The Portuguese Water Dog is a working class breed of dog, and are originally from the Portuguese region of the Algarve. This is from where the breed expanded to all around Portugal’s coast. There they were taught to herd fish into the nets of fisherman, retrieve lost or broken nets, and as as couriers from ship to ship or ship to shore. The dogs rode in fishing trawlers as the made their way from the Atlantic waters of Portugal to the waters off the coast of Iceland. This is a fairly rare breed, and was on the verge of extinction prior to the 1930’s. During the 1930’s, a wealthy Portuguese shipping magnate named Vasco Bensaude, sought out fisherman’s dogs and then utilized them in a breeding program to reestablish the breed. His most famous dog was Leão, and was bred to so many different females that about half of the pedigreed Portuguese Water Dogs in existence can trace their lineage back to him.
This breed is robustly built, with stout legs, and can sport a wavy coat instead of one that is tightly curled. The dog is built of strong substantial bone, is well developed, muscular, solid, and neither refined nor coarse. He is off-square slightly longer than he is tall when he is measured from prosternum to the rearmost point of the buttocks from the withers to the floor. His eyes are black or various tones of brown, and the coats may be black, black and white, brown and white or brown. He has webbed toes and stout legs which make him an excellent swimmer. This breed as a non-shedding, single-layered coat. They can have either a curly coat or a wavy coat. The curly coat is has cylindrical curls that are somewhat lusterless and compact. The wavy coat has a slight sheen and falls gently in waves, not curls. The male Water Dog usually stands about 20-23 inches and weighs between 40-60 pounds. The female Water Dog stands between 17-21 inches tall, and weighs between 35-50 pounds.
This breed of dog makes an excellent companion as they are independent, loving, smart, and are easily trained. Once this dog has been introduced to strangers, they are generally friendly, and enjoy being petted. Because of their working dog instinct, they are content with being by their master’s side, waiting for orders. They are quick learners and seem to enjoy training. They are able to follow complex commands and have a long memory for the names of objects. This makes them great as service dogs such as hearing dogs, seizure response dogs, and mobility dogs. Subsequently they also make unusually good therapy dogs as well. This breed usually stays close to its owners both indoors and out, and will typically bond with one primary family member. Because of his retrieving instinct, he does have some tugging and chewing tendencies. Because of their intelligence and working drive, they need intensive exercise and mental stimulation; boredom can cause them to become destructive.
These dogs are vulnerable to certain genetic defects which include hip dysplasia, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, distichiasis, GM1 storage disease, and juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy. The average life span of the Water Dog is 10-14 years old.