Country of Origin
The Portuguese Water Dog (also known as the ‘Cao de Agua Portuguese’, commonly called the ‘Portie’, ‘PWD’, or ‘Water Dog’) shares its early ancestry with the Poodle. It descends from Asian herding breeds brought to Portugal either with the Goths in the fifth century or the Berbers in the eighth century. In Portugal, it was adapted for all manner 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 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 and is today increasing in popularity as a pet, but still a fairly rare show breed. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dog ‘Splash’ is the narrator of his book ‘My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington, D.C.’. Portuguese Water Dogs make up the Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps (B.A.R.K.), a team of dogs which retrieves home run balls hit by the San Francisco Giants into neighboring McCovey Cove, with proceeds donated to charity. A female Portuguese Water Dog named Girella is known for being photographed with numerous musicians such as ‘Franz Ferdinand’ and ‘Death Cab for Cutie’.
The Portuguese Water Dog has a shoulder height of 43-57 cm (17-22 in) and weighs 16-27 kg (35-60 lbs). Portuguese Water Dogs have a large head 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.
The Portuguese Water Dog has a curly coat of dense, cylindrical curls, or a gentle, wavy coat with a minor sheen. Show dogs should not have an undercoat. The most common colors are black, brown, white, black and white, or brown and white. Particolor white and black coats are increasing in popularity. The curly-coated Portuguese Water Dog is usually clipped only at the tail, in much the same manner as a working retriever. The wavy-coated Portuguese Water Dog is usually clipped in a ‘lion cut’ at the hindquarters and muzzle, with the rest of the coat allowed to grow to full length. 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; its hair falls out in a fashion similar to human hair. It is a good fit for those with allergies.
The Portuguese Water Dog is obedient, sociable, high-spirited, and friendly. It is highly attached to its owner; most bond closely with one person. Portuguese Water Dogs do not bark incessantly, but have an interesting range of voices including a loud breathy ‘laugh’ employed at greetings and during playtime.
The Portuguese Water Dog enjoys the companionship of dogs, pets and children. It makes a good watchdog. Some Portuguese Water Dogs may chew; chew toys are recommended. They have a tendency to snoop around on counters and in prohibited areas.
The Portuguese Water Dog requires grooming with a brush and comb every few days and trimming every two months. Portuguese Water Dogs have a lifespan of 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.
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.
The Portuguese Water Dog requires daily mental and physical stimulation. This breed loves to swim and has a great time retrieving sticks or balls from water. It is thoroughly happy competing in agility skills trials or other dog sports. Portuguese Water Dogs are best suited to active people.