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Portuguese Water Dog

Country/Date of Origin: Portugal/1400s

Fisherman along the Algarve coast of Portugal relied on a remarkable dog to help them in their difficult trade. Their seafaring dogs carried messages between ships and ship to shore. Indispensable crewmen they retrieved lost tackle, herded fish into nets, grabbed those that leaped out and in bad weather acted as living foghorns. The Portuguese Water Dog is also a fine hunting retriever. Needless to say these dogs were closely guarded. They were little known outside of Portugal until the 20th Century although the breed is more than seven hundred years old. They weren't very well known in Portugal either. In 1972 it was thought that there were less than 25 purebred dogs left. Fanciers around the world rallied and today the cheerful sea sprites have the popularity they deserve. In 1981 the Portuguese was admitted to the miscellaneous classes of the American Club. And in 1984 the numbers were high enough to allow a full membership in the Working Group.

Other Names Body Type Personality Coat Health Concerns

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Cao de Aqua, Portuguese Fishing Dog, Diving Dog, Sea Dog

AKC Group: Working

Breed Club: Portuguese Water Dog Club of America

Rescue Club: Portuguese Water Dog Club of America Rescue

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Body Type:

  • Bears a resemblance to the large size Poodle
  • Height: 16-22 inches (at shoulder)
  • Weight: 35-55 pounds
  • The medium-length natural tail loops over the back when the dog is at attention. It is not altered because it is used as a rudder when the dog is swimming
  • The long ears hang close to the head and are not altered
  • Feet are webbed to aid in swimming


  • Willingness to work is inbred and making itself useful obviously gives the dog great pleasure
  • Great with children
  • Loyal and attentive to its chosen person
  • Alert and watches strangers for any sign of bad intentions


  • Two coats allowed: curly and wavy
  • Undercoat is not present in either variety
  • Wavy coats are fairly long with a slight sheen
  • The hair in curly coats forms compact cylindrical curls that are somewhat lusterless
  • The hair on the ears has less curl than elsewhere on the body Permissible colors are solid black, white or brown; also combinations of black or brown with white
  • Two grooming styles: Lion clip- with shaved face, middle and hindquarters. (Tail is shaved at base end and a lion-like tassel is left at the end. This clip requires professional grooming); Working-retriever clip -hair is scissored to 1 inch in length following the outline of the body (Hair on the end of the tail is left long to emulate a lion's tassel)

Health Concerns:

  • Subject to hip dysplasia
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Tasty Tidbits:
  • Pronounce it Kown- d - ahgwa as the Portuguese do. It means Dog of the Water or Sea Dog
  • It is impossible to keep this dog out of water bigger than a puddle. Some will even want to play in puddles
  • Good choice as a family dog

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