AKC Dog Breeds: Portuguese Water Dog

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Working Group
Height: 20-22 inches Weight:  35-55 pounds  Color: usually black, sometimes white or brown

Known for centuries along Portugal’s coast and prized for its strength, spirit and soundness, the Portuguese Water Dog is a loyal worker and companion. Medium-sized and robust, the breed possesses a waterproof coat and the ability to swim all day. Referred to as the Cao de Agua (dog of water) in its native Portugal, the Portuguese Water Dog was bred to accompany fisherman on their boats. An exceptional swimmer and diver, the breed retrieved broken nets, dove for fish, carried messages between boats and to shore, and guarded the boat for his master in foreign ports. The breed started disappearing in the early 20th century when technology made his daily job somewhat obsolete, but Dr. Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy Portuguese shipping magnate and dog fancier, saved the breed. The Portuguese Water Dog was registered with the AKC in 1983.

General Appearance

The Portuguese Water Dog is a hardy, muscular, medium-sized dog. The coat varies from flat, wavy, shiny type to a thick, open curl, to a tight curl. Two coat clips are used: One clip with the face and rear shaved, and the working retriever or pet clip where the dog is scissored so the coat appears to be about an inch long all over. The single-layered, non-shedding, virtually hypo-allergenic coat comes in black, white or brown, parti-color (white with dark spots), black or brown with white markings, or even silver fox or gray. The body is slightly longer than it is tall; solid and sturdy. The topline should be straight and level. The brisket should reach the elbows, and chest should be broad. The head is large and broad on top with a pronounced stop occiput. The top of the skull should appear rounded. The heart-shaped ears hang down beside the head, but should not hang beyond the lower jaw. The eyes are dark and the teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. The tail starts out thick near the body, then tapers. The legs are very straight, strong and parallel. It has more webbing between the toes than many other breeds, which aids in swimming.


Obedient and agile, yet lively and spirited, the Portuguese Water Dog is an intelligent dog that loves to work and play. This water loving dog is courageous and has plenty of stamina and enthusiasm for everything that he does. The Portuguese Water Dog needs plenty of exercise, as he is a very active and physically demanding dog. He also needs a lot of mental stimulation, and will not take kindly to being ignored or neglected. Loyal and loving, the Portuguese Water Dog will bark to raise an alarm, making him an effective protector, the good news is that he doesn't tend to bark unnecessarily. Destructive behavior can stem from boredom with the Portuguese Water Dog, and these dogs also love to chew, so keep plenty of appropriate toys to hand.  The Portuguese Water Dog is a friendly and confident dog, but can be willful, obstinate, and challenging, which makes him best suited to a confident owner with experience of dog ownership. He tends to get along well with children, who he will treat as friends, and with proper socialization also gets along with pets, although he can sometimes be jealous or territorial. The Portuguese Water Dog is a good choice of family pet for active families with plenty of time to devote to a pet, but not the right choice for those with little time or energy.


You will need to dedicate a lot of time to grooming the Portuguese Water Dog, and he will need to be brushed twice weekly. You should also check his ears are clean and dry, particularly after he has been in water, in order to reduce the chance of infection. You may also want to consider clipping and scissoring for your Portuguese Water Dog. This breed is a minimal shedder when properly groomed, and is ideal for those that suffer from allergies.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy

The Portuguese Water Dog is a dog that is a fairly healthy animal. They are not usually problems in terms of life long illness but that is due to the type of care that they are given by their owners, too. Some of these dogs are known to get hip dysplasia and PRA. The life expectancy of the Portuguese Water Dog is around 12-14 years,

Activity Level
When selecting the Portuguese Water Dog for your home, realize that this is a dog that will require your attention. While they are not too large or too noisy they do need to be exercised if they are to remain happy and healthy dogs. You will find that they are active and they do like to play. You will also likely find out quickly that they have a never ending amount of energy!  You will want to provide at least an hour's worth of play and walking time with you. The Portuguese Water Dog is a great dog to take into a pool with you or to the beach where he can get wet. Portuguese Water Dogs love to swim and this is excellent exercise for these dogs. You can take them swimming with you or simply walk them along the beach. A favorite treat for many is to retrieve a ball or stick from the water that their master has thrown.


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Portuguese Water Dog featured in dorg encyclopedia
Portuguese Water Dog featured on dog encyclopedia