The Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) is a medium-sized ancient breed of working dog native to Portugal and in ancient times was considered sacred. Called the Cao de Agua, it means “dog of water”, possessing webbed feet which aids in its swimming. Originally, they worked alongside Portuguese fishermen herding fish and retrieving nets, being prized for their strength, spirit and aptitude for swimming and diving. So much so that they were considered part of the crew. Additionally, they were used to carry messages and food from one ship to another. The non-shedding qualities of the PWD aided in the increased popularity of the breed in more recent years. (It should be noted that no breed of dog is scientifically proven to be hypoallergenic however the single-layer non-shedding coat of the PWD has made it possible for many asthma/allergy sufferers to become dog owners.)
The PWD can be quite sensitive, very curious, highly intuitive, fun-loving, eager to please and fiercely loyal. They are independent but have a very strong need to be near their owner often being referred to as “velcro dogs”. Likewise, they have a strong need to please their owner. They love to play, can be easily trained and are very active. Because of their deep empathetic nature, they can make great service and therapy dogs. Often identified incorrectly as a standard poodle, the PWD possesses a much more muscular build.
Their coat colors are black, white, brown, white with dark markings, or black or brown with white markings. The coats are thick and may be curly or wavy in texture. Some may have mixed pattern hair being curly all over and wavy on the ears and tail. Grooming is suggested every 6-8 weeks and brushing every other day if not daily.
The PWD has two coat types: wavy (falls in gentle waves with a slight sheen) and curly (compact, cylindrical curls, somewhat luster less). Either type can be groomed to a lion clip or retriever clip. The traditional lion clip originated with the fishing dogs of Portugal. With the hindquarters being shaved, It was meant to allow easier movement of the back legs and their powerful, rudder-like tail. It was also meant to protect vital organs (heart, lungs, kidneys) warm from the shock of the cold waters when jumping from boats. The retriever clip is more straight forward and the entire coat is trimmed down to a length of about one inch. The natural outline of the body is adhered to. Many people find it is best to use a slicker brush or a pin brush (wire pins tipped with rubber). Brushing them every day is recommended with a full coat trim every 4-6 months
It’s important to note that the PWD can be a notorious chewer, quite mouthy, habitual counter surfer, a greeting jumper and an attention seeker. Any new owner should realize that you must be consistent in training them to do as you wish!