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Portuguese water dog facts and traits

Approx. 3 minutes read

The Portuguese Water Dog is a very spirited dog that takes to water like a duck. Indeed, the Portuguese Water Dog is the quintessential water animal. Today the breed is often confused with the Poodle, and some owners like to clip them into a lion cut, which also causes some confusion.

These versatile aquatic animals have been helping humans, working in water, for centuries. The Spanish Armada used the Portuguese Water Dog to carry messages from vessel to vessel. The San Francisco Giants (baseball grounds), once relied on a team of Portuguese Water Dog to retrieve home run hits that fell into the water outside Pacific Bell Park.

Today these Poodle-like pooches are making it BIG in Washington DC as the former First Dog of the Obama family (the former First Family of the USA), called Bo. Although Bo may be the cutest pooch you have ever seen, the Portuguese Water Dog wasn’t bred for its beauty.

The Portuguese Water Dog was bred along the coastline of Portugal, about 500 years ago and was called Cau De Agua, which means “dog of water” in Portuguese. This rugged animal was bred to assist men at sea. The Portuguese Water Dog did everything, from retrieving fishnets to chasing fish and scaring them into the net themselves. The Portuguese Water Dogs are exceptional swimmers and divers and are known for retrieving and/or rescuing lost or drowning sailors.

What makes the Portuguese Water Dog such superior swimmers, you may ask? Their paws are flat and round with webbed toes, and they also have rudder-like tails, which is thicker at the base and thinner at the tip. The Portuguese Water Dog can also swim for long periods of time, even in freezing water, because of their profuse coats and it being waterproof.

The Portuguese Water Dog is adaptable but needs access to open space. This is a type of dog that needs a lot of room to move around, run and play. About an hour of vigorous daily exercise should keep this energetic breed happy.

Hip dysplasia is a major health concern for the Portuguese Water Dog. They are also prone to retinal atrophy, which can cause blindness. To reduce the risk, make sure to find a reputable breeder.

When it comes to grooming there are two choices: the “lion clip” or the easier to maintain “retriever clip”. Fortunately, the Portuguese Water Dog shed very little, but their coat still needs a thorough brushing several times a week to prevent matting. If not groomed regularly, their hair can become knotted, which can cause skin conditions, dandruff, and scratching.

The Portuguese Water Dog is highly intelligent and very easy to train. Training should start at an early age – just stay positive and be consistent. As a family pet, the Portuguese Water Dog is a great addition. These even-tempered dogs get along with children and other pets too.

If you love water and want a charismatic canine who does too, then the Portuguese Water Dog is just the dog for you. These playful pooches are sure to go the distance for you by land or sea.

Breed Portuguese Water Dog
Country Portugal
Life Expectancy 12 – 15 years
Exercise requirements Hour of vigorous daily exercise
Similar Breeds Poodle, Labrador 
Rescues in South Africa None in South Africa
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