Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Portuguese Water Dog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog is a distinctive looking dog that as their name suggests, loves being in and around water. They have webbed feet which means they are extremely strong swimmers. They also boast having non-shedding coats with their hindquarters and tails being clipped short which adds to their unusual and charming looks. Although a relative newcomer to the UK, the Portuguese Water Dog is still a very popular choice in Portugal, more especially with fishermen although they are renowned for being good companions and family pets too.
It's thought the Portuguese Water Dog was first introduced to Portugal by Moor traders and that they share an ancestry with other water dogs found in Europe at that time in history. They became a firm favourite with Portuguese fishermen, thanks the breeds’ love of water and the fact they could retrieve lost nets. They were also prized as hunting and guarding dogs on land which led to these charming dogs being high in demand.
However, it was only in the 11th century that the Portuguese Water Dog was first written about by monks who described how a dog had saved drowning man from a ship wreck. The actual origins of the breed remain a bit of a mystery, but it is thought they are descendants of the same type of working and herding dog as the Poodle, Puli as well as the Kerry Blue Terrier. There are those who believe the breed’s ancestors hailed from far flung Asian countries of the world too.
By the late 1800's, King Carlos I became an enthusiast of the breed and through him, the popularity of the PWD soared. By the 1930's a wealthy Portuguese Shipping Heir, one Vasco Bensaude, purchased examples of these proud dogs from local fishermen and started his own breeding programme. Most Portuguese Water Dogs can trace their ancestry back to one of his dogs called "Leao".
Today, the Portuguese Water Dog remains a bit of an unknown here in the UK, but the breed is recognised by The Kennel Club. With this said, anyone wishing to share a home with one of these extraordinary, water loving dogs would need to register their interest with a breeder and be put on a waiting list because so few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year.
Height at the withers: Males 50 - 57 cm, Females 43 - 52 cm
Average weight: Males 19.25 kg, Females 16 - 22 kg
Portuguese Water Dogs are large, athletic looking dogs that boast having extremely weather resistant coats. Their hindquarters are normally clipped with just a plume of hair being left on the tips of a dog's tail. PWDs can have two types of coat with the first being long and wavy whereas the other type is that much shorter and harsher to the touch with dogs having very compact curls all over their bodies. Their heads are large, yet nicely proportioned with their skulls being a little longer than a dog’s muzzle. They have a very distinct and well defined occiput and stop with their muzzles tapering slightly to their noses.
They have a central furrow in their foreheads and nice wide noses with well open nostrils. The colour of their noses matches the colour of a dog's coat. Their eyes are round and medium in size being set well apart on a dog's face and can be either black or dark brown in colour, but the rims are always dark. Their ears are heart shaped and thin, drooping down and being well set above a dog's eye level and which dogs carry close to the head.
The Portuguese Water Dog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones and they also boast having well developed canines. Their necks are straight, well-muscled and short with dogs carrying them high. Front legs are straight, nicely boned and muscular. Shoulders are well laid back and well-muscled.
Their bodies are nicely proportioned with dogs having wide withers and nice wide and deep chests that reach down to their elbows. Ribs are well sprung and loins short and strong with dogs having moderately tucked up bellies. Their back legs are straight and extremely well-muscled and their feet are round in shape but rather flat with toes not being too knuckled up or long. The membrane in between a dog's toes reaches to the tip and is covered with hair. Their tails are thicker at the base but taper to the tip and is moderately set. PWD's carry their tails gaily and slightly curved when they are on the move or alert.
When it comes to their coat, the Portuguese Water Dog has a profuse coat that covers their entire body except on the underside of their front legs and thighs. There is no undercoat in either variety, however, dogs with longer coats have loose waves and a nice sheen on their coats with the hair on a dog's ear standing upright being well feathered. Dogs with shorter coats have much denser, harsher and more compact curls which lack the sheen of longer coated dogs. The hair on a dog's head matches their body and the hair on their ears is slightly wavy. A dog's muzzle as well as their hindquarters from the last rib towards their tail is clipped with two thirds of their tail being clipped leaving just a plume of hair on the tip. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Portuguese Water Dog is highly prized in their native Portugal for being a loyal, friendly and intelligent dog that likes nothing better than to please. However, they are quite independent thinkers and quite wilful thanks to a stubborn streak in them which one of the reasons they need to be handled and trained with a firm, yet gentle hand. The Portuguese Water Dog needs to know their place in the pack and what an owner expects of them.
With this said, they are a good choice for families because in the right hands and with the correct amount of early socialisation, the Portuguese Water Dog is easy to train. They become valuable members of a household and like nothing more than to be involved in everything that goes on around them. However, they are high-energy dogs and as such they do better when living with people who lead active, outdoor lives and where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house so that they always have company. If left to their own devices for too long, a Portuguese Water Dog might develop separation anxiety which often sees these dogs mouthing things they find around the home which is very much the "retriever" trait in them.
Because they are so intelligent, a PWD needs to be given the right amount of mental stimulation every day otherwise a dog could develop some unwanted and destructive behavioural issues around the home. They thrive in a country environment because they love being outside and more especially around water. However, care has to be taken when walking a PWD anywhere near any dangerous watercourses just in case they decide to jump in.
Thanks to their intelligence and the fact these dogs love to please in the right hands the Portuguese Water Dog is easy to train. However, as previously mentioned their training has to start early, it has to be consistent and always fair so dogs know what is expected of them. In the right environment and with the correct amount of socialisation and training, the PWD excels when it comes to learning new things which they do very quickly bearing in mind that this means they quickly learn both the good and the bad.
Portuguese Water Dogs have proved themselves to excel in many canine sports, but they are also often used as therapy dogs working in hospitals, hospices and schools. They are also frequently used as hearing dogs, assistance dog and mobility dogs that help people with household tasks they are unable to do themselves.
Portuguese Water Dogs love being in a home environment and they get on particularly well with children. However, because they are known to "mouth" things, any interaction between a PWD and the kids should be supervised by an adult to make sure things don't get out of hand which could lead to one of these fun-loving dogs mouthing a smaller child.
They are not particularly good around small pets and other animals although if a dog has grown up with a family cat in the home, they generally get on well together, but they would think nothing of chasing a neighour’s cat whenever the opportunity arises. They are social dogs by nature and as long as a puppy has been well socialised at an early enough age, Portuguese Water Dogs usually get on well with other dogs.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Portuguese Water Dog is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The PWD is known to suffer from very few hereditary health issues and are known to be healthy and robust dogs However, there are a couple of health issues worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active, water-loving dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, PWDs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Portuguese Water Dog boasts having a single, but extremely thick and water resistant coat that can be harsh with very tight curls or moderately long with much looser curls. A dog's hindquarters are usually clipped which is often referred to as a "lion clip" because all that's left on a dog's tail is a plume of hair on the tip. This task is best left up to an expert dog groomer and it would need to be done a few times a year to keep things tidy.
They are high maintenance on the grooming front because their coats need a daily brush even though they are non-shedding dogs to prevent any matts or tangles from forming which is particularly true of longer coated dogs. As such a daily brush is necessary and it helps reinforce a bond between an owner and their dog. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis especially as they love to be in water and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. The same can be said if too much moisture gets into a dog's ear canal so if a dog has been in the water, it's really important to make sure their ears are thoroughly dried afterwards. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise combined with as much stimulation as possible for them to be truly happy, well-rounded and obedient dogs. Ideally, they need to be given at least 2 hour’s exercise a day and as much mental stimulation as possible which should include lots of interactive games.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these energetic dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, PWD puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing problems later in their lives.
If you get a PWD puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Portuguese Water Dogs are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. You should never exercise a dog just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from gastric torsion.
If you are looking to buy a Portuguese Water Dog, you may have to go on a breeder's waiting list because so few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old PWD in northern England would be £26.85 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £61.72 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a PWD and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Portuguese Water Dog would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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