The Portuguese Water Dog’s extremely bright and active. Its uncanny intelligence can be very challenging to new owner(s). It is extremely important you select a breeder who will guide you a good 6 weeks before you take your puppy home, as well as 8 weeks after providing also a lifetime of support. Not all breeders are equal in this regard. Being handed any breed of dog without preparation is real disservice to both you and the pup. The socialization window for a Portuguese Water Dog can close as early as 4-5 months and if you are not prepared you will miss important windows of opportunity to have a dog well adjusted for life. It is important to realize the number one killer of dogs is poor behavior and unprepared owners are the number one cause of those unfortunate situations where they are given up. Time well spent choosing the right breeder will be time well earned.
The Portuguese Water Dog comes in two different coat types: wavy and curly; both types are equally acceptable. They have a robust stature and webbed toes, with well-balanced and muscled physique. They are tremendous swimmers and have unique diving skills; these are rugged dogs that love to work outdoors. The breed’s athleticism and intelligence have allowed it to excel in agility, fly ball, obedience and even tracking. They are quick learners and eager to please their owners. At the same time, they can be extremely sensitive and their feelings are easily hurt.
The Portuguese Water Dog has sometimes been described as the ‘clown” of the water dog family. They seem to have sudden bursts of energy that come out of nowhere. Frequently, they can be found sitting calm and motion-less. Then, only minutes later, they will be running around from room to room in an excited way. If you are looking for a calm, docile dog, the Portuguese Water Dog may not be the right one for you.
They have a unique sense of humor that doesn’t always sit well with some individuals. Daily exercise, and plenty of it, is an absolute necessity for the breed. A PWD is best suited to the active owner who enjoys long walks to an open field or park, or frequent visits to the beach or lake. The breed’s excellent retrieving abilities make them good flying-disc dogs and perfect companions for simple fetching games.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a quick learner. This is the reason why the breed has done very well in all types of performance and sporting activities. They love to please their owners and will go to extremes to do so. They are energetic, affectionate and trustworthy, and they thrive on human attention. They bond very easily. Despite the breed’s loyalty to its owners and immediate family, it can be reserved with strangers. In fact, PWD’s make good watchdogs and will bark to alert you of possible danger when confronted with a stranger or the arrival of an unfamiliar car or person. The breed’s bravery and independence are easily recognizable. The breed does very well with children and other animals. The PWD’s high energy will keep both the dog and your child busy for hours while they enjoy each other’s company in play. Of course, any dogs and young children should always be supervised.
If you are looking for a dog that requires minimal grooming, you may want to look elsewhere. The PWD requires consistent grooming that includes a good combing (with the use of a steel comb) at least three times a week to remove mats and shed hair (and more if you want to keep the dog’s hair long) which can become caught in a long coat. They will shed some hair but much less than one might think for a heavily coated breed. In dog show competition, the breed is exhibited in one of two clips: the “lion” and the “retriever.” With the lion clip, the hindquarters as well as the muzzle are clipped short. The end of the tail’s left long and the coat on the head, neck, forequarters and chest is left long to resemble the lion’s mane. The retriever clip is the choice of many pet owners; this is also acceptable for showing. If you decide to go with the retriever clip, the entire coat is scissored or clipped to a length of 1 inch, except the end of the tail, which is left long. Often it is said, In the lion trim you only have half a dog to comb. In the show ring the wavys are most commonly shown in the “lion trim” and the curlies in the “retriever cut”. Your breeder should school you in how to groom and perform trims yourself.
In the field, the breed can be taught to flush out upland game and water fowl. They are excellent retrievers with soft mouths. They even have a distinctive innate herding ability. Whether it’s in the field or in the home, PWDs make wonderful companions. They are truly “people dogs” and require the utmost respect and loyalty. If you’re willing to give these dogs the attention and love they require, you will certainly receive that same respect back and learn the meaning of true friendship.
The Portuguese Water Dog is a healthy breed of dog. It’s not uncommon for them to live well over 14 years of age. They are a strong breed and resistant to many of the common ailments that frequently affect some of their canine cousins.
Some of the major health issues that affected the Portuguese Water Dog in the past now have tests which can perform on the sire and dam prior to breeding. Testing can now assure a breeder that offspring will not be affected with: Storage Disease (GM1), Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDCM), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and Improper Coat. A responsible breeder would have done these tests before breeding and will have those results to show you. If the breeder does not have these tests results to show then you should go elsewhere.
Excerpt from Portuguese Water Dog, part of the Comprehensive Owner’s Guide series.