Portuguese Water Dog

June 4, 2020 // 6 minute read

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Portuguese Water Dogs or known as Cao de Agua in their place of origin, is a smart, easy to train, and water-loving breed. The Portuguese Water Dog has a muscular body designed for working, head longer than the muzzle, and ears dropped. They are covered with curly or wavy coats that come in black, white, or brown.

This dog breed makes an excellent family companion. Regardless of where you live, the Porties can easily adapt to any living conditions. With the right owner, they are affectionate, loyal, and fun to have.

Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog Statistics

Dog Breed GroupWorking
Breed SizeMedium
Height20-23 inches (male); 17-21 inches (female)
Weight42-60 pounds (male); 35-50 pounds (female)
Lifespan11-13 years

Portuguese Water Dog Ratings

Energy level
Exercise needs
Requires attention
Friendly with family
Friendly with kids
Friendly with strangers
Friendly with other dogs
Prey Drive


From their name itself, Portuguese Water Dogs came from Portugal’s coast, where they assisted Portuguese fishers. They herd fish into nets, retrieve lost tackle, and even act as messengers between ships and shore.

They are believed to be an ancient breed that came from Central Asia way back in 700 BC. And how they came to Portugal is not still unsure.

In the early 20th century, Portuguese Water Dogs almost disappeared because of modernized fishing. Fortunately, Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy man who loves the breed, saved them.

It was in the 1930s when his efforts to save the breed started. And by 1958, two Portuguese Water Dogs were successfully imported into the United States through a rare breed exchange program. Since then, the popularity of the dog breed has grown.

By 1984, the American Kennel Club officially registered the dog into the working group. They also rank well in popularity among all dog breeds in the US.

Portuguese Water Dog Breed


The American Kennel Club describes the Portugues Water Dog as affectionate, adventurous, and athletic. They are generally stable and sensible with very high energy.

He loves to play and needs large amounts of daily exercise such as long walks, occasional runs, and swimming. Mental stimulation is essential, too. That’s why he needs someone who can cope up with his energy.

They can be very demanding and may not be an excellent fit for those who don’t like outdoors. If not entertained, these dogs can be destructive.

These dogs can be independent, but you must not place them in kennels. They prefer being with their humans.

When it comes to people, their temperaments can range from friendly to polite. They are incredibly affectionate and loyal dogs with their humans but might turn out to reserve with strangers. They can also live well with other pets they grew up with.

Training your Portuguese Water Dog would require a lot of patience. You should also be consistent and treat them nicely.

Early socialization is crucial too. Expose them to many people, animals, sights, and sounds. This way, they can become well-rounded dogs.

Care Requirements

  • Nutrition: Portuguese Water Dogs need a high-quality, premium, and well-balanced diet. It must contain all the essential nutrients a dog needs – protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Calorie intake is something that you also need to watch as you don’t want to overfeed your dogs. You can feed a puppy Portuguese Water Dog four meals a day, which decreases as it grows older. If you’re going with dog food, make sure that it only contains high-quality ingredients with high nutritional value. This means no filler, artificial flavoring, and by-products. For home-cooked meals, you can get the right protein from chicken, fish, or lamb meat. Add some brown rice for carbohydrate source, and fruits and vegetables for some fiber. You can give them dog treats too. However, make sure to include the calories from the treats in your dog’s daily calorie intake.
  • Grooming: The Portuguese Water Dog has a dense coat that ranges from tight and curly to loose and wavy. It sheds seasonally but requires extensive grooming to ensure that mats and tangles won’t form. Take him occasionally to an expert grooming to have his hair trimmed if it starts getting too long. You can do this yourself also if you’re confident. Give him occasionally baths to keep him looking his best. And since they love water, you can take him for a swim regularly. Make sure to keep their nails short, as long nails cause pain and discomfort to any dog breed.
  • Exercise: Portuguese Water Dogs are active dog breeds that need regular exercise to keep him happy. This can be in the form of long daily walks or play sessions in your backyard. You can also have him participate in sports events that will showcase his obedience, tracking, agility, and dock diving skills. Plus, this is great bonding for both of you. But the best exercise you can offer him is swimming. You can create activities that will make him like he’s doing water work. He’ll be happier this way.
  • Health: The most common health issue Portuguese Water Dog owners encounter is hip dysplasia. This is a condition where the hip joint no longer fits well into the thigh bone, causing discomfort and pain. The dog breed is also prone to eye problems such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy, which can cause blindness. It would be best if you also watched for some genetic diseases like GM1 Storage Disease and GM1 gangliosidosis. These are diseases that affect the dog’s nervous system and can cause death. Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy is also common where a puppy dies a sudden death at seven months old. Sadly, this has no cure. However, one can take a DNA test to determine if the dog is a carrier. Screening tests are also available for other health conditions, so it’s best to have your dog take one. You can also see the parent’s records if they have existing genetic conditions that you need to be aware of.
  • Lifespan: The life expectancy of Portuguese Water Dogs is 11-13 years.

Portuguese Water Dog Facts


Famous Portuguese Water Dogs

  • Sunny and Bo: President Obama’s Portuguese Water Dogs; Bo holds the title as the “first family dog” of the Obama family in the White House
  • Sunny and Splash: Late Senator Ted Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dogs; It was Ted Kennedy who gifted the Portie, Bo, to President Obama

Fun Facts about Portuguese Water Dogs

  • The breed originated from Portugal to assist Portuguese fishers while they’re out of the sea.
  • They are known as Cao de Agua or dog of water in Portugal.
  • Portuguese Water Dogs have webbed feet which aid them in swimming.
  • They helped sailors of Spanish Armada in the 1500s.
  • They have hypoallergenic coats.
  • They survived extinction in the 1930s, thanks to a Portuguese businessman.
  • There’s a Portuguese Water Dogs’ dog group named BARK (Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps). It is composed of six Porties who help retrieve homerun balls when they hit the waters of San Francisco Bay.
  • The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1983.
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