Portuguese Water Dog (Cão de Agua Português)

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black, brown of various shades, solid white
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • excellent hunter
  • great swimmer
  • loves children
  • independent-minded
  • needs a lot of grooming

The Portuguese Water Dog has been serving as a trustworthy assistant for Portuguese fishermen for centuries. The advance of technological era in the beginning of the XX century has almost led to full disappearance of the dog but it survived and acquired substantial following all around the world but especially in the United States. Today the breed’s predominant role is to be an energetic, tender and faithful companion dog.

The Portuguese Water Dog’s appearance dates back to five hundred years, when it was developed from working dogs in the Iberian Peninsula. It’s suggested that the Poodle and the Portuguese Water Dog are related but the name of its common forefather remains obscure. The breed has also contributed into development of the Irish Water Spaniel.

In its native Portugal the dog is called the Cão de Água, which can be translated as «dog of water». The Portuguese Water Dog was purposefully bred to be a supreme swimmer and highly treasured helper for Portuguese fishermen. The dog was responsible for accomplishing multiple tasks and it was considered to be a full-fledged member of the crew. Among its duties were herding and catching fish, getting out of water broken fishing tackle, delivering messages from one ship to the other or from ship to the shore and defending moored ship in a port. The popularity of the breed stretched so far that even non-commercial fishermen had an opportunity to rent it for their fishing adventures.

In the early XX century the old ways of fishing were neglected in favour of more progressive technologies of the fishing industry. The Portuguese Water Dog lost its essential function of fisherman’s companion so its number dwindled dramatically. The breed was saved from the imminent threat of extinction by affluent dog fancier, Vasco Bensuade. He launched an extensive breeding program to restore the population of the dog in its homeland and to promote it in other countries. This program resulted in partial rehabilitation of the Portuguese Water Dog’s popularity. In modern days it’s widely used as a companion dog as well as participated with fabulous success in obedience competition, water trials and agility contests.

The Portuguese Water Dog made its way to the United States in 1958. The American Kennel Club (AKC) granted its full recognition to the breed in 1984. Thanks to the presence of the dog called Bo Obama in the White House this breed came in the spotlight in the recent years.

The Portuguese Water Dog’s temperament presents a mixture of traits of a companion dog and a typical working breed. This dog usually develops strong attachment to its human family and enjoys being surrounded by people it loves. However it’s a bit reserved in manifestation of its emotions and likes to show its affection in more dignified way. The majority of the specimens will establish particularly close relationship with one member of its family to whom it will be extremely faithful. The frisky Portuguese Water Dog is a perfect friend for a restless and mischievous child and handles it with due carefulness.

The breed gets on with unfamiliar people since it had to tolerate constantly changing crewmembers on a boat in its not so distant past. However, the Portuguese Water Dog is usually reserved with strangers. This breed is also vigilant enough to become an outstanding watch dog. However, it won’t be able to perform the responsibilities of the guardian with sufficient effectiveness since it’s deprived of necessary aggression.

On the whole the Portuguese Water Dog doesn’t have aggressive issues with other dogs. Moreover it will greatly appreciate the company of other canine animals if it has been exposed to their presence since its puppyhood. Its owner should exercise extra caution when his dog plays with a small dog since the Portuguese Water Dog can accidently hurt it in the heat of the game. The breed is ok with other home pets and mostly treats them with proper respect if they have been introduced to each other timely and correctly. It’s highly likely though that the sight of a stray cat will stimulate a dog’s hunting instinct so it would be prudent to use a leash at all times in walking with it.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• ear infections;
• eyes problems;
• GM1 storage disease;
• juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy.

The thick coat of the Portuguese Water Dog requires a great deal of time investment in order to maintain it well-attended and attractive. The owner should brush its dog every single day. It also should be regularly trimmed and in most cases it will mean systematic visits to professional groomer. The hair of the Portuguese Water Dog is prone to grow more slowly than with other similar breeds but it should be certainly trimmed minimum several times a year.

The Portuguese Water Dog sheds insignificantly so it’s regarded as highly suitable for allergy sufferers. The hanging ears of the dogs tend to have dirt and debris stuck in them. This may lead to appearance of irritation and infection so they should be checked and wiped with soft wet cloth on a regular basis.

In its working past the Portuguese Water Dog was regularly charged with complex assignments, which allowed it to develop a sharp and independent mind. This highly trainable dog performs at the highest level in obedience and agility competitions but shows best results in retrieving and in any tasks involving water.

Nevertheless it has a tendency to have its own opinion on everything and won’t oblige to your commands blindly. It’s crucial for training success to form trusting and respectful relationship with the dog and to become an unquestionable leader for it. The Portuguese Water Dog reacts best to reward-based techniques of training and totally ignores your commands if you try to impose them with rude corrective methods.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a moderately active breed and thus demands an average amount of regular exercise. Its owner should take the dog for prolonged and vigorous walk each and every day. As a working dog the breed is hardy enough to happily take any challenging physical task you can offer it.

The Portuguese Water Dog also strives to receive a constant mental stimulation and can become hyper active, excessively vocal or even destructive if it gets bored or lacks physical activity. It’s important to mention that it’s quite possible for a truly committed family to keep the dog satisfied with its life and in a good shape.