Portuguese Water Dogs: Steadfast Fishing Buddies

 Friday Jul 21,2023
By  Lancaster Puppies

Portuguese Water Dogs have a vast history that goes back centuries, with their love of water remaining an intrinsic trait throughout the years. Engaging in various aquatic activities from water rescues to assisting with fishing, this friendly breed loves having a job and staying active. Keep reading to learn more about the Portuguese Water Dog’s personality, history, and care.

Breed History

Breed Spotlight infographic for Portuguese Water Dogs with traits. Energetic and playful, family dog, outgoing and social, great with kids, and easy to train.The Portuguese Water Dogs’ exact origins are unknown; however, the breed can be traced back to the 1200s and is believed to be related to the Poodle. These dogs are largely recognized for their work helping fishermen along the coast of Portugal. Portuguese Water Dogs would assist fishermen by acting as a courier between boats and land, retrieving items from water, and herding fish into nets.

As technology advanced, fishermen no longer relied on help from Portuguese Water Dogs and the breed began to dwindle in numbers. In the 1930s, the breed caught the interest of Vasco Bensuade, a rich Portuguese businessman who started breeding Portuguese Water Dogs. Bensuade and his sire Leão were so important in saving the breed from extinction that many modern-day Portuguese Water Dogs can be traced back to Leão.

By the 1960s this breed had found its way to the United States and was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in the early 1980s. Today, the Portuguese Water Dog is a well-loved athletic companion and water rescue dog.

Portuguese Water Dog Characteristics

Appearance & Coat

The Portuguese Water Dog is a medium-sized dog that stands around 17 to 23 inches tall and weighs between 35 to 60 pounds. This breed has triangle ears that hang down, a curved tail that’s either downward or upright, and an athletic build. Portuguese Water Dogs have waterproof coats that are either black, brown, or white. Their coats can be solid or have markings.

This breed has a single coat that’s thick and either curly or wavy. Because it doesn’t have an undercoat, the Portuguese Water Dog sheds lightly. Its light-shedding coat makes this breed a good fit for families with allergies or people who don’t want loose hair throughout their homes.


Portuguese Water Dogs are intelligent, friendly dogs that love spending time with their families. Due to their social natures, these dogs don’t enjoy being left alone or kenneled for extended periods of time.

The Portuguese Water Dog is playful and gentle, two traits that are apparent in its interactions with children. These dogs are dedicated to their families and will be a protective watchdog if needed. Even though they can be protective, Portuguese Water Dogs are very cuddly and love curling up with their owners. These affectionate and adaptable dogs are happy to spend the day playing and exploring with their families.


The Portuguese Water Dog is known to be a healthy breed that lives around 11 to 13 years. However, being purebred, this breed still needs to be examined for hereditary conditions. Routine check-ups at your vet are necessary for your dog to stay healthy.

To ensure they are in good health, Portuguese Water Dog owners should have their dogs checked for hip dysplasia, Addison’s Disease, follicular dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and dilated cardiomyopathy. Because these dogs love spending time in the water, their ears need to be frequently dried and cleaned to avoid ear infections.

Caring for a Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog’s Ideal Home

Did you know? Portuguese Water Dogs were bred to herd, but not cattle or sheep like most breeds. Fishermen used them to herd fish into their nets, using their webbed feet to swim with speed.Portuguese Water Dogs need owners who are active and can meet their daily exercise needs. While they are best suited for homes with fenced-in backyards to run and play, these dogs can also live in apartments if they get enough exercise.

The Portuguese Water Dog’s ideal family is one that’s attentive and enjoys spending time outdoors, especially in or around water. Owners that travel often should be prepared to bring their Portuguese Water Dogs along on adventures. These athletic dogs need families that will spend plenty of time with them and see them as part of the family.

Training Best Practices

This breed is highly intelligent, eager to please, and easy to train. Portuguese Water Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement like treats and praise. Owners usually find their Portuguese Water Dogs can pick up tasks and commands quickly without any problems. Obedience training is a great way to bond with these dogs and help them burn off energy.

Exercise Needs

Portuguese Water Dogs are part of the working dog group, so they need to be kept busy or given a job to do. This breed is full of energy and will need both physical and mental exercise every day. To exercise your dog mentally, you can teach them new tricks, take them on enrichment walks, and encourage play with interactive toys and puzzles.

These dogs love spending time outdoors and enjoy burning energy in many ways. You can exercise your Portuguese Water Dog through swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, long walks, and trail running. This breed needs around 40 minutes to 1 hour of intense exercise every day to stay content and healthy.

Grooming & Hygiene

A Portuguese Water Dog’s thick coat is high maintenance and needs regular care. To keep this breed’s coat healthy and tangle-free, it will need to be brushed around 2 to 3 times each week. Likewise, these dogs should be trimmed on a monthly basis to keep their coats manageable.

Portuguese Water Dogs should be given a bath once a month or every other month. Any time these dogs spend time in a pool, lake, creek, or pond, you will need to wash them off with clean water to remove dirt and chemicals. Just remember to always dry out your dog’s ears after they spend time in the water or get a bath!

Does the Portuguese Water Dog sound like the perfect canine companion for your lifestyle? Find Portuguese Water Dog puppies near you! To learn more about these dogs and browse similar breeds, check out Lancaster Puppies.