Portuguese Water Dogs


Standard PWD's As a breed, are very intelligent, sensitive, willful, athletic, loyal, energetic but not hyper.

They can quickly out think their owner, so a training class with a knowledgable instructor is a must for a young PWD. Dogs are master manipulators so when people get a breed with above average intelligence - staying ahead of them with consistent rules and structure is very important.

They are sensitive. Because they are intelligent, they think A LOT! and injustice done to them may be taken seriously by a PWD. While they can be willful and test the limits of the rules, if they feel that they are being unfairly treated they can become quite upset and may bark, climb, paw, lie down in a fit of anxiousness.

You can be (and will need to be with an adolescent PWD) quite firm and make sure that the rules are enforced but otherwise, a very young or mature PWD doesn't need harsh training. Make it make sense to the dog and the dog will typically comply.

They can be willful for sure! Especially before 14 months of age. The puppy PWD is rambunctious, teething, ready for learning! They need exercise and training classes. As a Working dog, they are not innately 'friends with everyone'. They are loving with their family and cautious and suspicious with outsiders. So, proper socializing in a group class with other people and dogs should be mandatory for every PWD. They need positive relationships and experiences with their world. Obedience classes will help to keep the commands and structure that PWD's need in their first year. They will attempt to get their way and do as they please (most dogs do!) but a PWD may try harder and come up with more manipulative strategies than some other breeds! So having a competent trainer to consult with each week is invaluable for the owner of an adolescent PWD (between 6 months and 14 months).

They are very athletic. They can run, fetch, bike, hike, swim, jump, crawl, climb! If it gets them praise, recognition, approval or anything else that they might want - they will do it! And they have energy that does, most certainly need to be used but that doesn't mean they are hyper. Once they are mentally and physically exercised, they will settle quite nicely in the house. Not demanding for more, more, more once the family is quiet. As pups they may continue to play a bit in the house but as they mature, that will usually subside and the PWD will be content to rest near their owners feet!

Working Dog Group

The Portuguese Water Dog is in the Working Group with the Canadian Kennel Club.


These breeds have a job to do. Some pull sleds or carts while others guard livestock, homes, businesses or military installations. Diverse duties may also include water-rescue work, alpine rescue or stints at sea as the fisherman’s helper.


Size varies from litter to litter. Of course we have our standard and attempt to stay as close to it as possible but there is a significant size difference depending on genetics. Some are quite small. My Grace for instance, was very petit! She was 18 3/4". A little shorty! 


Meanwhile, she produced a son, George who is 23"! Each family may be after something a little different so you can have a PWD that is smaller (on the small to medium size scale) to a larger dog. George is quite the DOG. He takes up space on the couch / bed and needs a crate that's a larger size. Dizzy is quite petit too. And she came from a Mother and Father that are moderately sized.

Activity level

The energy level of most Working breeds depends on the task at hand. Guardian dogs may patrol or simply observe until called upon to defend. Then they surge into action. Sled dogs keep their enthusiasm in check until they’re in harness and then they’re keen to hit the trail. Working breeds might be termed energy efficient.


The Working breeds vary from medium-sized, such as the Standard Schnauzer, up to giant, typified by the Great Dane, Mastiff or lesser-known Leonberger.


Prized for their long association with humans, their loyalty and willingness to work, these breeds usually take well to training, though some may take longer than others for lessons to sink in. PWD's are extremely trainable. They are intelligent and athletic. They can however, be wilful. You will need to assert leadership as well as give incentive for your PWD to excel at Working. As a pet, they are 'easy' after about 14 months old. The basics are easy for them to learn and will retain those commands for life if given a little consistency. If you wish your PWD to be an obedience, Water Work, agility, Rally, etc competitor, you will need to set them up for successful learning, be consistent - know what you expect, give incentive (treats / play / praise) and be on YOUR game to teach your PWD. Because are willing and eager to learn. They can learn quite complex behaviour patterns / sequences. But it starts with respect of the owner and then good communication skills (understanding each other) and incentive to keep going, even when the going gets tough.


They don’t wear grey pinstriped suits on the job but they are serious about their work. 

They can be quite goofy to quite serious. Tiago is quite a serious PWD. He can certainly play and get goofy but he is more work oriented. Grace and Cherry are much softer and would far rather cuddle than doing anything that involves the slightest bit of pressure. Dizzy and Alma are much goofier. They play and wiggle and want to have fun. They can take some pressure and need some firmness every so often but pretty easy going and fun loving. They are similar in so many ways: Their gaze - they all look right at you and seem to understand you, they are all athletic and tear through the woods, into water, up over logs, etc. They are all loyal. They don't run away and can be loose without much worry (Alma is a bit more independent and curious but she's never gone for long!). Yet, they are all still individuals with their own quirks and character.

They all like to jump up, they can all bark to be demanding. They will all occasionally 'surf the counter' if they think they can get away with it. They all bark when someone arrives and they all love to play with toys. They love treats and the cool weather. If it's hot out, they want air conditioning or a watering hole.

All my dogs are still crate trained and all PWD's SHOULD be until they are done teething. A young PWD can chew through a pile of furniture in a short length of time. They have VERY STRONG mouths, originally used for retrieving large, wet gear from the water. They need structure and supervision the first year so crate training is essential for the safe, security and well being of the PWD as well as for the sanity of the owner!

They are affectionate, regal, easily trained, non-shedding, nice sized dogs. They are versatile and have a range of character throughout the breed that gives owners a chance to find their best match! There are as many unique individuals as there are coat type, color and markings!

Origin and Purpose 

For centuries, this seafaring breed existed everywhere along the coast of Portugal and is considered a purely Portuguese breed. Owing to modifications in the fishing systems used, the breed has become restricted to the province of Algarve which should be considered it's home. It was prized by fishermen for its spirited yet obedient nature and a robust, medium build that allowed for a full day's work in and out of the water. The Portuguese Water Dog is an athletic swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina. He aided his master at sea by retrieving gear and broken nets, herding schools of fish and carrying messages between boats and to shore. He is a loyal companion and an alert guard.

General Appearance 

The Portuguese Water Dog is defined by his job. He has a hard, penetrating and attentive expression, splendid sight and a fair nose. Slightly longer than tall, he is a medium sized, sturdy, athletic, swimming dog with webbed feet, short neck and a wavy or curly coat to protect him from the elements, whether in the water or on land. From his impressive head with piercing gaze through a rugged body to his powerful tail carried up in a ring with its characteristic flowing flag, he presents an indelible impression of strength, spirit and soundness.


An animal of spirited disposition, he is self-willed, brave and very resistant to fatigue. Exceptionally intelligent and a loyal companion, he does his job with facility and obvious pleasure.

Physical Characteristics


  • Well proportioned and massive. 
  • Skull Seen in profile it is slightly longer than the muzzle, its curvature more accentuated at the back than in front and it possesses a well defined occiput. 
  • Muzzle Is narrower at the nose that at its base. The stop, which is well defined, is slightly further back than the inner corner of the eyes. 
  • Nose Wide. Nostrils well open and finely pigmented. Black, in animals with black, black and white or white coats. In browns the nose is of the same colour as the coat. 
  • Lips Thick, especially in front. Inner corner of lips not apparent. Mucous membrane (roof of mouth, under the tongue and gums) well ticked with black or quite black. 
  • Jaws Strong and neither over nor undershot. 
  • Teeth Not apparent. Canines strongly developed. 
  • Eyes Medium sized, set well apart and a bit obliquely, roundish and neither prominent nor sunken. Brown or black in colour. The eyelids, which are of fine texture have black edges. No haw.
  • Ears 
  • Leather heart-shaped, thin in texture and set well above the line of the eyes. Except for a small opening at the back, the ears are held nicely against the head. The tips should not reach below the beginning of the neck.


  • Straight, short, nicely rounded and held high. Strongly muscled. No mane and no dewlap.
  • Brisket 
  • Wide and deep, reaching down to the elbow. Ribs long and well sprung. 
  • Withers Wide and not prominent. 
  • Back Short and nicely joined to the croup. 
  • Abdomen Held well up in a graceful line. 
  • Croup Well formed and only slightly inclined with hips hardly apparent.


  • Not docked, thick at the base and tapering; medium setting. It should not reach down below the hock. When the dog is attentive the tail should be held in a ring, the front of which should not reach beyond the line of the kidneys. The tail is of great help when swimming and diving.


  1. Strong and straight. 
  2. Shoulder Well inclined and very strongly muscled. 
  3. Upper Arm Strong and of regular length, parallel to the medial body line. 
  4. Forearm Long and strongly muscled. 
  5. Knee Heavy boned, wider in front than at the side. 
  6. Pastern Long and strong.

Fore Feet 

  • Round and rather flat. Toes not too knuckled up and not too long. The membrane between the toes, which reaches the tip of these, is of soft skin, well covered with hair. Black nails are preferred but whites, browns and striped are allowed according to the colour of the coat. Nails held up slightly off the ground. Central pad very thick, others normal.

Hind Legs 

  • Straight and very strongly muscled. 
  • Thigh Strong and of regular length. Very strongly muscled. Thigh bone parallel to the medial body line. 
  • Second Thigh Long and strongly muscled, parallel to the medial body line. Decidedly inclined from front to back. 
  • All the tendons well developed. 
  • Buttocks Long and well curved.


  • Strong


  • Long. No dewclaws.

Hind Feet 

  • Similar, in all respects, to the fore feet

Position of Legs 

  • Regular. It is admissible for the front legs to be held so that feet are slightly in front of the perpendicular and the back legs, from the hock downwards, also a bit forward.


  • First and foremost a working dog, the Portuguese Water Dog's trotting gait should be effortless, balanced and sound. He should display a proud carriage and a light, happy attitude with the tail carried high in a ring over the back. He should be gaited at a moderate speed. There should be good reach and strong drive with a level topline. At increased speed there will be a tendency to converge. Movement from front and rear will be clean and true. The walking gait is light with short steps and the gallop energetic.

Coat and Colour 

  • Profuse coat, of strong hair, covering the whole body evenly, except for the under-arms and groin where it is thinner.

There are two varieties of coat 

  1. The hair is fairly long, wavy, rather loose with a slight sheen. The hair on the top of the head is upright and that on the ears decidedly longer than the leather. 

  2. The hair is shorter, forms compact cylindrical curls, thickly planted and somewhat lusterless. On the top of the head the hair is similar to that of the rest of the coat, whereas that on the ears is sometimes wavy. Colours are black, white and various tones of brown; also combinations of black, or brown with white. A white coat does not imply albinism provided nose, mouth and eyelids are black. In animals with black, white, or black and white coats, the skin is decidedly bluish. There is no undercoat.


  • Lion Clip The middle part and hindquarters, as well as the muzzle, must be clipped. The rest of the coat is left long. The hair on the end of the tail is left at full length. 
  • Retriever Clip The entire coat is scissored or clipped to follow the outline of the dog, leaving a short blanket of coat appearing no more than one inch in length. The hair on the end of the tail is left at full length. Hair on the ears is trimmed to the leathers.
  • No discrimination will be made against the correct presentation of a dog in either Lion Clip or Retriever Clip.



  • Males between 19.5" and 22.5" (50-57 cm) the ideal being 21.5" (54 cm) 
  • Females between 16.5" and 20.5" (43-52 cm) the ideal being 18" (46 cm) 


  • Males between 42 and 60 pounds (19-25k) 
  • Females between 35 and 50 pounds (16-22k)


Any deviation from the described ideal is a fault. Major Faults are those deviations that interfere with the performance of the dog's traditional job and which therefore cannot be overlooked.


  • Colour other than those mentioned 
  • Coat other than those mentioned 
  • Over or undershot jaws 
  • Over or under height 
  • Flesh-coloured or discoloured noses

©2002 pwdcc


Health concerns in Portuguese Water Dogs are the following:

  • Eyes – PRA
  • Storage Disease GM-1
  • Addison's Disease
  • Orthopedic
  • Cardiac
  • Coat

Information on these health concerns can be found at: