Portuguese Water Dog


Photo of Portuguese Water Dog


This breed as we know it today originated from Portugal. However, the dog bears a striking resemblance to the Poodle, and that has sent canine historians scurrying into the murky areas of ancient speculation. There are a number of theories about this breed's origins, tracing it back to the steppes of Central Asia, near the Chinese-Russian border. Another theory holds that the Berbers found the breed in Asia and then carried it with them across North Africa, where the Moors then took it to Portugal. And then there is the theory that the Goths (Germanic tribes) found the breed on the Asian Steppe and took it to Europe, and thence came the Poodle. While this is all speculation, what is known is that the breed has lived along Portugal's coast for centuries, working with and for fisherman in their boats and on the shore. In 1954 the Portuguese Water Dog was exported to England where it was accepted by The Kennel Club as a Working Dog. In 1958, the breed came to America, where interest began to grow slowly. It was not until 1981, however, that the American Kennel Club accepted the breed into the Miscellaneous Class. Although not commonly seen on the streets of American cities, The Portuguese Water Dog has a national club of its own and is well established.


The Portuguese Water Dog is a highly territorial dog, like other breeds in the Working Group. She protects what she considers hers, and that includes her family. As a result, she barks and barks and barks at whatever she considers out of place or out of line, including other dogs or other people. This dog is quite assertive and demands a lot of attention. Although owners believe her to be a calm animal, she is strong and at times forceful. This is an intelligent dog that is used to deciding for herself if something is not right. The positive aspect of this behavior is that she is a wonderful companion, takes good care of the children in her family, and feels at home in the city, the country, or at the beach. She is not aggressive but she is not retiring either.


The Portuguese is a medium to large dog, with males standing between 20 to 23 inches from the shoulder, and females, 17 to 21 inches. The male weighs between 42 and 60 pounds and the female between 35 and 50 pounds. The coat is thick and profuse, with no undercoat, mane, or ruff. The coat is seen in two varieties, tight and curly, similar to the Poodle coat, yet softer and somewhat wavy with a slight gloss. It is seen in all shades of black or brown with or without white markings.


Socializing a puppy of this breed to other people, other dogs, and a variety of places outside her home has many obvious benefits. But one of the greatest benefits is to enhance ability and desire to accept obedience training with ease and comfort. Because of her high energy and desire to stay active or moving about constantly, it is best to exercise her for at least an hour a day, and especially before any obedience training session. It is part of her nature to require a great deal of attention, and that's exactly what she gets during training. She is a playful dog as well as a curious one, and although this trait is amusing and heart-warming, it can interfere with the training process. The antidote for this is to be assertive and demanding during each training session. Do not allow her to play or let her mind wander while you are teaching the commands. Keep her looking at you and make the sound of your voice deeper than usual, with a demanding tone.

Grooming & Care

The two unusual features of this breed are her webbed feet (for swimming enhancement) and the fact that her coat hardly sheds at all, which can be helpful for those with allergies (although no dog is truly "hypoallergenic"). Her coat is either medium in length and wavy, or short and curly. Either way, it must be brushed and combed at least twice a week (preferably more) to keep it free of tangles and mats. She must be trimmed from time to time, depending on how fast her coat grows. The most common trim for a house dog is the “working retriever trim,” with a shortened layer of hair covering her entire body. The alternative is the “Lion Trim,” with her face and back half of her body shaved. In either style, the tail is shaved with only a puff of fur left at the very end. When trimming her nails, pay attention to the webbing between her toes and take care not to injure that delicate skin.

Health Concerns

Portuguese Water Dogs can be susceptible to hip dysplasia, as are all dogs that are large and fast-growing. The same is true of gastric dilation/torsion (bloat). Other potential health concerns for this breed are progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and spinal-cord problems.

Famous Portuguese Water Dog

Ted Kennedy once had a Portuguese Water Dog named Splash.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 4
Schedule 5
Home 44
Children 10
Experience 51
Quick Facts
Grooming 57
Exercise 14
Challenges Grooming expense; high energy.
Height 17 to 23 inches
Weight 34 to 60 pounds
Life 10 to 14 years
Home Alone 82
With Kids 86
With Strangers 113
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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