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Portuguese Water Dog Breed Profile

Portuguese Water Dog Fact File

KC Group: Working
Size: Large (43-57cm)
Weight: 16 -25kg
Good with children?: Yes, recommended
Exercise requirement: Moderate
Good guard dogs?: Possibly
Moulting level: Low their coats are hypo-allergenic
Grooming: Moderate
Jogging partner: Yes
Average Lifespan: 10-15 years
Average Price: £1000-£1200
Temperament: Happy, lively and focused.

The Portuguese Water Dog has been in existence for centuries, but it's only in recent years that the breed has become widely known. They have a deep passion for the sea, and the distinctive lion cut of their coats, short around the hind legs and muzzle and long on the body, originated to allow their hind legs to move freely in the water whilst still keeping their body warm. They are good watchdogs but are not generally used as guard dogs, as they just want to play all the time!

Portuguese Water Dog Popularity

In the 1960s, the PWD was one of the rarest breeds of dogs in the world and came close to extinction. Despite this, the PWD has become an increasingly popular pet over recent years, although the registration figures still remain relatively low; there were 83 registrations in 2006, which had increased to 198 in 2015. Jayne Johns, who has proudly shown Portuguese Water Dogs for 30 years, is a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, and a founding and committee member of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of Great Britain. She believes that people’s love for the breed is contagious. “If someone on your street has one, the whole street will fall in love with them,” she said “Barack Obama had a big impact on the breed. When he got his PWDs, the ripples came across the ocean and lots of people in this country started to talk about them. “However, I believe that their popularity in the UK is at about the right level. It is nice that there aren’t too many, as with great popularity come great problems, with indiscriminate breeders and people who think they can make money from them and breed from stock that isn’t healthy.” Jayne was first captivated when she spotted Portuguese Water Dogs at a show. “I was showing my Dobermann when I first saw them. There were only four PWDs in the country being shown at that time and I couldn’t believe how wonderful and funny they were,” she said.“The owner was doing tricks with them and they looked so obedient and focused on her. I spoke to her and she was so enthusiastic about the breed.” Jane believes there are many reasons why the PWD is becoming an increasingly popular pet for active families. “They are great with children and even prefer human company to spending time with other dogs. In the park their eyes won’t be on other dogs, they will always be on you. “They are always focused on their owners, and like to work for and be in contact with them, even if it’s just following them while they hang the washing out! “They love playing and are brilliant at loads of activities because of their intelligence. They are particularly good at agility and can even rival the Border Collie. They are more precise than the collie, although they aren’t quite as quick because they are bulkier.“A few of my puppies have gone on to become search and rescue dogs because they have such good noses. They are also good at tracking and can pretty much turn their paw to anything.”

Portuguese Water Dog Character

Portuguese Water Dogs are exceptionally intelligent, courageous and spirited and have endless stamina. They are excellent working dogs and devoted companions. However they are not the breed for everyone. They require a lot of physical exercise and would not be suitable as a town dwelling dog. They also need a lot of mental stimulation and direction as they can become destructive if bored. They are a people orientated breed and should not be left alone for long periods of time. They thrive on being part of a family and get along well with children and other pets. Though not aggressive, they are alert and protective making them a good guard dog.

Portuguese Water Dog History

Portuguese Water Dogs were traditionally bred to assist the fishermen of Portugal and were vital members of the crews on-board the fishing boats. They would retrieve any tackle that fell or was washed overboard, and any fish that jumped the nets or line. They also swam from boat to boat, or to the shore, and acted as couriers if needed. This meant they had to be strong swimmers and capable of diving underwater if necessary. Their webbed feet also meant they could swim and leap out of the water on to the boats virtually unaided. The PWD has very well-developed senses, including a great sense of smell, acute hearing, and keen eyesight. These attributes, as well as the breed’s intense loyalty, sensitivity to atmosphere, and loud, deep bark, made them excellent guards on the fishermen’s boats. The dogs were traditionally given a lion clip, which meant that several parts on their body were shaved, including their muzzles, hindquarters from the last rib, and their tails, although a plume of hair was left on the end. This clip ensured their back legs had greater mobility in the water, their hearts and lungs were protected from the cold water, and they could get the fish in their mouths without facial hair getting in the way. PWDs who are used for showing still have this traditional clip. The Portuguese Water Dogs were appreciated in their role and were rewarded in fish for their duties. However, with the development of modern technology, their role as the fisherman’s right-hand ‘man’ diminished.

Portuguese Water Dog Size

The breed standards for dogs are, height: 50-57cm and weight 19-25 kg. Bitches: height 43-52 cm and weight 16-22 kg.

Portuguese Water Dog Health

Generally a healthy breed, although there are a few problems you need to be aware of including hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy, and storage disease (GM1). All good breeders should test for these problems before breeding from their dogs.

Portuguese Water Dog Activity Levels

You need to have plenty of time for a Portuguese Water Dog and be willing to put in the training from a young age, especially in the first few months of their life, otherwise you run the risk of having an unruly dog who knows no boundaries. These dogs are highly intelligent, akin to the Border Collie, so they need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. You can’t expect them to stay home alone and sleep on the sofa all day. They are good at a wide range of activities, including agility, tracking and water trials. On a day to day basis Portuguese Water Dogs need to ideally have two good walks a day.

Portuguese Water Dog Special Care

The Portuguese Water Dogs can have two different types of coat; fairly long, loosely waved hair or short hair with dense, compact curls. Both types of coat are without undercoats, but need regular grooming to prevent knots.

Portuguese Water Dogs can only be left for short periods of time; they need to be with someone for most of the day. Ideally kept in a good-sized house with plenty of room; living in a small flat wouldn’t suit them.

Did you know?

*Portuguese Water Dogs helped the sailors of the Spanish Armada by swimming and carrying messages between ships in the 1500’s.

Remember! All breed profiles are general and every dog is an individual.