Dog Breed Review

Portuguese Water Dog




If swimming and owning a dog is on your list, then the Portuguese Water Dog is the breed you’ve been looking for. This medium size, highly energetic breed is the perfect mate for the lake.

Aside from their love and passion for water, the Dog of Water has been winning hearts and minds as a companion for centuries. Furthermore,  president Obama and the first family had a Portuguese Water Dog during their tenure at the White House.

So what else does this breed have to offer a family? 

Here is what you need to know about the Portuguese Water Dog.


It probably won’t surprise you to know that the Portuguese Water Dog is originally from Portugal. For centuries, the breed was exclusive to the coast of Portugal or the Algrave. There is proof that a breed resembling the PWD traces back to the 13th century from written descriptions. Moreover, one of the writings seemingly describes the relative or the Portuguese Water Dog pulling a sailor to safety. This would make sense, since the breed has a long track record for the heroics and working on water.

More specifically, for centuries, the Portuguese Water Dog’s job was to help redeem and track down lost fishing tackle. In addition to retrieving loss fishing good, the breed’s other role was herding fish into nets. What’s more, the breed would even serve as a messenger dog, relaying messages between ships and shores.

In their time on the coast of Portugal, the Lion Dog, as some call them, was so important that the people would issue severe penalties to those harming or killing the PWD.

However, the breed did suffer a brush with declining popularity and possible extinction during the 20th century. Fortunately, others had plans of their own to preserve and keep the Portuguese Water Dog going. Moreover, an affluent fancier and business mogul, Portugal’s own, Vasco Bengaude, immediately fell in love and began breeding them. Gaude would help breed the Lion Dog back into prominence and help resurge them into popularity.

That popularity would result in a resurgence during the 30’s, and as the rest of the world caught on, the breed began to appear in the United States around the 1960’s. It was no coincidence that the dog’s appearing in the states then came from Bengaude’s kennel.

In 1981, the American Kennel Club would grant this breed admittance into the Miscellaneous Class. Around then, the breed would get their own organization, which would work in promoting the breed. Shortly after, in 1983, full recognition was given by the American Kennel Club. The United Kennel Club would follow in the same footsteps, granting recognition for the PWD in 1987.

Today, the breed can still be found nose down and working the shores. According to the American Kennel Club, the Portuguese Water Dog is the 51st most popular breed in the country. The breed’s main role seems to be as companion, although they still have a lust for work and the water.


As a medium breed, the Portuguese Water Dog will stand between 20 to 23 inches for both male and females.

With regards to weight, a male Portuguese Water Dog should range between 42 to 60 pounds. A female will fall between 35 to 50 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

Clearly with their obvious name, the Portuguese Water Dog loves to swim and get after it. This is quite the active breed, that enjoys adventure. Moreover, owning a breed of this magnitude, probably won’t work out for a couch potato. They can thrive in most canine sports and enjoy learning new tricks and trades.

As workers, there’s very little the breed can’t do. From their days of retrieving lost goods, to having the ability to drive fish into nets, this is a versatile working dog. Just as they enjoy learning new tricks, the breed enjoys learning new jobs and feeling important to the family.

With their family, you’ll find the Portuguese Water Dog to be loving, joyful and sweet. When you come home from work, you’ll find your PWD standing there at the door waiting to greet you. Once you’re home, the Lion Dog will follow you room to room desperate for your close contact.

If you have allergies or are sensitive to pet dander, you’ll love the Portuguese Water Dog. Since the breed has a hypoallergenic coat, they do tend to shed less than other breeds. This bodes well for someone who has a hard time coping with flying fur.

There’s plenty of spirit, alertness with this breed. Although the breed doesn’t have a reputation for their guardian skills, their intelligence and loyalty makes them perfectly capable of alerting their master. They are eager to please and a breeze to train as one of the top 40 intelligent breeds around.

All in all, this is a children’s dog, they absolutely love children and play well with them. They can do well with dogs too, especially those they grow up with. Strangers won’t have to worry about a neighborhood chase, but they may be a bit aloof at first.


Many consider the Portuguese Water Dog to a healthy breed with a life expectancy between 11 to 13 years. Of course, when you buy a PWD from a breeder, you should always do your research. Make sure they have a good reputation, and that you read reviews and ask questions. A responsible breeder will be able to provide you with the proper health clearances and documents you need.

In addition, you should schedule regular veterinarian visits to maintain your dog’s wellbeing. 

Off the top, there are some hereditary hair loss issues you may have to contend with. Some Portuguese Water Dog’s, typically the curly coat types, and usually around the ages of 2 to 4 years of age, have a problem with hair loss. However, there is a chance your Portuguese Water Dog will grow it up even after it falls out.

The malformation of the hip, or Hip Dysplasia, which causes lameness and pain, is a problem for the breed. In fact, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has the breed at 85 on their list. This gives the breed a 14.8% dysplastic rating out 9,4000 plus evaluation. These numbers put the breed in the company of the Boston Terrier, Akita and Labrador Retriever.

The abnormal growth of the elbow joints, Elbow Dysplasia, which is the most common form of elbow pain can be found with the Portuguese Water Dog. The OFA ranks the breed 94th with a 1.8 rating out of 3610 evaluations. This puts them in the neighborhood among the Weimaraner, and the Black and Tan Coonhound.

Ectropion may be an issue for the PWD. This is when the eyelid rolls outward causing irritation and scarring. Likewise, there have been occurrences that the breed suffers from Entropion, which is when the eyelid rolls inwards, having the same lingering effects.

Degenerations of the photorod cells, which may cause blindness, Progressive Retinal Atrophy may affiliate itself with this breed.

Addisons Disease, which is a deficiency of the adrenocortical gland, which may cause weight loss, vomiting, depressing, lethargy and weakness is a problem for the breed. The adrenal gland will stop producing the proper hormones, which help control metabolism. This can create an imbalance between the salts and water of the body.

Additionally, the breed may suffer from other issues like Cataracts, gastrointestinal issues such as; Colitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (an intestinal tract disorder) and a fatal metabolism disorder, GM-1 Storage Disease.


If you have a lot to do, and love to stay active, especially by the lake, the Portuguese Water Dog will fit right into your home. However, you’ll have to keep them busy, as this is a breed that requires plenty of physical and mental stimulation. In fact, the mental element is just as important if not more for the Portuguese Water Dog. Agility, obedience, rally, etc are all fine activities for the breed and they’ll go crazy to play fetch and spend a day swimming. A daily walk or two will help suffice those energy requirements as well.

With smaller children, due to their herding instincts, you’ll want to watch over them carefully. Early socialization and training will help break the dog in the way you want them to behave. Introducing them to new situations and things will help as well.

Leaving them behind for long periods of time isn’t the best of ideas, however, you will want to include them with family efforts. This is a breed that enjoys close contact with their master. In fact, most owners and breeders of the PWD say, that the breed needs to be with their people.

Most people can own the Portuguese Water Dog. While experience is a plus, positive reinforcement and a loving home will do the trick with this breed. They can live in apartments but would prefer the luxury of space they’d get from a farm home.

They do enjoy jumping up and down platforms and furniture. You’ll want to watch out for that and break that habit early on. This is a way for the PWD to stay on top of all the action. If you live in apartment, you will want to provide them with enough attention and train them to appreciate other people. This breed can get vocal when they excite.


Like any breed, the Portuguese Water Dog should have a high quality formula. Meat as the first ingredient and preferably from an animal base. How much your PWD eats will depend on their age, metabolism, and how active they are.

For a typical adult Portuguese Water Dog, you can feed them between two to three cups of top quality dry food. Chicken, turkey, fish and beef are all fine choices but if you have questions on the specifics of your dog’s diet, always consult a veterinarian.

Calorie consumption is important for a working dog. For a PWD between 35 to 60 pounds, respectively, you should be ensuring they get between 1673 to 2506 calories per day.

You can always break your meals up into two or three per day. This helps your PWD get into the habit of eating when you do and reduces the chances of Bloat.

As always, you should provide your Portuguese Water Dog with fresh drinking water.


Aside from the web toes, and their swimming talents, one of the unique dynamics about this breed is their coat. It is profuse, and hypoallergenic. They are seasonal shedders, that will require regular grooming due to their clips. In fact, the clips may require a professional groomer. The Lion Clip is shorn at the rear, where the Working Clip has hair left together. The coat is thick, waterproof, strong and robust. There are curly or wavy types as well.

According to the American Kennel Club, the one coat color option is Black. However, it isn’t impossible to find brown or white on a Portuguese Water Dog. 

The one marking, that is acceptable by the standard are white markings.

Fun Portuguese Water Dog Facts

  • Barack Obama, the former president of the United States had a PWD. His name was Bo. Edward Kennedy also had two of his own, their names, Sunny and Splash.
  • According to the Intelligence of Dog’s by Stanley Coren, the PWD is the 36th most intelligent dog, which means they obey the first command 70 percent or better of the time.
  • According to the United Kennel Club, the Portuguese Water Dog may be the progenitor of the Newfoundland and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
  • In Portugal, the breed goes by the name, Cao de Agua, which means “Dog of Water.”

Closing Words

For centuries, the biggest impacts the breed had with their people was out on the water. Today, the breed enjoys a more cush life as a companion. This isn’t to say they aren’t solid working dog, because they are. Due to their alertness and high level of intelligence, the Portuguese Water Dog is a practical choice for most jobs.

And the reason the breed has been a favorite with enthusiasts is due to their ability to work efficiently and at many versatile tasks, but also their loving, loyal nature, as a companion, while at home.



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