Portuguese Water Dog Guide

Working Dog Breeds

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The Portuguese water dog is a robust dog of medium build, slightly longer than it is tall. It is strong and well-muscled, able to work both in and out of the water for long periods. It has a profuse single coat, either wavy or curly. Two clips are acceptable: the lion clip, in which the muzzle and middle part, up to the tail tip, are clipped; and the retriever clip, in which the entire coat is scissored to about 1 inch in length, with the tail tip again left full length. The water dog's expression is steady, penetrating and attentive, reflecting its spirited disposition.

The gregarious Portuguese water dog is a fun-loving, family-loving, water-loving dog. It is good with children, and other dogs and pets. It is sensitive and responds well to direction. It is a good breed for an active person wanting an adventurous, affectionate, biddable partner.


FAMILY gundog, water dog




TODAY'S FUNCTION water rescue

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 20-23 Weight: 42-60

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 17-21 Weight: 35-50

OTHER NAME cao de agua

Energy level High energy

Exercise needs High

Playfullness Very playful

Affection level Very affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Friendly

Ease of training Moderately easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Moderately protective

Grooming needs High maintenance

Cold tolerance Medium tolerance

Heat tolerance Medium tolerance

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This active breed needs daily physical and mental exercise, preferably involving swimming and retrieving. Otherwise, it needs a long walk or jog or a vigorous romp. The Portuguese water dog can live outdoors in temperate climates, but it is generally happier living close to its family and spending days in the yard. Its coat needs combing every other day, plus monthly clipping or scissoring.
• Major concerns: PRA, CHD
• Minor concerns: glycogen storage disease, distichiasis
• Occasionally seen: none
• Suggested tests: eye, hip
• Life span: 10 – 14 years
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The consummate working water dog, the Portuguese water dog probably shares some of its ancestry with the poodle. Their ancestors were herding dogs from the central Asian steppes, either brought to Portugal by way of the Visigoths in the fifth century or by way of the Berbers and then Moors in the eighth century. Once in Portugal, this breed distinguished itself through its affinity for water, eventually herding fish into nets, retrieving lost nets or equipment, and serving as a boat-to-boat or boat-to-shore courier. Later these dogs were part of trawler crews fishing the waters from Portugal to Iceland. The breed is known in its native land as cao de agua (pronounced kown-d'ahgwa), which means dog of water. It comes in a long-haired variety known as the cao de agua de pelo ondulado and a curly-coated variety known as the cao de agua de pelo encaradolado. With the demise of traditional fishing methods, the Portuguese fishermen and their dogs began to disappear from the coast in the early 20th century. The breed was saved largely through the attempts of one man, Vasco Bensuade, a wealthy shipping magnate. He promoted the breed, and through his efforts, the breed club was reorganized, a standard was written and the first dogs were exhibited in the show ring. After a brief appearance in England in the 1950s, the breed virtually died out there. Around this time, the first Portugese water dogs came to America, where they slowly gained a following. After the AKC officially recognized them in 1984, their popularity grew more rapidly; the breed is now proving itself as a family companion.
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