A BRIEF HISTORY: The Portuguese Water Dog developed in Portugal and is known as Cao De Agua (pronounced Kown-d'ahgwa), "dog of the water".
The breed developed many centuries ago as seafaring working dogs and predates the Poodle. The Portuguese fishermen kept these dogs as a working part of their crews and paid them wages just as their human crewmates were paid. The Water Dogs would act as couriers, carrying messages between ships and from ship to shore, and would dive into the sea to retrieve broken fishing nets and equipment that had gone overboard. Often they would have to dive under water to retrieve submerged articles. The Portuguese Water Dog was a loyal fisherman's companion and alert guard. Modern technology and the radio caused the near extinction of this breed.
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.
The Portuguese Water Dog was admitted to the American Kennel Club's Miscellaneous Class in 1981 and became eligible to compete in the AKC Working Group in 1984.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PORTUGUESE WATER DOG: The Portuguese Water Dog is a strong, robust, medium sized, agile dog with stamina and endurance to do a full days work. It has a coat of non-shedding hair that continues to grow as human hair does. It has no undercoat. The coat can be curly or wavy. The colors are black, white, and various tones of brown; also combinations of black or brown with white.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a complex canine that wants love and trust. It needs people, bonds readily, and is loyal to its "crewmates". It thrives as a family member and gets on well with children and other pets. With its sense of humor it will invariably compete for center stage. In its role as watchman, the Portuguese Water Dog is alert and protective rather than aggressive and is cautious and sensible with strangers.
The breed is a loyal, affectionate, energetic, intelligent family companion and watchdog which thrives on and demands human attention. Its appearance often belies its true character. It remains a true working dog, tough and independent at times. As stated earlier, it is a people-oriented dog and requires prolonged daily human interaction for proper personality development. The life expectancy of the average Portuguese Water Dog is 12 to 15 years. They tend to mature slowly and remain active well into their senior years.
Daily doses of exercise outdoors are a must or the Portuguese Water Dog will provide its own exuberant exercise indoors. Portuguese Water Dogs require an owner as active, involved and intelligent as they are or will soon be running the household and getting into major mischief. The robustness and high spirits of this fisherman's dog should be understood as natural exuberance just as its retriever qualities make it "mouthy" not intentionally destructive. The Portuguese Water Dog has a unique sense of humor, its owner needs a sense of humor too.
Rare is the Portuguese Water Dog that does not like to be in the water. Where access to water is possible, they enjoy playing and working in the water with their families. They can, however, survive quite well in areas where swimming is not possible.
The Portuguese Water Dog is not successful as a kennel dog because of it's desire to be with it's people. Also, as it has a coat of hair with no undercoat, it does not have the needed natural insulation to survive an unheated kennel in extreme climates.