If you’ve been to doggy pools, you’ll notice that some pooches might be happily swimming on their own while others struggle almost immediately and flail helplessly, waiting to be carried out of the water. Although dogs are comfortable in the water and on land, not all of them are natural swimmers — pooches that panic, when exposed to water, should not be forced to swim as it could instill fear in them.

However, there’s a category of dogs that are pretty much mermaids on land. These pooches have a strong tradition in swimming and were developed to work in the water, whether as a rescue pooch or for hunting. Due to their strong limbs and special coats, it gives them an advantage as compared to other pooches when it comes to the water.

 Here are five dogs that are born to swim. (In no particular order)

1. Labrador Retriever

Known for being a working dog in the military today, the Labrador Retrievers are not only great for labour-intensive work on the land, but they also have an innate ability to swim. Originating from the island of Newfoundland, these tenacious pups were bred to help local fishermen haul nets, fetch ropes and retrieve fishes that had escaped the nets in the 1700s.

All dogs have webbed feet, but Labrador Retrievers have much-pronounced webbed feet to help them paddle in the water while their rudder-like tail helps them maneuver. Also, their oily coat repels water and helps it dry quickly.

2. Standard Poodles

Although these pooches have been stereotyped as delicate creatures that are unable to withstand hardship, you could be surprised as they are hunting dogs and are highly athletic.

They have a lean and muscular body with an abundance of energy and stamina, which makes them great swimmers. Even though they may not be as great in the water as other breeds in this list and take a longer time to get used to the environment, they were known as waterfowl retrievers and an upland bird retriever. They can hunt waterfowl from a variety of ways.  

3. Newfoundland

These pooches also have pronounced webbed feet, a rudder-like tail and a heavy coat to protect them from the icy cold waters. Newfoundlands can swim for long distances and they possess the instincts to save people in need.

In 1919, a ship, Ethie, ran aground off the Canadian coast and it is said that Tang, a Newfoundland dog, saved the entire crew. He jumped into the sea and pulled the ship to shore with a rope in his mouth. The people on land secured the rope and 92 passengers on the crew were brought to safety.

These working dogs also helped fishermen pull nets from the water and haul wood from the forest.

4. Portuguese Water Dog

You would’ve seen this dog breed on television and everywhere on the Internet as the Obama family owns two of them, Bo and Sunny. These pooches were exposed to water environments in the 1500s when they accompanied fishermen on fishing trips as working dogs. As natural retrievers, they were used to retrieve broken nets as well as lost equipment at sea. In addition, they guarded the boats and were used to gather fishes into the nets. Their webbed feet helped them paddle in the water.

5. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

These strong, independent and high-energy dogs absolutely love the water. They have muscular hind legs and a water-resistant coat that helps them spend a long time in icy cold waters. Known for their hunting skills, they were used for waterfowl hunting in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.

Although they resemble Labradors, they have completely different personalities and are not as friendly. As they require a lot of exercises, they are not suitable for apartment living and should live in the countryside as well as the suburbs. They are active and love the outdoors, so adventurous paw-rents who enjoy activities such as hiking, swimming and camping will adore the Chessie, as this pooch will exercise with you.

This article was first published in Pets Magazine, 10 Oct 2017