Portuguese Water Dogs are medium-sized dogs with waterproof coats that are wavy or curly. They come in white, brown, black, or in combinations of black or brown with white. There is no undercoat, ruff, or mane. These dogs have large heads, rounded skulls, and thin ears. Their eyes are dark and medium in size. Portuguese Water Dogs measure 17 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 35 to 60 pounds.
Portuguese Water Dogs have a mostly hypoallergenic coat, which is a bonus for those with allergies.
Active and athletic dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs need a lot of daily exercise and vigorous play sessions to burn off excess energy and remain physically and mentally fit. The breed responds well to training, is highly intelligent, and gets along with most people and animals. These dogs tend to be very playful with children, while remaining generally calm inside the home.
Portuguese Water Dogs have a mostly hypoallergenic coat, which is a bonus for those with allergies. Of course, no dog is completely hypoallergenic because shedding and coat type do not determine the potential for allergic reactions; reactions occur to animal dander or saliva and not to pet hair.
Portuguese Water Dogs are great with children and other pets. They are playful, loving, affectionate, and sometimes goofy, and they make excellent watchdogs. These dogs are very loyal to their human family members and are very curious and intelligent.
This active breed requires plenty of physical and mental exercise and stimulation to remain healthy and happy. Portuguese Water Dogs especially enjoy swimming and retrieving, but they also benefit from long walks, slow jogs, and vigorous play sessions. These dogs aren't a good fit for sedentary people; they need an active family to keep up with them.
Portuguese Water Dogs need a lot of attention and affection to be happy. They will not do well if left alone for long periods or relegated to the back yard for much of the day. As much as they enjoy spending time outdoors, these are family dogs that need to live inside with their loved ones.
Portuguese Water Dogs aren't known to suffer from a great number of genetic diseases, but this does not mean the breed is free of disease and it is not a guarantee that any individual dog will be of good health. Purchasing or adopting one of these dogs from a reputable source is recommended.
Hip dysplasia, glycogen storage disease, sebaceous adenitis, and certain heart and thyroid disorders are all seen in the breed. These dogs are also prone to a variety of eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, distichiasis, and microphthalmia. A fatal disease called GM1 gangliosidosis also affects Portuguese Water Dogs. This condition causes a buildup of toxins in nerve cells.
Routine veterinary care, canine vaccinations, proper nutrition, and regular exercise all help ensure the Portuguese Water Dog lives a full life of up to 14 years.
Naturally obedient and easy to train, Portuguese Water Dogs are not known for acting out or refusing commands. They do tend to play rough, however, and these dogs should be trained to play nicely if they'll be sharing a house with children. Firmness, consistency, and positive reinforcement all work well when training these dogs.
To help ensure these dogs grow into confident and tolerant adults, socialization should begin early in life. Puppy kindergarten is a good place to start, and trips to the dog park and to neighborhood businesses will benefit Portuguese Water Dogs later in life.
These dogs are generally well behaved, and most problem behaviors can be traced to improper handling or other issues. For example, if these dogs are left alone for long periods or otherwise ignored, they may become lonely and bored and seek out ways to amuse and stimulate themselves.
Portuguese Water Dogs are fairly easy to groom, but they need combing or brushing with a pin or slicker brush every day or two and a monthly clipping to keep the coat healthy and manageable. Both the Lion Clip and the Retriever Clip are acceptable, but this level of grooming should be done by a professional or a very experienced owner. These dogs shed very little.
Bathing is only necessary if these dogs roll around in something sticky, stinky, or toxic. A gentle, pH-balanced canine shampoo is recommended to prevent skin irritation and other problems, and a thorough rinsing is important.
The nails need clipping every week or two; they should never be allowed to grow so long as to click against the floor. Daily brushing with a canine toothpaste and toothbrush will keep the breath smelling fresh while reducing tartar buildup and the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Weekly ear checks and cleanings are also important to remove excess ear wax and to look for signs of infection.
Portuguese Water Dogs are known by the name Cao de Aqua, or dog of water, in their native Portugal. These dogs were originally bred to assist fishermen by retrieving broken nets, diving for fish, carrying messages between shore and boat, and guarding their boat while in foreign ports. It is not known for certain where these dogs came from, but some believe they descended from ancient Asian herding dogs carried to Portugal by traders. Portuguese Water Dogs likely share some ancestry with Poodles.
When technology made the Portuguese Water Dog's job mostly obsolete in the early 20th century, the breed's numbers started to decline. Fortunately, a wealthy Portuguese shipping magnate named Dr. Vasco Bensaude saved the breed. Through his efforts, a breed standard was written and Portuguese Water Dogs started appearing in the show ring.
The first of the breed to enter America did so in 1958, but these dogs did not become popular until after the AKC recognized the breed in 1984. Portuguese Water Dogs are now commonly seen in homes as companion animals, and recently, the breed's popularity received a boost when Bo Obama found a home in the White House.