Country of Origin: Portugal
Height: 17–23 inches
Weight: 35–60 pounds
Coat: Two varieties, both single coats—curly has compact, cylindrical curls, somewhat lusterless/wavy falls gently in waves, has slight sheen
Colors: Black, white, brown tones, combinations of black or brown with white
Registries: American Kennel Club (AKC); United Kennel Club (UKC)
The Portuguese Water Dog’s job through the ages was to herd fish into the fishermen’s nets. He also retrieved objects from the water and carried messages and equipment between boats and from boats to the shore. He was as necessary a part of the crew as any of the people on board, and he accompanied boats on their journeys from the warm coastal waters off Portugal all the way to the cod fishing grounds near Iceland. Size and coat type were critical to his effectiveness—he was sturdy and strong enough to navigate even rough waters, and his nonshedding, dense, and waterproof coat, along with his webbed feet, kept him warm and steadied him.
The breed came to the United States in 1958 via England, and it was a very rare at the time. In 1972, the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America (PWDCA) was formed, and this small, dedicated club built the breed until, by the early 1980s, it was flourishing in more than 40 states. Today, the PWD is alive and well and doing water work whenever possible. The breed gained recent fame when President Barak Obama welcomed “Bo,” a Portuguese Water Dog, into the family.
Bred to be of service, the Portuguese Water Dog is an extremely intelligent and robust dog. He will fearlessly dive into icy water to retrieve a net or round up fish, and he won’t stop working until the job is completed. He is an independent thinker, capable of handling himself in tough situations, but is tuned in to what’s required of him. The PWD is levelheaded yet lively, sensible yet fun loving. He is great with children and other dogs. He makes a good watchdog, too, because he takes a vested interested in the well-being of the family, to whom he is devoted.
- Exercise: The PWD needs regular and preferably vigorous exercise.
- Grooming: Both coat types need a lot of attention to keep them looking their best. While they are practically nonshedding, their coats still need plenty of maintenance. The longer wavy coat must be brushed and combed as well as trimmed to keep it free from tangles; the curly coat requires regular brushing and combing and also needs to be clipped every six to eight weeks.
- Life Span: The average life span of the Portuguese Water Dog is 11 to 14 years.
- Training: The happy-to-help, no-nonsense Portuguese Water Dog eagerly takes to training. In fact, he will resort to making decisions himself without it, which is not a good situation for dog or family. He needs guidance and direction, and training should begin as early as possible.
Excerpt from World Atlas of Dog Breeds, 6th Edition. © 2009 TFH Publications, Inc.