The Portuguese Water Dog

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Portuguese Water Dog
'Cao de Agua'
Weight: 35 — 50 lbs
Height: 17” — 23”
AKC Rank 2008 #62
Lifespan: 10—14 yrs
Group: Working
Origin: Portugal

Dog Breed Info - Portuguese Water Dog

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Breed Overview

Original function: Fishing aid. Today: Water rescue. Colors: Black,. White, Brown or combos of black or brown with white.

In Portugal the Portuguese Water Dog distinguished itself by it’s affinity for water by herding fish into nets and retrieving lost nets. They also worked as boat to boat and boar to shore messengers. Later the same dogs became part of trawler crews. The fishermen and the dogs began to leave the coast in the early 20th century. A Dr. Vasco Bensuade, a wealthy shipping gentleman, promoted the breed and through his efforts a breed club was organized, a breed standard was written, and the first dogs were seen in the show ring. About this time the first Portuguese Water Dogs came to America, where they gained a bit of a following The AKC registered the breed in 1984 and then the popularity grew more as a family companion.

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Yes, will learn. Not the fastest, but he can learn. Try using a clicker and be amazed. Clicker training works wonders. It is used with positive reinforcement and helps even the most sensitive of dogs.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your Portuguese Water Dog puppy? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

The Portuguese Dog is not too difficult to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


The Portuguese Water Dog enjoys anything involving water. She's a fun-loving, family dog that gets along well with kids and household pets as a rule. This breed is rather sensitive, even to your voice commands. This is an ideal breed for the outdoors person wanting an adventurous, easy to manage partner.

If you happen to get a Portuguese Water Dog with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Portuguese Water Dog Face
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Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Usually. May choose his dog friends.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Yes, accepts house pets quite well.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Maybe. Can be wary or reserved with some strangers.


Yes, very playful. Happy little dog.


Yes, affectionate, especially with family.

Good with children

Yes, good with kids, especially older ones 6 or 7 and up. Quite tolerant. Young kids need close supervision.

Good with Seniors over 65?

No. Needs too much exercise.

Living environment

Apartment, condo, farm. A place near a lake or ocean would be ideal. The Portuguese Water Dog needs human companionship and interaction so needs to be indoors with people. It’s an indoor/outdoor dog so divide her time.

Energy level

High energy

Exercise needs, daily

Active dog. If possible, needs swimming and retrieving for exercise. Or, long walks or jogging, Or, vigorous play time or other exercise.


Yes, fairly good. Will announce intruders.

Guard dog

Fair. He tries, but he’s no Staffordshire Terrier.


Very little.


Yes. Her coat needs combing and brushing 4 times a week to keep from matting and scissoring every 4 to 6 weeks, possibly by a professional.


Suggested Reading - Portuguese Water Dog
Click on the cover photos for more book information.

The book on the right is by thew American National Red Cross and deals with dog illness, emergencies and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners.


Portuguese Water Dog Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Portuguese Water Dog puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training.
Portuguese Water Dog Breeders with puppies for sale.

Portuguese Water Dog Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for a Portuguese Water Dog Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Portuguese Water Dog Rescue At the time of this writing, Petfinder is only showing 21 PW Dogs available for adoption in the entire USA! That is subject to change, of course.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site but based on what we found with Petfinder above, you may have trouble locating one of these dogs. Go online and search for Portuguese Water Dog Rescue groups and also kennels and foster homes. Check your local newspaper classifieds too. This breed is not easy to find.

DogHealth Issues For The Portuguese Water Dog
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems as listed for the breed by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are medical issues this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—(PRA) An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Distichiasis—An eye condition involving the cornea. Eyelashes, growing improperly on the inner surface of the eyelid cause corneal ulcers due to the constant rubbing and irritation. The problem is fixed by having the vet remove the lashes if the ulcers don’t heal.

  • Addison’s disease—Hypoadrenocorticism—Inability of the adrenal gland to produce several important hormones.. One of them is cortisol which the body needs to regulate the conversion of proteins and fat into glucose. Some symptoms: Not eating, depression, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, excess drinking, and in advanced cases, fast heart rate, and collapse. This kind of mimics kidney disorders and other problems but can be detected by a sharp vet through blood work. The solution for this is to give the Portuguese Water Dog with Addison’s disease replacement supplements. As long as the dog gets the replacement supplements every day, she can live a fairly healthy life.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain, lameness, arthritis and difficulty walking for the Portuguese Water Dog. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Alopecia – Genetic disease (Follicular dysplasia) that causes hair loss. Caused by structurally malfunctioning hair follicles. Most common area affected is where grooming occurs and around the neck where the collar is placed. Attempts at treatment generally don't work. Sometimes part of the hair will grow back.

  • Otitis externa—Ear infections—Inflammation and infection of the outer ear, especially dogs with long, floppy ear flaps. Dirt and moisture collect and breed yeast and bacteria. Ear hair and wax contribute to the infection environment. If left untreated it can become a serious infection. If at home treatments with cleaning and meds don't work and the problem worsens, surgery might be the last resort. Ear infections are common, especially if the dog has spent a lot of time in the water.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Seizures - a disorder that usually shows up at around 2 to 4 or 5 years of age in the dog.

Other health problems could occur with your Portuguese Water Dog. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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