Portuguese Water Dog, the fishermen’s companion dog

Origin, physical traits, character and advice for care

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By Alex

The Portuguese Water Dog, also known in its native country as the “Cão de Água”, is an excellent swimmer, very intelligent and affectionate. This medium-sized dog is athletic, robust and muscular. It is one of the dogs with the nicest expression, sometimes funny.

Because of its swimming ability, the Portuguese Water Dog was often boarded on Portuguese and Spanish ships to perform various tasks: retrieving fallen fish from nets and fishing gear from the sea, and even carrying messages between boats or from ship to shore.

Let’s find out what its characteristics are and tips for taking care of this dog.

Origins of the Portuguese Water Dog

A very ancient breed (about 7000 BC), the Cão de Água Português traces its origins to the steppes of Central Asia. In the centuries to follow it came to Portugal, brought by the Berbers, or perhaps the Moors or Goths. Here, these dogs were bred to help fishermen in their activities, being excellent swimmers and divers.

In the 1960s, as fishing techniques changed, their numbers began to decline, so much so that they appeared on the list of rare and endangered breeds. However, interest in them remained and turned them into pet and show dogs, so that they were saved from extinction.

In 1958, two specimens came to the United States for a rare breed exchange program. And, from that moment, its fame slowly began to grow. And in 1984, the Portuguese Water Dog was accepted by the American Kennel Club within working group.

Physical characteristics of the Portuguese Water Dog

Based on FCI classification, this water dog is part of Group 8, of water search and retrieval dogs, like the much more famous Labrador Retrievers.

Devoid of undercoat and with a continuously growing coat, it is the ideal dog for those with allergies to fur. In addition, it does not drool.

It is a medium-sized dog, with a square shape and a muscular, well-defined body. Although small in strides, it moves nimbly and with speed.

Here are its physical characteristics in detail.

  • Arms: The front legs are long, straight and have a strong bone structure; the hind legs, on the other hand, are more muscular and well-developed
  • Head: massive, well set in a muscular neck
  • Elongated muzzle.
  • Nose: black, white or brown, depending on coat color, has wide nostrils
  • Eyes: medium to large, round in shape and with a lively, viscous expression
  • Ears: high hairline
  • Tail: long tapering at the end
  • Dimensions: has a muscular structure and has the following measurements. The height at withers of the male is 50-57 cm, of the female is 45-52 cm. The weight of the male is 19-25 kg, that of the female is 15-22 kg

Portuguese water dog

The coat of the Portuguese Water Dog

Basically, we can distinguish between two types of Portuguese type, based on the characteristics of the coat. which is always devoid of undercoat.

  • Long, wavy and fluffy coat
  • Short coat, characterized by small, narrow and flat curls

The hair is thick and evenly distributed. Slightly longer on the ears, but without being too thick. At the top of the head, a kind of mane is formed.

As for the shades, the coat comes in the following colors: black, white or all the various shades of brown.

Show specimens are sheared on the muzzle, hindquarters and an area of the tail.

What is the character of the Portuguese Water Dog?

This is an energetic and very active dog that needs to get lots of physical activity every day.

Although this dog is independent in nature, it bonds with its owner, to the point that it can even become jealous of him. The Portoguese Water Dog is a very intelligent breed, learns quickly and is easy to train.

It must be involved in numerous activities, preferably new ones: you shall prevent it from getting bored and sometimes give free rein to it destructive side. As you will see, this dog loves digging holes and chewing on objects.

It is a good idea to fence off the backyard to avert the risk of it straying,

This dog constantly goes in search of interaction with people, although with strangers it may be reserved and wary at the beginning. It also gets along well with other pets (birds, reptiles and rodents).

What are the attitudes of the Portuguese Water Dog

Because of its temperament, it is a good guard dog. However, its size does not allow it to be a good defensive dog.

An excellent swimmer and diver, it is part of the hunting dogs but is at its best as a retrieving dog in the water. It is also very good at fishing. Suffice it to say that in Portugal, in the Algarve region, it was used by fishermen who could not swim. It represented an invaluable aid for them in carrying out all the operations in the water: retrieving and transporting the fish, nets and tools needed for fishing.

Portuguese water dog

Health problems and diseases of the Portuguese Water Dog

This is a generally healthy, strong and robust dog. However, like many pure breeds it can suffer from hereditary diseases, such as:

  • hip dysplasia
  • progressive retinalatrophy
  • juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy, a rare but serious condition
  • gangliosidosis type 1, which causes the accumulation of toxic substances in the nerve, with serious neurological consequences

Before breeding, it is therefore important to have eye examinations and an evaluation on the degree of hip dysplasia. For hereditary heart disease and neurological disease, specific DNA tests can be performed.

How to care for the Portuguese Water Dog

As this is a very energetic and active dog, it needs to exercise for at least one hour a day. For activities, it is good to consider that it loves water very much.

You will need to brush its coat about 2-3 times a week. To keep the coat nice and tidy and knot-free, a session with a good professional groomer is recommended every month and a half.

How long does a Portuguese Water Dog live

It has an average life span of 12-15 years. It is therefore a rather long-lived dog.

How much does a Portuguese Water Dog cost

The average price of a puppy is around 1,800-2,300 dollars. It is still a little-known breed that is not widespread in the U.S. or even in its native Europe.

Bonus tips

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