The Portuguese Water Dog Rescue

Dogs Human Classroom

If you live in a place that has a lot of space, with access to water, and you are looking for a dog that is sociable and affectionate to be with your family, the Portuguese Water Dog is your best option, it is a dog that will not disappoint you and will fulfill all your expectations, it has a unique intelligence that makes it adaptable to many environments, including being trained to be a water rescue dog, however, you must take into consideration that this breed is not for first-timers, it takes a lot of responsibility in the care of its coat as well as giving it the necessary space and time. Also, it is a dog that has gained a lot of fame lately and more after the previous president Barack Obama showed having 2 Portuguese Water Dogs named Bo and sunny. If you are interested in knowing more about this breed, I invite you to continue reading.


The Portuguese water dog or also known as Porties is a breed that was very important for the Portuguese fishing community in the past years. It is known for belonging to a group of ancient breeds, although there are many theories about where this dog comes from, it is believed that this breed had its origin in Central Asia and was brought to Europe by travelers or by the colonials of each era and its presence is believed to date back to the 5th century. But one of the data that are officially recognized is about a report written by a monk in 1297, where he narrates that a sailor was saved from the sea by a dog that has a black coat of rough hair trimmed to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail. It is believed that this dog shares the same ancestor as the poodle, and it is also believed that he had a part in the creation of the Irish Water spaniel.

This breed was developed mainly in Portugal, as its name says. They have great qualities to be a working dog, their great intelligence and great physical ability allowed them to perform in many jobs but specialized to be mainly a water dog, their great ability to swim and excel in fishing activities was what allowed them to be recognized in this way and for being fisherman’s best friend. Throughout the centuries, this dog spread all over the Portuguese coast and every Portuguese fisherman had a Portuguese water dog, where they got used to living in boats, doing jobs at sea to help fishermen to guide fish into nets, help them to pick up equipment or things lost in the water, and also to be a messenger between boats. He was a dog with a great muscular body and known to be a great working dog that adapts to any type of water, from the warmest to the freezing waters off the coast of Iceland.

As time went by, everything changed and the fishing work was reduced and adapted to new technologies, in which the work of the Portuguese water dog was no longer necessary, almost reaching its extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, but a wealthy businessman and dog lover called Vasco Bensaude decided to save this breed and little by little with his effort has the population increased until it could be recognized. In 1958 the first dogs arrived to present the breed in the United States and a few years later this dog was gradually recognized so much that its followers founded The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America in 1972, establishing its breed standards and positively promoting this magnificent dog. Due to its increase and its participation in Dog shows in 1983 The American Kennel Club officially recognized Portie as a distinct breed and currently Ranks 50 of 196 in the AKC Breed Popularity. Today this dog is trained to be a water rescue dog taking advantage of his swimming skills.


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The Portuguese Water is a medium-sized dog with a muscular, toned, and agile body. It belongs to the Working Group at the AKC and has an approximate life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. The male PWD has a length of 20 to 23 inches with a weight of 42 to 60 pounds, the female has a length of 17 to 21 inches and weighs 35 to 50 pounds. The head of the Portuguese water is big but it goes in proportion to its body, its eyes are rounded, with good separation and of dark colors. Its ears are large and naturally droopy, with a good base separation, and are heart-shaped, the length of its ears should never exceed the level of the lower jaw. His muzzle is protruding and narrows towards the nose and has a well-marked stop. His body is longer than tall, has a wide and deep chest, a broad back and well defined, his abdomen has an elegant line, the front is larger while it is pulled to the end, has a tail a wide base and is narrowed to reach the tip that is covered with a good amount of long hair in which it gives much help when swimming. Its extremities are well developed, muscular, and strong. The Portuguese water dog reaches its full size around 6 to 8 months.

Something very characteristic of this breed is that it has a single layer of thick, strong, and healthy coat, water-resistant, and does not make any shedding. There are two types of coats in the Portuguese water dog, which is the curly one that is shorter, compact with more pronounced curls, and with less shine. And there is the Wavy, which is a coat with slightly fallen waves, which is longer and shinier. The coat color can be black, brown, and white, the latest being the least common, and also is accepted variations in these three tones, or mixtures between them. The style of their coat is used in two ways, due to historical records describe the PWD as a lion dog by the type of cut it had, called Lion clip, where his coat was covered from the ribs to the head, leaving the whole back without fur. lastly, there is the retriever clip style that is with the entire body covered uniformly.


This dog breed is known for having an active, loving, playful, and energetic temperament. Due to its history of being a water working dog, it is a dog that has a lot of energy so allowing it access to a place with space so that it can move freely outside is necessary, also that it has a schedule to make the daily exercise of at least two hours walks divided into two outings, or if you live near someplace with access to the water, allow it to swim what it wants to spend its energies, if you are a person who is going to have inconvenience with your pet getting wet often, this dog is not suitable for you. You can also make intelligence games since you can stimulate more and they have the facility to learn many things. These dogs are known to have a very close relationship with their families, they get along very well with all kinds of people and more with children, but always keep an eye on them if they are very young. Due to their closeness to their family they do not tolerate loneliness well nor spend much time alone, they are usually very destructive so they suffer from separation anxiety, developing negative behaviors, stress, depression. If you are a person who lives alone and spends a lot of time outside the house, I do not recommend this breed. 

Due to the intelligence and independence in certain aspects that this breed has, it is very good to teach them from week 8 onwards how they should behave and know what the limits are for living together inside and outside the home, as well as socializing them from a young age so that they get used to any type of environment and avoid future inconveniences. Always apply a positive education and training to ensure that the temperament of your pet is correct and progressive, avoiding bad habits so you should also take into consideration not to delay in starting this process because later it will be too late. And never forget to give him his daily dose of love and affection, the Portuguese are dogs that appreciate every moment with you, they will be willing to do everything for you without needing something in return, and will be able to create great memories together.


Due to its curly and wavy coat can get to form knots, so it is good to perform daily grooming with several brushes to help him untangle, and at the same time remove their dead coat, especially with the wavy and long hair, to keep it clean, shiny and beautiful, I also recommend that you take him to a dog groomer from time to time to ensure that his care is by a professional and avoid inconvenience. They don’t need baths in a row, but if you see that it is very dirty or has a bad smell you can bathe it whenever you want using only special shampoos for dogs that do not contain chemicals that affect their health. Portuguese Water Dogs don’t shed much and are often considered hypoallergenic, so it could be the perfect dog for people who suffer from allergies, before having one, you should try staying one day with Portie and see if there is a reaction.

You must take good care of his nails, use dog nail clippers to keep them short. Always check his ears, eyes, and legs, to prevent fungus and infection. You must always be aware of the fur on their body to see if they have fleas, ticks, or parasites, as well as spikes and weeds. You also have to check and maintain good oral hygiene, cleaning a few times a week with toothpaste and toothbrush for dogs because they are prone to have dental disease. If they don’t give them good care since they are puppies, they can start with tartar build-up on the teeth, and progresses to having an infection of the gums and roots of the teeth while growing. Therefore, it is important to know that putting the risk that they can lose the tooth completely and suffer tooth abnormalities. Your vet will recommend which products to use to avoid all this and that which are healthy for your pet. Make sure you take your pet for a check-up every 6 months, and that you are up to date with its vaccinations and deworming.

Due to their great and muscular body, they can enjoy good health, but also like other dogs they can suffer from certain conditions and illnesses that can harm them if they are not given the proper care. One of the main ones that are better known in dog breeds with these physical characteristics usually have a percentage of risk for bone malformation diseases, tend to suffer from hip dysplasia being one of the most common, it is a disease that makes the hip bone doesn’t fit with the femur, causing wear and joint pain, so if you see your dog limping you should go to the vet as soon as you can as with any other changes on his behavior. 

Porties also suffer from progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease, and one of the main symptoms that can develop is night blindness, and over the years your dog will become visually handicapped, so be sure to have your pet checked by your vet every few times between the early years to ensure this inherited disease is ruled out, and to make sure your Portuguese water puppies don’t inherit it.

Because PWDs are susceptible to certain genetic diseases, it is recommended that when you go to a Portuguese water dog breeder you should request the following genetic tests to rule out any disease: 

  • PRA Optigen DNA Test.
  • GM-1 DNA Test.
  • JDCM DNA Test.
  • Including an Ophthalmologist Evaluation and Hip Evaluation.


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Feeding is very important since it will determine your dog’s health, since your Portuguese water is a breed that is very active and does a lot of exercises, he will require a good amount of nutrients to recharge his energy, if you decide to give him commercial food the main thing you have to do is to make sure you give him high-quality food, or if you decide to give him home-prepared food you have to guide yourself under your veterinarian’s indications to know which is his best diet. Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so you should be careful with your dog’s caloric consumption and weight level. It will also depend on the age of the pet or what type of food he should eat, because if he is a puppy he needs certain nutrients that will help him to develop well and have good health, and later on, depending on his adult lifestyle, will vary his feeding as well as when he is a senior, always you can inform yourself with your vet what would be the best for your puppy. Don’t forget to leave him his plate of clean and fresh water, so he can stay hydrated all the time and more in this breed that is known to be a working dog.


If you consider that this is the right breed for you and you want to get a Portuguese water dog puppy, you can do it through a reputable breeder within the AKC marketplace, since it is the only exclusive site that has registered 100% of litters, and the breeders who have cared and dedicated to raising puppies following the rules and regulations established by the AKC. In this way, you can be sure that your pup is in good health through all the certificates and tests performed, that he was raised in good conditions, that he had all his check-ups, vaccinations, and deworming done by a veterinarian. Also, you can be sure that his parents are not exploited just to have puppies, but that their breeding time is respected and they are under all the care they deserve. Avoid having them through puppy mills or pet stores that do not give you a true picture of the health of your puppy, and by the way, this makes the pet exploitation keep growing.

Also, if you want you can go to shelter dog or Portuguese water dog rescue groups to adopt them and give them a second chance to be with a family, as many PWD are abandoned because the people who get them are not aware of the responsibilities that come with carrying this pet, so before deciding on having this breed inform yourself! 

Without a doubt, you should keep in mind that getting a Portuguese Water Dog means having a lot of responsibilities, you should do everything necessary to give it the life it deserves, it is a dog that requires attention, care and giving it the necessary space to avoid any inconvenience, it is not a breed for first-timers. But if you are willing to include this dog as a member of your family, and you are an active person who likes to exercise and especially swim, it will be a tremendous option, his loyalty, love, and affection is something that will be worthwhile and you will not regret it. If you have any questions or think I missed something please let me know in the comment section down below.

Professor Whiskers
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