed to keep them warm in cold water. These dogs were originally working companions to fishermen, but now they help out with rescue missions (they’re also good for cuddling)!

“Their gentleness and strength makes them choice dogs for water rescue missions,” Brown said. “They have very large paws that help them push through the water easily and are
particularly muscular.”

German shorthaired pointer

german shorthaired pointer with stick

While these dogs have short coats that don’t provide as much protection as some other water-loving dogs’ coats, German shorthaired pointers were bred as hunting dogs and have a ton of energy and endurance.

“Like many other water-savvy breeds, these dogs have webbing in between their toes, and they
have sleek, streamlined bodies and coats that make gliding through water a breeze,” Brown said.

Schipperke

schipperke in woods

This is another breed where the name gives it away (though you might not realize it) — “schip” actually means boat in Flemish, and “schipperke” means “little captain.”

“Schipperkes are Belgian boat dogs,” Brown said. “They helped fishermen as watchdogs and
ratters on ships, so naturally they are also comfortable with water.”

These little dogs are quite energetic and have thick coats to keep them warm in the water.

English setter

english setter with water

English setters are sporting dogs who were bred to point to birds when their owners went hunting. These dogs are super athletic and can be extremely energetic — and they also happen to love the water.

“Their enthusiastic nature makes them comfortable swimming, and their athletic build makes them great at it,” Brown said.

Brittany

brittany dog

The Brittany is a high-energy pup who was bred to hunt, so these dogs need lots of exercise. They tend to be enthusiastic and energetic, and they’re extremely athletic.

“The Brittany, also known as a Brittany spaniel, is also a sporting dog that tends to be fearless with water,” Brown said. “They have a thick coat that helps make them water- and cold-resistant and are full of energy. They are a more compact dog but with long legs that help them to swim.”

Boykin spaniel

boykin spaniel in grass

Boykin spaniels were originally bred for hunting ducks and turkeys in the swamps and rivers of South Carolina — and to get through a swamp, they definitely had to be good swimmers.

“They have a sleek coat and webbed feet that makes them comfortable swimmers, and their medium size makes them able to navigate tighter waterways in order to get to their prize,” Brown said.

Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever

nova scotia duck tolling retriever in water

This is another retriever breed, like the Labrador, Chesapeake Bay and golden retrievers. Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers are the smallest of the retriever breeds and typically are hyper-energetic dogs (if you get one of these pups, be prepared to play all the time). These dogs have webbed feet to make them excellent swimmers.

Irish water spaniel

irish water spaniel in grass

The Irish water spaniel is the tallest of the spaniel dogs and one of the oldest — the breed has been around for hundreds of years!

These dogs were bred to retrieve waterfowl for hunters. They have webbed feet and double-layered, water-repellent coats, which make them great swimmers.

Curly-coated retriever

curly coated retriever with water

As you might imagine based on the name, the coat of a curly-coated retriever is made up of tight, waterproof curls that keep him warm in the water, similar to a poodle’s coat. This is the oldest of the retriever breeds and was originally bred in England for hunting. Along with the curls, their coats lie close to their skin to maintain body heat, which is perfect for swimming in cold water to retrieve waterfowl.

American water spaniel

american water spaniel

American water spaniels have the traits of both a spaniel and a retriever (both water-loving dogs), so they’re basically born for the water.

“Back in the 19th century, hunters needed a dog that could work on both land and water, and that's when the American water spaniel was born,” Dr. Kong said. “Its coat has a thick outside layer that keeps water away and an inside layer that keeps it warm.”

Flat-coated retriever

flat coated retriever in water

Flat-coated retrievers were bred to assist hunters on land and in the water. They have a thick, flat coat that protects them in the water but doesn’t add too much weight. They are very energetic and active — they’re often called “Peter Pan” retrievers because they can still be quite playful even as they get older.

Dogs that don’t like water


There are some breeds of dogs that might be less likely to love the water. These are usually dogs who have flat faces (also known as brachycephalic breeds), which make it more difficult to breathe while swimming, or dogs whose body types make staying afloat more difficult.

“The short noses and barrel-shaped chest of pugs, boxers, English bulldogs, French bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds make swimming difficult for them,” Dr. Coates said. “Dogs with extremely short legs, like dachshunds and basset hounds, may also struggle to swim.”

Though, again, remember that each dog is different — whether or not your pup likes to swim will ultimately depend on his unique personality!

“Dogs are individuals, so it’s certainly possible to find a Lab who hates the water or a bulldog who wants to do nothing more than swim,” Dr. Coates said.

And if your pup is an adorable mix, he could get traits of any of the breeds he’s mixed with — or a personality that’s all his own!

So if you have a pug or a bulldog and want to take him swimming, don’t worry — he might still love to swim! And if you have one of these breeds that loves the water, you should still make sure he’s comfortable around water before taking him swimming.