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Portuguese Water Dog

 Photo of Portuguese Water Dog
Photo: by Jill Terry

Portuguese Water Dog Books

Group: Working - Breed Standard


Originating back to the 1500s in Portugal, Portuguese Water Dogs were originally used by fishermen. They were used to send messages between boats, to retrieve fish and articles from the water, and to guard the fishing boats. They helped to bring in nets and to save fishermen when they fell in the water. During the off-season, Portuguese Water Dogs would double as herding dogs. They were very popular, and this might be where they picked up their loyal and dependable characteristics. Eventually commercial fishing equipment made the dogs unnecessary.


Height: dogs: 50-57 cms (19½ ins); bitches: 43-52 cms (17-20½ ins). Weight: dogs: 19-25 kgs (42-55 lbs); bitches: 16-22 kgs (35-48 lbs).

The hair is either worn in a "retriever cut" or a "lion cut." In the lion cut, the hindquarters, muzzle, and the base of the tail are shaved and the rest of the body is left full length. This cut originated with the fishing dogs of Portugal to keep the body warm while allowing movement of the back legs. The end of the tail is kept long, because in those days, the fishermen sometimes didn't know how to swim, and the dog could pull them to safety with its tail. The retriever cut is left 1" (2.5 cm) long evenly over the body (although some owners prefer the muzzle or the base of the tail shorter). This cut is a more recent style and originated because breeders wanted to make the breed more appealing and less unusual looking for buyers. Most dogs, especially traditional show dogs, are entirely black or a dark brown; however, it is common to see white chests and legs on black and brown coats. "Parti" coats, with white fur and black spots, are rare but visually striking. The hair is either wavy or curly and is like human hair (and Poodle hair) in that it keeps growing. The hair must be trimmed about every two months and, although it is possible to groom at home, it is usually easier to pay a professional groomer. White hair is finer than black, and parti coat dogs will require more frequent brushing and grooming to avoid matting. In accordance with the breed standard, Portuguese water dogs have two coat types, wavy and curly. The dogs also have an interesting bluish tinge to their skin that is hard to notice underneath their black fur. Predominantly white varieties have pink skin and are more sensitive to exposure to the sun than black or brown dogs. Their paws are slightly webbed, which one can notice by trying to pass one's finger between the dog's toes. Because the PWD has a single layered coat, they can live extremely well even among people that suffer from dog allergies. This breed does not shed its fur, it only falls out once the hair root has died, just like with human hair.


Portuguese Water dogs make excellent companions. They are loving, sweet, and intelligent. Because they are working dogs, they are perfectly content in being at their master's side at all times. Owners of this breed will attest that their Portie follows them constantly. This is typical of the breed, as it strives for attention and prefers to be engaged in activity. Do not be surprised if your Portie brings you a "gift" or toy when you get home as another way of getting attention, and affection. This breed makes an excellent guard dog due to its determination to defend its territory and a very loud and distinctive bark.

When there is nothing else to do, Portie's like to chew. Heavy-duty chew toys can help keep a Portie occupied. (plastic water bottles with a few treats inside keep them occupied for hours!) Be sure to Portie-proof your home, by keeping all fragile items (especially potted plants) out of reach. A bored Portie can become destructive. They get into the garbage and will drink out of the toilet. In the end though, they are very adorable. Portuguese Water Dogs have a multi-octave voice. Although they are not prone to barking excessively, they usually have a wide range of barks, chortles, grumbles, and sighs. PWD's also have an audible "laugh," a loud, irregular, breathy pant used at play or during greetings.


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