You may have admired the Obamas’ Portuguese Water Dogs in the Whitehouse or you may have spent time with a super cute one at a friend’s cottage in Lake Muskoka like me.
Perhaps you are wondering if a Portuguese Water Dog is the right breed for you?
I have known Buster the Portuguese Water Dog since he was a little puppy and spent many weekends with him over the last few years.
However I realised I didn’t actually know too much about the breed except I assumed they had something to do with Portugal and liked water ( Buster certainly loves water).
By coincidence, Hannah who films and edits with me, is a big fan of the breed and her family just got a second Portuguese Water Dog Puppy so we decided to do some research and share our findings.
Quick Facts About Portuguese Water Dogs
They are quite a rare breed and tend to be intelligent, energetic and independent. They often really love and bond with their owners and enjoy being close and snuggling at the end of a long day of playing outside. Adorable Buster thinks he is a lap dog LOL.
The AKC describes them as an Affectionate, Adventurous and Athletic medium-sized Working Dog.
- Height: 20-23 inches (male), 17-21 inches (female)
- Weight: 42-60 pounds (male), 35-50 pounds (female)
- Life Expectancy: 11-13 years
The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was founded in 1972 and now has approximately 1000 members. The PWDA quotes the breed standard as “This highly intelligent utilitarian breed is distinguished by two coat types, either curly or wavy; an impressive head of considerable breadth and well proportioned mass; a ruggedly built, well-knit body; and a powerful, thickly based tail, carried gallantly or used purposefully as a rudder. The Portuguese Water Dog provides an indelible impression of strength, spirit and soundness.”
These robust dogs have webbed toes for swimming, a solidly built, muscular body and strong legs.
Their eyes are black or various tones of brown, and their coats can be black, brown, black and white or brown and white.
As water dogs, their retrieving instinct is strong, which may give them tugging tendencies.
Some may walk, hop, or “dance” on their hind legs when excited.
Do Portuguese Water Dogs Shed?
Portuguese Water Dogs do not shed (unlike my Kilo the Pug). This is good news if you have allergies or do not like cleaning black hair off white sofas, clothes and bedding daily.
They have either curly or wavy coats which dry quickly after swimming or bathing.
They need regular grooming and brushing to avoid tangles and matts. They also need regular hair cuts, or the hair will keep growing and may block the eyes or cause skin problems.
The traditional haircut is called the lion trim, where a groomer shaves half of the dog and leaves the rest fluffy.
However they can also have the retriever cut which is one inch (2.5 cm) long, evenly over the body (although some owners prefer the muzzle or the base of the tail shorter, again, with approximately 1/3 of the tail hair left long, also known as a flag,) or they can be fully shaved.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a Working Dog. They reportedly orginally came from the Algarve on the southern coast of Portugal. They were used by sailors to help herd fish into nets, to retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and to act as couriers from ship to ship, or ship to shore. In the early nineteen hundreds, a monk reported seeing a black curly haired dog bringing a sailor to land.
Apprently the breed was on the verge of extinction when, during the 1930s, Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy Portuguese shipping magnate, began to seek out fishermen’s dogs for use in a breeding program to re-establish the breed.
In 1972, Deyanne Miller, along with 14 others, formed the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc. (PWDCA).
As with all purebred dogs, PWDs are vulnerable to certain genetic defects. Due to the limited gene pool for this breed, conscientious breeders carefully study pedigrees and select dogs to minimize the chance of genetic disease.
Do Portuguese Water Dogs Like Water?
Of course each dog is different, but they do tend to like water. It is no surprise that Buster LOVES jumping off the dock after a toy or ball and swimming. He can jump over 15′ out and wants to do it all day. He even learned to climb the dock ladder to get back up.
How much exercise do Porties need?
Porties need a lot of vigorous exercise and attention as well as mental challenges. They can bore easily and get destructive, chewing on everything, especially as puppies. I remember Buster’s large jaw and sharp puppy teeth well.
They usually love running, chasing balls and toys and playing outdoors. Having another dog to play with and doing activities like long walks or disc or dock jumping can be good.
Can Portuguese Water Dogs be left alone?
They probably need to be crate trained at night and for short periods when they can’t be supervised. They like to be within sight of their owners and should not be left alone for extended periods.
They may not be the ideal breed for you if you are not very active and do not have plenty of space and time to spend with them.
Are Portuguese Water Dogs Easy to Train?
Obedience training should not be too hard as they are smart working dogs and will go to great lengths for their owner’s praise and treats. They often also love agility, retrieving and water sports. They respond well to positive reinforcement, consistency, firmness and patience.
Are Portuguese Water Dogs good with kids and other dogs?
They are usually friendly towards kids and other dogs and enjoy being petted but need proper socialization and training (just like kids). They can be bouncy and energetic and might accidentally knock over smaller kids when jumping up or chasing a ball.
Do Portuguese Water Dogs Bark a lot?
Portuguese Water Dogs have a loud distinctive bark. They are generally quiet but do communicate vocally with owners. My experience with Buster is that he is very well behaved in the house and does not make much noise at all but will bark to alert to people or animals arriving. Down at the dock, he likes to rally friends to throw his ball and dock jump and will bark to get attention. He also sees himself as the local lifeguard and may bark at people swimming near the dock, just in case they need help.
Where can I get a Portuguese Water Dog Puppy?
Of course try a Rescue first for example https://www.facebook.com/portuguesewaterdog.rescueme.org/
If you can not find a rescue make sure you go to a responsible legitimate breeder – see our post here on questions to ask. They can be quite an expensive dog costing several thousand dollars and you want to make sure they are healthy or your vet bills will be even more expensive. Do NOT support Puppy Mills.