Spotlight on the Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dogs or PWDs, are medium-built dogs that look similar to Poodles due to their thick coats. Though there are written records of the breed as far back as 1297, it was first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1983. These dogs have risen in popularity since 2008, thanks in part to the adoption of Bo and Sunny by the Obama family, the First Family of the United States.

General Appearance

At first glance, a Portuguese Water Dog looks quite like a Poodle due to its profuse coat, but up close, you can see clear differences. According to the AKC standard, male PWD's average between 42 and 60 pounds, while females average 25 to 50 pounds. A male PWD has an ideal length of 22 inches while females are usually 19 inches tall at the shoulder. This medium-sized breed usually finds itself with a muscular build and strong bones.

  • With a broad head and a good-sized nose, the PWD sports a muzzle with a definite stop where it meets the skull.
  • The forehead is high, and the back of the skull is well curved.
  • PWDs have full, dark eyes with a calmly penetrating expression.
  • They also have heart-shaped ears that hang close to the skull.
  • The muscular neck flows into a broad, deep chest.
  • The topline is level.
  • The tail is thick at the base and tapers to the tip; it is never docked, and it curves over the back when the dog is alert.
  • Webbed feet are one of the most distinctive features of this breed.


The coat of these dogs is one of their greatest assets. The coat grows incredibly thick and provides excellent insulation. It is virtually waterproof and allows them to spend long hours swimming in cold water. It should also be noted that these dogs do not shed, and while it cannot be said that any breed is truly hypoallergenic, many claim that these dogs produce fewer allergic reactions than many other breeds.


PWDs come in two coat varieties, neither of which is favored over the other.

  • Wavy: This coat hangs in waves and has a soft shine.
  • Curly: This coat produces dense curls, similar in texture to a Poodle.


Colors include:

  • Black
  • All shades of brown
  • White
  • Silver
  • Parti-color (This is a combination of one of the solid colors and white.)


The personality of the average PWD is a wonderful combination of liveliness, common sense, and a willingness to cooperate and please. Bred for endurance, PWDs tend to not be hyperactive and can make wonderful companions for adults and children under the right conditions. They get along well with other dogs and can be trained to accept cats if they are raised with them as youngsters.

One thing potential owners must realize is that PWDs are devoted to their people, and they require a good deal of attention to remain well adjusted. PWDs do not thrive on being left alone most of the day without companionship. Boredom leads to frustration, and frustration can lead to behavior problems.


PWDs love to work closely with human companions, so you will find PWDs train with greater ease than many other breeds. However, these dogs are independent thinkers, which makes it necessary for you to take the leadership position from the beginning. They respond well to positive training methods because they have such a strong desire to please. Harsh reprimands will only slow down the learning process. PWDs love to participate in nearly any activity including obedience, agility, retrieving, and other field sports.


Bred to be a working dog, the athletic PWD needs daily exercise and mental stimulation. Plan on taking a walk with your dog every day to help him burn off excess energy. Since these dogs love the water so much, you should take your pet swimming a couple times a week if you can manage it. Barring a full swim, a rousing game of fetch along the shoreline also provides plenty of exercise and stimulation. Playing fetch asks your dog to perform a task, and by giving your dog a job to fulfill, he'll feel more content.

Lack of proper exercise and companionship can lead to destructive behavior such as tearing up furniture or chewing your belongings.


To prevent matting, make sure to brush and bath these dogs consistently. There are two main trims:

  • Lion clip: The muzzle and rear are shaved, leaving the coat hanging long over the rest of the body.
  • Retriever clip: This is a utilitarian clip with the entire coat scissored to approximately one inch in length. The only exception is the tail.


On average, PWDs live between ten and 14 years. The fairly robust breed has a few serious health problems which you should be aware.

Cataracts: PWDs are one of the breeds affected by cataracts. These occur when the opacity of the lens affects one or both a PWD's eyes, either partially or completely. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

  • Dysplasia: This condition causes painful degeneration of the hip and elbow joints.
  • PRA blindness: This condition causes atrophy of the retina.
  • GM-1 storage disease: This condition usually becomes evident around six months of age. It causes nerve damage and is usually fatal because the disease is well under way before it becomes evident.
  • Juvenile cardiomyopathy: This hereditary heart condition causes sudden death in puppies.
  • Distichiasis: This disease may appear at any time in a PWD's life wherein the eyelashes unusually grow in the eyelid margin. Ocular irritation is a typical end result of such abnormality.


The average cost to purchase a purebred Portuguese Water Dog is around $2,000. Add in the cost of registrations, certifications, puppy wellness care, and immunizations and your initial layout could be much more. There are a few factors that can affect the price of a PWD, including age, breeder, sex, coat, personality, and behavior.

Additional Costs

In addition to the cost of the puppy initially, there are a few additional costs to think about.

  • In addition, if you were to purchase a dog from a breeder that lives in a state on the other side of the country, you will also have to add between $150 to $350 in shipping fees to fly your puppy home to you.
  • With such a fluffy coat, a PWD needs regular grooming at home, and should see a professional dog groomer every four to six weeks.
  • Being high-energy dogs, some breeders recommend feeding PWDs a grain-free, low-carbohydrate diet that is supplemented with fish oils due to the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids present in fish.

Finding a Water Dog Rescue Organization

Although Portuguese Water Dogs can be purchased from reputable breeders, there are also a few rescue organizations that are devoted to the breed.

PWDCA Rescue and Relocation

The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America (PWDCA) Rescue and Relocation Program's goal is to find safe and loving homes for all needy PWDs, as well as assisting PWD owners in dealing with training issues.

Rescue Me! Portugese Water Dog Rescue

Rescue Me! Portuguese Water Dog Rescue helps give PWD's a second chance by locating a happy home for them.

Is a PWD Right for You?

Portugese Water Dogs are wonderful pets for the right people. If you are prepared for the challenge of living with a large and energetic dog that requires regular grooming, you just may find that this wonderful dog makes the perfect addition to your household.

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Spotlight on the Portuguese Water Dog