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Portuguese Water Dog

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Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dogs, Porties or PWDs, are among the most energetic and enthusiastic furry friends anyone could have.

Porties are loving, friendly, and highly intelligent. The curl-covered body, similar to a Poodle, will give you the warm and comforting hugs you need in rainy or cold weather. PWDs are outgoing, love to play in the water, and can take any exercise they can.

Portuguese Water Dog, is it for you? Let us explain to you everything that you have to know when owning this dog breed. As a responsible dog owner, we will help you understand the breeding history of Porties‘ behavior, and health risks and even give you answers to the most frequently asked questions.


Breed History
Year of Origin1984
Place of OriginPortugal

Have you been wondering where the name ‘Portuguese Water Dog’ originated? These dog breeds once lived along Portugal’s coast, where they helped fishermen to herd fish into nets and even retrieve some lost tackle. Porties also acted as a messenger between ships and shore. It was as early as 1297 when a dog with a black coat, long and rough hair, and a tufted tail pulled a drowning sailor out of the sea. This story explains that Portuguese Water Dogs may have the same ancient genetic pool as a Poodle, Kerry Blue Terrier, and possibly Water Spaniel.

During the 1930s, these Water Dogs were on the verge of extinction. So, a wealthy Portuguese shipping businessman named Vasco Bensaude looked out for these breeds to use for his breeding program and help save their quenching breed. Leão was the name of Bensaude’s famous fisherman’s stud dog that he bred to different females.

Almost half of currently pedigreed Portuguese Water Dogs can trace their ancestors back to Leão. Until Bensaude trusted his last 17 PWDs and all his archives to Conchita Cintron de Castelo Branco to continue breeding these Water Dogs. Fast track to 1958, the first members of these Water Dogs came to the United States. However, it wasn’t until 1972 when they formed the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America by Deyanne Miller along with 16 other members.

These breeders worked with dogs from Cintron’s PWDS ancestors, to establish a stable gene in the US. They currently have over 1,000 members in their club. The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed on June 3, 1981. On August 1, 1983, Portuguese Water Dogs got accepted for stud books in AKC. Then, they became part of the Working Group that is eligible to compete in different show rings.


Today, Portuguese Water Dogs rank 55th among all dog breeds registered by the AKC. Raymond Burr was another early US breeder of Porties until these Water Dogs earned more popularity when former president Barack Obama adopted two PWDs. President Obama named his dogs ‘Bo’ and ‘Sunny’ whom he brought into the White House.

bo, portuguese water dog
Bo, one of Barack Obama’s PWDs.


Height & Weight
Male Height51–58 cm / 20–23 in
Male Weight19–27 kg / 42–60 lbs
Female Height43–53 cm / 17–21 in
Female Weight16–23 kg / 35–51 lbs

These Porties are notable because of their curly or wavy coat. They have an impressive head size with considerable breadth and well-balanced mass. The well-knit and robust medium-built of 17 to 23-inch body can endure almost any playful exercise that you can give in and out of the water. Portuguese Water Dogs are swimmers and divers by heart, so they have exceptional ability and stamina.


Portuguese Water Dogs have a distinctively large and well-proportioned head with exceptional top skull breadth. Most of them have slightly larger skulls than their muzzle. Meanwhile, the forehead is prominent because its central furrow extends two-thirds from the well-defined stop to the occiput.

The heart-shaped and thin ears of PWDs set right above the eyes and held nicely against the head. Their medium-sized eyes set well apart, and most breeds have roundish or obliquely-shaped eyes with either dark or various brown colors. The nose of Porties is broad with well-flared nostrils with either black or multiple tones of brown in dogs with brown coats. Moreover, the thick front lips give a scissor-level bite.


Male Portuguese Water Dogs have an average height of 51 to 58 cm (20-23 inches) and weigh about 19 to 27 kg. Meanwhile, the female breed has an average size of 43 to 53 cm (17-21 inches) and grows to about 16 to 23 kg. Nevertheless, both genders stand on an off square and slightly longer body shape. They have stable, firm, and muscular bodies.

The strongly muscled necks are straight, short, and round. Porties also have well-inclined shoulders. Moreover, the long and straight legs are parallel to each other. Going down, Water Dogs have round feet. The toes are not too long nor knuckled up, and there is soft skin in between toes that are well-covered with hair. These breeds take short and lively steps when walking.

PWDs have broad and deep chests that reach down to their elbow. The ribs are long and well-sprung for optimum lung capacity with an abdomen that holds up gracefully. The tails are thick and undocked, set slightly below the line of their backs. This formation of the breed’s tail benefits their swimming and diving.

Coat and Color

Coat Lengthmedium
Coat Colorsblack, white, brown
Coat Patternssolid

Water Dogs are famous for their thickly planted coat of strong, healthy hair that evenly covers their entire body. The coat of this breed comes into two varieties, which are curly and wavy. When a PWD has a curly coat, the breed would probably have compact, cylindrical curls and lusterless hair. However, note that the fur on its ears may sometimes be wavy. On the other hand, wavy coats show gently falling waves with a slight sheen.

Porties have ‘single coats.’ It means that this breed doesn’t have undercoats on their skin. Hence, they don’t shed as much as other breeds. This is also the reason why these breeds often have hypoallergenic coats. On the other hand, the color of their coats often comes in black, white, various tones of brown, or a combination of these hues. If a Portie has a white coat, it doesn’t mean that he has albinism for as long as its nose, mouth, and eyelids are black.

Breed Standards

If you are interested in finding the official breed standards and required information in breeding PWDS, here’s a list of the most accredited Kennel Clubs around the world. They offer the most accurate data about Water Dogs.

  1. American Kennel Club (AKC)
  2. The Kennel Club (KC)
  3. Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)
  4. Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)
  5. United Kennel Club (UKC)

Temperament and Personality

Portuguese Water Dogs are playful, smart, brave, and very resistant to fatigue that makes them one of the best companions at home. Some PWDs are laid back, strong-willed, or most of them fall somewhere in the middle. One thing is for sure, they will obey their master with pleasure when appropriately trained.

Portuguese Water Dogs should have early socialization and exposure to different people, sounds, and other experiences during their early stages in life. It helps in maturing and growing as a very well-rounded dog.

With Strangers

Just like any other breeds, PWDs can get quite reserved toward strangers. However, they are not as wild as other service breeds trained for protection and security like K-9 dogs. A Portie does better with a family. It is an excellent dog for children, so don’t be surprised once this breed starts playing outdoors with your kids.

Take note that this breed’s natural exuberance may cause too rough plays, so the right training is the key to avoid any harms.

With Other Pets

Water Dogs are better with loved and trusted companions than being left in a pack of other dogs or alone. Porties may get along with other breeds for as long as you train Porties’ friendliness. As a matter of fact, PWDs can get along even with other dogs and cats and live in harmony and peace – just make sure to raise them well. However, always have an eye on your Portie around smaller pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters.

Intelligence and Trainability

Compared to toy dog breeds, Portuguese Water Dogs are highly intelligent and respond well to obedience training. For this reason, learning simple and complex tricks is easy, depending on the training you can provide.

The training for PWDs can start as early as they reach 8 weeks. It would also be great if you can get a ‘puppy kindergarten class’ as a part of social discipline. These are the experiences that any puppy needs to grow as a sensible adult dog.

Service Dog4/5
Therapy Dog4/5
Guard Dog3/5
Working Dog4/5
Search And Rescue Dog1/5
Herding Dog2/5
Sledding Dog2/5
Farm Dog2/5
Hunting Dog3/5
Military Dog1/5
Police Dog1/5
Detection Dog1/5
Bio Detection Dog1/5
Appartment Living5/5
Novice Owners3/5
Being Alone2/5
Cold Weather4/5
Hot Weather3/5
Kid Friendliness4/5
Dog Friendliness5/5
Cat Friendliness4/5
Stranger Friendliness3/5
Cost To Keep4/5
Grooming Needs3/5
Coat Shedding1/5
Prey Drive5/5
Weight Gain3/5
Energy Level5/5
Activity Level4/5
Social Needs5/5


Breed Lifespan
Life Expectancy10–14 years

Portuguese Water Dogs have an average life span of 10 to 14 years. This is a common range for large breeds.

They are healthy, but PWDs are also susceptible to some health conditions. Not all of them can acquire any or all of these diseases, but it’s nice to be aware of the common illnesses that this breed may have over time.

Hip Dysplasia

It is a heritable condition wherein the thigh bone of the breed doesn’t fit perfectly into the hip joint. Some common symptoms include pain and lameness on one or both rear legs of the dog. Moreover, hip dysplasia may also show signs of discomfort.

One major cause of this disease is aging and developing arthritis in dogs. Therefore, x-ray screening for animals is essential to detect early signs and symptoms. Weight reduction, exercise, and physical therapy prevent the worsening of this condition. In the worst cases, the veterinarian may prescribe medications and even perform surgery. However, hip dysplasia is hereditary, so it may be impossible to treat the disease for good through selective breeding and OFA screening.

Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy

This another inherited disease may cause sudden death to Portuguese Water Dog puppies. Pups aged five weeks to seven months are more prone to the illness. Early signs of Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy depend on the dog breed and the stage of the disease.

In most cases, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, cough, and weakness are some of the most common evident symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this disease yet. Worst of all, it is difficult to determine if a puppy will get infected with it. The best way to keep your Porties safe is to avoid breeding dogs that carry such genes.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

It is a degenerative eye disorder that may eventually lead to blindness due to the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. This disease usually starts with nyctalopia, decreased night vision, and dilated pupils.

Aging, deteriorating cells, and genes are other factors that may cause this disease. There is no available treatment for PRA, but it is detectable for years even before the breed shows any signs of it. Once it happens, the dog can only use their other senses to compensate for their blindness – and still live a healthy life. If a dog develops PRA, their genes must no longer be used for breeding.

Storage Disease (GM1)

This disorder is genetic, which happens due to the lack of an enzyme. As a result, it allows the buildup of toxic substances in the nerve cells. Some common symptoms of the disease include incoordination, weakness, abnormal vision, and, worst, seizures.

Storage Disease is fatal, especially to puppies produced by two carriers. Therefore, a DNA test is essential to know if the breed is healthy or a possible carrier of GM1. The best way to prevent it is to buy a puppy from a good breeder who can show you any health clearances. It proves that any breed had been tested and cleared of any particular and severe conditions.


Due to the nature of Porties’ coats, these dogs require extensive grooming. Porties are easy to be with and one of the best companions, at the same time, a working dog. It means that PWDs are playful and need to have regular movements and activities to enhance their socialization, strengthen their bodies, and intelligence. Regarding diet, Water Dogs can feed on any appropriate foods for their age. Overall, PWDs are excellent all-arounder.


Daily Food Consumption400–400 grams

The recommended daily consumption amount for Portuguese Water Dogs is 2.5 to 3.5 cups of high-quality dog food, divided into two or three meals. Commercially-manufactured or home-prepared dog foods would suffice for as long as it has your veterinarian’s supervision and approval.

Food intake depends on different factors like size, age, metabolism, build, and activity level of your PWDs. Even Porties are prone to being overweight, so watch their calorie consumption and weight level regularly. Moreover, knowing when to switch from puppy to adult dog food is essential.


You can start grooming Portuguese Water Dog Puppies so that they can get used to it as they grow up. Here are seven essential steps in grooming Porties.

  1. Bathing – You can bathe this breed once or twice a week or up to every 6 weeks, depending on their activity level. However, regular bathing will ensure they will not acquire any lice and protect their hair. Take note that if a PWD spends a lot of time swimming, it is essential to fresh-water rinse right after. It removes chemicals, salt, and other substances that cause coat or skin problems.
  2. Brushing and Combing – To get a more neat look, brush or comb your Porties’ hair at least two or three times every week. This way, you can maintain their coat tangle-free.
  3. Drying – This step hugely benefits Water Dogs after bathing, especially during cold seasons. Make sure to blow dry their hair after every wash to avoid getting cold and chills.
  4. Nail Trimming – This step should get once or twice a month or whenever you see Porties’ nails getting more prolonged than usual. Make sure to cut it regularly to avoid scratching their own skin and even yours. Short and neatly trimmed nails will keep their feet in good condition.
  5. Ear Cleaning – Wipe and dry the PWDs’ ears thoroughly to avoid infections.
  6. Clipping – Porties have curly or wavy coats, so it is a must to do regular cutting of their hair. Maintaining their hair is above average.
  7. Dental Hygiene – Give importance to brushing your Portie’s teeth at least twice or thrice weekly. This way, you can keep their breath fresh, prevent tartar buildup, and periodontal disease.


Porties are great companions at home, but they are still working breeds requiring more activities than toy dogs. Athletic and active breeds need vigorous exercise every day, even for at least 30 minutes, to keep Water Dogs happier and healthier.

PWDs can join you in your daily walks, jogs, and participate in other canine sports. The most essential training and exercise for Porties is, of course, anything in water. Here are some boredom busters that you can try next to stimulate a Portuguese Water Dog, puppy or adult.


Portuguese Water Dogs will be more than happy to be in anyone’s home and stay indoors with a family. However, if you’re uncomfortable with regular hair maintenance and exercise, this breed may not be ideal.

Portuguese Water Dogs & Puppies are brilliant, so there wouldn’t be any problem if you are a first-time dog owner. They are trainable for as long as you understand their behavior and enforce proper and smart training techniques.



The average price for a registered Water Dog varies from $1,500 to $2,500. So, if you don’t have the luxury to pay for this amount, PWDs may not be the right pet for you. The price may depend on the breeder and the bloodline or registration papers.


When choosing your next Portie puppy, you must buy only from reputable and reliable dog breeders over pet shops. It’s because you have to validate that the puppy doesn’t have those “bad” genes that may cause serious inherited diseases.

Always look for health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips and Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for healthy eyes. For eye clearance, look for OptiGen testing. Finally, get a DNA test for storage diseases and better screening.


When it comes to adopting Portuguese Water Dogs, several ways and options are available today.

  1. Use the internet – There are reliable sites where you can search for a Portie near your area. Just make sure that you verify the credibility of the website before searching.
  2. Local experts – You can talk to any local breeder experts in your areas like vets, groomers, and dog walkers for reference.
  3. Talk to Breed Rescue – You can contact those accredited Portuguese Water Dog clubs to help you find the breed that would be the perfect companion for your home. Perhaps, these clubs have the highest credibility because they are very upfront about any health conditions the dogs.


Litter Size4–8 puppies

On average, a female Portuguese Water Dog has a litter size that ranges from four to eight puppies. A pregnant female PWD’s litter size varies depending on factors like age, fertility, and overall health. Like other dog breeds, the average gestation period takes about 57 to 63 days from conception.

Cesarean Section (C-Section) is only necessary if a female Portuguese Water Dog is experiencing weak contraction for more than two hours. The delivery of Portuguese Water Puppies may also need C-Section of the mother dog shows any signs of illness like vomiting, pain, fever, and bloody discharge while on labor.

Check out our FREE dog breeding guide for further details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Finally, we will be answering some of the most frequently asked questions out Portuguese Water Dogs.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs Shed Hair?

Portuguese Water Dogs don’t shed much hair or too often because of their single-layer coat. Portuguese Water Dogs do not have undercoats; therefore shed much less than other breeds. The breed is considered hypoallergenic. However, remember that no dog is entirely hypoallergenic because they still have to shed hair and dander at some point.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Good Pets?

Portuguese Water Dogs are lovable even with kids, smart, and an excellent all-arounder. This breed can stay with you at home all-day during lousy weather and can also go with you on your trekking adventures.

Most of all, Porties would love to play with you in your swimming pool. However, if you have no patience in grooming curly and wavy hair, PWDs may not suit you.

Can Portuguese Water Dogs Hunt?

Portuguese Water Dogs were every fisherman’s right hand back in the old days. This breed can herd fish into nets, retrieve them from the water, and even send messages from one boat to another.

Porties are highly intelligent when appropriately trained, so there’s no reason for them not to learn hunting and some gundog skills. PWDs excel in any situation requiring long and work-filled activities and stamina. Porties can even join you on hunting adventures.

When Do Portuguese Water Dogs Stop Growing?

Once a dog reaches its maximum length and height, it stops growing. Water Dogs mature during their first to second year of life. However, some Porties can reach their full size within six to eight months. A male Portie can grow as high as 58 cm, while a female of this breed can reach a height of 53 cm.

There are some cases where a PWD may become more prominent, and his genes may have something to do about it. You may spot that trend in the dog’s family tree and pedigree.

Why Portuguese Water Dogs Love Water?

Portuguese Water Dogs love to swim because they have bodies that are built for swimming. These breeds have what a breeder would call the “swimmer gene” flowing in their blood. So, don’t get surprised if you see a Portie having fun in your pool.

Another reason why this breed loves playing in the water is that the owner introduced water fun at a young age. Hence, these are the reasons why swimming is fun, especially for PWDs.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs Bark a Lot?

Portuguese Water Dogs don’t often bark if they don’t see or feel any threat around them. PWDs are quiet around the house.

PWDs have multi-octave voices, it means that they can be so loud whenever they bark. It may not sound good when it tries to wake you up in the morning, but it won’t fail to catch your attention whenever a stranger lingers around your house.

Published on
Friday 3 April 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023

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