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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 experienced owners
  • Some training required
  • Enjoys vigorous walks
  • Enjoys walking more than two hours a day
  • Medium dog
  • Minimum drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Hypoallergenic breed
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Guard dog. Barks and alerts
  • May require training to live with other pets
  • Great family dog

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


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!

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.

Health and Common Issues

Exercise Needs

Space Requirements

Nutrition and Feeding

Grooming Portuguese Water Dogs

Training Portuguese Water Dogs

Best Family Dog Breeds

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.
Dog with red collar looking out the window
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