Did you know?
Portuguese Water Dogs have a multi-octave voice. They have a wide range of barks and sighs.
PWDs also have an audible “laugh,” a loud, irregular, breathy pant used at play or during greetings.
Portuguese Water Dog
A dog is not ‘almost human’ and I know of no greater insult to the canine race than to describe it as such. The dog can do many things which man cannot do, never could do, and never will do.” – John Holmes
The Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) is an old breed originally bred in the Algarve, Portugal. The PWD is an athletic, web-footed swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina. He worked alongside the fishermen helping to set nets, retrieve fishing gear, herd schools of fish, carry messages between boats, and perform guard and rescue work when necessary. This amazing dog is even said to be able to shinny up a rope like any other member of the crew!
Known as the “Cao de Agua” or “dog of water” in his homeland, the PWD stands up to 22 inches (57 cm) tall at the shoulder. The PWD’s coat is thick and curly or wavy, non-shedding, and comes in black, white, shades of brown, or black or brown with white.
The dogs are typically grooming in one of two styles: the lion cut or the retriever cut. In the lion cut, the hindquarters, muzzle, and the base of the tail are shaved and the rest of the body is left full length. This is the traditional cut of the fishing dogs of Portugal. It helps the dog withstand the shock of cold water when jumping from boats by keeping the vital organs warm. The hindquarters were left shaved to allow easier movement of the back legs and the powerful, rudder-like tail.
In the retriever cut, fur is left 1 inch (2.5 cm) long all over the body. This cut is a more recent style and originated because breeders wanted to make the breed more appealing to buyers.
Photos displayed courtesy of Karen Matthews, Ridgehaven, Ontario
Noted for his intelligence and loyalty, the Portuguese Water Dog is spirited, friendly, and obedient to his owner. Their retrieving instinct is strong, and many owners report that their dogs will often bring them a present or toy when they come home.
PWDs are very attached to their owners and do not stray far from their sides, inside or out. Used to working closely with their masters, a Portuguese Water Dog is not happy if left alone for long periods of time.
The Portuguese Water Dog enjoys obedience training and should be placed in training and socialized from an early age. While he is easy to train, he’s also strong and self-willed. He may choose not to obey other members of the family, especially children. An active working breed with exceptional stamina, the PWD doesn’t tire easily. He needs regular exercise including walks, swimming, and off-leash running. A home with a fenced yard is essential.
Like many dogs who lost their original jobs to mechanization, the PWD was replaced as the fisherman’s partner by commercial fishing equipment. As a result, by the 1970s, there were only 25 left in the world. Thanks to dedicated attention by breeders to selective breeding programs, these wonderful companions have made a comeback, and there are now more than 10,000 registered in the USA alone.
He makes an excellent watch and guard dog as he can be territorial and has a loud and distinctive bark. Although mostly quiet, PWDs have a multi-octave voice which they use to warn of approaching people or to communicate their needs. They also make a unique “ha-ha-ha-ha” sound when they want to play or ask for food if any is present. His tendency to “speak out” and then go find his owner make it an ideal assistance dog for the hard of hearing. PWDs have been trained to bark loudly when the telephone rings, and then to find and alert his deaf master.