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Portuguese Water Dog: Your Guide to a Loving & Loyal Companion

August 24, 2023

If you're looking for a loyal and intelligent companion, the Portuguese Water Dog might just be the perfect fit. This medium-sized, hypoallergenic breed is not only family-friendly but also loves the water, making them a great choice for active families. Additionally, their low-shedding coat and durability make them a practical option for those with busy schedules.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a breed with a rich history. Originating in Portugal, they were used as working dogs by fishermen to retrieve fishing gear and even herding fish into nets. This breed's love for water is deeply ingrained in their nature and is a trait that has been passed down for generations.

In this guide, we'll take a closer look at the Portuguese Water Dog's unique qualities, from their physical characteristics to their personality traits, and everything in between. We'll also provide helpful tips on training, grooming, exercise, and health considerations, to ensure your Portuguese Water Dog remains healthy and happy.

closeup of a Portuguese Water Dog

Key Takeaways:

  • Portuguese Water Dogs are hypoallergenic, making them a great choice for allergy sufferers.
  • They are intelligent and easy to train, making positive reinforcement techniques highly effective.
  • Portuguese Water Dogs love the water, and their webbed feet make them excellent swimmers.
  • Their medium size, low-shedding coat, durability, and obedience make them a practical choice for families.

A Brief History of the Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) is a breed with a fascinating history that dates back to the 12th century. These dogs were originally bred to work with Portuguese fishermen, where they would assist in retrieving lost gear, herd fish into nets, and even deliver messages between boats.

The PWD's swimming abilities and webbed feet make them uniquely suited to this type of work, allowing them to navigate the rough waters off the coast of Portugal with ease. Over time they became an essential part of the fishing industry in the region.

Despite their usefulness, the PWD breed saw a decline in popularity after the invention of modern fishing techniques in the early 20th century. It wasn't until the breed was discovered by wealthy Americans vacationing in Portugal that it began to make a comeback.

One of the most famous PWDs was Senator Ted Kennedy's dog, Splash, who was gifted to him by a Portuguese fisherman. Splash became a beloved member of the Kennedy family and helped raise awareness of the breed in the United States.

Physical Characteristics of the Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog is a medium-sized dog breed with a strong and muscular body. They have a distinctively wavy or curly coat that is low-shedding and hypoallergenic, making them an ideal choice for people with allergies. Their webbed feet are specially designed for water-related activities, and their unique facial expressions make them easily recognizable.

Their coat comes in black, white, brown, or combinations of these colors. They stand at an average height of 17-23 inches and weigh 35-60 pounds, with males being slightly larger than females.

Their powerful and agile body, combined with their natural intelligence, makes them suitable for various tasks, including water rescue, fishing, and hunting. They have a durable body and can withstand harsh weather conditions, making them adaptable to different environments.

Temperament and Personality Traits

The Portuguese Water Dog is known for its friendly and affectionate nature, making it an ideal choice for families. They are loyal companions who love spending time with their owners and have a strong desire to please. Their intelligence and adaptability make them easy to train, and they tend to form strong bonds with their owners.

Despite their love for their families, Portuguese Water Dogs can be reserved around strangers, making them excellent watchdogs. They are protective of their loved ones and will not hesitate to alert their owners of any potential danger. However, with proper socialization, they can also get along well with other dogs and animals.


Portuguese Water Dogs are highly intelligent and love mental stimulation. They excel in obedience training and are quick learners. They also enjoy problem-solving activities and games that challenge their minds. Mental stimulation is key in keeping them happy and healthy.

"The intelligence of the PWD is something special. They are quick to learn and are eager to please. They thrive on positive reinforcement, and their intelligence makes training them fun and rewarding for both dog and owner." - Portuguese Water Dog owner

Training Tips for the Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog is a highly intelligent and trainable breed that loves to please its owners. When training your Portuguese Water Dog, it is important to keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Start early: Begin training your Portuguese Water Dog as soon as possible to establish good habits and prevent bad ones from forming.
  2. Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog for good behavior with treats, praise, and affection. Avoid using physical punishment or negative reinforcement.
  3. Focus on mental stimulation: Portuguese Water Dogs are highly intelligent and love mental challenges. Incorporate interactive toys, puzzles, and games into their training routine to keep them engaged and mentally stimulated.
  4. Be consistent: Use consistent commands and reward systems to avoid confusing your dog. Consistency is key to successful training.
  5. Socialize early and often: Portuguese Water Dogs are sociable and friendly dogs, but they still need early socialization to develop good behavior around people and other animals.
  6. Enroll in obedience classes: Consider enrolling in obedience classes to reinforce your Portuguese Water Dog's training and socialization. These classes can also provide an opportunity for your dog to interact with other dogs and people in a controlled environment.

Additional Tips for Training the Portuguese Water Dog

In addition to the above training tips, here are a few more suggestions that may help you train your Portuguese Water Dog:

  • Use a consistent tone of voice to communicate with your dog. This will help them understand what you want from them.
  • If your dog is showing signs of anxiety or stress, take a break from training and try again later. Stress can impede your dog's ability to learn.
  • Practice training in different environments to help your dog generalize their training and respond to cues in any situation.
  • Be patient and persistent. Training takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth it. With patience and persistence, you can train your Portuguese Water Dog to be a well-behaved and obedient companion.

Exercise and Activity Needs

The Portuguese Water Dog is a highly active and energetic breed that loves to be outdoors and engage in physical activities. They are water-loving dogs and possess an innate urge to swim and retrieve objects, making them a perfect companion for individuals who enjoy aquatic activities.

For optimal health and well-being, it's important to provide the Portuguese Water Dog with a daily exercise routine. They require a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, but ideally, they should engage in physical activities for at least an hour a day. This can include swimming, playing fetch, or participating in dog sports such as agility or dock diving.

Incorporating mental stimulation is equally important for the Portuguese Water Dog, as they are an intelligent breed that thrives on mental challenges. Puzzle toys, training exercises, and obedience training are great ways to keep them mentally stimulated.

Exercise Tips

When exercising your Portuguese Water Dog, it's important to be mindful of their joints and muscles. Start with shorter exercise sessions and gradually increase the duration and intensity over time. In hot weather, it's crucial to keep them well-hydrated and avoid exercise during peak heat hours.

It's also important to provide a safe and secure environment for your Portuguese Water Dog to exercise in. Ensure they are wearing a collar or harness with identification tags and always supervise them when engaging in outdoor activities.

Grooming and Coat Care

The Portuguese Water Dog's coat is one of its most distinctive characteristics. While they are considered hypoallergenic, it's important to note that their low-shedding coat requires regular grooming to prevent matting and maintain a healthy appearance.

It's recommended to brush your Portuguese Water Dog's coat at least once a week, using a slicker brush or a steel comb that can penetrate their wavy or curly coat. This will help remove any loose hair, dirt, or debris, and prevent tangles from forming.

Professional grooming is also recommended every few months or as needed, to trim their coat and maintain its shape. This can include a full-body trim, a sanitary trim around the ears and paws, and a shaping of their facial hair to enhance their distinctive expression.

Occasional bathing is also recommended to keep their coat clean and healthy. Use a mild dog shampoo and conditioner, and rinse thoroughly to avoid any leftover residue that can cause skin irritation.

Lastly, it's important to regularly check your Portuguese Water Dog's ears, eyes, and nails. Clean their ears with a gentle ear cleaner, trim their nails every few weeks, and monitor their eyes for any signs of redness or discharge, which could indicate an infection. By following these grooming and coat care tips, you can help keep your Portuguese Water Dog looking and feeling their best.

Health Considerations for Portuguese Water Dogs

Like all breeds, Portuguese Water Dogs may be prone to certain health issues. It is important to be aware of these conditions and take steps to keep your dog healthy and happy.

One common health issue in Portuguese Water Dogs is hip dysplasia. This is a condition in which the hip joint does not develop properly, leading to pain and discomfort. Symptoms may include limping, reluctance to move, and difficulty getting up or down. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from hip dysplasia, consult with your veterinarian. Treatment options may include medication, physical therapy, or even surgery.

Another health concern for Portuguese Water Dogs is progressive retinal atrophy, a genetic condition that may lead to blindness. Regular eye exams can help detect this condition early, allowing for early intervention and treatment.

Regular veterinary check-ups are important for maintaining your Portuguese Water Dog's overall health. Your veterinarian can provide guidance on appropriate vaccination schedules, dietary needs, and preventative care measures. A balanced diet and regular exercise can also help keep your dog healthy and happy.

Portuguese Water Dogs as Family Pets

Portuguese Water Dogs are affectionate and friendly, making them great choices for families. They are especially patient and gentle around children and tend to form strong bonds with their owners. Their protective instincts also make them great watchdogs.

Additionally, Portuguese Water Dogs get along well with other pets in the household, especially if they are raised together. Their adaptable nature also makes them suitable for households with different lifestyles and schedules.

Finding a Portuguese Water Dog Puppy

If you've decided that a Portuguese Water Dog is the right breed for you and your family, the next step is finding a puppy to bring home. While searching for the perfect puppy can be a thrilling experience, it's important to do your research and choose a reputable breeder or adoption organization to ensure the health and well-being of your new furry companion.

One option is to research and connect with breeders who specialize in Portuguese Water Dogs. Look for breeders who are members of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America or other reputable breed clubs. Ask for references and visit their kennels to meet the dogs and assess their living conditions. Remember that a responsible breeder will prioritize the health and temperament of their dogs over profit.

Another option is to consider adoption from a local animal shelter or rescue organization. Many rescue groups specialize in specific breeds, including Portuguese Water Dogs. Adopting a dog in need can be a rewarding experience, and you may find that rescues are already trained and well-behaved.

Whether you choose to adopt or purchase from a breeder, it's important to visit the puppy and assess its health and living conditions. Look for signs of cleanliness, socialization, and attentive care. Be prepared to ask questions and provide information about your lifestyle and expectations to ensure that you find the right match.

Portuguese Water Dog by the water

Portuguese Water Dog Rescue and Adoption

If you are considering adding a Portuguese Water Dog to your family, rescue and adoption may be a great option for you. There are many reasons to choose rescuing or adopting instead of purchasing a puppy from a breeder. By rescuing a dog, you are providing a second chance to a dog in need and giving them a loving home.

There are several organizations that specialize in rescuing and rehoming Portuguese Water Dogs. These organizations work tirelessly to find loving homes for these dogs, and they can help you find a dog that fits your lifestyle and personality. They may also provide guidance on the adoption process, including home checks, references, and fees.

Adopting a rescue dog may come with some challenges, such as behavioral or health issues that may require extra care and attention. However, the rewards of seeing these dogs thrive and become part of your family can be immeasurable.

Portuguese Water Dog Clubs and Community

If you're considering bringing a Portuguese Water Dog into your family, connecting with the breed's clubs and community can be a great way to learn more about them and find support from like-minded owners.

There are several national and local clubs dedicated to Portuguese Water Dogs, such as the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America and the Portuguese Water Dog Club of Canada. These clubs offer resources on breed-specific health, behavior, and training, as well as opportunities to participate in events, competitions, and other activities.

In addition to physical clubs, the Portuguese Water Dog community has a strong online presence. Joining online forums and groups can be a way to connect with other owners, ask questions, and share experiences. Some popular online communities include the Portuguese Water Dog Forum and the Portuguese Water Dog Owners Group on Facebook.

Portuguese Water Dog: The Perfect Companion for Water Enthusiasts

If you're a water enthusiast, then a Portuguese Water Dog might be the perfect companion for you. These dogs were originally bred as working dogs for Portuguese fishermen, where they spent their days retrieving fish, nets, and other items from the water.

Because of their history, Portuguese Water Dogs have a natural love of the water. They are strong swimmers and love playing in the waves. If you have a pool, a lake, or live near the beach, you can be sure that your Portuguese Water Dog will be in the water as much as possible.

With their webbed feet and muscular bodies, these dogs are well-suited for water activities. They excel at dock diving, water rescue, and other water sports. Their intelligence and strong work ethic also make them ideal candidates for water-based training and competition.

However, it's important to note that not all Portuguese Water Dogs are natural swimmers, so it's important to introduce them to the water slowly and safely. It's also important to supervise them when they are in or near the water, as they can become over-excited and put themselves in danger.

If you're a water lover looking for a loyal and loving companion to join you on your aquatic adventures, then a Portuguese Water Dog might be the perfect fit.


The Portuguese Water Dog is a unique and versatile breed with a lot to offer as a loving and loyal companion. Their hypoallergenic nature, intelligence, and family-friendly temperament make them a great choice for households of all kinds, while their love for water-related activities and durable build make them a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts.

Training and socialization are key to ensuring a happy and well-behaved Portuguese Water Dog, and their exercise and grooming needs require dedication and attention. However, with the right care and attention, a Portuguese Water Dog can be a beloved part of any family.

If you are considering adding a Portuguese Water Dog to your household, be sure to do your research and find a reputable breeder or rescue organization. There are many resources available to help you learn more about this amazing breed, from online communities to local clubs and events.

Take the plunge and welcome a Portuguese Water Dog into your life – you won't regret it!


Q: Are Portuguese Water Dogs hypoallergenic?

A: Yes, Portuguese Water Dogs are considered hypoallergenic. Their low-shedding coat produces less dander, which is the main allergen for people with allergies.

Q: Are Portuguese Water Dogs good with children?

A: Yes, Portuguese Water Dogs are known for their gentle and patient nature, making them great companions for children.

Q: How often should I exercise a Portuguese Water Dog?

A: Portuguese Water Dogs are active dogs and require daily exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or playing fetch.

Q: Do Portuguese Water Dogs need professional grooming?

A: Yes, Portuguese Water Dogs have a wavy or curly coat that requires regular brushing to prevent matting. Professional grooming, including occasional bathing, is also recommended to maintain their coat's health and appearance.

Q: What are common health issues in Portuguese Water Dogs?

A: Portuguese Water Dogs may be prone to hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and certain genetic disorders. Regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet are essential for their overall health.

Q: Where can I find a Portuguese Water Dog puppy?

A: You can find Portuguese Water Dog puppies by researching reputable breeders, considering adoption from rescue organizations, or connecting with Portuguese Water Dog clubs.

Q: Can Portuguese Water Dogs be adopted?

A: Yes, Portuguese Water Dogs can be adopted from rescue organizations specializing in the breed. Adopting a rescue dog can offer a second chance to a dog in need.

Q: Are there Portuguese Water Dog clubs or communities?

A: Yes, there are Portuguese Water Dog clubs where owners can connect with other enthusiasts, participate in events or competitions, and seek support or advice. Online communities and forums dedicated to the breed are also available.

Q: Are Portuguese Water Dogs good swimmers?

A: Yes, Portuguese Water Dogs have a natural love for water and are excellent swimmers. They are known for their water-working abilities and retrieving skills.

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