Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water dog breed once served as crew on fishing trips, retrieving lost gear, and herding fish into nets. Today, he’s a fun-loving family companion — represented by Bo Obama, First Dog of the U.S. — who still retains the intelligence and love of the water (not to mention the webbed feet) that made him so valuable to his human family.

See all Portuguese Water Dog characteristics below!

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog games
Teaching your dog tricks
How to take pictures of your dog

Breed Characteristics:

Adaptability
Adapts Well to Apartment Living4More info +

Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make — plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

See Dogs Not Well Suited to Apartment Living

Good For Novice Owners3More info +

Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

See Dogs That Are Good For Experienced Owners

Sensitivity Level4More info +

Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

See Dogs That Have Low Sensitivity Levels

Tolerates Being Alone2More info +

Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

See Dogs Poorly Suited To Be Alone

Tolerates Cold Weather4More info +

Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

See Dogs Poorly Suited For Cold Weather

Tolerates Hot Weather3More info +

Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

See Dogs Poorly Suited For Hot Weather

All Around Friendliness
Affectionate with Family5More info +

Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family

Incredibly Kid Friendly Dogs5More info +

Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

See Dogs Not Kid Friendly

Dog Friendly5More info +

Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

See Dogs That Are Not Dog Friendly

Friendly Toward Strangers3More info +

Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

See Dogs That Are More Shy

Health Grooming
Amount Of Shedding1More info +

If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

See Dogs That Shed Very Little

Drooling Potential1More info +

Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.

See Dogs That Are Not Big Droolers

Easy To Groom2More info +

Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

See Dogs That Require More Grooming

General Health4More info +

Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

See Dogs More Prone To Health Problems

Potential For Weight Gain3More info +

Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

Size3More info +

Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right large dog for you!

See Medium Dogs

See Small Dogs

Trainability
Easy To Train4More info +

Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

See Dogs That Are Challenging To Train

Intelligence5More info +

Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

See Dogs That Have Low Intelligence

Potential For Mouthiness5More info +

Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

Prey Drive3More info +

Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by — cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars — can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

See Dogs That Have Low Prey Drive

Tendency To Bark Or Howl3More info +

Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

See Dogs That Are Mostly Quiet

Wanderlust Potential3More info +

Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

See Dogs Less Prone To Wander

Exercise Needs
Energy Level5More info +

High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

See Dogs That Have Low Energy

Intensity3More info +

A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

See Dogs With Low Intensity

Exercise Needs5More info +

Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

See Dogs That Don't Need Tons of Exercise

Potential For Playfulness5More info +

Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

See Dogs That Are Less Playfull

Vital Stats:

Dog Breed Group: Working Dogs
Height: 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 11 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 14 years
  • Portuguese fishermen ranged from the Atlantic coast of their own country to the frigid fishing grounds of Newfoundland in their quest for cod. Assisting them were medium-size, curly-coated dogs who drove fish into nets, retrieved lost tackle, and swam messages from boat to boat.

    Known variously as the Cao de Agua (dog of the water) and Portuguese fishing dog, these canine helpmeets developed into what we know today as the Portuguese Water Dog, a calm, intelligent, and — of course — water-loving breed. In fact, one of their distinctive characteristics is their webbed feet.

    Porties, as they're nicknamed, are fun-loving and friendly. For an active family, especially one with a swimming pool, nearby beach, or boat, they can be an excellent choice. They thrive with training and are well suited to dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally, therapy work, tracking, and water work.

    No matter what activity you choose, make sure your Portie gets daily exercise — without it they can become frustrated and destructive. Swimming is a natural choice, but they also make great walking or jogging buddies.

    Like his relative the Poodle, the Portie has a reputation for being hypoallergenic. It's not quite true — there's really no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. All dogs shed and produce dander to some degree. But the Portie doesn't shed much.

    (Because the amount of shedding and dander varies from dog to dog — even in the same breed — the best way to know if you'll have an allergic reaction to a particular dog is to spend time with him.)

    With training, there's very little the Portie can't do. He's adaptable to many living situations — with enough exercise he can be an apartment dog — and tends to be quiet around the home. Affectionate and loyal, fun-loving and hard working, the Portuguese Water Dog can be a treasured friend to the right person.

  • Highlights

    • Portuguese Water Dogs are energetic and need 30 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise daily. They love swimming and make excellent jogging companions.
    • Without proper exercise and mental stimulation, Portuguese Water Dogs can become destructive. They especially like to chew.
    • Portuguese Water Dogs are highly intelligent. They love learning new things, but they can also become bored easily, so make training challenging and fun.
    • Portuguese Water Dogs get along well with children and other family pets, especially if they're raised with them. They can be reserved toward strangers, but are never lacking in love and affection for their families.
    • Portuguese Water Dogs don't shed much and are often considered hypoallergenic. Keep in mind that all dogs shed hair and dander to some degree, and no dog is completely hypoallergenic. If you have pet allergies, the best way to see if you'll have a reaction to a particular dog is to spend time with him and watch for symptoms.
    • Portuguese Water Dogs love people and should live in the home with their family.
    • They can adapt to apartment life if they get enough exercise.
    • Portuguese Water Dogs tend to mature more slowly than other breeds.
    • To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn't provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments.
  • History

    The Portuguese Water Dog descends from dogs used for centuries by Portuguese fishermen to drive fish into nets, retrieve gear from the water, and swim messages from boat to boat. It's likely he shares an ancestor with the Poodle, who was bred in Germany to be a water retriever.

    Known in his homeland as the Cao de Agua (dog of the water), the Portie served as a fishing crew member for trips ranging from off the coast of Portugal to Newfoundland.

    These hard-working fisherdogs almost disappeared in the early 20th century as fishing became more modernized, but a wealthy Portuguese dog lover, Vasco Bensuade, stepped in to save the breed. Fans formed a breed club and wrote a breed standard — a written description of how a breed should look and act — and Porties began to appear at dog shows. A couple of decades later they made their way to England and the United States.

    The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America formed in 1972, despite the fact that there were only 12 known Porties in the U.S. Just 10 years later, their numbers had increased to 650, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) admitted the dogs to its Miscellaneous Class — sort of a way station for breeds awaiting full recognition.

    In 1983, the AKC recognized the Portie as a distinct breed. Today, the Portuguese Water Dog ranks 69th in popularity among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC.

  • Size

    Male Portuguese Water Dogs stand 20 to 23 inches at the shoulder, and weigh 42 to 60 pounds. Females stand 17 to 21 inches, and weigh 35 to 50 pounds.

  • Personality

    The Portuguese Water Dog has a lot of great qualities: he's tireless, and fun loving, with a great sense of humor. He's also smart enough that he can out think you if you don't stay a step ahead of him. You may frequently find yourself laughing as he plays the clown to get your attention.

    You'll find a range of temperaments in Portuguese Water Dogs. Some are strong-willed, some are laid back, and most fall somewhere in the middle.

    As with all dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Portie puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

  • Health

    Portuguese Water Dogs are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Porties will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

    • Hip Dysplasia is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
    • Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy is an inherited disease that causes sudden death in puppies between the ages of five weeks and seven months. At this time, there is no cure and no way to determine if a puppy will be affected with the disease. The only way for breeders to prevent producing affected puppies is to avoid breeding carriers of the gene.
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don't make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs' eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
    • Storage Disease (GM1) is a recessive genetic disorder caused by a lack of an enzyme and allows the buildup of toxic substances in the nerve cells. It is fatal to puppies produced by two carriers. A DNA test has been developed to determine whether dogs are normal or carriers. This has dramatically reduced the incidence of both carriers and affected puppies.

    If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog's been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.

    In Portuguese Water Dogs, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips, from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that the eyes are normal, an Optigen rating for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and a DNA test for GM1 (storage disease).

    Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old.

  • Care

    Porties are people lovers and they should live in the home, not outside. Ideally, they'll have a fenced yard where they can play safely — although with enough exercise, they can adapt to apartment life.

    A Portie needs 30 minutes to an hour of exercise daily: long walks, jogging or swimming, or games of fetch. With enough exercise, he's a quiet companion indoors. Without it, well, you may come home to find your belongings chewed to bits.

    Train your Portuguese Water Dog using positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards. Avoid endless repetition or he'll get bored.

    This is a dog who learns quickly and enjoys mastering new skills. Training your Portuguese Water Dog for obedience, agility, tracking, or water work is a great way to stimulate his mind and give him the activity he enjoys. He can also make a wonderful therapy dog. If nothing else, you can teach him tricks to amaze the neighbors.

    Any type of training will help you build a special bond with your Portie. Give him a job to do and he'll be thrilled.

    Be aware that the Portuguese Water Dog likes to chew. Provide him with plenty of chew toys, rotate them regularly so he doesn't get bored, and teach him early what's okay to chew and what's not.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 2.5 to 3.5 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.

    How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog.

    The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference--the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

    Keep your Portuguese Water Dog in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.

    First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.

    For more on feeding your Portie, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat Color And Grooming

    The Portuguese Water Dog has two coat types: curly and wavy. Both types are a single coat, meaning there's no undercoat. That's why the Portie doesn't shed as much as some breeds and why he's often considered to be hypoallergenic. (Although all dogs shed hair and dander to some degree — there's no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.)

    The Portie's coat can be black, white, various shades of brown, or black or brown with white. It's popular to give the Portie a lion clip or a retriever clip. In the lion clip, the muzzle, mid-body, and rear end are short, with a tuft at the end of the tail. In the retriever clip, the coat is clipped or trimmed all over to about an inch in length, following the outline of the body.

    Brush or comb your Portie two or three times a week to keep the coat tangle-free. Clip or trim the coat monthly to keep it looking neat.

    With any dog who spends a lot of time in the water, it's important to give a thorough fresh-water rinse after swimming to remove chemicals, salt, and other substances that can cause coat or skin problems. Wipe out and dry the ears thoroughly as well to prevent infections.

    Trim nails once or twice a month. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the feet in good condition and protect your shins from getting scratched when your Portie enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

    Dental hygiene is also important. Brush your Portie's teeth at least two or three times a week to keep his breath fresh and prevent tartar buildup and periodontal disease. Daily brushing is even better.

    Start grooming your Portie when he's a puppy to get him used to it. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

  • Children And Other Pets

    Portuguese Water Dogs make excellent family companions, especially when raised with kids. They can be rambunctious, however, which is often scary or overwhelming for young children.

    Always teach children how to safely approach and touch dogs, and supervise any interactions between dogs and young kids to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling from either party.

    Porties get along well with other dogs and cats, especially if they're raised with them. As with all dogs, you should keep an eye on Porties around small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters.

  • Rescue Groups

    Consider adopting a Portuguese Water Dog before going to a breeder.