Barillo, an eight-year-old mestizo dog, started barking after seeing the child struggling in the sea at San Benedetto del Tronto in the Marche region, and jumped straight in after failing to get the attention of his owner, La Stampa reported.
Along with another swimmer, the dog managed to bring the boy to safety, but then drowned before reaching the shore after swallowing too much water.
The incident happened on Sunday after the child, who was at the beach with his grandmother, panicked in the water.
Articolo Tre reported that Barillo was at the beach with his owners, Claudio Coppola and his wife from Salerno.
The mother of the boy, named by the website as Luca D, offered the couple a reward but they refused, instead accepting for her to cover the cost of the dog’s cremation.
There have been a number of cases around the world of dogs using their special instinct to save people.
In 2012, a dog also saved a baby from drowning in the United States after the boy fell into the family pool, while last year a puppy saved a child from drowning in the sea in Turkey.