Care and Grooming

The Portuguese Water Dog is an easy dog to look after, his needs are simple and the same as most other dogs – good quality food, warmth and sufficient exercise and mental stimulation to keep him out of trouble, combined with about an hour a week of grooming to keep his coat in good condition.

There are many different ways to feed a dog, every breeder has their own particular favorite method, but basically diets fall into 3 broad types:
1. Commercially prepared complete diets.
2. Traditional biscuit and meat diets.
3. BARF/whole food diets.

The PWD may be fed by any of these methods (and variations on them) and the individual dog’s health and condition will be the best indicator as to the suitability of the diet chosen. As long as it contains adequate levels of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals the dog will thrive. There really is no right or wrong way to feed but if you are inexperienced be guided by the advice of the breeder you bought your puppy from to ensure that your puppy has the best start in life.

Many Portuguese Water Dogs are particularly fond of fish, which in the past formed the staple diet of the working dog, so it is a good idea to include some in the diet from time to time. Oily fish such as herring, mackerel and sardine are particularly suitable.

Complete Diets
Choose a diet that has the protein source listed as the main ingredient on the packaging, this can be chicken, lamb or turkey and is usually combined with rice and other cereals. There are many good quality brands to choose from which are readily available at pet food superstores, however try to avoid those with artificial colorants, antioxidants and preservatives if possible. There are also many cheaper complete diets of the muesli type, which are based on cereal, and these are probably not as suitable for a PWD, which seems to need high quality meat proteins to achieve peak condition.

Traditional Diets
PWDs seem to do well on this method of feeding and for some individuals this is the best method to use, particularly if you have trouble getting weight on your dog. Traditional diets can be based on wholemeal biscuit, pasta or rice, mixed with raw or cooked fresh meat or tinned meat. You will need to supplement this type of diet to ensure adequate levels of vitamins and minerals, you can use commercially prepared supplements such as SA-37, or natural ones based on herbs, plants and seaweed.

There are a growing number of owners, especially in the USA and Australia who are using the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet advocated by Dr Billingshurst. If you’re contemplating this method of feeding you would do well to research carefully and get advice from experienced BARF feeders first. There is a whole e-mail list devoted to the subject for those interested.

The PWD has a single non-shedding coat, there are two coat types;
Wavy – where the coat is fairly long, wavy, rather loose with a slight sheen, and
Curly – where the hair is shorter, forms compact cylindrical curls, thick and somewhat lusterless. The coat texture differs in the two varieties; in the wavy the hair is thicker, silkier and quite shiny, whereas in the curly the hair is finer, softer and lacking in shine. There should be no undercoat present in either variety. Both coats types are correct and are judged together at shows. It should be noted that there are a number of dogs whose coat is neither wavy nor curly; they appear to be a hybrid ‘curly-wavy’. These coats tend to be long as in a wavy but curly/frizzy in texture so do not fit either coat type.

You should expect to spend approximately 1 hour per week grooming your PWD to keep it in good condition. It is important to thoroughly remove any shed hair from the coat on a regular basis (at least once a week) as this causes mats to form, and to brush behind ears, under armpits and around the feet regularly as these are the places that become knotted up first. Many pet owners prefer to keep their dog’s coat short (1-2″ all over) as it is much easier to groom and quicker to wash and dry.

Grooming equipment required for the pet dog is minimal, you will need a good quality pin brush (the type where the pins are set into a rubber pillow), nail clippers (guillotine type), ear cleaner (from your Vet) and cotton wool, a mild dog shampoo and conditioner. Avoid using slicker brushes on the coat, as these seem to make the hair frizzy.

When you brush your dog, check his ears and clean them if they are dirty. You should also remove excessive hair growth from the ear to ensure good air circulation and reduce the likelihood of infection. Some PWDs are prone to ear infections whilst others from the same litter have no problems at all. Dogs, which are regularly affected, appear to have particularly narrow ear canals and a tendency to excessive earwax production.

If you are interested in showing your dog you will need to keep it in the Lion Clip and it is a good idea to learn to do this yourself as having a dog clipped for exhibition is expensive and it is not always possible to find a suitably skilled groomer. The coat is clipped on the muzzle and the back end from the last rib all the way down the back legs and tail leaving a plume of hair on its tip covering not more than one third of its total length. These are the only parts of the body that may be clipped and the hair on the rest of the body should be left completely natural and not scissored or shortened in any way. It should be noted that the PWD lion clip is totally different from the poodle lion clip, which involves elaborate scissoring and sculpting. In the United States it is allowable to show your PWD in a retriever clip. You should consult with your breeder for information and suggestions on the best grooming clip for your PWD.

Allergies and Asthma
The PWD’s single non-shedding coat makes it a breed suitable for many people with allergies and asthma. However, like a human the coat sheds a quantity of hair every day so it is important to keep the coat well brushed and regularly bathed (every couple of weeks) to minimize flying hair and shedding dead skin, which are major contributors of allergic reaction. It may also be sensible to keep the coat clipped short, keep dogs out of bedrooms and wash all dog bedding regularly.