The Portuguese Water Dog has been known since the 13th century as a retriever, lifesaver, courier, watchdog and companion of fishermen.
This strong working dog once carried messages from boat to boat and retrieved broken nets and tackle that had fallen overboard. The Portuguese Water Dog's duties were displaced by modern fishing methods and technology, so that by 1972 its numbers had dwindled to less than 25 worldwide. Through the efforts of a few dedicated individuals the breed was saved. There are now over 7,000 of the breed in the USA and about 500 in Portugal. A national breed club (PWDCA) was founded in the U.S. in 1972. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1981 and was admitted to championship competition in 1984.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a lively, robust, medium-sized breed. Bitches stand 17 - 21" tall and weigh 35 to 50 lbs.; males are 20 - 23" and weigh 42 to 60 lbs. It has a non-shedding wavy or curly coat. Both coat types come in either black or brown, or in combinations of either black or brown with white markings. Because the coat grows continuously and doesn't shed, regular (twice a week) brushing is required to prevent/remove mats and tangles. The breed needs frequent bathing, and haircuts, every 6 to 9 weeks, are necessary to maintain the appearance of the dog.
The PWD revels in human company. His need for "crewmates" makes him an excellent family member who gets on well with children and other pets. He thrives on and demands human attention, so he does not tolerate life as a kennel dog or days with excessive isolation. He displays unbridled enthusiasm for family and friends, but from his days as a watchman he has inherited an alert, protective, cautious and sensible approach with strangers. In sum, he is an extremely complex, extremely intelligent, exuberant and active dog, with a unique sense of humor. As long as these qualities are channeled by basic obedience training as a young puppy, and regular mental stimulation and physical exercise throughout his life, the PWD is a delightful, lovable family companion.
The Portuguese Water Dog is not a breed for everyone. The challenge of channeling the stamina, intelligence and exuberance of this dynamic dog can be frustrating at times, but ultimately rewarding. The commitment of your time and effort to training and caring for your Portuguese Water Dog is a responsibility that can not be taken lightly.
The Portuguese Water Dog's non-shedding coat makes it easier for people with allergies to live with this breed compared to double coated shedding breeds. If you have allergies, it is recommended that you spend several hours at a breeder's home or in a small confined area, such as a car, interacting with adult Water Dogs before you buy a puppy in order to test your allergic response.
Some Portuguese Water Dogs have an "improper" coat. This term relates to the nature of the coat and the resulting appearance of the dog. It does not impact the health, intelligence, or personality of the dog. It does, however, mean that they do not look like a normal PWD and do not conform too AKC breed standard in their appearance. The improperly coated PWD would be of concern to those who are considering the breed because of it's hypoallergenic nature, showing their dog or want to be sure the puppy they get will "look like" a Portuguese Water Dog. Improperly coated dogs and puppies usually have a double coat that sheds and has dander similar to other double-coated shedding breeds. This may make them inappropriate for people with allergies to canine dander. There are Portuguese Water Dogs that you might find for sale that are Improperly Coated, and some breeders may not even tell the buyer they are improperly coated - they may not have bred enough or be knowledgeable enough to know the coat is improper. Please see the pictures in my Gallery of IC dogs so that you can determine the look of an improperly coated dog. There is now a gene test for IC puppies. Please read the article from the PWDCA Courier; there are many pictures to be seen in this article. Some breeders will call Improperly Coated puppies "Smooth Coated" puppies, or use other euphemisms. It is up to the buyer to educate themselves and ask for pictures of the puppies, especially their puppy or most importantly go and visit before purchase.
A trained eye can sometimes detect an improper coat on a puppy as early as two to three weeks old. It is easily detectable at five or six weeks and today there is a gene test to identify carriers of IC. As long as one parent is not a carrier the puppies will not be affected with this condition.
About the Portuguese Water Dog
"As long as his
and exuberance are
channeled by regular
mental stimulation and
throughout his life, and
training when he is a
young puppy, the PWD
is a delightful, lovable
© Animals Only Photography
Cutwater 7 week old curly puppy
Kaylee - boarding her boat 2006
(excuse the grooming!)
"Cabo" - Cutwater Love On The Rocks
photo © 2007 Charles Mannix
Vati in Kayak, Moab, UT 2007
photo © Monica Bergmann
Hercules and Cassandra - curly coats
on their catamaran 2007
Rocky Sotnick and his best friend Elliot
Jagger on the beach
photo © Jenna Bullis
IMPROPERLY COATED PUPPY
Not a Cutwater dog
Sold to a family as a wavy coated PWD
Pippin - ready for competition
Yes - PWDS are often exuberant!
photo © Phyllis Ensley 2011