Their Portuguese name means “dog of water,” and boy, are they ever! Portuguese Water Dogs are some of the best swimmers around: they have webbed paws; thick, waterproof coats; and tails that they can use like rudders. “Porties,” as they're known to their fans, were bred to help fishermen off the coast of Portugal. These dogs fetched fishing nets, and even scared fish right into those nets. They also worked out on the open water, rescuing drowning seamen. The Spanish Armada even used this breed to carry messages from ship to ship.
Portuguese Water Dogs notably used to work for the San Francisco Giants. The team employed these dogs to retrieve balls hit out of the park and into the bay behind the stadium. But their American achievements aren't limited to water sports. Bo and Sunny, the Obama family's dogs, were our country's First Canines for President Barack Obama's two terms in the White House (and the first Portuguese Water Dogs to live at the White House, for that matter).
Originally from—you guessed it—Portugal, this medium-sized and high-energy breed can grow to between 35-60 pounds and lives an average of 11-13 years. The breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club and classified as a member of the Working group.
AKC Recognized: Y
Breed's Original Pastime: Rescue
Breed Group: Working
Average Lifespan: 11-13 years
Bark Factor: Moderate
AKC RANKING 71
FAMILY gundog, water dog
AREA OF ORIGIN Portugal
DATE OF ORIGIN Middle Ages
ORIGINAL FUNCTION fishing aid
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
BEHAVIOR & TRAINING
WHAT IS A PORTUGUESE WATER DOG'S PERSONALITY LIKE?
You can tell this dog was bred for action: she's never lost that sense of adventure. This breed is strong, spirited, and reliable. But a Portuguese Water Dog is also affectionate and playful. These dogs are often great with kids and want to be around their chosen people as much as possible. Coming home to a Portuguese Water Dog is an unparalleled delight.
WHAT IS PORTUGUESE WATER DOG BEHAVIOR LIKE?
This is a very active breed. Whether jumping off the bow of a ship or chasing your kids around the backyard, the Portuguese Water Dog is a pup on the go. Plan for rigorous romps and regular walks or runs every day.
HOW EASY IS IT TO TRAIN A PORTUGUESE WATER DOG?
The Portuguese Water Dog is a biddable breed. These dogs are extremely intelligent and are particularly adept at obedience training. It will also not surprise you to learn that this breed excels in competitive water trials.
CARE & HEALTH
HOW MUCH DO PORTUGUESE WATER DOGS SHED AND WHAT ARE THEIR GROOMING NEEDS?
Portuguese Water Dogs shed seasonally, but they don't shed much — that's why this breed is recommended for allergy sufferers. Her profuse coat will need regular grooming, however. Plan for weekly brushing and frequent clipping.
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO PORTUGUESE WATER DOGS HAVE?
As a breed, Portuguese Water Dogs are generally healthy. Some are prone to eye disease or hip dysplasia, as well as seizures or irritable bowel syndrome. Portuguese Water Dogs are also susceptible to adrenal gland disorders, heart disease, and alopecia.
Breed history has moved while this section is under construction. Please check out the first tab for fun facts about this breed's history. You can also read on to learn about this breed's ideal family situation.
ARE PORTUGUESE WATER DOGS GOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES?
The American Kennel Club lists Portuguese Water Dogs among its breeds recommended for allergy sufferers. This breed sheds infrequently and predictably, and produces less dander than most dogs.
You can reduce your furry friend's impact on your allergies with frequent baths and brushings to reduce loose hairs and aggravating proteins in your pet's dander. Use a damp cloth to wipe off your dog after you've been playing outside. Smaller dogs have less surface area, and so produce comparatively less dander than larger breeds — definitely something to keep in mind with a dog as large as a Portuguese Water Dog! Remember that no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, and any breed can aggravate allergies.
WHAT IS A PORTUGUESE WATER DOG'S BEST DAY?
Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in your soul, consider it high time to grab your Portuguese Water Dog and get to the sea as soon as you can. This dog's unabashed adoration of the open water and playful antics in the waves will keep you from growing grim and keep her at her happiest and healthiest.
SHOULD I ADOPT A PORTUGUESE WATER DOG?
Portuguese Water Dogs are comfortable in just about any living situation—be it apartment, house, or poop deck—as long as they get enough exercise. They're equally well suited to warm and cold weather. If you can ensure that this paddling pup gets enough physical and mental stimulation, she'll be your best shipmate for as long as you have her aboard.
Have you decided that a Portuguese Water Dog is the perfect dog for you? Why not be your new best friend's hero and adopt a rescue! Be sure to check out our article on what to expect when you're adopting a dog or cat.