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About Portuguese Water Dogs


Though Portuguese Water Dogs look like cute balls of fluff, they truly are working dogs. Originally, this breed was bred to work on the fishing boats in Portugal. As you may guess, they are very strong swimmers, with a strong work drive. Some of the tasks assigned to the PWD included taking out fishing nets, carrying messages between boats, herding fish, moving buoys in the water, and more. They even guarded the boat against seals who were trying to steal fish from the boats – cool!


Country of Origin: The Portuguese Water Dog ( ‘Cao de Agua Portuguese’, ‘Portie’, ‘PWD’) shares its early ancestry with the Poodle. They descend from Asian herding breeds brought to Portugal. They were adapted for all manners of water activities, such as herding fish into nets, retrieving lost fishing equipment, and delivering messages to ship or to shore. The Portuguese Water Dog breed declined in numbers as fishing methods modernized, but in the 1930’s wealthy shipping magnate Dr. Vasco Bensuade helped to standardize and promote it. Dr. Bensuade became captivated by the breed after witnessing a Portuguese Water Dog named Leao dive through icy waters on command. The Portuguese Water Dog was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1984.

Size: The Portuguese Water Dog has an average shoulder height of 17-22 inches and weighs about 35-60 lbs. Portuguese Water Dogs have large heads with pronounced stop (depression where the muzzle meets the forehead), small eyes, and heart-shaped ears. They have feathered tails which curl vertically toward the back and webbed feet which are useful for swimming.


Coat: The Portuguese Water Dog has a curly coat of dense, cylindrical curls, or a gentle, wavy coat with a minor sheen.  The most common colors are black, brown, white, black and white, white and black, or brown and white. Dark colored Portuguese Water Dogs have an interesting blue-tinted skin; light colored Portuguese Water Dogs have pink skin which is more susceptible to sunburns. The Portuguese Water Dog does not shed, but their hair falls out in a fashion similar to human hair. Interestingly enough, I find more of my hair around then their own. All that to say, they are a good fit for those with allergies.


Character: The Portuguese Water Dog is obedient, sociable, high-spirited, and friendly. They are highly attached to their owners, and desire to be with him/her always. They love to have fun, but it’s important to note that leaving them alone in the backyard for an extended amount of time isn’t enjoyable for most.


Temperament: The Portuguese Water Dog enjoys the companionship of dogs, pets and children. They make good watchdogs. Some Portuguese Water Dogs may chew, so bones, raw hides, and chew toys are definitely recommended. They have a tendency to snoop around on counters and in prohibited areas, so watch for that.

Health: Just like every purebred and mixed breeds, the PWDs are prone to a certain set of health problems. Thankfully, the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America (PWDCA) has put together a list of tests that this breed should be tested for before breeding to help the quality of life for their offspring. We do our best to ensure our puppies are very healthy, which is why we test for all of the recommended evaluations. You can see our dog's health tests on our "About Us" by clicking on each dog's individual OFA profile link. 

Care: If you keep their hair long, they need grooming with a brush and comb every few days and trimming every few months. If you keep their hair short though, grooming is very minimal. Portuguese Water Dogs have a lifespan ranging from 10-14 years. They are susceptible to hip dysplasia (malformed hip joint which can cause lameness or arthritis), and eye problems such as cataracts and PRA. Be sure to keep them up to date with their vet visits.


Training: The Portuguese Water Dog’s intelligence and fondness for hard work makes training a fairly simple matter. Portuguese Water Dogs are quick to understand instructions. Training time will be a fun and bonding experience.

Activity: This breed needs and loves daily mental and physical stimulation. They love to swim and have a great time retrieving sticks or balls, especially from water. Taking them to the dog park, on the boat, to the river, to the playground, and even just for car rides all seem to be winners. Portuguese Water Dogs are best with active people who really love having a cute and hairy companion.

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