About the PWD
About the PWD
The existence of the Portuguese Water Dog along the coast of Portugal can be traced back to very remote times.  The first written description of the PWD 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 with a tuft on the tip of his tail."  Due to the historical clip still in use, many writings describe the breed as the "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 fisherman as a companion and guard dog.  He lived on 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 fisherman accounts for the remarkable muscle development of their hindquarters.  As noted in the breed standard, this dog is of exceptional intelligence and loyal companionship who willingly serves his master well.

In Portugal, the breed is called the Cao de Agua (pronounced Kown-d'Ahgwa).  "Cao" means "dog", "de Agua" means "of water."  In his native land, the dog is also known as the Portuguese Fishing Dog.

The breed first came to the United States in the late 1960's. In the early 1970's, there were only 25 known Portuguese Water Dogs in the world. Because of dedicated breeders, by 1981 there were over 500 dogs in the United States. Today, many thousands of Portuguese Water Dogs live in the U.S. and around the world. The breed, while not common, is no longer rare nor in danger of extinction.

Do they shed?
They do not shed very much, but they do shed (all mammals shed at least a little).  PWDs, as well as other single-coated breeds (Poodles, Bichons, Kerry Blue Terriers, Wheaten Terriers, to name a few) do not have an undercoat that sheds.   That undercoat shedding is what most people with allergies have problems with.

PWDs are hypoallergenic, right?
Portuguese Water Dogs are considered to be hypoallergenic because they are single-coated.  To be "hypoallergenic" is to have a decreased tendency to cause allergies.  There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog.  Hypoallergenic dog breeds (single coated or hairless) will still produce allergens, but because of their coat type will significantly produce less than others.  People with severe allergies and asthma will likely still be affected by a hypoallergenic dog.

If you have severe allergies it is suggested that you spend time with adult PWDS before getting one.  Many people are allergic to Portuguese Water Dogs, so be careful.  Spend time with the breed before bringing one into your home as a family member.

Are they good with children?
Portuguese Water Dogs get along great with children.  You need to remember, however, that dogs are not human.  PWDS will often consider a child a canine litter mate and would play harder than they would want; and they play with their mouths.  It is important to never let small children be unsupervised with your dog(s).

Can they stay by themselves all day?
PWDS are people-oriented and long to be with their "crewmates" or family.  Thus they do not do well in a kennel environment or left alone for long periods of time.

What are the health issues I should be concerned with?
The health issues of greatest concern within this breed include Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Storage Disease (GM-1) and Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDCM).

Please reference the health section of the PWDCA website for more information by clicking here.