History and General Description

Known for centuries as a lifesaver, courier, retriever and companion, the Portuguese Water Dog has long been associated with the life of the Portuguese fisherman and with the sea. He is a recent arrival on the pure-bred scene in the United States, only gaining AKC recognition in 1984. This versatile breed is winning the hearts of sailors and land lubbers alike.

This ancient breed once existed everywhere along the coast of Portugal. There the water dog worked for centuries the small boats of the Portuguese fisherman. The tasks required the dogs to have great stamina, intelligence and excellent swimming skills. Daily he would earn his keep by diving after escaping fish, retrieving fishing gear and carrying messages from ship to ship. At night he was responsible for guarding the days catch. A portion of the catch would be the water dogs reward for a well done job. Today, due to technical changes in the fishing system, the breed has become restricted to the province of Algarve, which is now considered his home.

With the advent of the advanced communications systems and mechanized fishing gear, the demand for the working dog diminished. As a result, breeding decreased and threatened the continuing existence to the Portuguese Water Dog. The entire world population of this breed, in 1960, was a mere fifty dogs. There were a few devoted breeders in Portugal that had taken on the task of preserving this noble working dog. Thanks to their efforts and the efforts of breeders in the United States, the Portuguese Water Dog seems to be insured of a strong future.

General Description

A lively, robust dog of exceptional intelligence. He is an eager worker that is resistant to fatigue, which makes him an excellent companion and obedience dog.

SIZE: Males, 20-23 inches and between 42 and 60 pounds; Females, 17 to 21 inches and between 35 and 50 pounds.

COAT: Profuse coat which may be either curly or wavy. The curly coat forms compact cylindrical curls, thickly planted and somewhat lusterless. The wavy coat is a rather loose coat with a light sheen. Both coats are equally acceptable.

COLOR: Black, white, and various tones of brown, also combinations of black or brown with white. The skin is decidedly bluish. Nose is black, except in brown dogs, whose noses are the same as the coat. Eyes should be either black or brown, they are preferably dark.

CLIPS: Two styles are acceptable in the show ring.

  • Lion Clip: As soon as the coat grows long, the middle and hindquarters, as well as the muzzle are clipped. The tail is also clipped leaving the last 2-3 inches of the tail at full length.
  • Retriever Clip: The entire coat is scissored or clipped following the outline of the dog leaving a short blanket appearing no longer than 1 inch in length. Again, a tuft at the end of the tail.

Return to Top