photo of water dog in the snow

An Interesting History

A brief look at the history of the PWD explains a lot about what has influenced the personality of this modern dog.

For centuries water dogs were important crew members of Portuguese fishing vessels. They were adept at many tasks. They herded fish into nets, announced schools of fish, alerted fishermen of danger, retrieved nets and objects dropped overboard, and they delivered messages between boats or to shore. They also guarded the boats and catch when docked.

Modernization of the fishing industry all but eliminated the need for these dogs and at one time there were only 25 known to be alive.

Some very special and dedicated individuals brought the breed back from near extinction and were careful to preserve and protect the traits that made Portuguese Water Dogs unique.

The PWDs of today still possess many of the working abilities of their ancestors and can demonstrate them at water trials designed to mimic the duties of the ancient PWDs.

Photo of Portuguese water dog in competition

Info for Potential Owners

Portuguese Water Dogs are a wonderful breed but they are not for everyone.
Spend quality time with your Portuguese water dog
Spend quality time with your Portuguese water dog

Recommended Traits for Owners to Have

In order to truly appreciate the Portuguese Water Dog one must have both flexibility and a sense of humour. These dogs are spirited, brave, exceptionally intelligent and loyal, but they are also self-willed. They can be obedient, but usually only when it suits them.

This independent thinking stems from their working heritage.

Fishermen were proud of these dogs’ ability to work independently, make decisions and take the initiative. Thus they have a tendency to take direction as they please. If you understand this trait, then you can appreciate their antics as amusing rather than infuriating.

Don’t be surprised if your PWD has you laughing one minute and pulling your hair out the next. It is a good idea to keep them on a leash unless they are in a safe enclosed area. Otherwise, they are likely to dash off to explore or visit, returning only when they are ready.

What are Water Dogs Like as Pets?

Portuguese Water Dogs are a wonderful breed, but they are not for everyone. They are high-spirited and can be demanding. They are incredibly adaptable to most situations as long as they have the security of their people nearby.

These dogs really hate to be left alone for long periods of time.

They need human companionship and do not appreciate being left alone out in the yard or at home all day. If they are left alone for long periods with nothing to do they will amuse themselves, perhaps at the expense of your bed, couch, carpet, or anything else they might have access to.

Like many canine breeds, PWDs require a major commitment of time, energy and understanding.

They need daily exercise, whether it’s a 20-minute walk, a game of fetch or a 5-mile jog. They will adapt to whatever you can offer, but it must be every day. They love to learn new things and to be active. They really enjoy agility, obedience, fly ball, water work and similar athletic activities.

Portuguese water dog making friends

Water Dogs & Small Children

These dogs are loyal, lovable, and lively. They make great family dogs. However, as is true of other dogs, they should never be left alone with small children. They are a mouthy breed and must be taught to use their jaws gently.

They should be crate trained and should attend beginner obedience classes. They should never be allowed to dominate any human member of the family.

PWD Characteristics

These are unique dogs, with specific needs.
photo of a water dog and his young owner

Physical Attributes

This breed belongs to the working group and is highly muscled. Its coat comes in two textures, wavy and curly. Colours are black, various shades of brown and white, with black or brown. They stand slightly longer than they are tall and, when they are alert, their tail curls up over their backs. Males are 19-23″ tall with 22″ being the ideal. They weigh 42-60 lbs. Females are slightly smaller, standing 17-21″ tall with 19″ being ideal. They weigh 30-50 lbs.

Learn the Portuguese Water Dog Language!

PWDs were used to guard the catch. Some of that instinct remains today. They tend to bark at strange noises and people, but they can be taught when it is appropriate to bark and when they should keep quiet. Actually, they are able to produce a wide variety of vocalizations in yodels, moans, whines and yips. They really do try to communicate!

Proper Grooming Protocol

Brushing & Bathing Tips

Portuguese Water Dogs do not shed.

Like ours, their hair grows continuously, so they need proper grooming on a regular basis, as do we.

Daily brushing is not necessary.

Once or twice a week is often sufficient. Regular haircuts are important to prevent them from becoming shaggy and unkempt. Every four to six weeks will suffice. Owners can learn to trim their dogs themselves or can have it done professionally.

About those baths…

Bathing frequency will depend on the dog and its’ owners. If any family member has allergies, more often is better. Despite the fact that they do not shed and produce almost no odour or dander, they may still trigger some people’s allergy symptoms. It may be a good idea to visit a breeder to test your allergy to them.

People Food is a No No

One last piece of notoriety for which PWDS are known is their expertise at “counter surfing”. Don’t leave food unattended anywhere within their reach (it’s larger than you think) because they will tend to help themselves. If they succeed in stealing a morsel even once they will never forget.