The Top 10 Best Water Retriever Dogs

A Portuguese water dog shows off his clipped coat.
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Water retriever breeds are great swimmers, with water-resistant coats and athletic bodies. There isn’t a lot of call for water retrieving nowadays, but many of these breeds have become popular pets. You can use a water retriever’s love of swimming and fetching to enrich training and play.


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The Labrador is one of the most popular pet breeds in the world. Although bred predominantly for retrieving birds, he’s a great swimmer and his thick coat means he’ll happily dive into the water for a retrieve.

Golden Retriever

Another popular pet breed, the golden retriever was also bred for retrieving game, but like his cousin the labrador, loves to swim. Their intelligence makes them very easy to train.

Standard Poodle

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Unlike miniature and toy poodles, the standard poodle was bred for work, not companionship. His tightly curled coat provides excellent protection against the water, while his agile and athletic physique make him an excellent swimmer. Due to his high intelligence and playfulness, the standard poodle is a very popular pet.

American Water Spaniel

This small spaniel is a descendent of the Irish water spaniel. Bred for working in shallow rivers and on shore, this versatile breed is a strong swimmer but also a great land retriever.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Bred specifically to work with duck hunters, the small Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever lures ducks into shooting range by splashing about in the shallow waters on the shore. Once a duck is shot, he’ll fish it out of the water and bring it to the hunter.

Curly Coated Retriever

The curly coated retriever was bred to retrieve waterfowl. His distinctive tightly curled coat protects him from cold water and helps him to swim. This breed also makes a great pet, although he’s not as popular as more well-known water retrievers like Labradors and golden retrievers.

Flat-Coated Retriever

The flat-coated retriever is strong, energetic and has a great sense of smell. He was originally bred for working on land, but this versatile breed is a strong swimmer and won’t shy away from the water.

Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish water spaniel is a relatively rare breed, placing 150th on the 2011 American Kennel Club list of most popular pet breeds. Playful, intelligent and very fond of water, this breed makes a great pet.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay retriever, or “chessie,” is a distinctive looking double-coated dog. Chessies are named for the area of Maryland where they were originally bred to assist hunters by collecting ducks.

Portuguese Water Dog

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Bo, President Obama’s Portuguese water dog, is perhaps the most famous example of this breed. His distinctive long and curly coat sets him apart from other water retrievers. The Portuguese water dog was originally put to work on fishing boats, from which he’d leap off at his master’s command and set about dragging fishing nets back to the boat. The breed was almost extinct in the 1930s, but was rescued by a dedicated breeding program started by Vasco Bensaude, a Portuguese shipping tycoon.

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