Counting down the days till you can hit the beach (or pool, or lake) this summer? Your dog may be right there with you; ready to leap into the first body of water it can find.
Whether or not they love the water today, certain breeds, based on their ancestry and history, were built for it and may continue to share your fondness for a good swim. Here are the top water-loving breeds, courtesy of David Frei, co-host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and expert analyst for The National Dog Show Presented by Purina.
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Irish Water Spaniel
With the same tight curly coat as the Poodle, the Irish Water Spaniel’s curls cover everything but its face and tail. This thick, water repellant coat was necessary in Ireland, where the breed originated and was used as a bird-hunting partner. Known for plunging into freezing water in pursuit of waterfowl, Irish Water Spaniels are powerful, athletic and loyal to their owners. An easy-to-train family dog and enthusiastic hunting companion, the breed needs plenty of daily exercise and regular grooming to keep their curls from becoming matted. Also similarly to the Poodle, Irish Water Spaniels shed far less than other dogs and may be a good fit for those with allergies to dog dander. The breed does best with space to run in or nearby water to swim in and may not be suitable for apartment living.
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American Water Spaniel
A medium-sized dog with a wavy coat, the American Water Spaniel is similar in size and appearance as the Boykin Spaniel (pictured). Known for being the state dog of Wisconsin, according to Frei, the breed smaller size helps prevent it from capsizing the boats it may accompany its owners on as they hunt. With strong legs and a muscular body, the American Water Spaniel is a powerful swimmer and loves a good water game. The breed should be given plenty of daily exercise to match its stamina.
Portuguese Water Dog
A breed with “all the equipment it needs to be a water dog,” said Frei, the Portuguese Water Dog’s lineage comes from its namesake, where it is referred to as Cao de Agua. With a waterproof coat, webbed feet and a tail it can use as a rudder, the Portuguese Water Dog was used to assist fisherman on boats, swim to shore with messages and act as the guardian of a ship. Today, this well-mannered, adventurous breed makes a wonderful family companion.
With a name that comes from the German word pudel or pudelin, which means, “to splash in the water,” Poodles were bread to hunt and retrieve waterfowl. Although they’re more commonly recognized in the show ring, the Poodle is an athletic, intelligent and all around excellent dog, according to Frei. With a dense, curly coat, Poodles are well protected from harsh elements and can move easily in the water.
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Though Labradors are among the most popular breeds for families today, they originated in Newfoundland as water dogs bred to help fishermen pull in large nets of fish and catch any fish that escaped. With a tail that works like a rudder and a thick, water-resistant coat, Labradors will do anything for their people, especially if it involves retrieving water dog toys or taking a dip on a hot day. Loving and loyal, Labrador Retrievers love socializing with people and learning new things but require plenty of daily exercise to stay trim and entertained.
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Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Arguably the greatest water dog of all, according to Frei, the Chesapeake Bay Retreiver, or Chessie, is built for the water. With a short, rough coat that is virtually waterproof and webbed feet, the Chessie was bred to withstand the icy cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay so that they could retrieve ducks for hunters. The state dog of Maryland, the Chessie loves having a job to do and enjoys lots of playtime with its family.
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Bred to hunt otters and protect the fishing industry in Scotland, the Otterhound no longer serves this purpose but still retains its love for the water, Frei said. A large, rough-coated dog that possesses great strength and athleticism, the Otterhound can tolerate long hunts in even the harshest of weather. Because it is a scent hound, the Otterhound also enjoys trailing and having a good sniff in addition to swimming. Gentle with children and friendly towards other dogs, Otterhounds make easy-going and lively family companions.
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Originally used for pulling nets and boat lines in their namesake island, Newfoundlands were eventually used as search and rescue dogs because of their excellent swimming abilities. A popular family dog with a thick, water resistant double coat and webbed feet, Newfoundlands love to be near the water with their people. Affectionate and loyal, Newfoundlands are also great with children and can make good watchdogs.
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The largest of the terrier breeds, the Airedale Terrier was bred originally to hunt small game and waterfowl but can also be used to hunt larger game because of its size. An intelligent, adventurous companion, the Airedale is versatile and active and requires a job to do or plenty of vigorous daily exercise—along with the right dog food—to meet its energy requirements. Their dense, wiry coats require regular combing as well as an occasional shaping and trimming.
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The Schipperke is not as conventional a water dog as the other breeds on the list but has origins working on boats and being on the water, Frei said. With a name that means “little skipper” or “little captain,” Schipperkes worked on canal boats traveling between Antwerp and Brussels as ratters and guard dogs, according to Frei. A tiny dog with a big personality, Schipperkes make alert watchdogs and can be protective of their surroundings. Independent, adventurous and energetic, Schipperkes require plenty of daily exercise and with the right training can be pleasant and friendly house dogs.
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Jessica is a managing editor and spends her days trying not to helicopter parent her beloved shelter pup, Darwin.