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The name of this dog says it all. Originating from Portugal, it has been written about since the 1200's. It has a natural affinity with water and has also been known as 'The Fishing Dog' due to the help it used to bestow on fishermen and sailors. The PWD is now a relatively rare breed of dog, as its popularity never really recovered after the World Wars.
The PWD is first described in a monks writings in the 11th century as swimming to the aid of a man drowning after a ship wreck. The exact origins are unknown; however, it is thought that the Poodle, Puli, the Kerry Blue Terrier and the PWD are thought to have descended from the same strains of herding and working dogs that originally came from far flung Asian countries of the world. By the late 1800's, King Carlos I became a lover of the breed and through him, the popularity of the PWD soared. Fast forwards to the 1930's and a wealthy Portuguese Shipping Heir, one Vasco Bensaude, purchased examples of this breed from local fishermen and started a breeding programme, with one notable dog called 'Leao', to whom many modern PWD can trace their lineage back to.
Average height to withers: Females between 17-20 inches, with males substantially larger at between 20-23 inches.
Average weight: Males between 18-27kg with females up to around 24kg.
The Portuguese Water Dog is built with a solid and sturdy body with well defined muscles. Its overall length is slightly longer than tall. Built for swimming, their legs are robust and strong with webbed feet which help them paddle powerfully through strong currents.
The main physical feature of the PWD is its stunningly thick, single layered coat which is suitable for people with fur, hair and dander allergies as it sheds minimally. The coat itself can be either curly or wavy and usually black although they do also make appearances in hues of brown, cream or white.
The PWD is a friendly, confident and biddable dog and is most suitable as a family pet. They are easy to train, eager to please but they do have a high level of energy meaning they are not suited to a sedentary life where both mental and physical stimulation is limited.
Their intelligence makes them easy going and a pleasure to train, and excel at many canine sports as well as being suitable for use as therapy or PAT dogs in schools, hospitals and hospices, but also as assistance dogs, They are frequently used as hearing dogs or assistance dog or mobility dogs that help with household tasks. They enjoy being with their owner or family and like to take part in all aspects of life, whether outdoors or indoors.
Of course this breeds loves being on, in or near water and the difficulty may come in getting it out of the water! This must lead the owner to exercise caution around frozen water ponds and lakes on familiar walks where the dog may rush in as a matter of course.
As a breed, they are great retrievers and as such has a tendency to 'mouth' objects, and this is something they may do if they are bored, unstimulated or suffering from separation anxiety.
The PWD generally can live up to the age of 15 years in good health. They can be prone to varied eye infections and diseases more than that of other breeds of dog including cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. PRA is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dog. Its clinical symptoms include a degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. There is currently no known treatment for this condition.
The coat of the PWD demands quite a substantial amount of energy investing in it. Like the Poodle, there are some usual cuts which many owners opt to have for ease of maintenance. These are the Lion cut and the Retriever Cut. Usually, these are done by a trained professional and once done will enhance the ease of which the
owner can care for the coat. These cuts are also helpful in the warmer months to help the dog regulate its body temperature. As a high energy breed, this dog does need at least two good walks per day and will always appreciate a swim!