Portuguese Water Dog – Full Breed Profile

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
The active and curly Portuguese Water Dog is a perfect dog for outdoorsy people. Check this guide on this water dog and learn why this is a breed to consider having.
Dog Breed Group:
Working Dogs
1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 11 inches tall at the shoulder
35 to 60 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 14 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

Portuguese Water Dog or the Cao de Agua (dog of the water) is an ultimate water dog.

This breed is always eager to jump into any water no matter what the temperature might be. Originally, the Portuguese Water Dog was bred to be an all-around fisherman’s helper.

This medium-sized dog is a real robust dog of high endurance and agility.

The Portuguese Water Dog originated from the Algarve region of Portugal, and from there expanded to all around Portugal’s coast.

They are highly intelligent and very easy to train as long as they are in hands of an experienced dog owner.

When they know that you are the pack leader and not them, they will show you nothing but love, obedience, and 24/7 support.

This water dog has a curly-like coat that can be groomed in two styles when the entire coat is clipped, or when the coat on the muzzle and hindquarters are clipped down to the skin.

No matter which grooming style you choose, if you are ready to invest in proper nutrition, great training, and create a safe environment, then the Portuguese Water Dog might be your perfect furry match.

Quick Facts

Real name: Portuguese Water Dog
Other names: Portie, PWD, Water Dog
Origin: Portugal
Breed type: Working Dogs
Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
Height: 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 11 inches tall at the shoulder
Lifespan: 10 to 14 years
Litter Size: 4 – 8 puppies
Color: Black, brown, white
Coat: Medium curly

Portuguese Water Dog History

Not that long ago, the Portuguese Water Dog lived all along Portugal’s coast. At the time, this curly dog was sued for helping people with everyday jobs.

Their main responsibilities included herding fish into the nest, retrieving lost tackles, and going distance between ships and shore, working as a messenger.

The Portuguese Water Dog did so amazing job, that fisherman counted on this dog on daily basis. They were so loved and respected that they were mandatory passengers on the boats.

Over time they got equally familiar with warmer and colder waters of the world, as they were traveling from the shores of Portugal to shoers of Iceland and beyond.

Due to technological development, this breed was not needed anymore in terms of jobs, so fishermans stopped using them as a labor force. However, the Portuguese Water Dog is still active as a water rescue dog and this role is a place where he indeed shines.

The first mention of this breed dates back to 1297 when allegedly a monk saw a sailor pulled the sea by a dog who was described as the Portuguese Water Dog.

For centuries this breed was only seen at the coastlines of Portugal and Spain. By the 1930s the bred almost went extinct but was saved by breed’s fanciers.

The Portuguese Water Dog arrived in the States in the 1960s. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was founded in 1972. American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1981.

Portuguese Water Dog Physical Appearance

The Portuguese Water Dog is a unique dog in terms of appearance. They are robust, active, and medium-built dogs who are excellent swimmers.

As one of the best swimmers within the canine world, the Portuguese Water Dog has webbed paws and built that allows him to spend an entire day working in and out of the water.

So far, it’s obvious that the Portuguese Water Dog is a great swimmer, but this dog is also an amazing diver.

When it comes to diving, the Portuguese Water Dog shows extraordinary stamina and water-ability.

In terms of size, females tend to be smaller than males, but not too much. These dogs are powerful, slightly longer than tall, well developed, with muscular body.

The body is always well-proportioned with strong and substantial bone.

The head is large and well proportioned with the rest of the body.

Ears are set against the head, while the eyes are medium in size, and well set apart. Skull is slightly longer than the muzzle, and the top of the skull is very broad.

The nose is always broad with flared nostrils, and fully pigmented. The chest is broad and deep, reaching down to the elbows.

The coat is profuse and always comes with healthy and strong hair – their coat has no smell. The coat will always cover the entire body evenly. However, the coat may be thinner in the groin area. There is no undercoat.

As for the color, the Portuguese Water Dog can be black, white, or many shades of brown. Also, other combinations of these three colors are often seen and allowed.

Portuguese Water Dog Personality

When it comes to intelligence the Portuguese Water Dog is smart beyond average. This breed is, in fact, stunningly smart.

Originally bred to be working dogs this breed was seriously trained to assist people during every water-related job.

They are smart and affectionate, and eager to please. As such they are great working dogs who do the best with experienced dog owners.

Since they have moved from water fields to begin full-time house pets, they are eager to please and master any trick.

As massive people-pleasers, the Portuguese Water Dog will often act like a clown. He will do so to make his people laugh and get their attention.

If you want a dog who will love dog sports and competition, this is the breed for you.

If you have already experience training dogs for sports such as agility and obedience you will be an unstoppable team.

If you’re serious about dog sport, always check with your veterinarian first if your dog is up for the challenge.

Portuguese Water Dog Training

When it comes to having a well-behaved dog, it all comes down to training. How well you access training needs, that’s how trained dog you will have.

Training should start as soon as you bring your puppy home. Dogs are more than capable of learning basic commands at age of eight weeks.

Mastering basic commands is something that every dog has to master during his puppyhood.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a highly intelligent breed, and as such he is more than capable of mastering any command.

Owning a highly intelligent breed means that you will have to think harder when it comes to training sessions, content, and flexibility. The smart dog is fast to get bored of repetitive actions.

Make training sessions fun, short, and consistent. Every dog thrives on early socialization.

As soon as vaccines are done and your veterinarian gives you a green light, you should expose your dog to the world.

Let him meet other dogs, introduce him to different people, and different animals.

This dog will challenge you. Do your best to keep up with him, and show him who is the pack leader.

Since this breed is primarily for experienced dog owners, you should have an issue training him.

As long as you are using positive reinforcement training methods, your Fido should excel in training. Make sure that you have enough treats to keep his stomach interested in training as well.

Portuguese Water Dog Exercise

The Portuguese Water Dog is an active breed. With active breeds, you will spend a lot of time outdoors.

Walking, hiking and jogging should be normal if not everyday activities for you if you want an active dog.

Have you ever heard that saying – a tired dog is a happy dog? This applies to even the smallest dogs.

Dogs love when there is a job to be done. They don’t have always to deal with water rescues, but they will enjoy jumping over obstacles or bringing something to you.

To keep the Portuguese Water Dog happy and physically satisfied you should provide enough exercise.

This means that next to regular walks and toilet breaks, you should provide enough additional exercise time.

Additional exercise time doesn’t have to be days-long hikes, hours-long running sessions and so on – it should be simple and effective.

What you should do is to provide long walks on a daily level and play sessions with other dogs.

That being said, make sure that you have a good community, and nearby dog park, where you can meet other owners.

If your Portuguese Water Dog is extremely versatile and cannot burn that energy, think about canine sports such as agility, tracking, obedience, dock diving, or any other activity that will challenge him.

Make sure that you don’t over force your Portuguese Water Dog, especially when he is a puppy. While growing puppies shouldn’t be forced to jump from high spots, or run too much.

To be sure that you won’t hurt your Portuguese Water Dog (no matter how old he might be) talk to your veterinarian on how to exercise your dog properly and safely.

Portuguese Water Dog Grooming

Grooming your dog is a big part of owning a dog. Sure, getting daily cuddles is the fun part of owning a dog, but as is grooming.

To keep your dog healthy and happy, you should provide the proper environment. This means that you should care about your dog’s health and appearance.

To get your dog to the best shape possible, you should know what grooming is and how to perform it.

Grooming is a part of dog care. By carefully planned and structured grooming sessions, you are enabling your dog to live a healthier life.

This means that you know why brushing is important and how the bonding experiences it is.

It also means that you have the right grooming tools on hand, and know how to use them.

In practice, this means that you know how to clean a dog’s ears, how to trim or grind nails, who to spot any sign of skin infection, and that you keep a track of parasite control.

As a general rule, you should brush your Portuguese Water Dog once a week. Trim or grind nails once to twice a month.

Don’t let those nails become too long, because they can cause pain and stress in your dog’s body.

Portuguese Water Dog Health

Portuguese Water Dogs are in general healthy dogs. Just like humans, they may develop certain health conditions during their lives.

However, if you provide proper nutrition, regular veterinarian check-ups, and proper training you should have a healthy and happy dog.

If you are dealing with responsible breeders, you will always know the exact condition of the dog. Responsible breeders will always present you with medical documentation on the dog.

They will also let you see the facilities, meet other dogs, and the dog’s parents. Responsible breeders will also tell that in case of an unfortunate event you return the dog to them and so on.

You will also have to answer many questions.

The conversation with responsible breeders will feel like an interview because you’re being interviewed as well. They want to make sure that they are giving the dog to a responsible person.

You may also expect to hear from them from time to time, to check if everything is fine, and if there is something that you could improve together. Responsible breeders will always care about the dog once they hand him over.

If you go to a breeder and you aren’t experiencing these steps, know that you are probably dealing with the dishonest breeder.

If you aren’t allowed to see other puppies, to meet the bitch, and there is no medical evidence that the puppy is healthy, the chances are that you are standing in the middle of a puppy mill.

If this is the case, just turn around and walk away, without feeling bad for it.

Recommended health tests for this breed are:

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation
  • PRA Optigen DNA Test
  • GM-1 DNA Test
  • JDCM DNA Test

The Bottom Line

The Portuguese Water Dog is a medium-sized dog that is highly athletic and agile.

This breed is a perfect match for experienced dog owners and those who already have an active outdoor life. This dog will keep you active outside, and safe indoors.

They are fair watchdogs, but too polite to be an exceptional guardian.

Still, if you want a furry friend to keep you active, entertained, and happy, and you don’t mind brushing will regularly, the Portuguese Water Dog might be just for you.

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