Portuguese Water Dog Breed Information and Buying advice

Portuguese Water Dog

Are You Looking to Buy or Adopt a Portuguese Water Dog?

Quick Portuguese Water Dog Facts

Average Size of Adult
Medium (3/5)
Puppy Puppy Puppy Puppy Puppy
Grooming Requirement
High (3/3)
Puppy Puppy Puppy
Medium (2/3)
Puppy Puppy Puppy
Average Life Span
12-14 years (5/8)
Exercise Requirements
High (3/3)
Puppy Puppy Puppy
High (3/3)
Puppy Puppy Puppy
Low (1/3)
Puppy Puppy Puppy
Child friendly
Yes (1/2)
High (3/3)
Puppy Puppy Puppy
Breed Group
Working (7/8)
Yes (1/2)

Portuguese Water Dog (Water Dog, Portie, PWD, Cão de água português, Cão de água algarvio)


There’s so much to love about Portugal, including a relatively new breed to the UK from Portugal, the adorable Portuguese Water Dog. Long used by fishermen along the Atlantic coast of their native Portugal, the Portuguese Water Dog has now found its way into the homes and hearts of many happy and loving owners around the world.

This breed is considered a working dog, and by others as a flushing/retriever breed or as a water dog, but they also make for wonderful companions in homes and are quite adaptable, as well.

Physical Appearance 

The medium-sized Portuguese Water Dog has a unique distinguishing feature, namely that they are almost always seen with short, clipped hair along the hindquarters and tail (often called a ‘lion cut’). This isn’t a necessary requirement, but it’s abundantly common.

They have medium-sized eyes that are slightly slanted, heart-shaped ears set against the head right above the eyes, and a thick tail that tapers out towards the tip and which curls up whilst at a gait or swimming.

The coats of Portuguese Water Dogs are certainly a distinguishing feature, as mentioned. Coats are strong and superbly adapted for swimming and resisting the elements. There are two types: long and wavy, and; short and curly. Colour combinations include black and brown in varying shades or solid white.

This breed most closely resembles the Standard Poodle, from whence it shares ancestry, and other water dog breeds.

How big do Portuguese Water Dogs get?

  • Height: males 50-57 cm; females 43-52 cm

  • Weight: males 19-27 kg; females 16-23 kg

Character Traits

Brave, intelligent, and courageous, mixed with a dash of impetuousness, the Portuguese Water Dog has a wonderfully diverse range of traits to his temperament. All of which combine to make a loyal, obedient, and easily trainable companion pet in the right hands.

The nature of this breed, owing to his long history in the southern Algarve region of Portugal, is to assist fishermen and to retrieve fish and untangle nets. Consequently, the Portuguese Water Dog is robust, sturdy, and hardworking, perhaps to a fault when used as a companion pet at home. He knows instinctively his duty and will always do his best to help out his owner.

Most noticeable is the high intelligence, ability to learn commands and perform duties reliably and consistently, and the highly energetic nature of the Portuguese Water Dog.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs intelligent? Yes, exceptionally.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs affectionate? Yes, exceptionally.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs have high or low energy levels? Very high energy.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs loyal? Yes, very.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs playful? Yes.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs aggressive? No, but they may bite or nip if improperly trained.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs easy to train? Yes, very.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs good guard dogs? No, but they make for great watchdogs.

Ability to Socialise

As an even-tempered breed, Portuguese Water Dogs tend to get along well and without much incident with other pets, owners and their families, including young children, and even around strangers to a lesser degree.

One of the greatest advantages of the Portuguese Water Dog is that, as a breed, they are exceptionally good at learning commands and obeying their owners. They always need to have something to do, which can be demanding of owners, but for owners willing to put in the effort and to train and socialise their Portuguese Water Dog, the reward is well worth the effort.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs get along with other pets? Yes.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs get along with other dogs? Yes.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs good with kids? Yes, they love being around children.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs good with strangers? Yes, somewhat.

Lifestyle Suitability

One need not necessarily be a fisherman in sunny Portugal to own a Portuguese Water Dog, but they are nevertheless more suitable for some owners than others due to their sometimes challenging temperament as a dutiful working breed.

First-time owners may wish to consider a different breed. While it is possible to raise Portuguese Water Dog puppies and train them to become loyal and obedient companions, their impetuous nature can sometimes make this a challenge.

In terms of adaptability, Portuguese Water Dogs are well-suited for the British climate and will find themselves happy right at home in a loving home, preferably with a garden or at the very least, access to a park (bonus if there are watercourses nearby).

Are Portuguese Water Dogs good for first-time owners? No.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs hypoallergenic? Yes.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs prone to drooling? No, hardly at all.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs a good breed for apartment living? Yes.

Do  Portuguese Water Dogs shed a lot? No, they hardly shed at all.

Do  Portuguese Water Dogs bark a lot? No, they don’t bark much.

Can Portuguese Water Dogs be left alone at home? No, not at all.

Can Portuguese Water Dogs handle the heat? No, not too well.

Can Portuguese Water Dogs handle cold temperatures? Yes, they prefer colder climates.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs sensitive to loud noises? Yes.

General Health & Health Issues

As a purebred, Portuguese Water Dog gene pools are relatively small and thus genetic defects are possible. Furthermore, due to the rise in popularity of this breed, health problems are known to have arisen recently due to poor or outright unethical breeding practices.

Overall, the general health of the Portuguese Water Dog is about average when compared to other breeds.

Some common problems include:

  • Hip dysplasia: common to many breeds, hip dysplasia affects Portuguese Water Dogs by reducing their movement and/or causing discomfort in the hindquarters;

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): a somewhat common genetic disease for many breeds, progressive retinal atrophy is known to affect Portuguese Water Dogs. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this degenerative disease, although it can be managed.;

  • Cataracts: another eye problem that Portuguese Water Dogs may be prone to, cataracts can be treated by surgical removal after having developed a film-like structure over the eyes.

How long do Portuguese Water Dogs live? - 10-14 years

Exercise & Play Time

Portuguese Water Dogs are a high energy breed and require ample physical and mental stimulation in order to remain happy and healthy. Their muscular and well-toned appearance should indicate that they are an active breed, so endeavour to spend around 1-2 hours every day exercising and playing with them outdoors.

In particular, Portuguese Water Dogs are superb swimmers with webbed toes and a water-resistant coat that is adapted for swimming at sea whilst performing tasks such as untying tangled nets of fishermen in their native Portugal. Consequently, water shouldn’t be a problem at all for your puppy as they’ll love to swim any chance they get.

How much exercise does a Portuguese Water Dog dog need? - Around 1-2 hours per day

Do Portuguese Water Dogs like water play? Water’s in their name, so of course they do!

Nutrition & Feeding

As a medium-sized breed, Portuguese Water Dogs consume a fair bit of food and as such their diet should naturally consist of many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that support healthy growth and development.

It is highly recommended that owners follow the breeder’s feeding schedule and speak with a veterinarian if they wish to either pursue an alternative diet or to adjust their feeding schedule to match their stage of development or current weight.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs prone to weight gain? Yes, especially as they age.

How much should I feed a Portuguese Water Dog puppy? About 180-360g per day, in 3-4 sessions.

How much should I feed an adult Portuguese Water Dog dog? About 200-360g per day, in total.

Care & Maintenance

Portuguese Water Dogs need to be groomed frequently and have fairly demanding emotional needs, as well. Due to their dense, thick overcoats and their propensity to run around watercourses, the possibility for infections and for debris to get stuck deep in their coats necessitates proper care and maintenance.

- Grooming: every day, brush through your Portuguese Water Dog’s coat and remove any debris and dead hairs. For owners that wish to achieve the ‘lion clip’ appearance typical of this breed, only entrust an expert groomer and be sure to have the hindquarters and tail area clipped frequently throughout the year.

- Emotional care: do not make a habit of leaving your Portuguese Water Dog alone for anything longer than an hour or two throughout the day (preferably not at all). If they feel bored or neglected, they tend to quickly turn to naughty behaviour which will then need to be corrected. It’s best to always have someone at home to keep them company.

History of the Portuguese Water Dog

It is believed that the Portuguese Water Dog can trace its ancestry to the coastline of Portugal, with the first recorded entry in 1297 from a monk describing what is most certainly the Portuguese Water Dog we know today. The breed, for whatever reason, was later concentrated in the southern Algarve region of Portugal and served dutifully as an assistant to fishermen from the mediaeval period onwards.

All major kennel clubs and associations have formally recognised the Portuguese Water Dog, including the Kennel Club in the UK (under the working dog group). The breed’s popularity in Portugal, the United States, and here in Britain is quite high and it should not be a problem finding a suitable breeder for this adorable breed of puppy.

Interesting Facts About Portuguese Water Dog Dogs

  • Former American president Barack Obama had two Portuguese Water Dogs named Bo and Sunny;

  • This breed is well-known for his ability to stand on his hind legs and to walk or hop around, especially if they are in the kitchen and know there’s food on the countertop;

  • Portuguese Water Dogs have excellent vocal capabilities and are intelligent, making them a suitable choice for hearing-ear or seeing-eye dogs.

Getting a Portuguese Water Dog Puppy

As a popular breed, it should not be difficult to purchase a Portuguese Water Dog puppy. It may be more sensible to adopt one instead, but however you decide to go about acquiring an adorable little puppy for yourself it’s always recommended that you read through our buying guide first. We encourage prospective owners that wish to purchase a Portuguese Water Dog to acquire them only from reputable breeders rather than puppy mills.

How much does a Portuguese Water Dog cost to buy? - Over £1,000.

How much does a Portuguese Water Dog cost to feed? - An adult Portuguese Water Dog costs about £1.30-£1.60 per day to feed.

How much does insurance for a Portuguese Water Dog cost? - About £30-£65 per month.

Sensible alternatives to purchasing a new Portuguese Water Dog puppy include rescue and adoption.

Additional resources can be found via Portuguese Water Dog registries and associations such as: