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Portuguese Waterdog (Breed Information)

Also known as Cao de Agua (dog of water), the Portuguese Waterdog is a fun-loving, water-loving, family loving and affectionate dog. Portuguese fishers used them for herding fish into nets, retrieving lost equipment or nets, and serving as a courier between boats and boats to shore.

Portuguese Waterdog At A Glance

  • Breed:  Portuguese Water Dog 
  • Breed Group:  Working 
  • Temperament: Adventurous, Affectionate, Athletic 
  • Doghouse Time Outdoor Ranking: 10 /10 for Temperature Climates
  • Worldwide Popularity:  Low
  • Breed Origin:  Portugal -Algarve Region

General Information and Breed History 

The Portuguese Waterdog who is a relative of the standard poodle was used for herding fish into nets, act as a messenger and courier between ships and shore, and retrieve lost tackles off the shore of Portugal. This dog is a swimming dog breed.  Portuguese fishermen relied on these muscular and strong dogs to be seaworthy and hardworking. These wonderful dogs helped these men make money for their families and put food on the table.    They have retired from the job due to technology, but they now have the job of being water rescue dogs.


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Back in the 1930s, the PWD was near extinction.   A man named Vasco Bensuade who was a very wealthy shipping magnate sought out the fishermen’s dogs, to re-establish the breed. He did very well, and most PWDs now can be traced back to Bensuade. We all owe Mr. Bensuade a huge thank for making sure that this wonderful dog breed did not go extinct!  


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PWDs are super active dogs that require a high level of physical activity.  They love being with their human handlers. Portuguese waterdogs are extremely intelligent and are great at swimming.

General Appearance 

The Portuguese Waterdog is known for its Standard Poodle like appearance, but the PWD is bigger and more muscular than the poodle.

The PWD is distinguished by two coat types curly or wavy.  Their tails are very thick and powerful and can be used as a rudder.  


The neck of the PWD is short, round, straight and very muscular. Its body is robust with a medium build. This dog is extremely strong and well-muscled which allows it to work on the land in the water for very long periods.

The ribs are well sprung that provide optimum lung capacity which is great for a working dog, especially a swimming work dog.  The back is very muscular and broad. The tail is not docked; thick and strong. Great for swimming and diving.  


  • Head- is very large and well-proportioned
  • Eyes- Roundish, medium size
  • Ears- Set high, and heart-shaped
  • Topline- Level


Portuguese Waterdogs have an extremely thick coat of healthy, strong hair. It has a profuse single coat this is either wavy or curly. There are two types of cuts that are acceptable for the Portuguese Waterdog, those two cuts are the lion clip, which the muzzle middle part, up to the tail are clipped, and the retriever cut, where the entire coat is cut to about 1 inch in length, and the tail is left at its full length.


  • Combinations of black or brown with white
  • Black
  • Brown
  • Black and White
  • Brown and White

Legs and Feet

Hindquarters are very powerful and well balanced.  Legs are parallel to each other and straight. Their upper and lower thighs are extremely strong and muscular. 

The forelegs are very muscular, strong and straight. Upper arms are very strong.  The feet are round and quite flat, with webbed toes which is great because they are a swimming dog breed. The padding on their feet is very thick. The thick padding would help protect their feet when coming in from the water, as shorelines are known to have sharp rocks. Just ask anyone who has come in from the ocean or lake how hard those rocks can be on their feet.

General Statistics 

  • Life Expectancy: 11-13 Years 
  • Size: 17-21 Inches Female
  • Size:  20-23 Inches Male
  • Weight:  35-50 Lbs Female, 42-60 Lbs Male

Recommended Doghouse Times Dimensions

These recommendations can be found on the doghouse dimensions chard for 440 recognized breeds which includes this dog breed.  To save you time, here are the doghouse minimum size requirements.

  • Door Height: 25.3 Inches
  • Door Width: 16.1 Inches
  • Inside Ceiling Height: 31.1 Inches
  • Interior House Length: 50.6 Inches
  • Interior House Width: 32.3 Inches 

Expected Costs 

Breed Average Puppy Cost: $2,100 USD

Starter Costs:  $3,100 USD

This is our estimated costs that can include the cost of the dog, plus any medical shots or examinations, food, bedding, leash, things like that.  This will get you started, but costs will go up when the dog matures and needs to be neutered or spayed and regular check-ups. 

Anticipated Annual Care Cost:  $2,000 USD


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How the Portuguese Water Dog Reacts To


The Portuguese Waterdog gets along well with children, especially if they are raised with them.   

It is very important to teach your children how to safely approach and pet a dog.  Never leave a child unsupervised around a dog as it can open the door for someone to get hurt from either party.  

Other Dogs and Animals 

PWDs will get along well with other dogs especially if they are raised with them.  However, they should be kept away from other animals such as birds, reptiles, and rodents as they will see them as prey.


They will tolerate cats if they are raised with them.

Care Requirements 


This dog NEEDS a lot of physical activity and mental challenges to keep them healthy and not wreaking your home out of boredom.  Dog sports are an excellent way to keep your dog physically and mentally healthy. Here are some sports suggestions: dock diving and retrieving.

Grooming and Coat Info

The PWD coat requires frequent and extensive coat grooming as the hair will keep growing.  Their hair around the eyes will grow to the point where it can interfere with the dog’s vision, along with matting of the body hair that will lead to skin irritations if not taken care of.

The coat ranges from loose and wavy to tight and curly and needs to be trimmed every two months and coat brushed every two days. 


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Health & Nutrition 


The Portuguese Waterdog does have a few health issues to look out for. But, in general, they are a pretty healthy breed.  

Hip Dysplasia

Thighbone doesn’t fit snug in the hip joint. 

Cataracts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy causes night blindness and can lead to permanent and complete blindness.  Cataracts cause poor vision.  You will notice a cloudy appearance in your dog’s eye if it is suffering from a cataract.  They usually show up in old age, and at times can be removed by surgery.

A reputable breeder will screen their stock for health issues.


Portuguese waterdogs do well on high-quality dog food, like most dogs.  Remember to check with your vet for the best dog food for your PWD.


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Highly intelligent, the Portuguese Waterdog does very with obedience training, and are able to follow complex commands.  They learn quickly and enjoy their training, and they are quite good at being service dogs.


Do Portuguese Waterdogs bark?

No, the Portuguese Waterdogs is not a real barker. But if left alone for long periods of time, or do not get the physical and mental exercise that they require then this will result in excessive barking.

Do PWD shed?

The Portuguese Waterdog sheds, but they shed much less than other dog breeds.

Is The Portuguese Water Dog a Swimming Dog Breed?

The Portuguese Waterdog is a swimming dog breed under the Working breed class.


The Portuguese Waterdog has webbed feet.

PDW has a waterproof coat


Recommended Book

Portuguese Waterdog Gifts

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