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Your Pet, Our Passion.

Portuguese Water Dog

A rectangular, medium-sized, muscular dog, the Portuguese Water Dog comes in two coat types: one with quite long, wavy hair, and the other with shorter, harsh hair with tighter curls. Show dogs are clipped (on the muzzle, hindquarters and part of the tail).

The need-to-know
  • Dog suitable for owners with some experience
  • Extra training required
  • Generally healthy breed
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys more than two hours of walking a day
  • Medium dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Barks and alerts to visitors/anything unusual
  • Generally friendly with other dogs
  • Gets along with other pets with training
  • Great family dog
  • Needs a large garden
  • Can live in semi-rural areas
  • Can be left occasionally with training
Generally healthy breed

The Portugese Water Dog can suffer from: 
- Hip dysplasia 
- Progressive retinal atrophy which is an inherited disorder where part of the eye degenerates and wastes away which can result in blindness.
- Gangliosidosis which is a disease that can lead to damage of the brain and spinal cord. 
- Juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy¹ which is a condition that develops in young dogs where the heart muscle becomes progressively weak and cannot beat properly.

Priority Kennel Club health schemes and testing: 
None but there are several recommended schemes that the Kennel Club recommends which can be found here.

¹M. M. Sleeper et al, 'Dilated cardiomyopathy in juvenile Portuguese water dogs', 2002, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Key Facts

Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Weight: 16 – 25kg
Height: 43 – 57cm
Colours: Black, white, brown, black and white, and brown and white
Size: Medium
Kennel Club Group: Working


Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 5/5
Easy to train: 4/5
Tolerates being alone: 2/5
Likes other pets: 5/5
Energy level: 5/5
Grooming needs: 2/5
Shedding: 1/5
Portuguese Water Dog running in the field


Possibly as a by-product of a history of sitting quietly in boats before leaping into action, the Portuguese Water Dog, while extremely active, is surprisingly self-controlled and very trainable. They are friendly, happy dogs who bond closely to their families and who enjoy being a part of everything - but without training and enough exercise and stimulation they can become bored and unruly. Water is, unsurprisingly, a magnet for them!

Portuguese Water Dog standing at night

History and Origins

Country of Origin: Portugal

An ancient breed, the Portuguese Water Dog is closely related to the other waterfowl retrieving dogs of Europe but it is not classed as a gundog as its skills were put to very different uses. Instead of being a retriever, the Portuguese Water Dog was very much a fisherman’s friend working alongside their owners on the southern coast of Portugal - and would herd fish, move nets, retrieve escaped fish and would even take messages from boat to boat. With their keen eyesight, they would alert fishermen to shoals of fish in the water and on foggy nights, they would even act as a canine foghorn, barking to alert other boats to their presence.

Advancements in fishing technology however eventually meant that they were no longer needed and by 1960 they were on the verge of extinction with only 50 left. Thankfully a successful campaign was started to save the breed - and by 1984, they were recognised by the American Kennel Club and while still not common, their future seems secure.

did you know?

Did You Know?

  • The last canine residents of the White House were Portuguese Water Dogs. Bo was given to President Obama as a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy, and during his time in Washington he was known as the ‘first dog’. The Obamas were so enchanted by Bo that they got Sunny, another Portuguese Water Dog, as a playmate for him.
  • Portuguese Water Dogs have webbed feet which makes them amazing swimmers.
  • Despite being very fluffy, they have no undercoat which means they don’t really shed.
  • The first account of a Portuguese Water Dog was in 1297 when a monk reported a dying sailor who had been rescued from the sea with a dog with a ‘black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail’.
  • It’s thought that their bloodline influenced other breeds such as the Irish Water Spaniel and the Kerry Blue Terrier.