The History of Portuguese Water Dogs
Provided by
The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America


Attention if you have a Portuguese Water Dog! Please fill out and mail in the "Owner" form. The PWDCA believes in collecting, and communicating, health issues openly and quickly. Your participation is very much appreciated.

If you are interested in joining the PWDCA please fill out the "Membership Application"! A copy of this application will provided in your puppy package, but the PWDCA would prefer you go to "PWDCA Web Site" and use the PDF file found there.

In Portugal the Water Dog is known as Cao de Agua (pronounced Kown-d'ahgwa). "dog of the water". He's also called the Portuguese Fishing Dog, the Diving Dog or the Sea Dog. {short description of image} Historical theory finds our Water Dog on the development road from the central Asiatic steppes as early as 700 B.C. to the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th Century; and on to the British coastline as working crew of the ships on the Spanish Armada in 1588.

These seafaring working dogs carried messages between ships and ship to shore, and stood watch in the bow, barking warning of danger in the surrounding fog. In his homeland the working Water Dog thrived as courier between fishing boats. He dove fearlessly into the sea to retrieve broken nets and tackle gone overboard, and was a loyal friend to the fisherman and his family.

Modern marine technology - radar, radio communications and equipment - caused the near extinction of the Portuguese Water Dog. The sturdy, medium-sized, highly intelligent canine was displaced by modern fishing methods.

The breed has been preserved in America through the combined efforts of the 16 people who formed the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc. In August, 1972. At that time there were less than 25 known Water Dogs throughout the world. The founders and members of the PWDCA united to revive the breed and secure strong, healthy foundation stock.

On June 5, 1981 when the Water Dog was admitted to the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class more than 500 dogs lived in the United States. On January 1, 1984 the Water Dog became eligible to compete in the AKC Working Group.

The PWDCA encourages owners to insure the Portuguese Water Dog's future at home as a family member in the breed and obedience rings of AKC licensed dog shows and in water work.

More General Information

The Portuguese Water Dog is a strong, robust, medium sized, agile dog with stamina and endurance to do a full day's work. It should be of substantial bone and well muscled. Its head is large with a broad top skull and muzzle. The AKC Breed Standard, included on this homepage provides more detail on structure and size.

It has a coat of non-shedding hair that continues to grow as human hair does. It has no undercoat. The coat can be curly or wavy. The colors are black or brown- with or without white markings or white -with or without black or brown markings. The coat should be clipped in either of two clips. In the Retriever Clip, the entire coat is scissored or clipped to a length of one inch in appearance except the end of the tail which is left long. In the Lion Clip, which is the traditional clip and the only show clip allowed in countries other than the United States and Canada, the hindquarters as well as the muzzle are clipped short, the end of the tail is left long and the coat on the head, neck, forequarters and chest is left long to resemble a lion's mane.

The Portuguese Water Dog is not a breed for everyone. The challenge of channeling the stamina, intelligence and exuberance of this dynamic dog can be frustrating at times but ultimately rewarding. The commitment of your time and effort to training and caring for your Portuguese Water Dog is a responsibility that can not be taken lightly.

The breed is a loyal, affectionate, energetic, intelligent family companion and watch dog which thrives on and demands human attention. Its appearance often belies its true character. It remains a true working dog, tough and independent at times, not a dog for everybody.

Daily doses of exercise outdoors are a must or the PWD will provide its own exuberant exercise indoors. Portuguese Water Dogs require an owner as active, involved and intelligent as they are or they will soon be running the household and getting into major mischief. The robustness and high spirits of this "fisherman's" dog should be understood as natural exuberance just as its retriever qualities make it "mouthy" not intentionally destructive. The Portuguese Water Dog has a unique sense of humor, its owner needs a sense of humor too.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a complex canine that wants love and trust. It needs people, bonds readily and is loyal to its "crew mates". It thrives as a family member and get on well with children and other pets. With its sense of humor it will invariably compete for center stage. In its role as watchman, the Portuguese Water Dog is alert and protective rather than aggressive and is cautious and sensible with strangers.

Whether curly or wavy, regular grooming of this breed is necessary. The Water Dog's ears, nails and teeth should be cleaned weekly. Although the coat does not shed, it must be combed or brushed thoroughly several times a week to prevent matting and tangling, and to remove broken hairs and debris from the coat. As the coat is hair not fur, it continues to grow, just as your hair does. This necessitates frequent baths and regular hair cuts to maintain the health of the hair and skin as well as the appearance of the dog. You can learn to bath and groom your Water Dog yourself or have it done by a professional groomer

Allergies: The Portuguese Water Dog's non-shedding coat makes it easier for people with allergies to live with this breed than double coated shedding breeds. It is recommended that you spend several hours at a breeder's home or in a small confined area, such as a car, interacting with adult Water Dogs in order to test your allergic response before you buy a puppy.

Improper Coats: Occasionally puppies are born with improper coat patterning. The face, fronts of legs, and feet will have short, smooth hair with feathering on the back of the legs. Their appearance will be similar to a flat or curly coated retriever. These puppies are healthy and have all the other good characteristics of the PWD but the coat is considered incorrect for the conformation ring. Sometimes improperly coated dogs and puppies will have a double coat that sheds and has dander and this will make them inappropriate for people with allergies.

All purebred and mixed breed dogs are prone to hereditary health problems. The Portuguese Water Dog is no exception. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America encourages its members to be aware of health issues and to practice responsible breeding procedures to reduce or eliminate hereditary health problems. The information provided herein should help you in your quest for a responsible breeder.

Please Note:

The PWDCA, Inc. Strongly Recommends that any dog used for breeding be at least two years old, be examined for and evaluated free of hip dysplasia (OFA #) and hereditary eye problems (CERF # and ERG), and individually tested for GM-l status before being bred. The Club also strongly recommends that GM-1 forms be provided for each puppy.

If you want a dog that: requires regular and extensive grooming, demands attention and exercise, challenges your will, thrives on training and human contact, thinks independently, voices its opinion, greet friends and family with unbridled enthusiasm, then the Portuguese Water Dog may be right for you.

If you want a dog that: requires minimal grooming, needs little or no attention or exercise, naps endlessly in front of the fireplace, requires little mental stimulation, presents little or no challenge, blends into the woodwork, is content to be left alone, then the Portuguese Water Dog is not right for you.

Copyright (c) 1997 The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc.
Artwork Copyright (c) 1996 by PawTraits & Verne Foster

Last Updated: November 12, 1998

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