Portuguese Water Dog

Breed Group: Working

Temperament and Behavior

The Portuguese Water Dog is spirited, energetic, and has tremendous endurance. This canine athlete loves romping with their owner which is an ideal way to meet their above average exercise needs. But this thinking breed needs more than just physical exercise; they need a mental challenge too. Agility training, advanced obedience, and flyball are activities that suit the breed well. Keeping them well exercised is key to keeping their above average activity level inside in check. Fail to do so and they are liable to entertain themselves with undesirable activities including chewing and barking. Natural retrievers, puppies explore everything by mouthing it. Young dogs are especially rambunctious, bore easily, and if consigned to the yard without attention, are apt to excavate huge craters. They are loyal to all family members but, perhaps because like themselves they are busy getting into everything and always willing to play, they have a special attraction to children. However, a Portuguese Water Dog can be too active for a toddler. A well socialized dog’s reaction to strangers varies from friendly to polite so although they are always quick to use their voice and make great watchdogs, they can not be relied on as a guardian. Some dogs, especially males, can be territorial with other dogs. But even these usually do well with non-canine pets.

Physical Characteristics

A Portuguese Water Dog is a dog of average stature. Males range from 20 to 23 inches at the shoulder and weigh from 45 to 60 pounds. Females are 2 to 3 inches smaller and ten pounds lighter. They have a coat made up of ringlets similar to a poodle. Coat colors are black, brown (with or without white markings) and white (with or without black or brown markings). Like the Poodle, their coat requires dedication to brush, comb, and scissor or clip. Also, like the Poodle, they shed little making them a good choice for those allergic to dog dander. They do equally well in cold as they do in heat but like most dogs, handle extremes in either direction poorly.

Trainer's Notes

A Portuguese Water Dog needs more effort dedicated to socialization than many. They are a strong minded breed with an independent streak and a sense of humor that can surprise. They are relatively easy to train provided they have consistent leadership and training is positive. Proud dogs, they will resist if jerked around. They are best in the hands of an experienced owner.

Photo © by Caronna available under the GNUFDL
Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog


Just over one in eight Portuguese Water Dogs suffer from Hip Dysplasia, likely the breed’s most prevalent genetic problem although PRA is also a significant health issue. Of lesser concern is the potential for Addison’s Disease and Cardiomyopathy. Dogs of the breed have an expected lifespan of between 10 and 14 years.


With about 4,000 dogs registered annually, the Portuguese Water Dog is ranked 71st of the breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Breed History

Evidence suggests the Portuguese Water Dog existed along the coast of Portugal for at least two thousand years. The first written description of the breed occurred in 1297 when a monk reported that a dying sailor had been brought to shore by a dog which had a “black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail”. This well-balanced working dog was prized by fishermen as a guard dog, co-worker, and companion. He was taught to herd fish into nets, to retrieve lost fishing gear, and to act as a courier from ship to ship, or ship to shore. But by the 1930’s there were few working dogs still on the boats of the Portuguese fishing fleet. It was at this time Vasco Bensaude started a breeding program that created the foundation for the breed as it is known today. One of the more recently recognized of the American Kennel Club breeds, the Portuguese Water Dog was placed in the Working Group effective January 1, 1984.

Additional Information

Broadcaster Charles Osgood is a Portuguese Water Dog owner of note. The American Kennel Club Parent Breed Club is the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

Is A Portuguese Water Dog THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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