Breed Type: Working
Country of Origin: Portugal
Popular Names: Portie, Water Dog, PWD, Cão de Água
Height: (At the withers) Males 50 – 55 cm, Females 42.5 – 40 cm
Weight: Males 18 – 25 kg, Females 16 – 22.7 kg
Best suited as: Working dog and companion
Lifespan: 10-15 years
This fairly rare breed was used to herd fish into nets and carry messages from ship to ship or ship to shore.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a highly-intelligent medium-sized breed with webbed toes, stout legs, and either curly and dull or wavy, shiny hair. Their eyes are brown or black, and their thick coats may be brown, black, brown and white, black and white, or all-white, which is very rare. You will often see white paws and legs on black or brown dogs. Black with white on the chest and chin is the most common. Dogs with more than 30 percent white are disqualified from shows in Portugal. They shed very little and many people with allergies seem to tolerate this dog better than others.
Slightly longer than tall, this hardy breed has a broad chest, large head, and heart-shaped ears that hang down. The tail is long and tapered. They look similar to a Poodle but are heavier-boned.
There are several theories describing the origins of the Portuguese Water Dog. One purports that they were Asian herding dogs captured and then bred by the Berbers. The Berbers’ Moorish descendants took the dogs with them to Portugal in 700 AD.
Another theory states that the dogs spread out from the Asian steppes with Germanic tribes and became German Poodles, Lion Dogs, or Portuguese Water Dogs, depending on where they ended up. In the 1930s, the breed was almost extinct. A Portuguese shipping magnate, Vasco Bensaude, and two vets started breeding fishermen’s dogs to bring back the breed. Famous owners of the Portugese Water Dog include U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.
They are easily trained, independent, lovable, and friendly. They love being petted, and make excellent therapy dogs. Most bond with one main family member – usually the alpha – and never stray far from their owners, whether indoors or out. They dislike being left alone for long periods. They are prone to separation anxiety and its accompanying destructive behaviour. They do best with owners who have a lot of time to devote to the relationship, and love being included in family activities.
PWDs are known to “counter surf” – stand on their hind legs to check out the counter or table to see what is good to eat. They also tend to jump up on people in greeting – this should be discouraged. Porties love water play and are great swimming companions for adults and children alike. They have a very strong retrieving drive, and this can be utilized for hunting or play. Some dogs that don’t have enough mental stimulation or exercise resort to pulling and chewing behaviours. Training methods should never be harsh because it causes these dogs to develop avoidance behaviours. Positive training like praise and treats for proper behaviour works the best. They love to please their masters and this should be used to its best advantage when training a pup.
They have very distinctive vocalization tendencies, and they make good watch dogs. They are particularly good at loudly vocalizing and then seeking out their owners in certain situations (like when the doorbell or phone rings) and so make great dogs for hearing impaired companions.
Care and Grooming
A PWD’s coat never stops growing. They don’t shed, but require regular brushing and clipping or cutting to keep the coat in check. They should be trimmed every two months and brushed every other day to keep the hair out of the dog’s eyes and to avoid mats and knots in the hair. Some owners may find it easier to have a groomer come to them for regular sessions. This can get quite expensive, so potential owners should consider this when shopping for a dog.
There are two main types of cuts for Portuguese Water Dogs: the retriever cut and the lion cut. For the retriever cut, the dog’s hair is cut to the same length, usually 2.5 cm, all over the body. The muzzle and base of the tail may be cut shorter. A modified retriever cut, where the hair remains all the same length but is cut even shorter than 2.5 cm for summer weather, is sometimes done in hotter climates. The retriever cut is a mainstream style.
The second cut style, the lion cut, is more extreme and involves the muzzle, base of the tail, and hindquarters being shaved. The rest of the hair is left long so that the animal looks like a male lion. This is the traditional cut for the breed and served a dual purpose in that it protected the dog from the shock of cold water and allowed its powerful hind legs and tail free movement while swimming.
As with other dogs, owners should take care of the dog’s ears, teeth, and toenails. Clean its ears and teeth weekly and clip its nails monthly to avoid problems. These are not couch potato dogs. They have tons of stamina and do best in homes with lots of outdoor space for running and playing. They love to jog along beside a cyclist, jogger, or Rollerblader. They enjoy camping and hiking as well as obedience and agility trials.
There is a very limited gene pool for the Portuguese Water Dog so choose a dog very carefully to avoid health issues. They are prone to hip dysplasia, cataracts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, distichiasis (ingrown eyelashes), GM1 Storage Disease, Juvenile Dilated, Addison’s Disease, follicular dysplasia, and Cardiomyopathy.
Suitability As A Pet
Since they are fairly easy to train due to their willingness to please, they do well with novice dog owners. Training should start early and be consistent, and as long as they are raised with other them, get along fine with other dogs and cats in the household. These dogs love kids of all ages and make great family dogs.
Portuguese Water Dog Organisations in Australia
No club information listed
Portuguese Water Dog Organisations in the UK
Portuguese Water Dog Club of Great Britain
Portuguese Water Dog Organisations in the US
Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc.
Rescue Program – Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc
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