7 Dog Breeds Who Love Boating

Choosing a dog breed that will adapt easily to a houseboat environment will make life much easier for the both of you.

August 2017 Feature Alexandra Seagal - animalso.com Web Exclusive

Looking for a four-legged matey to join you aboard your houseboat? Many dog breeds were originally bred to work in the water, making them great swimmers and perfect companions for boaters.

Here’s our choice of the top 7 dog breeds for boaters:

1. Labrador Retriever

The most popular breed in the US, Labrador Retrievers were born to get wet. Originally bred to hunt waterfowl on the island of Newfoundland, they are natural swimmers and great athletes. Labs are happy to swim in any body of water, be it river or sea.

This dog makes a great dog for a family - they are very loyal, gentle, and affectionate pets. They are also highly intelligent and versatile, so they can be trained to do a number of tasks.

Labs are large dogs, so if it’s a smaller companion you’re after, keep reading... 

2. Portuguese Water Dog 

This medium-sized dog, sometimes referred to as The Portie, was bred to be a fisherman’s helper. They would drive fish into nets and even carried messages between ships and boats.

Porties are designed to swim - they have a thick, waterproof coat, webbed feet and they use their tails as a rudder when swimming to help them navigate.

They tend to be very friendly dogs that are easy to train. This plus their insatiable desire to get wet would certainly make them a great mate for a boater or a boating family.

A warning, though - this dog’s curly coat requires a lot of maintenance. You should brush her at least three times a week to keep it free from tangles. 

3. American Water Spaniel 

Another curly-coated breed, the American Water Spaniel is a very skilled swimmer. This dog was used mainly to retrieve waterfowl from boats. Her small size made her easy to fit in a canoe, so she certainly won’t take up too much space on your houseboat!

This is a high-energy breed that needs lots of exercise and play and fits in well with a family. Just remember to keep her well-groomed. Like the Portuguese Water Dog, you’ll need to brush her at least three times a week.

4. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

This tough breed was used to hunt ducks in the cold waters of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, so she is a great match if you live in a colder climate. Their dense, waterproof coat is designed to keep them warm even in icy waters.

Chessies are small, so she will fit in well on smaller boats. But don’t let her size fool you - this small dog has a big personality, and she will need a firm and confident leader. She can also be quite protective, so she’ll make a great guard dog on your boat.

5. Poodle

Many people don’t know that Poodles were originally bred actually to be used in the water. That’s right - they’re not just for show. Standard Poodles were used in Germany to retrieve waterfowl.

A poodle of any size can make a great boat dog, depending on how much space you have on your boat. Whether toy, miniature, or standard, they are all fantastic swimmers.

The poodle is also a highly intelligent dog that is keen to learn, so you should have no trouble training her. I wouldn’t leave steering the boat in her paws, though...

6. Newfoundland 

The Newfie is a giant breed that is a well-known water dog. They were bred to pull in fishnets and heavy equipment in - you’ve got it! - Newfoundland. Their thick, water-resistant coat and webbed feet give them all the qualities of a great swimmer.

These dogs are renowned for their love of swimming. They also dabble in water rescues, swimming out life rings to rescue people in the water. This dog is incredibly sweet-natured and makes a brilliant family dog.

For some, a Newfoundland may take up too much room, but if you’ve got a yacht, she can certainly make a welcome addition aboard.

7. Golden Retriever

This is a popular dog on land with families, but they can also make a great companion for a boating family!

Goldens were originally bred to hunt and retrieve waterfowl, hence why they love to retrieve anything thrown into the water. This dog is also just beautiful to watch when swimming - her long, wavy, golden coat is water-resistant, so the water slides right off. Just watch out when she shakes, of course.

As well as their natural instinct for swimming, Golden Retrievers are very gentle, loving dogs who are highly trainable

Safety precautions

Even with these water-loving dogs, you should follow some safety precautions. The main things to remember are:

  • Never leave your dog unsupervised.
  • Get her a life jacket, just in case. Even with strong swimmers, you never know what weather conditions will be like when out at sea.
  • Have a first-aid kit handy for times when you head out on the water.
  • Make sure your dog always has access to fresh drinking water. This will reduce the chances of her drinking stagnant water or salt water.


If you’re looking for a canine matey, it’s best to choose a dog that is already a natural swimmer and can easily get used to life on the water due to her breeding.

Any of these dog breeds can make a great match for a boater. However, you must also take into consideration the breed’s size and typical characteristics to decide if she will make a good fit for you and your family.

The Labrador and the Golden Retriever are the top choices for families with children, for example. As for size, Newfoundlands are better suited to large yachts, while the American Water Spaniel, Miniature Poodle, or the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in Maryland won’t take up too much room on a smaller houseboat. 

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