There are seven dog breeds recognised by the National Italian Canine Organisation (ENCI) as water dogs. Specifically, they belong to Section 3 of group 8 and they are: Portuguese water dog, Lagotto Romagnolo, American Water Spaniel, Barbet, Irish Water Spaniel, Spanish Water Dog, and Dutch Spaniel. In general, they are medium-sized dogs with a muscular structure, in line with their strong attitude for sport. Water dogs tend to have a balanced and very sociable character.
The hair can be particularly woolly, as in the case of the Lagotto Romagnolo and the Barbet, or softly wavy. However, all of them have a special water-repellent coat with a thick undercoat, which is essential to provide the skin with the right protection from cold weather and water. Swimming dogs have feet that are proportionate to the body, characterized by narrow toes, well-defined and resistant fingertips, and webbed paws, which give them stability in movement and support in swimming.
Curiosities about swimming dogs
Among all these dog breeds, Lagotto Romagnolo is the one that has changed “job” over time. The marshy areas of Romagna where it was born as a retriever in water, in fact, over the centuries was restored and transformed into arable land. Therefore, Lagotto Romagnolo dogs also underwent a transformation, becoming the excellent truffle dog we all know today.
Not only the dogs from these seven breeds love water. Labrador Retrievers and the Newfoundlands, for example, also have a strong passion for water, and are very often used as rescue dogs in the water. Another swimming dog is the Poodle which, surprisingly, is related to the Portuguese water dog and the Barbet. Apparently, it shares the same ancestor with these breeds, a native dog of north-western Africa.
Federica Pirrone, Mariangela Albertini, Patrizia Piotti researchers at UNIMI Veterinaria