Breeds, Working Group

Portuguese Water Dog

Welcome to the definitive guide on the Portuguese Water Dog, a breed known for its intelligence, energy, and remarkable affinity for water. This manual will explore the unique traits and characteristics that make these dogs exceptional companions.

From their historical role as fishermen’s helpers to their modern-day capabilities as family pets and therapy animals, readers will gain comprehensive insights. Additionally, this guide offers valuable tips and advice for those considering adding a Portuguese Water Dog to their home. With expert recommendations on training, health, and grooming, prospective owners will find all the tools necessary to foster a thriving relationship with these dynamic dogs.

Portuguese Water Dog – Size & Life Expectancy

Portuguese Water Dog Height

20-23 inches (male)
17-21 inches (female)

Portuguese Water Dog Weight

42-60 pounds (male)
35-50 pounds (female)

Portuguese Water Dog Life Expectancy
Life Expectancy

11-13 years

About the Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog, a breed steeped in history, hails from the rugged shores of Portugal. Originally bred to be an indispensable helper to fishermen, this dog’s duties were multifaceted, including herding fish into nets, retrieving lost gear, and delivering messages between ships and shore. Their robust build and webbed feet are a testament to their evolution as skilled swimmers and divers, crafted by centuries of navigating the challenging Atlantic waters.

This breed’s prowess at sea likely dates back to the 1500s, though some historians suggest their presence in Iberian fishing communities could be even earlier. Known in their native land as “Cão de Água,” which translates to “dog of water,” these dogs were prized for their hardworking nature and loyal companionship. However, as technology advanced and the role of fishing changed, the need for these canine assistants waned, pushing the breed to the brink of extinction by the 20th century.

Revival and Rise to Popularity

The resurgence of the Portuguese Water Dog is credited to a small group of dedicated breeders who recognized the importance of preserving this unique lineage. Their efforts in the 1970s revitalized the breed, and since then, it has gained a steady following across the globe. The breed’s charm and utility transcended its nautical origins, capturing the hearts of many beyond fishermen.

Today, the Portuguese Water Dog enjoys its status as a beloved pet, known for its spirited and affectionate demeanor. The breed’s hypoallergenic coat, which can be either curly or wavy, makes it a suitable companion for many allergy sufferers. Moreover, their intelligence and trainability have made them stars in various canine sports and roles, from obedience competitions to therapy work.

Modern Day Companion and Characteristics

In modern times, the Portuguese Water Dog has found its place not only in homes but also in the hearts of high-profile individuals, further boosting its popularity. The breed was notably spotlighted when it was chosen by President Barack Obama’s family, who welcomed Bo and later Sunny into the White House, both of whom were chosen partly for their hypoallergenic traits.

Typical owners of Portuguese Water Dogs are those who appreciate an active and engaging companion. These dogs require regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. They thrive in environments where they can be part of daily activities, making them an excellent choice for families or individuals with an active lifestyle.

Their temperament is characterized by a keen alertness and a profound loyalty to their family. This makes them excellent watchdogs, though they are generally friendly with strangers if properly socialized. The breed’s adaptability and eagerness to please also make them highly trainable.


The Portuguese Water Dog has journeyed from a crucial worker on the fishing boats of Portugal to a cherished companion in homes around the world. Its rich history, combined with its robust and affectionate nature, ensures it remains a popular choice among dog lovers. For those considering this breed, understanding its background and needs is key to ensuring a joyful and fulfilling life together. This guide aims to equip potential owners with the knowledge and insights needed to fully appreciate the unique qualities of the Portuguese Water Dog.

Traits & Characteristics of the Portuguese Water Dog

  • Energetic and Agile: Thrives on exercise and activity.
  • Intelligent and Trainable: Quick to learn and eager to please.
  • Affectionate and Loyal: Forms strong bonds with family members.
  • Webbed Feet: Built for swimming, excellent in water.
  • Hypoallergenic Coat: Low-shedding, curly or wavy hair, good for allergy sufferers.
  • Robust and Hardy: Physically strong and durable, well-suited for strenuous activities.
  • Social and Friendly: Generally good with other pets and children, though needs proper socialization.

Owning a Portuguese Water Dog

Considering adding a Portuguese Water Dog to your family? This guide will help you understand what it takes to care for such an energetic and intelligent breed. Known for their loyalty and affection, Portuguese Water Dogs make excellent companions for active individuals or families. From health and nutrition to grooming and training, this guide covers essential aspects to ensure you and your new pet enjoy a happy life together.


Portuguese Water Dogs are generally robust and healthy, but like all breeds, they have predispositions to certain health issues. Common concerns include hip dysplasia, a genetic condition affecting the hip joints, and progressive retinal atrophy, which can lead to blindness. Owners should also be aware of juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition exclusive to the breed. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help catch and manage these issues early. Proactive care, including maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise, significantly contributes to a healthier life for these dogs.


The Portuguese Water Dog was bred for demanding work in water, making them inherently active and energetic. They require regular, vigorous exercise to maintain their health and happiness. Ideal activities include swimming, retrieving games, and agility training, all of which cater to their natural instincts and abilities. Daily walks are essential, but owners should also incorporate interactive play and mental challenges to keep these intelligent dogs engaged. Failure to provide sufficient exercise can lead to behavioral issues, so commitment to their physical needs is crucial.


The distinctive coat of the Portuguese Water Dog requires regular maintenance to keep it in good condition. The coat can be curly or wavy and is hypoallergenic, making the breed a good choice for allergy sufferers. However, it does mat easily and should be brushed several times a week to prevent tangles and remove debris. Professional grooming every six to eight weeks is recommended to trim the coat and maintain its shape. Additionally, regular ear cleaning is necessary to prevent infections, especially in dogs that swim frequently.


Feeding a Portuguese Water Dog a balanced diet tailored to their specific needs is crucial for their overall health. High-quality dog food that meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO is recommended. Ingredients should be appropriate for their age, weight, and activity level. Owners should avoid foods with fillers and additives that offer little nutritional value. It is also important to monitor the dog’s weight to prevent obesity, which can exacerbate health issues like hip dysplasia. Consulting with a vet about the best dietary options is a wise step.


Training a Portuguese Water Dog is usually a rewarding experience due to their high intelligence and desire to please. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as treats and praise. Early socialization and puppy training classes are vital, helping them develop into well-adjusted adults. Consistency is key in training sessions to reinforce good behavior and discourage undesirable habits. These dogs are quick learners but can also be stubborn, so patience and persistence are necessary. Engaging their minds and bodies through training not only teaches them manners but also deepens the bond between dog and owner.

By understanding and catering to their needs, owners can ensure their Portuguese Water Dog thrives in its new home.

The Portuguese Water Dog Standard

The breed standard for the Portuguese Water Dog outlines the ideal characteristics for which these dogs are judged in shows and recognized by national and international kennel clubs. This standard includes specifics about their appearance, temperament, and physical attributes that align with the dog’s historical roles and functionality.

General Appearance

A Portuguese Water Dog appears robust and athletic, displaying a sturdy build that suggests strength and stamina. The dog should convey an impression of enthusiasm and sound workmanship, equipped for its traditional tasks involving swimming and retrieving. Its gait is effortless and powerful, with substantial drive and forward reach.

Size and Proportion

The ideal dog stands between 20 to 23 inches at the shoulder for males, and 17 to 21 inches for females, presenting a well-balanced body that is slightly longer than tall. This proportion supports agility and endurance. The dog’s body mass should appear proportional to its height, without any tendency towards bulkiness or slightness.

Coat and Grooming

The coat is one of the most distinctive features, being either curly or wavy. It serves as protection against harsh climates and cold waters. The coat should be thick and uniformly covers the whole body, except on the underparts. Black, white, and various shades of brown are acceptable, sometimes with markings. The hair on the head, especially at the muzzle, is longer and forms a noticeable beard, which is a hallmark of the breed.

Head and Expression

The head should be well-proportioned to the body, with a broad, domed skull and a straight muzzle that is neither pointy nor square. Eyes are medium-sized, set well apart, and should convey alertness and intelligence. The expression is steady and reflective of the dog’s spirited and attentive nature.


The breed standard emphasizes a temperament that is spirited yet obedient, and always willing to engage in activity with enthusiasm. Portuguese Water Dogs are known for their high energy and keen intelligence. They are responsive and eager to please, which makes them excellent candidates for training and companionship.

Functional Attributes

Reflecting their working heritage, the ideal Portuguese Water Dog should exhibit attributes such as strong, webbed feet for swimming and a tail that acts as a rudder. These features enhance their ability to perform the tasks for which they were originally bred, such as water retrieval and boat work.

In essence, the breed standard for the Portuguese Water Dog not only captures the physical and psychological traits that make them unique but also preserves the functional qualities necessary for their traditional roles. By adhering to this standard, breeders and judges ensure that the essential nature of the Portuguese Water Dog continues to thrive in both competitive settings and as beloved companions.

Portuguese Water Dog – FAQ

Welcome to our comprehensive FAQ about the Portuguese Water Dog. Here, you’ll find answers to common questions about the breed’s characteristics, care requirements, and suitability as a family pet, helping you decide if this energetic and affectionate breed is the right companion for you.

Alternatives to a Portuguese Water Dog

When considering breeds similar to the Portuguese Water Dog, a few come to mind due to comparable size, traits, and characteristics. The Spanish Water Dog, for instance, shares a similar heritage of working closely with humans in water-related tasks. Like their Portuguese counterparts, these dogs are robust, intelligent, and excel in agility and obedience due to their eager-to-please nature.

Another breed that mirrors the Portuguese Water Dog in many respects is the Standard Poodle. Known for their intelligence and trainable nature, Standard Poodles also sport a hypoallergenic coat, making them a favorite among allergy sufferers. Both breeds share a love for activity and a need for regular, stimulating exercise.

The Labrador Retriever, while slightly larger, also embodies traits akin to the Portuguese Water Dog. Labradors are highly energetic, loyal, and adept at water sports, which makes them fantastic companions for active families or individuals. They thrive in environments where they can engage frequently in physical and mental challenges.

Lastly, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever offers a similar disposition with high energy levels and a strong inclination towards water activities. They are slightly smaller but are just as enthusiastic about participating in games and exercises that challenge their mind and body.

All these breeds, much like the Portuguese Water Dog, require dedicated training, ample exercise, and proper socialization to truly flourish in their family environments.