The Portuguese Water Dog: An Energized, H2O-Loving Pup

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a portuguese waterdog rescue in front of treeThe Portuguese Water Dog, also known as Cão de Água, is a working dog breed that has come a long way from helping fishermen catch fish, retrieve gear from the water, and deliver messages from one boat to another. Nowadays, they’re excellent family dogs and bond very deeply with both children and adults.

Read on to learn more about the Portuguese Water Dog!

What is a Portuguese Water Dog?

Portuguese Water Dogs, or PWDs, is a working dog breed that aided fishermen for centuries. They share common ancestry with the standard Poodle and love water more than anything else.

Their webbed feet live to tell the tale of these dogs as avid swimmers.

Nowadays, they’ve left the Atlantic Ocean behind and can be found mostly in houses. They’re calm, loyal, energetic, somewhat troublesome, and very intelligent.

History of the H2O Loving Pup

The Portuguese Water Dog, or Portie as it’s also known as is a descendant from dogs that Portuguese fishermen used for centuries on their fishing expeditions. The owners brought the Porties on their boats when fishing alongside Portugal’s shore or when facing the cold and tumultuous sea off the coast of Newfoundland.

A PWD’s job was to herd and lead the schools of fish into the nets and to retrieve broken gear back from the water. Fishing cod was truly a team effort.

As fishing became more industrialized, the Portuguese Water Dogs were retired and this almost led to their extinction. However, in the 1930s, a wealthy Portuguese man called Vasco Bensaude made it his life mission to save the breed. They formed a club for Portuguese Water Dog puppies and wrote a breed standard, to which breeders had to stick by.

In 1972, the dog was brought to the United States and a Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was created. In just ten years, the number of dogs in the country went from 12 to 650.

In 1982, the American Kennel Club put the Portuguese Water Dog into the Miscellaneous category as they were trying to establish if the Portie was really a breed. Just a year later, they were fully recognized and put into the working group.

Nowadays, PWDs are family dogs. Do you remember Bo, the Obama’s family dog, and former presidential dog? He was a Portuguese Water Dog and shows just how loving they are with humans.

Appearance and Personality of the Bear-Like WaterDog

Portuguese Water Dog puppies come in two different coat types.

portugese water dogs portrait

The first is a curly coat, with compact and cylindrical curls that cascade down the PWD body and head, and wavy hair on the ears. The second is wavy, which fall gently down their body and head and look shiny.

This dog’s coat covers the whole body with the exception of the place where the forearms and the brisket meet and in the groin area. They don’t have a mane or ruff.

A Portie is a medium-sized dog with a broad and deep chest with well-sprung ribs that allow the dog to breathe well and store plenty of air in their lungs. A Portie’s back and legs are very strong, which allowed them to swim great distances.

The hind legs, in particular, are long, straight, and very strong. Their tail isn’t docked and it’s thicker at the base.

But what truly sets them is are their webbed toes.

This skin is soft and reaches the tips of the toes. It’s because of their webbed feet that the Portuguese Water Dogs were like fish in the water. The webbing allowed them to move with more ease and speed when underwater gathering schools of codfish.

Colors of this Awesome Pooch!

A Portuguese Water Dog puppy can have black, white, various shades of brown, or black and brown and white coats. The color doesn’t harm them when it comes to dog shows, as they all comply with the breed standard.


A Portuguese Water Dog pup has a lot of positive and desirable traits. For starters, they’re tireless and energetic dogs. This makes them perfect for active families who love exercising. They’re also very intelligent and learn orders and commands rather easily.

They love attention, so it’s not uncommon for owners to laugh out loud at their tricks and gimmicks. Porties love being the center of attention and pleasing their family, so they’ll be the designated clown as a way to entertain. Their loyalty never wanes and they will stand by your side through thick and thin.

Porties are also very friendly and loving. They fit perfectly into the family life and are great with kids. If you have other dogs, you have nothing to worry about. They usually deal well with other animals in the household.

5 Fun Facts About this Dog Breed!

Here are five fun facts that give you a great picture of what it’s like owning a PWD.

  1. In 1297, a Portuguese monk referred to this dog as “lion dog” because of the clipping style is also known as lion cut that is still done today.
  2. Back in their fishing days, these dogs were in charge of towing broken boats back to shore.
  3. This breed is known for not causing allergies, unlike what happens with a lot of other breeds.
  4. They’re very fond of chewing if they get frustrated. This can happen if you don’t provide them with enough exercise or mental stimulation.
  5. Going to the beach or swimming in a body of water will make any Portuguese Water Dog’s day.


Porties are a breeze to train.

They’re incredibly smart and pick up commands and tricks at the drop of a hat. Because they also love pleasing their owners, they’ll try to obey all the commands you ask of them. But Porties are so smart to the point where they like finding loopholes in your directions and exploiting them. You’ll still need to have a little patience with your pooch.

If you don’t like or don’t have the time to train your puppy, you can enroll them in an obedience dog training school. It’s very important to discipline any dog from a young age, and the PWD is no exception.

Do These Water Dogs Make Great Family Pets?

Yes! The Portuguese Water Dog loves being around one family and devotes its time and attention to its loved ones.

He’s great with children, with other dogs, and with adults. He loves being doted on by humans, which is why they’re so happy being in a family!

Portuguese Water Dog puppies playing in lake

Grooming and Maintenance of Portuguese Water Dog Puppies!

Unsurprisingly, these pups aren’t high maintenance. Two or three grooming sessions per week should be enough to detangle their hair and keep their coat healthy.

If you go to a grooming place, you can ask for a lion clip or for the retriever clip. These are the two most acceptable styles for PWDs.

If you start hearing your dog’s claws tapping on the floor, it’s time to trim them. This should happen once or twice a month. Brush their teeth at least three times a week to remove tartar and keep their breath fresh.

As far as exercise goes, these pups need a lot of it. Ideally, they would have the space to run around like crazy whenever they want.

But if they’re living in an apartment, you should go on vigorous walks with your Portie for at least 30 minutes every day.

A Healthy and Hardy Breed

This is a generally healthy breed. But like all dogs, they’re at higher risk of developing some conditions when compared to other breeds.

The most common problem PWDs face is hip dysplasia. This happens when the thigh bone and the hip socket don’t fit snuggly. This makes walking and even standing very painful, so it’s not uncommon for sick pups to lay down and not want to get up.

Then, progressive retinal atrophy also affects this breed. It happens when the retina, part of the eye, starts to deteriorate with time. As the disease progresses, the dog will lose their sense of seeing, first at night and then also during the day.

Portuguese Water Dog for Sale

Are you ready to get a Portuguese Water Dog and shower them with love? If so, you need to get your pup from a reputable breeder in order to prevent diseases and other complications.

You can expect to shell out for a Portuguese Water Dog pup. On average, the price for one goes from $2500 to $2800.

Portuguese Water Dog Breeders

You can find reputable Portuguese Water Dog Breeders using the American Kennel Club’s tool. Simply enter your ZIP code and well-trusted breeders will show up, as well as the PWD litters they have for sale. It’s only by choosing a good breeder that you’ll ensure that your dog’s life will be good and not riddled with health conditions.

Portuguese Water Dog Rescue

Alternatively, you can also rescue a Portuguese Water Dog. Search for puppy rescues in your area and see if they have any Porties up for adoption.

5 Tips for First-Time Owners

These dogs aren’t high maintenance and shouldn’t be a challenge for first-time owners. But either way, here are some tips you will want to keep in mind.

  1. Feed your pup a nutritious diet. Any high-quality commercially-sold dog food should do the trick. You don’t need to stick to a raw diet, even though these dogs love fish.
  2. They love to exercise, so be ready to go on long and vigorous walks with your pup.
  3. Groom and clip your dog’s hair when needed. Usually weekly should be fine.
  4. Socialize and train your pup from a very young age. This will make them less shy and more well-balanced.
  5. Give them plenty of mentally challenging tasks. They’ll feel fulfilled, be happier and less stressed.

Portuguese Water Dogs are loving puppies. They adapt well to apartment living and love being surrounded by their family. Children and other dogs are their best friends, and they love being clowns to make their loved ones happy.

Common Questions

1. Where are the water dogs from?

2. How should I care for my Portie?

3. Is this breed friendly?

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