Disclaimer: Below are MY OPINIONS. Other breeders and breed fanciers may have different opinions than mine but I will try to keep my answers as broad spectrum as I can within the scope of my experiences. I owned a dog training school for 10 yrs, I worked in a large municipal animal shelter for 5 yrs (paid employee in the dog behaviour department), had dogs of various breeds since I was a child and competed with various dogs in many different sports over the years, including Conformation showing. I have been breeding for 10 yrs and have lived with dogs in the City as well as Country. So - I feel that I have some basis of knowledge to extend to others that may be useful. Take it or leave it but it is information.
(I will add more Q & A's in time)
Frequently Asked Questions about Portuguese Water Dogs (PWD's)
Are PWD's hyper?
Yes and No. (how's that for a clear answer?!) Depends on your definition of hyper is. Hyper to me, is an over abundance of energy that can be hard to control and can be near constant. So NO, I would say that PWD's are NOT hyper. In their first year, they can be more active and demanding for attention but they aren't typically hyper. They have energy of a young dog that needs regular exercise each day. Roughly 20 - 30 minutes in the morning and then 45 - 1hr in the evening. Of course this amount depends on the individual dog and what KIND of exercise that is (more on that in a different question). They need a lot of MENTAL stimulation. They are smart and being young, they will get into all sorts of mischief if they aren't stimulated with mental and physical activity. After that is fulfilled, a PWD will generally settle down and stay with the family doing quiet time.
After 15 months - 2 yrs old - a PWD because a very lovely ENERGY APPROPRIATE PET! Which means, if you are relaxing at home, so are they. If you want to go out for a run, bike, ski, hike, ride - they are there with you!
This is where I challenge that Water dogs are NOT HYPER. They can and will and do settle. They mature very nicely into great family pets that will be active when there is activity and settled when there isn't anything going on. They don't ping-pong off walls and constantly bug people for attention after they are mature. They do not stay immature forever like some other breeds. They are also Working Dogs that once mature, will conserve their energy for Work times and settle when there isn't anything going on.
They are very worth the first year of activity and training to have such a fantastic companion for the following decade and more.
Are PWD's hypoallergenic?
PWD's are a breed that doesn't shed. They have Hair rather than Fur. Which means that most people who have sensitivities to dogs with fur, will not react to dogs that have hair. Some people may still react mildly IF they are allergic to dog saliva but this is more rare and typically the reaction is very mild. Best to visit with a PWD before adopting one if there is a concern.
Keep in mind, that there can be other environmental factors that cause reactions. Our house is NOT the best one for people to test (I warn people in advance of that fact) because we have a cat and horses. We also have straw and hay that the animals go in and out of. So if you are testing - be sure that you are in an environment appropriate to testing allergies!
I know some people can 'tell' which allergen is bothering them. It is a different reaction from a cat / dog / straw / pollen - but it is something to consider.
Do PWD's need hours of exercise?
PWD's need more exercise in their first 1 year - 2 yrs, after that they settle down and seem content with less physical exertion.
When you bring them home, they are babies and can't walk very far and have very little stamina. You are better off by doing lots of short training sessions to teach come, sit, lie down, off, go pee, fetch, go in your crate, etc. By 3 months old, they are happier to walk around the block. After that, their demands for exercise increases. A 20 minute walk on leash (flexi-leash where possible) in the morning will take their edge off. After school / work, a 30 minute walk / run will get the pup out and stretched / stimulated. Come home, feed them and some quiet time while the family eats, etc. Then a walk after 6pm / 7pm is recommended. Another 20 - 30 minutes and hopefully can include some off leash running when possible will be great to help the pup settle before bed. PWD's have a 'zoomie hour' - usually in the evening before bed, when they get a burst of energy and go running like a wild thing. It's actually quite humorous and fun for the humans to watch. It can seem annoying if you have already done your walk but rest-assured, it only lasts 15 - 20 minutes and then they settle. A good walk after 6pm can take the edge off of this zoomie time. If your PWD is being UNDER exercised, these times can become a bit more wild and confrontational. You will need to put them in a cage to settle or put them on leash BEFORE this time so you don't tussle. But and a BIG BUT this time can be a funny one IF you have done your due diligence and given them a couple of walks, one walk includes a free run (even if you still have a long leash attached for control). They need to 'burn' some steam. Also - you should have enough authority from proper training that this time is controllable.
After they are 1 to 2 yrs old, they don't need as much. 2 walks a day is usually sufficient. 20 mins in the morning and 45 in the evening.
How often do the need to be groomed?
The short answer is usually between 6 - 12 weeks.
The longer, more detailed answer to that depends on a variety of factors:
1) How much do want to brush? If you want to keep the hair on your PWD longer and fuzzier, you will have to brush it. If not, it will get tangled and matted. And when you DO finally take them to the groomers - it will be a very unpleasant experience for both dog and groomer. The dog will have to endure a lot of hair pulling and shaving and the groomer will have to spend a lot of time trying to get through the knots or will have to shave the dog very short - which completely defeats the purpose of keeping the hair longer.
2) Do you intend to let them get dirty or wet often? If you are going to take them swimming or let them go in the dirt or mud, you will want to keep them a bit shorter. It will be easier to manage and get them clean / dry again if they are shorter.
3) What look do you like? How often you want to groom also depends on what you would like them to look like. If you you like the teddy bear or shaggy look, you will groom less often. Like 8 to 12 weeks.
4) What the weather / season is like: PWD's get hot. They are usually best to be a bit shorter in the summer because of heat BUT if they spend the majority of their time in air conditioning and get walked at the cooler times a day, you can keep it longer. The like the winter and tend not to get cold but the snow can stick to longer hair when it is damp (snowman making weather). So keeping it shorter / trimmed in the winter is not uncommon either. Spring brings mud.. so I would suggest that most people get them trimmed BEFORE the mud comes.
Can I groom my PWD myself?
You should learn to (at minimum) brush and comb properly. But owners should also learn to safely trim around eyes and under tail as well as trim nails. I would suggest taking your pup to the groomer a few times when they are younger to get used to being trimmed in the above mentioned areas. You should stay and watch how it is done. These areas require trimming every 2 weeks. They don't take long to do and very worthwhile learning to do - especially around the face. Having the groomer show you how to do the 'beard' / muzzle area will also be useful as their long hair can get dirty and messy.
Some owners DO trim their whole dog and it isn't very difficult and if you make a mistake.. not to worry! The hair grows back! A set up to groom might cost $ 200 - $400. Clippers, blades, scissors, comb & brush. A proper grooming table with arm and noose are VERY worthwhile but not necessary. You can use a surface that is raised up (table) that is close to something that you can use a leash to attach the dog to. Having the dog raised up and attached is very very helpful. It will take a few times for you and the dog to get really comfortable with the situation but it does happen. And you can put the dog in this 'situation' more often just for brushing and that will help. Train them to be calm for grooming. The first session doesn't have to be (shouldn't be!) 2+ hours! It should be 10 minutes.
Otherwise, find a groomer you are comfortable with and go for it. Let them know in advance what you would like the dog to look like: longer ears, shorter ears, teddy bear face or shaved face, fuzzy body or sleek body, etc. And please don't forget the traditional PWD Flag tail!!
How are Portuguese Water Dogs different than Doodles?
Doodles are mixed breed dogs - Poodles crossed with another breed of dog. Currently there seems to be a whole host of breeds that are being crossed with poodles. They have fancy / cute names that are a hybrid of the two breeds. One of the main reasons for using a poodle for one of the parents is to try and get puppies that don't shed. Unfortunately, the genetics isn't pure so not all the puppies come out with the poodle / non-shedding coat. (just buy a poodle if you want a poodle non-shedding coat) Or buy a PWD - they are guaranteed not to shed.
Doodles, because they are cross bred aren't predictable in their character. There isn't a standard for the traits the puppies will have since each pup can get different traits from each parent and it will manifest its own way.
Portuguese Water dogs all have their own individual character within their litter BUT because it is purebred, the traits are more predictable and consistent overall.
Typically the parents of doodles do not get health screened. Because it is a mixed breed, the breeders are generally not members of parent clubs or registered breeders because these clubs have Codes of Ethics and mixing breeds is usually top of the list of do-not's.
Portuguese Water Dog breeders are registered breeders and follow the parent clubs recommendations for health screening. Puppies are sold registered (which means there is a record of pedigree and the buyer is guaranteed that the pup is purebred from known lineage), microchipped, health checked by a veterinarian and first vaccines.
Stating just those few facts about some of the differences: mixed breed of unknown lineage (could be any breed mixed in - like more than just two breeds - there is no way to know), unpredictable temperament / character traits, unknown / unchecked genetic health testing, not guaranteed to be non-shedding and for some strange reason usually MORE expensive! VS Purebred (known and carefully developed character traits and structure), lineage documented, registered with a National breed club, genetic health tested and guaranteed non-shedding and usually LESS expensive. Not sure why people are still sometimes choosing doodles over PWDs or Poodles but to each their own!
Do PWD's need to be crate trained?
They don't NEED to be crate trained but it is certainly recommended since they are very clever and come up with some very 'interesting' things to do when they are young and unsupervised. Similar to a toddler, they need to have boundaries (crib, playpen, exersaucer) when guardian eyes can't be on them, otherwise they could get into trouble. Once they are older they don't need as much supervision / confinement. All puppies (regardless of breed) go through a teething period. Usually from 3.5 months - 6 months during which time they chew more because their mouth hurts. Crating is good during this time so they don't chew things they aren't supposed to. After 6 months old, they are usually ok out of their crates over night. It is recommended that they remain crated until after their adolescent period when no one is home. That adolescent period usually begins between 8 months - 10 months old and lasts until 12 to 15 months. After that time frame, most PWD's can be left alone without much issue.
Do PWD's need obedience training?
PWD's like training. They are an intelligent breed that likes to know the boundaries and beyond that, they love to learn commands. Whether it's obedience commands or tricks, PWD's love to learn. There are some basic commands that all dogs should know (No, come, sit, stay are some of the very basics) and if you can reliably teach those yourself, you should go to a class.
What sports / activities are PWD's good at?
PWD's are good at a variety of sports. They have their own sport called Water Work, which they can obviously excel at but they need obedience first. They are very good at Obedience and Rally Obedience. They are good at agility and very good at scent work. They aren't great at long distance running (like huskies or field dogs). They can do disc dog and dock diving but they aren't the type of dog that excels at it because they aren't generally hyper or overly aroused. They prefer activities with starts and stops and purpose in between. They are generally food motivated so that helps but they may not do things for food if they don't want to - they need to have a leader and understand that they are a lower ranking member of the 'pack'.
Are PWD's good off leash?
Yes, they are good off leash. Water dogs are loyal and like to be with their people. When they are in their adolescent period (8 months - 15 months) they may test the rules / boundaries but other wise they are very good off leash. You need a good recall (come command) that will ensure your dog comes back reliably when called. Just because they don't run away, doesn't mean that they will come back when called unless trained to do so.
Do PWD's like the water?
Yes, the generally do. They have webbed feet so they can swim well. They like to be cool and seem drawn to water. It can take over a year for the Water dog instinct to fully kick in but when it does, they will be in the pool!
Do PWD's suffer from seperation anxiety?
They love to be with their people, like many other loyal breeds, and if they aren't used to be alone, they can have issues with anxiety when their people aren't around. It is highly recommended that you give your pup lots of time by themselves so that they get used to being alone and being comfortable with. Don't reward temper tantrums, demanding attention such as pawing at you, barking at you, etc. They need to learn early on, that they will have to spend time alone. When you return home, don't make a huge fuss over the puppy. Let him/her out for a pee and calmly say hello.
What are the difference between breeders?
There are a lot of differences between breeders. The one similarity is that we all love our dogs and for the most part, keep them as pets. There are very few breeders of PWD's that keep 'kennel dogs'. Most of us keep them in our homes, as beloved pets.
Some of the main differences are what we breed for. As much as we all try to improve the dogs every time we breed, we all have our own idea of the 'best' way to improve them. We all have our own concept of 'improving'. Each once has pro's and con's and depending on what you are looking for, one will be better than another. We all overlap to some degree but we tend to sway our own directions.
1) Conformation / Show breeder: This breeder chooses future breeding dogs based on the physical form of the dog. The dog / bitch that they keep is the one that has the best physical structure. This is what wins in the show ring. Intelligence, character, trainability, etc is not considered in the Show ring. Also, the dogs are usually very proud and bold. It is also what wins in the Show ring. Dominant animals are usually the showiest.
2) Working dog breeder: This breeder breeds for dogs who have a working drive. Very trainable, outgoing, confident and active. They want dogs that will work with their handler, have enough energy to keep up with the demands of sport training and the smarts to train easily. This breeder will choose future breeding dogs / bitches that have those characteristics to Work.
3) The Pet breeder: This breeder breeds for dogs who are meant to be pets, in homes with the various configurations of homes. Some with children, some without, couples, single individuals, homes with older members. Therapy dogs, companion dogs, family dogs. There is less consideration with the physical structure and more emphasis on character and temperament. Keeping dogs for breeding that are generally softer and calmer than a Working breeder.
Some breeders will have you choose your pup from pictures when they are born. Others will choose for you at the end. Some will let you choose at the end. We all have our own protocols that we feel comfortable with. Generally we are similarly priced. At present, we all have our dogs registered with a National Kennel Club (CKC here in Canada). If it isn't registered, it's not purebred or it has been bought by someone who didn't have the right to breed it.