History of the Breed and Other Information from the PWDCA
The existence of the Portuguese Water Dog along the Algarve on the coast of Portugal can be traced back to very remote times. Evidence exists which indicates that in pre-Christian times, the “water dog” was held to be nearly sacred, and severe penalties came to those who killed a “water dog”. There are many theories surrounding the dog, but none dispute that this remarkable dog has an ancient ancestry. The first written description of the Portuguese Water Dog is dated to 1297, and concerns a monk’s report of a dying sailor who had been brought out of the sea by a dog which had a “black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail”. Due to the historical clip still in use, many writings describe the breed as a “Lion Dog”. It is said that the current day Poodle, Kerry Blue Terrier, and Irish Water Spaniel are possibly ancestors of the “water dog”.
In bygone times, this breed existed everywhere along the coast of Portugal. This well-balanced working dog was prized by the fishermen as a companion and guard dog. He lived on the working boats where he was taught to herd fish into nets, to retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and to act as a courier from ship to ship, or ship to shore.
Tasks required the dogs to be excellent swimmers and seafarers. Dogs were capable of diving underwater to retrieve fishing gear and to prevent the escape of fish from the nets. Constant swimming and working with the fishermen accounts for the remarkable muscular development of their hindquarters. As noted in the breed standard, this dog of exceptional intelligence and loyal companionship willingly served a master well.
In Portugal, the breed is called Cão de Água (pronounced Kown-d’Ahgwa). ‘Cão’ means ‘dog’, ‘de Água’ means ‘of water’. In his native land, the dog is also known as the Portuguese Fishing Dog. Cão de Água de Pelo Ondulado is the name given the long-haired variety, and Cão de Água de Pelo Encaracolado is the name for the curly-coat variety.
Revised Standard for the Portuguese Water Dog
The Board of Directors of The American Kennel Club has approved the following revised Standard for the Portuguese Water Dog as submitted by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc.:
Known for centuries along Portugal’s coast, this seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a 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 a swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina, who aided his master at sea by retrieving broken nets, herding schools of fish, and carrying messages between boats and to shore. He is a loyal companion and alert guard. This highly intelligent utilitarian breed is distinguished by two coat types, either curly or wavy; an impressive head of considerable breadth and well proportioned mass; a ruggedly built, well-knit body; and a powerful, thickly based tail, carried gallantly or used purposefully as a rudder. The Portuguese Water Dog provides an indelible impression of strength, spirit, and soundness.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size–Height at the withers–Males, 20 to 23 inches. The ideal is 22 inches. Females, 17 to 21 inches. The ideal is 19 inches. Weight–For males, 42 to 60 pounds; for females, 35 to 50 pounds. Proportion–Off square; slightly longer than tall when measured from prosternum to rearmost point of the buttocks, and from withers to ground. Substance–Strong, substantial bone; well developed, neither refined nor coarse, and a solidly built, muscular body.
An essential characteristic; distinctively large, well proportioned and with exceptional breadth of topskull. Expression–Steady, penetrating, and attentive. Eyes– Medium in size; set well apart, and a bit obliquely. Roundish and neither prominent nor sunken. Black or various tones of brown in color. Darker eyes are preferred. Eye rims fully pigmented with black edges in black, black and white, or white dogs; brown edges in brown dogs. Haws are dark and not apparent. Ears–Set well above the line of the eye. Leather is heart shaped and thin. Except for a small opening at the back, ears are held nicely against the head. Tips should not reach below the lower jaw.
Skull–In profile, it is slightly longer than the muzzle, its curvature more accentuated at the back than in the front. When viewed head-on, the top of the skull is very broad and appears domed, with a slight depression in the middle. The forehead is prominent, and has a central furrow, extending two-thirds of the distance from stop to occiput. The occiput is well defined. Stop–Well defined. Muzzle–Substantial; wider at the base than at the nose. Jaws–Strong and neither over nor undershot. Nose–Broad, well flared nostrils. Fully pigmented; black in dogs with black, black and white, or white coats; various tones of brown in dogs with brown coats. Lips– Thick, especially in front; no flew. Lips and mucous membranes of the roof of the mouth, under tongue, and gums are quite black, or well ticked with black in dogs with black, black and white, or white coats; various tones of brown in dogs with brown coats. Bite–Scissors or level. Teeth–Not visible when the mouth is closed. Canines strongly developed.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck–Straight, short, round, and held high. Strongly muscled. No dewlap.
Topline–Level and firm.
Body–Chest is broad and deep, reaching down to the elbow. Ribs are long and well-sprung to provide optimum lung capacity. Abdomen well held up in a graceful line.
Back is broad and well muscled. Loin is short and meets the croup smoothly. Croup is well formed and only slightly inclined with hip bones hardly apparent.
Tail–Not docked; thick at the base and tapering; set on slightly below the line of the back; should not reach below the hock. When the dog is attentive the tail is held in a ring, the front of which should not reach forward of the loin. The tail is of great help when swimming and diving.
Shoulders are well inclined and very strongly muscled. Upper arms are strong. Forelegs are strong and straight with long, well muscled forearms. Carpus is heavy-boned, wider in front than at the side. Pasterns are long and strong. Dewclaws may be removed. Feetare round and rather flat. Toes neither knuckled up nor too long. Webbing between the toes is of soft skin, well covered with hair, and reaches the toe tips. Central pad is very thick, others normal. Nails held up slightly off the ground. Black, brown, white, and striped nails are allowed.
Powerful; well balanced with the front assembly. Legs, viewed from the rear, are parallel to each other, straight and very strongly muscled in upper and lower thighs. Buttocks are well developed. Tendons and hocks are strong. Metatarsus long, no dewclaws. Feetsimilar in all respects to forefeet.
A profuse, thickly planted coat of strong, healthy hair, covering the whole body evenly, except where the forearm meets the brisket and in the groin area, where it is thinner. No undercoat, mane or ruff. There are two varieties of coat:
Curly–Compact, cylindrical curls, somewhat lusterless. The hair on the ears is sometimes wavy.
Wavy–Falling gently in waves, not curls, and with a slight sheen.
No preference will be given to coat type, either curly or wavy.
Two clips are acceptable:
Lion Clip–As soon as the coat grows long, the middle part and hindquarters, as well as the muzzle, are clipped. The hair at the end of the tail is left at full length.
Retriever Clip–In order to give a natural appearance and a smooth unbroken line, the entire coat is scissored or clipped to follow the outline of the dog, leaving a short blanket of coat no longer than one inch in length. The hair at the end of the tail is left at full length.
No discrimination will be made against the correct presentation of a dog in either Lion Clip or Retriever Clip.
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.
Short, lively steps when walking. The trot is a forward striding, well balanced movement.
An animal of spirited disposition, self-willed, brave, and very resistant to fatigue. A dog of exceptional intelligence and a loyal companion, it obeys its master with facility and apparent pleasure. It is obedient with those who look after it or with those for whom it works.
The Portuguese Water Dog is spirited yet obedient, robust, and of unexaggerated, functional conformation; sure, substantially boned and muscled, and able to do a full day’s work in and out of the water.
Any deviation from the described ideal is a fault. However, those inherent characteristics that are imperative for the maintenance of proper type, and therefore cannot be overlooked, are listed as Major Faults.
1. Temperament–Shy, vicious, or unsound behavior.
2. Head–Unimpressive; small in overall size; narrow in topskull; snipey in muzzle.
3. Substance–Light or refined in bone; lacking in muscle.
4. Coat–Sparse; naturally short, close-lying hair, partially or over all; wispy or wiry in texture; brittle; double-coated.
5. Tail–Other than as described. Extremely low set. Heavy or droopy in action.
6. Pigment–Any deviation from described pigmentation; other than black or various tones of brown eye color; pink or partial pigmentation in nose, lips, eyes, or eye rims.
7. Bite–Overshot or undershot.
There are two varieties of Portuguese Water Dog coat that meet the breed standard:
Curly – compact, cylindrical curls, somewhat lusterless. The hair on the ears is sometimes wavy.
Wavy – Falling gently in waves, not curls, and with a slight sheen.
So you think you want a Portuguese Water Dog puppy?
We know that Portuguese Water Dog puppies are cute. But we also know they are not the right dog for everyone. Before you buy one, we’d like to help you make sure that having a Portuguese Water Dog is the right dog for you.
Our breed has a range of health, temperaments, energy levels – and breeders. Please take the time now to make a careful choice.
If you want a dog that…
- requires regular and extensive grooming
- demands attention and exercise
- challenges your will
- needs training and human contact
- thinks independently
- voices its opinion
- greets friends and family with unbridled enthusiasm
. . . then the Portuguese Water Dog may be right for you.
If you want a dog that…
- requires minimal grooming
- needs little or no attention or exercise
- requires little mental stimulation
- is content to be left alone
- is very obedient in nature
- blends into the woodwork
- gives the occasional jump, lick and wagging tail
. . . then the Portuguese Water Dog is NOT right for you.