Everything about your Portuguese Water Dog

   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.
cute-portuguese-water-dog-wallpaper-3708812Breed standards
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
Hypoallergenic: Yes
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

  The Portuguese Water Dog descends from dogs used for centuries by Portuguese fishermen to drive fish into nets, retrieve gear from the water, and swim messages from boat to boat. It’s likely he shares an ancestor with the Poodle, who was bred in Germany to be a water retriever.
Known in his homeland as the Cao de Agua , the Portie served as a fishing crew member for trips ranging from off the coast of Portugal to Newfoundland.

  These hard-working fisherdogs almost disappeared in the early 20th century as fishing became more modernized, but a wealthy Portuguese dog lover, Vasco Bensuade, stepped in to save the breed. Fans formed a breed club and wrote a breed standard — a written description of how a breed should look and act — and Porties began to appear at dog shows.   A couple of decades later they made their way to England and the United States.
  The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America formed in 1972, despite the fact that there were only 12 known Porties in the U.S. Just 10 years later, their numbers had increased to 650, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) admitted the dogs to its Miscellaneous Class — sort of a way station for breeds awaiting full recognition.
  In 1983, the AKC recognized the Portie as a distinct breed. Today, the Portuguese Water Dog ranks 69th in popularity among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC.

  Portuguese Water dogs make excellent companions.They are loving, independent, and intelligent and are easily trained in obedience and agility skills. Once introduced, they are generally friendly to strangers, and enjoy being petted, which, due to their soft, fluffy coats, is a favour that human beings willingly grant them.
  Because they are working dogs, PWDs are generally content in being at their master’s side, awaiting directions, and, if they are trained, they are willing and able to follow complex commands. They learn very quickly, seem to enjoy the training, and have a long memory for the names of objects. These traits and their non-shedding coats mean they excel at the various Service Dog roles such as hearing dogs (assistance dogs for the deaf), mobility dogs, and seizure response dogs. They also make unusually good therapy dogs.
  A PWD usually stays in proximity to its owners, both indoors and outdoors. Though very gregarious animals, these dogs will typically bond with one primary or alpha family member. Some speculate that this intense bonding arose in the breed because the dogs were selected to work in proximity to their masters on small fishing boats, unlike other working dogs such as herding dogs and water dogs that range out to perform tasks. In any case, the modern PWD, whether employed on a boat or kept as a pet or a working dog, loves water, attention, and prefers to be engaged in activity within sight of a human partner. This is not a breed to be left alone for long periods of time, indoors or out.
  As water dogs, the PWD’s retrieving instinct is strong, which also gives some dogs tugging and chewing tendencies.
  A PWD will commonly jump as a greeting. Owners may choose to limit this behavior. Some PWDs may walk, hop, or “dance” on their hind legs when greeting or otherwise enthusiastic. Some PWDs will stand upright at kitchen counters and tables, especially if they smell food above them. This habit is known as “counter surfing” and is characteristic of the breed.   Although it can be a nuisance, many PWD owners evidently enjoy seeing their dogs walking, hopping, standing up, or “countering” and do not seriously discourage these activities.
While they are very good companions to people who understand what they need, Portuguese Water Dogs are not for everyone. Because of their intelligence and working drive, they require regular intensive exercise as well as mental challenges. They are gentle and patient — but not “couch potatoes”, and boredom may cause them to become destructive.

  The Portuguese Water Dog, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years, is prone to minor health problems such as GM1 storage disease, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), distichiasis, Addison’s disease, alopecia, juvenile cardiomyopathy, and major health issues like progressive retinal atrophy. It also occasionally suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and seizures. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run hip, DNA, and GM1 tests on this breed of dog.

Living Conditions
  The Portuguese Water Dog will be okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is moderately active indoors and a small yard will be sufficient. It can live outdoors in temperate climates, but would be much happier living close to its family and spending days in the yard.
  The Portuguese Water Dog is an active, working type dog with great stamina. It needs daily physical and mental exercise, which includes a daily, long, brisk walk or jog to satisfy its migration instinct. While out on the walk the dog must be made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog’s mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human. This breed does best with a job to do. They love to swim and there is nothing your dog would love more than if you threw a stick or ball in water for it to retrieve. It will also enjoy a vigorous romp. They make excellent jogging companions. They are high-energy dogs that need high-energy owners who can provide them with plenty of not only physical, but mental stimulation, along with strong leadership from every family member. Those dogs that are provided with this type of structure make excellent pets and working dogs and those that are lacking will tend to become problem dogs.
  The Portuguese Water Dog is at its best when allowed to live as part of a human “pack.” To prevent the dog from becoming bored and frustrated, provide it with daily mental and physical exercise, such as a jog, quick swim, long walk, vigorous romp, or playful game.
  The Portuguese Water Dog, like the Poodle, does not shed its coat. Therefore, coat care is a necessity for the breed, with combing on alternate days and clipping at least once a month.
Is this breed right for you?
  Extremely athletic, the Portuguese Water Dog does best in an environment that allows it to have high activity and possible swimming opportunities. If not provided with enough activity, it is likely that this breed will have behavioral problems. With a willingness to please, it is easy to train and will need it to keep a calm temperament. An average shedder, the Portuguese Water Dog is hypoallergenic and has simple grooming requirements. Affectionate with all members of the family, it does well with children and other animals if introduced to them young. This breed will do OK in an apartment as long as it is exercised, but it would most likely prefer a yard to romp around in.
Children and other pets
  Portuguese Water Dogs make excellent family companions, especially when raised with kids. They can be rambunctious, however, which is often scary or overwhelming for young children.
Always teach children how to safely approach and touch dogs, and supervise any interactions between dogs and young kids to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling from either party.
Porties get along well with other dogs and cats, especially if they’re raised with them. As with all dogs, you should keep an eye on Porties around small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters.

A dream day-in-the-life
  There is no doubt that the ideal day for the Portuguese Water Dog would involve some type of swimming. Whether in its own backyard pool or in a local pond or river, this dog will be the happiest pooch on the planet if it has the opportunity to perform the doggy paddle. Very loving, the rest of its day would happily be spent with its family and end with a jog, as it is known to be a wonderful running partner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *