Did you know that Bo, a PWD, was the Obama family dog? They considered adopting a middle-sized hypoallergenic pup, and the Portuguese Water Dog was the main candidate. Later, Senator Kennedy gave them a puppy as a present. 

Luckily, you don’t have to be a president to afford or take care of a Portie Water-Dog. But there are still many requirements and characteristics you should know beforehand. Let’s learn more about the Water dog:

Meet the Portuguese Water Dog

This medium-sized curly dog with high-activity levels was bred to be a loyal helping hand and companion. Here’s how its story started:

The Fisherman’s Helper Origins

What is a Portuguese Water Dog? Fishermen from the coasts of Portugal taught this water-loving dog to drive fish into their nets and prevent them from escaping. The loyal pet would often dive underwater to retrieve nets and other fishing gear. A strong swimmer with superior intelligence, the dog also became a water courier from ship to ship.

First Mentioned in 1297 in a Monk’s Writings

The Portuguese Water Dog may be quite ancient. In 1297, a monk first described a dog with the same characteristics. He wrote about a shipwrecked sailor brought safely to the beach by a black dog. It had “rough” fur, cut to the ribs with only some tuft on the end of its tail. Because of this description, some called it a “lion dog.

Known as “Cao de Agua” — Dog of the Water 

The water-loving fishermen’s friend is famous as “Cao de Agua” in Portuguese. It’s so well equipped to work in water that one of its distinctive features is webbed feet. Additionally, these dogs have strong bones and muscular bodies adapted for swimming.

The AKC Recognition

With 20th century industrialization, traditional fishing and the Portuguese Water Hound started losing their popularity. The breed almost disappeared until Vasco Bensuade formed a club and issued a breed standard. In time, the dogs gained popularity in England and the US. In 1983, the AKC recognized the Water Dog as an official breed.

Portie’s Mermaid-Like Appearance 

Aside from their intelligence and loyalty, Portie dogs are also famous for their unique traits and appearance. 

Their Coats Are Curly or Wavy and Always Fluffy 

Porties have opulent and thick coats with no undercoat. They can have dense curls, or the hair can fall in shiny waves. The color can be black, white, brown, or a mix.

And what about the Portuguese Water Dog shedding? Another great feature of the breed is that they don’t shed significantly and are hypoallergenic.

Porties Have a “Milk Chin”

Many Porties have white spots, but a pure white PWD is the least common. In contrast, black dogs with white on the chin and chest are widespread. These characteristic white markings create the illusion of a cute “milk chin.” 

Their Bodies Are Long Rather Than Tall

The AKC describes Portie Dogs as off-square. Their figure is long rather than tall, and they’re 20–23 inches tall (17–21 inches for females). The Portuguese Water Dog weight for males is 42–60 lb, and the females are 35–50 lb.

Temperament That Never Aims to Disappoint

Portie dogs are very active and intelligent. They’re great companions but also require a lot of stimulation.

They Are the Ideal Working Dogs 

Since PWDs are working dogs, they can quickly learn complex commands and advanced dog tricks. That’s why Water Dogs often serve as capable hearing and mobility dogs and even therapy animals. 

Their strong bodies make them great competitors in most dog sports, including:

  • Tracking
  • Barn hunt
  • Diving
  • Weight pulling
  • Herding

Additionally, they don’t like to leave their owners’ side.

Can’t Wait to Learn a New Trick 

Porties love to work and learn new things. That’s why they need vigorous physical exercise and intellectual challenges. 

The Portuguese Water Dog temperament may be independent and somewhat stubborn, but these dogs really enjoy training. Besides, if they’re not occupied and become bored, they could be destructive. And if you get a PWD, it’s best to have a big yard. Similarly, if you don’t have a body of water nearby to take your dog, consider getting it a large dog pool.

These Clown Doggos Will Make Your Heart Smile 

Being energetic and smart, the Portie also loves to play and have fun. Unsurprisingly, it’s always ready to fool around and make you laugh. The breed enjoys being the center of attention.

The Portuguese Water Dog traits include a love for solving tasks and playing with toys. Hence, make sure to provide enough exercise and fun playthings. You can even get some dog floaties and go swimming together.

Love to Meet New Friends & Chill With the Family

The Portuguese Water Dog temperament can fall anywhere between laid-back and strong-willed. But a common trait for all Porties is their friendliness and need to interact with many people. Also, these dogs can live with cats and other dogs if you introduce them early. These energetic friends are excellent for families and get along with kids well, especially if they grew up together. But they could be a bit too energetic for small kids.

Reserved Towards Suspicious Strangers 

The loyalty of PWDs makes them good companions and watchdogs, but this also means they could be potentially distrustful of strangers. Still, Portuguese Water Dogs are in no way an aggressive breed.

The Portuguese Water Dog’s Health

The average Portuguese Water Dog lifespan is 10–14 years. The breed is generally healthy, but it’s also prone to genetic conditions and diseases. A good breeder should provide health clearances for the puppy’s parents.  

The standard clearances for PWDs include:

  • Hip Evaluation (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals)
  • Eye Evaluation (CERF)
  • Optigen DNA Test (PRA)
  • DNA test for dogs for Storage Disease (GM1) 
  • Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDCM).

Common Health Issues

You must clean the ears of Water Dogs regularly and check for infections. Likewise, the teeth require regular brushing with doggy toothpaste. Some of the more serious issues that Porties may experience include:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a genetic condition that causes developmental issues in the hip joints. Dogs suffering from it may experience:

  • Discomfort
  • Pain
  • Lameness in the rear legs

In aging dogs, arthritis may become a problem. Despite being hereditary, injuries, bad diet, and the environment can also influence the condition. That’s why it’s crucial to ask for the parents’ health clearance when getting a Portie puppy.

Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy

JDCM is another inherited disease that may affect the Portie dog. That’s a fatal condition leading to sudden death in growing dogs of five weeks to seven months old. 

Within 12 to 48 hours. Some puppies may show:

  • Loss of appetite and energy
  • Hindered breathing
  • Vomiting

Yet, in many cases, there are no symptoms. This form of Cardiomyopathy isn’t treatable. You can only prevent it with DNA testing of the parent dogs and not breeding the gene.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

PRA is a degenerative eye condition that leads to partial or complete blindness. Unlike JDCM, it can be detected even before there are any symptoms. Reliable breeders can provide Optigen DNA tests for PRA and regular eye evaluations. 

Portuguese Dogs are also prone to cataracts and distichiasis (ingrown eyelashes) but to a lesser extent.


A PWD dog may develop a Storage Disease, resulting in the buildup of acidic lipid substances in the cells of the nervous system. The condition is fatal and usually develops when a puppy is about six months old. The dog may display signs of:

  • Paresis
  • Tremors
  • Poor coordination
  • Seizures

Genetic testing is crucial for preventing this disease.

You can avoid all of the most dangerous conditions affecting these dogs with reputable Portuguese Dog breeders who do regular tests and provide health clearances.

Its Body Doesn’t Run on Water — Prepare for High-Quality Nutrition 

The recommended daily food amount for an average PWD is 2.5 to 3.5 cups. The food must be high-quality and given in at least two separate meals. Don’t forget that every brand has a different caloric density, and each dog expends a varying amount of energy. Also, you should adjust the meals to the life stage of your Portie dog. 

Some breeders believe that fish is a more suitable protein source for this breed since the dogs ate a lot of it when they worked for fishermen. Also, avoid artificial preservatives and flavors. It’s debated if a grain-free diet is suitable for Porties, but it’s always best to consult your vet on nutrition.

Grooming — A Mermaid Life Requires Regular Coat Rinsing

The Portuguese Water Dog’s luscious curls or waves make it a high-maintenance pet. A PWD dog needs a lot of grooming to prevent matting and tangling. Also, the hair grows indefinitely and can cover the eyes quickly. 

We highly recommend brushing your dog daily. Trimming the nails and giving your pooch a bath as often as possible is also essential. On the positive side, a PWD doesn’t shed.

The standard Portuguese Water Dog grooming cut, especially for competitions, has two versions:

  • Lion Cut — Most of the coat is left to grow, while the muzzle, back legs, waist, and tail are clipped. Only the top of the tail has a tuft of hair.
  • Retriever Cut — It creates an unbroken natural line of fur that’s no longer than an inch. The cut follows the dog’s shape.

Finding a Portuguese Water Dog

Many dogs, including pure-bred ones, need help. Unfortunately, a lot of Water Dogs are bought without a full understanding of their needs and consequently given up. Consider adopting from a dog rescue or a shelter first. Also, you can contact the specialized Portuguese Water Dog rescue.

If you want to buy a puppy from a breeder, make sure it’s a reliable one that will provide all certifications and health clearances. For starters, you can look up the list of breeders supplied by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. 

The average Portuguese Water Dog price is in the range of $2,000–$3,000.

Taking the Final Decision

The Portie is a fascinating dog that can be an excellent and intelligent companion to anyone who can give it enough attention, space, and opportunity for vigorous exercise. You need to dedicate time and effort to grooming, exercising, and stimulating its curious and playful mind. 

Quality food and a healthy environment will also positively affect your dog’s overall well-being and happiness. To avoid many serious health problems, make sure to get all the necessary tests and health clearances from the breeder. In return, the Portuguese Water Dog will become a loyal friend that’s full of fun surprises and always ready to help and learn.

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