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July 13, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Portuguese Water Dog

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Purebred Star Blog Series

The Portuguese Water Dog is a loyal, loving, and gentle companion. If these traits sound like a good fit for you, consider the Portuguese Water Dog for your dog!

Portugal is the breed's origin and these Water Dogs were highly valued in this fishing community. Although the breed has been around for centuries, it is considered a "rare" breed, almost becoming extinct at the beginning of the 20th century when the fishing industry started to deteriorate.

The Portuguese Water Dog has made its way to the most famous house in the United States: The White House. President Obama and his family welcomed the "First Dog," Bo, to their home in 2009. Bo at 6 months old, a gift from Senator Kennedy, made his debut to this famous house! (picture is Bo)

Bred For

A working and companion breed, the main purpose of this breed was to assist the fisherman in Portugal with many tasks such as: herding fish into nets, retrieving lines or broken tackles, and delivering messages from boat to boat. This breed is now favored as a companion dog for many families.


The PWD's height is 17-23 inches and they can weigh between 35-60 pounds. PWD is best known for their curly coat. Early ancestors are believed to be the Standard Poodle, Kerry Blue Terrier, and the Barbet. Sometimes, they are mistaken for a poodle, but their distinct smaller size to the Standard Poodle help distinguish between the two breeds. They can have a curly or wavy coat that required regular grooming. The most popular cut a PWD is given is known as the "Lion's Cut," which originated with the fishing dogs in Portugal. This cut is considered the most functional cut, providing this breed with easier movement of the hind quarters and their rudder-like tail, and helps with reducing the severity of the cold water when they jump into the water. Their eyes and nose are brown or black and their ears are heart-shaped that hang. Their feet are webbed helping them to navigate and swim better in the water. Their coat comes in black, white, brown, or any of these color combinations. Although they are often referenced as a hypo-allergenic breed, sadly this is often a misguided statement, as there is no such thing, but because their shedding is so minimal, people with pet allergies can tolerate this breed very well.


The PWD is a very loving, loyal, intelligent breed that is eager to follow instructions making this breed perfect for families with children. They LOVE their families, are a very spirited breed, and are not shy when it comes to exploring and experiencing new activities. Like any dog, they do required early training and proper socialization to ward off any future behavioral problems with other dogs and strange people. They typically become hyper-attached to one person in the family and lean on that person to give them guidance and will follow that person everywhere. They are not a breed that can be kenneled or left alone for long periods of time in a day (inside or outside). This breed enjoys jumping on people to greet them and "counter-surfing," looking for food on countertops and tables. Early training will help prevent these particular unwanted behaviors. They have no problem alerting its family when someone comes to the door.

Activity Level

Their activity level is high, because of this they are not a relaxed dog, and are actively looking for their next job to do. They make excellent Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs, however, they also do well in agility type sports, including dock diving! This breed LOVES water and swimming is this breeds all time favorite activity to do. They enjoy retrieving as well, making the PWD a great dog for playing a game of fetch for kids. They will require two 45 minutes walks a day (put a backpack on your PWD) and if you are a full time working family, they will benefit tremendously from Doggy Daycare or better yet, being brought to work by their favorite person! If this breed doesn't have proper exercise and mental stimulation, they can wreak havoc in your home due to boredom. They are also known to bark at you when they want something or are bored. They would benefit from a fenced-in-yard and regular play or activity with their family.

Health Concerns

A typical life span for the Portuguese Water Dog is 10-14 years. This breed is considered to be an overall healthy dog! Health concerns are: Hip Dysplasia, Cataracts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Ingrown eyelashes, GM1 Storage Disease (Fatal Nerve Disease), Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (Fatal Heart Failure caused by a recessive gene only effecting young dogs)

Are you looking for an active water breed to enjoy your pool or lake? Need a dog that gets along well with children and other animals? Is minimal shedding due to pet allergies one of your requirements in your search? The Portuguese Water Dog is your breed!

Rescue First

As you begin looking for a Portuguese Water Dog, please check with rescue organizations first. Every year there are millions of dogs being euthanized, not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescues.  By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!


Dog Breed Info

Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe

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