The Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) was developed along the coast of Portugal by fishermen to aid them in their work. For centuries these dogs were taught to herd fish into nets, to retrieve lost tackle, to act as couriers for ship to ship or ship to shore, carrying messages in pouches, and occasionally rescuing a fisherman from the sea. Thus they are powerful swimmers and truly at home in the water.
Interest in the breed in the U.S. began in 1958. One fact that is known for certain is that at least half of the ships of the Spanish Armada that sailed against England on May 18, 1588 had these dogs on board as lifesavers, and 130 ships sailed.
In 1972, 16 people involved with the breed formed the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, and at that time there were only 12 PWDs in the U.S. By 1982 the number had grown to over 650. In 1981 the American Kennel Club admitted the Portuguese Water Dog to the Miscellaneous Class and as of January 1, 1984 the PWD became eligible to compete in the show ring as a member of the Working Group.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a fun loving, robust, strong and sturdy dog. He has that “let’s do it” attitude of a good working dog. His strong “want to please” outlook makes him a willing and ready companion. He is very adaptable to most any situation. He is a devoted companion and family member, and he is very affectionate and loyal to “his people.” He can be demanding of attention if ignored for too long a period. He can also be stubborn but this persistence and tenacity can be channeled with training and is essential in a working dog. His natural intelligence does require consistency when training. PWDs usually adore the company of other dogs, especially other PWDs.
As a puppy he can be very clumsy and all legs, but as he matures he becomes quite graceful and agile. This athletic ability combined with his intelligence and his need to please make him a natural for obedience training, tracking, and agility work. His incredible swimming ability coupled with the above traits make him ideal for water work and water trials.
The PWD is of medium build, well-balanced, and well-muscled, males stand 20″ – 23″, 17″-21″ for bitches, and weigh 42-60 lbs (for males), and 35-50 lbs (for bitches). The story goes that this size variation was so that smaller dogs could be used on smaller boats and larger dogs on larger boats. The PWD has a profuse non allergenic, non shedding, water resistant coat, and fully webbed feet, and a very strong tail (used as a rudder when swimming).
There are two coat types. The wavy coat is fairly long with waves or loose curls with a slight sheen and is usually silky in texture. The curly coat forms more compact and tighter curls and has a kinkier, lusterless texture.