All About the Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog
(Photo by Steffen H. Wohnort)
The Portuguese Water Dog (Photo by Steffen H. Wohnort)

The Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) made news in early 2009 as one of the two finalists to become the “first dog,” as President-Elect Barack Obama’s family announced in early January that they’re deciding between the Portuguese Water Dog and the Labradoodle in their search for a new dog.

The History and Origin of the Portuguese Water Dog

While the Portuguese Water Dog is not as popular and well-known as the Poodle or Golden Retriver, it’s actually a very old breed with a faithful following.

This breed originated in – you guessed it – Portugal more than 2,000 years ago. The Portuguese Water Dog breed was developed in the coastal fishing villages of Portugal, where these working dogs served several purposes as a companion, watchdog and fishing assistant.

The Portuguese fishermen used the PWD for several purposes. The dogs would jump into the water to “herd” fish into the fishing nets. They were also adept at diving, which meant these dogs were great for retrieving fishing gear and lost nets. The dogs would also swim between boats and from boats to the shore to deliver messages, among other things.

This breed’s history as a working dog and companion of Portuguese fishermen explains this dog’s strong stamina, powerful hindquarters, his intelligence, his strong drive to perform tasks and please his owner, and, of course, his love of water.

Portuguese Water Dogs: Coat and Appearance

In general appearance, this dog is often mistaken for the Poodle by people on the street.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a large dog, typically weighing between 40 and 60 pounds. There are two coat types: wavy coat and curly coat. The coat is actually more of a hair than fur. PWD’s coat comes in shades of black, brown and white.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Hypoallergenic?

The Portuguese Water Dog is actually preferred by many dog lovers who have allergies. Like Poodles and the Bichon Frise, the PWD has one coat. This lack of an undercoat means a dramatic reduction in shedding, which makes housekeeping and grooming easier. This attribute is also great for many people who are allergic to dogs, as many are allergic to the undercoat.

But beware! While the Portuguese Water Dog is considered a “hypoallergenic” dog breed, it’s important to note that no dog is truly “hypoallergenic.” Some people are allergic to the dander as well as the fur, and since all dogs have dander, all dogs are capable of creating problems for an individual with animal allergies.

The Portuguese Water Dog’s Temperament

The Portuguese Water Dog has a working dog temperament: eager to please, generally friendly with most strangers and extremely devoted to his family. This is not a shy or soft-spoken dog; the Portuguese Water Dog is confident, loyal and eager to get going!

Like all working dogs, the PWD is a high-energy breed, both in a physical and in a mental sense. So this means anyone considering this breed will need to provide plenty of walks, jogs and games of fetch in the yard. This is not a dog breed that will be satisfied by one or two brief walks each day. Boredom and inactivity can be a dangerous thing for a working breed; if a Portuguese Water Dog is not kept mentally and physically active by his family, he will go in search of mental and physical stimulation on his own and you may not like what he comes up with! Like all working dogs, the PWD needs a “job” to be happy, so he’s apt to assign himself to a job if you don’t do it for him and that job may be barking at the neighbors or unstuffing the couch!

In sum, the Portuguese Water Dog is an intelligent and friendly working breed that’s especially at home in the water. If you like the PWD, you may also enjoy reading about another working dog – the Siberian Husky.

(Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons)




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