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Breed Portuguese Water Dog
  • Breed Group
    Working Group
  • Temperament
    Self-Willed, Affectionate, Adventurous, Intelligent, Obedient
  • Personality
    • Height17-23 in
    • Weight25-60 lbs
    • Lifespan11-13 years
    • EnergyHigh
    • GroomingHigh
    • SheddingMinimal

Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog has aided Portuguese fishermen for many centuries. In Portugal, the breed is known as Cao de Aqua, which means “dog of water.” According to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, the first written description of the Portuguese Water Dog dates back to 1297, when a monk reported seeing a sailor rescued from the sea by a dog with a “black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail.” Valued for their hard work and companionship, Porties worked closely alongside Portuguese fishermen. Portuguese Water Dogs were used for herding fish into nets, retrieving lost tackle or broken nets and they also acted as messengers between ships and shore. Porties and the crew would ride in trawlers from the warm Portuguese coast to the freezing cold waters of Iceland. 

By the 20th century, modern technology slowly began to phase out fishermans jobs, causing the Portuguese Water Dog breed to nearly go extinct. In an effort to save the breed, a Portuguese shipping magnate named Vasco Bensaude, took an interest in the Portuguese Water Dog and reestablished the breed. His most prized dog was a magnificent Portie named Leão, the epitome of the Portuguese Water Dog breed. Leão was bred with so many females that half of modern-day Portuguese Water Dogs trace their lineage back to him. The Portuguese Water Dog was recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1983. 

Portuguese Water Dogs are a highly active breed, given their working history they need a lot of physical activity and vigorous exercise. Porties love long walks, playing fetch and, of course, swimming! This breed is exceptionally intelligent and requires daily mental stimulation to keep occupied. With a little bit of patient positive reinforcement, training your Portie is relatively easy. Portuguese Water Dogs get along with other dogs and cats if raised with them. Porties are loyal, affectionate and love nothing more than to please their owners. If you’re looking for an excellent family companion, the Portuguese Water Dog is a great fit.

Create the perfect meal plan for your Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog Appearance 

The Portuguese Water Dog is a medium-sized dog with a well-built robust body. Female Porties stand around 17 to 21 inches tall and weigh roughly 35 to 50 pounds. Male Porties come in at 20 to 23 inches and weigh about 42 to 60 pounds. Portuguese Water Dog coat colours can include black, white, brown, black and white, and brown and white.

Portuguese Water Dog Temperament

Portuguese Water Dogs are known for having a fun-loving and affectionate personality. Porties are great around children and enjoy taking care of their human pack. Portuguese Water Dogs are also an intelligent breed that thrive with an owner who can provide activities to keep them mentally stimulated.

Learn how diet effects your dog’s behaviour

Grooming Your Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog can have two different coat textures, curly or wavy.  As their fur grows thick and quickly, it’s important that your Portie’s coat receives regular and extensive grooming. This will help to prevent their fur from getting tangled up and reaching an unmanageable state.

Porties are considered hypoallergenic as a result of their minimal shedding and no undercoat, this is a great benefit for owners that may be allergic to dog fur. 

Give your dog a shinier coat with fresh food

Training & Exercise for Your Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dogs are naturally obedient and highly intelligent, which makes them easy to train. It’s important to start training and socializing your Portie at a young age to ensure they learn basic obedience and good habits early. Positive reinforcement is the best approach to train your Portuguese Water Dog. Porties love to learn and do best with interactive training activities. To prevent your Portie from becoming destructive, it’s important to keep them busy. Agility training, retrieving and water sports are a few great activities to keep your Portie active. Porties tend to be forceful at times, which makes it important to be assertive and use a firm tone when training them. 

As a highly intelligent and energetic breed, Portuguese Water Dogs need daily mental and physical stimulation. Porties love activities that involve swimming and retrieving. They also enjoy daily walks and make great running buddies.

Health Considerations for a Portuguese Water Dog 

Portuguese Water Dogs are a generally healthy breed; however, it’s important to educate yourself about any potential health issues to ensure your pup gets the most out of their years. Adequate exercise and a diet consisting of proper dog food plays a huge role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your Portie. The dog food should align with your Portie's size, age and any dietary requirements they may have. Some of the common disorders Porties are prone to include canine hip dysplasia (CHD), juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), storage disease (GM1) and ear infections. 

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD)

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is one of the most common canine ailments. It’s a genetic condition that causes an abnormal formation of the hip socket, which can eventually lead to lameness and arthritis of the joints. This hereditary disease can be magnified by factors including excessive growth rate, age, types of exercise, and improper weight and nutrition. While mild conditions can be managed with prescription medication and physical therapy, more severe cases could require surgery. To prevent or reduce the severity of hip dysplasia, it’s important to ensure your Portie gets a proper diet and the right amount of exercise. 

Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy 

Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a genetic disease that causes sudden death in puppies aged five weeks to seven months. This condition is equivalent to a fatal heart attack and is specific to Portuguese Water dogs. At this time, there is no cure or treatment for the disease and there is no way to diagnose it in advance. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited progressive eye disease that causes blindness in dogs. Progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRCD) is a form of PRA that affects Portuguese Water Dogs. The condition is inherited through an autosomal recessive gene and can only be passed on if both Porties carry the gene. Some symptoms to be aware of in your Portie include excessive eye rubbing, night blindness and changes in eye colour or size. A DNA-blood test can be done to help identify the gene and allows responsible breeders to prevent future cases.

Storage Disease (GM1)

Storage disease (GM1) is a recessive genetic disorder that is caused by the lack of a functional enzyme and allows the build-up of toxic substances in the nerve cells of puppies. Symptoms to be aware of in your Portie include tremors, fainting, seizures, loss of vision and exercise intolerance. A DNA test can be done to determine if your Portuguese Water Dog is a carrier or not. 

Ear Infections

Ear infections are one of the most common pet ailments. Some breeds are more susceptible than others, like the Portuguese Water Dog. As a breed that loves to swim, water has the potential to accumulate in the ear creating moisture. Moisture is a prime growing environment for bacteria and yeast. It’s important to check your Portie’s ears regularly and clean them with a damp cloth at least once a week. If your Portie contracts an ear infection it's recommended that you consult with your veterinarian. They might prescribe you with an ear cleanser and a topical medication to use at home.

Strengthen your dog’s immune system

What Makes a Portuguese Water Dog Unique?

Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps 

A group of six Portuguese Water Dogs made their official big-league debut in 2000. The San Francisco Giants needed someone to retrieve home run balls that were hit from the Pacific Bell Park into the waters of San Francisco Bay. As one of the best swimmers amongst dog breeds, Portuguese Water Dogs seemed perfect for the job. These Porties were collectively known as the Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps or BARK for short. The baseballs they retrieved would be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to a local non-profit animal shelter. 

Webbed Feet  

As their name implies, Portuguese Water Dogs were built for the water. Their thick curly coats, rudder-like tail and webbed feet give them increased efficiency in the water. Webbed feet are a unique trait that happens when the foot has connecting tissue between the toes. Webbing between the feet is beneficial for dogs like the Portuguese Water Dog as it allows them to swim with more power and speed. 

Spanish Armada

Portuguese Water Dogs served as couriers for the Spanish Armada in the 1500s. Sent to invade England in 1588, the Spanish Armada was a huge fleet of more than 100 ships. At the time, communication between ships was difficult, so Portuguese Water Dogs would be used to deliver messages. 

Create a custom Portuguese Water Dog Meal Plan

Why NutriCanine Is Great For Portuguese Water Dogs

  • Best Dog Food for a Portuguese Water Dog Puppy (1-4 years)

    Growing Portuguese Water Dog puppies will require complete and balanced dog food to ensure they lead a long and healthy life. Portuguese Water Dogs will typically reach their full adult size around 6 to 8 months old, which makes the type of dog food you feed your Portie during this growth period of utmost importance. It can help to evaluate the Portuguese Water Dogs’ health history when deciding the proper dog food for your Portie puppy. For example, this particular breed is prone to developing certain health conditions as they reach their adult years, such as progressive retinal atrophy and hip dysplasia. With this in mind, it's important to consider a nutrient-rich dog food made with real, fresh ingredients such as meat, fruits and vegetables.

    When choosing dog food for your Portie puppy, NutriCanine’s fresh dog food recipes are an ideal pick. NutriCanine fresh dog food recipes are made with fresh whole foods, including chicken, salmon, turkey, beef and lamb. Our dog food recipes are freshly prepared with real, human-edible, locally sourced ingredients. As you search for the right dog food for your Portie, animal protein should be at the top of the ingredient list. In the developing stages, Portuguese Water Dogs need high-quality, nutrient-dense dog food that will work to support their accelerated growth rate and will help prevent the various health issues this breed is susceptible to. NutriCanine offers a variety of dog food recipes designed to meet the nutritional needs of your Portie pup.

  • Best Dog Food for an Adult Portuguese Water Dog (5-7 years)
    When selecting the right dog food for your adult Portuguese Water Dog it’s important to consider a diet designed for large, active breeds. High-quality, well-balanced dog food is essential for your Portie to maintain a healthy body weight. The ideal dog food for your Portie will include lean proteins such as poultry and fish. Many Portuguese Water Dogs were fed fish back in the days when they worked with the fishermen in Portugal. In addition to protein, your Portie’s diet should also consist of low-moderate fat content, wholesome ingredients, and plenty of vitamins and nutrients. At NutriCanine, we will take the time to learn about your Portie and create a customized meal plan for their unique nutritional needs. Our dog food recipes come pre-portioned and ready to serve for a mess-free mealtime! NutriCanine dog food recipes are freshly prepared with real, human-edible, locally sourced ingredients.
  • Best Dog Food for a Senior Portuguese Water Dog

    As your Portuguese Water Dogs’ lifestyle begins to change, it’s important to adjust their diet accordingly. NutriCanine’s raw dog food recipes are specially formulated to accommodate your senior Portie’s nutritional needs; however, our gently cooked dog food line might be easier for an older dog to transition to if they’re not accustomed to fresh dog food. Our fresh dog food comes in a variety of delicious recipes that your Portie will absolutely love, including high-quality proteins like chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and chicken and salmon.

    There are numerous health benefits when feeding your Portie a diet of real, fresh dog food. With complete and balanced nutrition from NutriCanine, you’ll start to see health benefits in your senior Portie, including improved digestion, fresher breath, more stable energy levels, reduction of allergies and intolerances, brighter eyes, fresher breath, cleaner and whiter teeth, a stronger immune system, a thicker and glossier coat, less flatulence, and firmer stools, to name a few. Our dog food recipes offer complete and balanced nutrition for your Portie, with human-edible animal proteins and our unique blend of highly digestible fruits and vegetables. All our dog food recipes are freshly prepared with no hormones, no antibiotics, and no artificial preservatives, colours or flavours.

  • Best Dog Food for an Overweight Portuguese Water Dog
    Overweight Portuguese Water Dogs need real, fresh dog food that is rich in protein and moderate in fat. NutriCanine’s gently cooked dog food recipes are uniquely designed to increase your Portie’s energy levels, getting them back to their athletic and energetic nature. With your Portie’s optimal health in mind, NutriCanine takes the time to get to know your pup to create a customizable meal plan to best suit their nutritional needs. NutriCanine’s gently cooked dog food recipes are safe enough for humans to eat but specially designed to meet your dog's nutritional needs. These recipes are freshly prepared with locally sourced ingredients and are always free of hormones, antibiotics and preservatives.
  • Best Dog Food for a Portuguese Water Dog with a Sensitive Stomach
    Selecting which dog food to feed your Portuguese Water Dog with a sensitive stomach is made easy with NutriCanine. Our gently cooked dog food recipes are specially designed to meet your Portie’s nutritional needs. With a variety of protein-forward recipes to choose from, a great starting point is our gently cooked beef recipe as it would respond well to your Portie’s sensitive stomach. This unique blend contains antioxidant-rich berries and highly digestible rice, the perfect formula to strengthen your Portie’s immune system while reducing any allergies and intolerances. NutriCanine’s meals are freshly prepared with real human-edible, locally sourced ingredients. NutriCanine’s dog food is always free of hormones, antibiotics and preservatives.

Top 10 Facts About Portuguese Water Dogs

Learn more about NutriCanine’s meal plans

NutriCanine Meals


NutriCanine raw recipes contain a unique blend of highly digestible fruits and vegetables. Our raw recipes offer complete and balanced nutrition, ideal for all dogs of all ages and sizes. The transition to raw tends to be easier for younger dogs and high energy dogs.

Try NutriCanine raw recipes

Gently Cooked

NutriCanine gently cooked recipes are great for all dogs including picky eaters, sensitive stomachs, or senior dogs with brittle teeth. Our recipes are safe enough for humans to eat but specially designed to meet your dog's nutritional needs.

Try NutriCanine gently cooked recipes