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Portuguese Water Dog

(Cao de Agua)
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Portuguese Water Dog

Form and Function

The Portuguese Water Dog is a robust dog of medium build, slightly longer than they are tall. They are often strong and well muscled. They have a profuse single coat, either wavy or curly. Two styles of grooming clips may be seen on this breed: the lion clip, in which the muzzle and middle part, up to the tail tip, are clipped, and the retriever clip, in which the entire coat is scissored to about 1 inch in length, with tail tip again left full length. The Portuguese Water Dog’s expression is often steady, penetrating, and attentive, reflecting their spirited disposition.


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Breed Traits

Energy Level

4 out of 5

Exercise Requirements

4 out of 5


4 out of 5

Affection Level

4 out of 5

Friendliness To Dogs

3 out of 5

Friendliness To Other Pets

4 out of 5

Friendliness To Strangers

3 out of 5


3 out of 5

Ease of Training

3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements

5 out of 5

Heat Sensitivity

3 out of 5


4 out of 5

Breed Attributes




35-60 lb




Water dog

Area of Origin


Date of Origin

Middle Ages

Other Names

Cao de Agua


The consummate water dog, the Portuguese Water Dog probably shares some of their ancestry with the Poodle. Their ancestors were herding dogs from the central Asian steppes, either brought to Portugal by way of the Visigoths in the fifth century or by way of the Berbers and then Moors in the eighth century. Once in Portugal, they distinguished themselves through their affinity for water, eventually herding fish into nets, retrieving lost nets or equipment, and serving as a boat-to-boat or boat-to-shore courier.

Later the dogs were part of trawler crews fishing the waters from Portugal to Iceland. The breed is known in its native land as Cao de Agua (pronounced Kown-d’Ahgwa), which means dog of water. They come in a long-haired variety known as the Cao de Agua de Pelo Ondulado and a curly-coated variety known as the Cao de Agua de Pelo Encaradolado. With the demise of traditional fishing methods, the Portuguese fishermen and their dogs began to disappear from the coast in the early twentieth century. The breed was saved largely through the attempts of one man, Dr. Vasco Bensuade, a wealthy shipping magnate. He promoted the breed, and through his efforts, the breed club was reorganized.  After a brief appearance in England in the 1950s, the breed virtually died out there. Around this time, the first PWDs came to America, where they slowly gained a following. Their popularity grew more rapidly and the breed is now a loving family companion.


The gregarious Portuguese Water Dog is a fun-loving, family-loving, water-loving dog. They are often good with children, other dogs, and pets. They can be sensitive and respond well to direction. They are usually a good breed for an active person wanting an adventurous, affectionate, biddable partner.


This is an active breed needing daily physical and mental exercise, preferably involving swimming and retrieving. Otherwise, they need a long walk or jog or a vigorous play time. Their coat needs brushing every other day, plus monthly professional grooming.


  • Major concerns: PRA
  • Minor concerns: GM1 storage disease, distichiasis, Addison’s, CHD, juvenile cardiomyopathy, hair loss (follicular dysplasia)
  • Occasionally seen: irritable bowel syndrome, seizures
  • Suggested tests: eye, hip, DNA for GM1, DNA for PRA, (cardiac)
  • Life span: 10–14 years


Note: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, dogs are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.

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