Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog Breed description: Character & Co

Portuguese Water Dog


The Cão de Água Português, the Portuguese Water Dog, is a dog breed recognised by the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) and has been assigned to the FCI Group 8, Section 3 with Standard No. 37. This classifies them as retrieving, searching and water dogs. They are used for hunting, as family dogs, as herding dogs and for fishing. They are not considered list dogs! This means that he does not have to undergo any special training for "aggressive dog breeds" in Germany or Austria.

What is the origin of the Portuguese Water Dog?

The Cão de Água Português is believed to have been brought to the Iberian Peninsula by traders. After that, they were crossed with guard dogs for herds. Due to their excellent swimming abilities, they were later used as messengers for ships. They guarded boats and the haul as well as retrieved fish. In 1970, the Cão de Água Português were considered the rarest dogs in the world, with only 50 existing specimens. With 10,000 specimens, this breed is now most widely represented in the USA. However, this breed is also very popular in Scandinavia.

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Alternate Name Cão de Água Português
Origin Portugal
Life expectancy 12 - 15 years
Care requirements high-maintenance
Activity level average
FCI group Water Dogs
AKC group working group
KC group working group

What are the typical characteristics of Portuguese Water Dogs?

This water dog can be quite stubborn and has a strong temperament. Occasional territorial behaviour as well as a certain level of rage are also among their character traits. In order to achieve a harmonious family life, it is therefore absolutely necessary that the Cão de Água Português is trained in a consistent manner. Among their best qualities are their sense of contentment, loyalty and above all intelligence. They also like to be adventurous. Having clear rules to follow is something of big importance for this dog breed. Otherwise they will take over the lead in the house!

From a lively puppy to a strong family member!

Portuguese water dog puppies must learn how to behave in the family and with others in a playful way. A puppy play lesson would not be suitable for these dogs, however! They have to integrate themselves into their surroundings in a playful way. This is the only way for them to learn. No matter how cute the look on their face might be or if the waggle their tail at you, don't be "persuaded" to give in. If they feel out of place, they react stubbornly and eccentrically in old age. Portuguese water dog puppies need play and fun as well as a strong socialisation and lead.

In order to maintain your dog's health, it is absolutely necessary to practice joint-demanding sports, such as fast running or jumping, even when they are only puppies. Nonetheless, you should not begin with this kind of training until the puppy is at least 15 months old. Portuguese water dog puppies can be extremely stubborn. If you feed your little puppy food that it unknown to them, they will not eat it! They don't care if it might harm them, it is however important for their health. After a few days, you can slowly start feeding other food alongside the one they already know. After that, give them less and less of the familiar and more of the new. That way they will slowly get used to it.

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What are typical diseases of this breed?

Due to the relatively small gene pool on which the breed is based, there are some hereditary diseases, such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (blindness), Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (heart disease) or Gangliosidosis (fat storage disease), which are more likely to develop in this dog breed. Genetic tests can exclude this risk in advance. Not only the breeder is responsible for this, but you as a dog owner can do something for the well-being of your pet as well. A healthy diet, lots of exercise in the fresh air as well as loving and consistent care can make a big difference.

What to consider when breeding this dog?

The following factors must be considered:

  • The Portuguese Water Dog is extremely susceptible to the genetic diseases mentioned above. Therefore, a genetic test is absolutely necessary before breeding.
  • This breed needs a lot of space to run around in, a possibility to swim must be a given and as a hunting dog it also needs to be kept busy with activities like retrieving objects for it to stay happy.
  • This breed of dog is a designated meat eater, no matter whether it be wet or dry food! Cow's ears or meaty treats are especially suitable. Fresh water is an absolute MUST!
  • Extensive grooming is time consuming, but absolutely necessary if you don't want to have a feather duster as a dog!

Where can you buy your Protuguese Water Dog?

We recommend breeders who exclusively breed this one breed and can provide you with at least one pedigree certificate for your Porti. A vaccination certificate of the veterinarian would also be recommended. This must have been issued by a club that is a member of the FCI. A clean, dog-friendly environment, healthy siblings that like to play around and a strong mother also provide security. The puppy must at least be 8 weeks of age before they are passed on to new owners.

Portuguese Water Dog breed description, black and white dog with curls

The feature that most stand out in this breed is their so-called "lion shearing". The front half of the body is covered with wavy long hair, the rear half is almost shaved bald. The tip of the tail again is covered in fur. This makes the pedigree dog look like a lion. The most well-known of its kind are "Bo" and "Sunny", the dogs of former American President Obama. In everyday life, however, an evenly short coat has proved itself to be the best option for both dog and dog owner. These water dogs with their floppy ears can be brown or black on colour, pied or uni-coloured. Pure-bred dogs may only have a white percentage of one third. Portuguese water dogs can also have a curly coat. The special toe gaps allow them to swim excellently. The dogs can reach a height of up to 57 cm and weigh up to 25 kg.

What is the average lifespan of a Portuguese Water Dog?

A healthy, strong dog can live up to 14 years.

Fur length medium
Fur curly
Ear shape Floppy Ear
Tail short
Anatomy rugged, square
Size ♀ 43 - 52 cm
Weight ♀ 16 - 23 kg
Size ♂ 50 - 57 cm
Weight ♂ 19 - 27 kg
Suitable For suitable for allergy sufferers, Beginner, Children


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Sources and relevant links

FCI Rassestandard

Accessed on 03.03.2023


Accessed on 03.03.2023

Cão Luz del Sol

Accessed on 03.03.2023

Vom Donauwind

Accessed on 03.03.2023

Gabriele Lehari (2004). Ulmers Großes Lexikon der Hunderassen. Ulmer.

Eva-Maria Krämer (2017). Der KOSMOS-Hundeführer. Kosmos.

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