The Portuguese Water dog breed once served as crew on fishing trips, retrieving lost gear, and herding fish into nets. Today, he’s a fun-loving family companion — represented by Bo Obama, First Dog of the U.S. — who still retains the intelligence and love of the water (not to mention the webbed feet) that made him so valuable to his human family.
A wonderful swimmer and diver, the Portuguese Water Dog is often referred to as “Cão de Água” (dog of the water). Bred in Portugal to accompany fisherman on trips, this intelligent dog dove for fish, swam messages back and forth and acted as a guard dog of the boat. The Portuguese Water Dog is known for having a lion’s cut, which is to aid while swimming in colder temperatures to keep vital organs warm. Nearly extinct, a wealthy Portuguese man brought the breed back, and it is now mildly popular in Portugal and the U.S. as a fishing companion as well as a therapy and assistance dog.
Portuguese fishermen ranged from the Atlantic coast of their own country to the frigid fishing grounds of Newfoundland in their quest for cod. Assisting them were medium-size, curly-coated dogs who drove fish into nets, retrieved lost tackle, and swam messages from boat to boat.
Known variously as the Cao de Agua (dog of the water) and Portuguese fishing dog, these canine helpmeets developed into what we know today as the Portuguese Water Dog, a calm, intelligent, and — of course — water-loving breed. In fact, one of their distinctive characteristics is their webbed feet.
Porties, as they’re nicknamed, are fun-loving and friendly. For an active family, especially one with a swimming pool, nearby beach, or boat, they can be an excellent choice. They thrive with training and are well suited to dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally, therapy work, tracking, and water work.
No matter what activity you choose, make sure your Portie gets daily exercise — without it they can become frustrated and destructive. Swimming is a natural choice, but they also make great walking or jogging buddies.
Like his relative the Poodle, the Portie has a reputation for being hypoallergenic. It’s not quite true — there’s really no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. All dogs shed and produce dander to some degree. But the Portie doesn’t shed much.
With training, there’s very little the Portie can’t do. He’s adaptable to many living situations — with enough exercise he can be an apartment dog — and tends to be quiet around the home. Affectionate and loyal, fun-loving and hard working, the Portuguese Water Dog can be a treasured friend to the right person.
- Portuguese Water Dogs are energetic and need 30 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise daily. They love swimming and make excellent jogging companions.
- Without proper exercise and mental stimulation, Portuguese Water Dogs can become destructive. They especially like to chew.
- Portuguese Water Dogs are highly intelligent. They love learning new things, but they can also become bored easily, so make training challenging and fun.
- Portuguese Water Dogs get along well with children and other family pets, especially if they’re raised with them. They can be reserved toward strangers, but are never lacking in love and affection for their families.
- Portuguese Water Dogs don’t shed much and are often considered hypoallergenic. Keep in mind that all dogs shed hair and dander to some degree, and no dog is completely hypoallergenic. If you have pet allergies, the best way to see if you’ll have a reaction to a particular dog is to spend time with him and watch for symptoms.
- Portuguese Water Dogs love people and should live in the home with their family.
- They can adapt to apartment life if they get enough exercise.
- Portuguese Water Dogs tend to mature more slowly than other breeds.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn’t provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments.
AKC group: Working Group
UKC group: Gun Dog Group
Average lifespan: 11 – 14 years
Average size: 35 – 60 pounds
Coat appearance: Curly or wavy haired
Coloration: Black, white, brown, silver fox, gray or any combination with white markings
Other identifiers: Medium size with athletic build, black nose, dark eyes, heart-shaped ears, straight legs with webbed feet
Possible alterations: N/A
Comparable Breeds: Poodle, Newfoundland