Portuguese Water Dogs: 18 Little-Known Facts About This Unusual Breed

by Regina

Celebrity Dog Owners, Dog Breeds, Portuguese Water Dogs

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Portuguese water dogs are a beautiful breed. They were originally bred in Portugal to assist fisherman.

They were used beginning in the 1500s to guard the fisherman’s boat, to get fish and other things from the water, and to help bring in the nets.

Portuguese water dogs also helped fishermen that fell into the water, to prevent them from drowning.

When the job of fishing became easier due to modern technology, the breed nearly died out. At one point, there were only 25 Portuguese water dogs in the entire world!

This is no longer a problem, and thanks to dog breeders, there are thousands around the world today.

Here are lots of interesting facts about the Portuguese water dog…

#1  Like poodles, Portuguese water dogs are a single coated breed. They have no undercoat to shed from. Most people who have allergies are affected by the shedding done by dogs with an undercoat. So that’s not a problem with Portuguese water dogs!

#2  Portuguese water dogs have webbed toes. This is common among most water dogs, as the webbed toes are designed for swimming with ease. They are generally good swimmers and divers.

#3  Portuguese water dogs have a multi-octave voice. Because of this, their bark and other sounds they make are very distinctive. They are also excellent hearing-ear, or deaf assistance dogs, and they make excellent therapy dogs.

#4  Portuguese water dogs are easy to train in obedience and agility.

#5  Portuguese water dogs do not do well being alone for long periods of time. They bond strongly with their owner and are happiest when they have their owner in their sights.


#6  Portuguese water dogs have a tendency to jump on people when greeting. They also have been known to dance, and hop on their hind legs a way to greet.

#7  Portuguese water dogs are highly intelligent. They can even remember the names of many items, better than most dogs can. To prevent boredom, they need consistent physical and mental exercise. This is not a dog that would do well with a human couch potato.

#8  Portuguese water dogs are “counter surfers.”  This means is that they will stand on their hind legs to see what is on the counter or on a table, particularly if they smell food.

#9  If they are not regularly exercised both physically and mentally and become bored, Portuguese water dogs can be destructive. They will dig through garbage, snatch food off the table, and even learn how to open and get into cabinets.

#10  Portuguese water dogs have a predisposition to hip dysplasia. However, this can be reduced by checking out the parents and their health beforehand.

#11  Portuguese water dogs are predisposed to the following health issues:

  • cataracts
  • progressive retinal atrophy
  • distichiasis or ingrown eyelashes
  • GM-1 Storage disease which is a fatal nerve disease, though it has mostly been bred out of the breed’s population.

#12  Portuguese water dogs are a medium sized dog. Male dogs typically weigh between 42-55 pounds and female dogs weigh between 35-49 pounds.

#13  Portuguese water dogs can live 10 to 14 years.

#14  Portuguese water dogs can have either a wavy or a curly coat.

#15  Portuguese water dogs make good guard dogs. They will alert their owners to anyone around the home with their distinct vocalizations.

#16  Portuguese water dogs should be brushed and combed on a regular basis.

#17  When grooming Portuguese water dogs, most owners choose either a lion mane cut (where the dog is shaved around the abdomen, tail, legs, and face; the rest of the hair on the dog’s body is allowed to grow) or a retriever cut (where the hair all over the dog’s body is kept short).

#18  Portuguese water dogs are great with children and other pets. However, they can be exuberant, so with small children and pets it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them.

Despite having a few health issues, the Portuguese water dog is an excellent dog for families. They can even be good apartment dogs, as long as they are exercised regularly.

If I were to pick my next dog, a Portuguese water dog would be at the top of the list!

Did you know that President Barack Obama chose a Portuguese water dog for his family at the White House?