Portuguese Water Dog Dog Breed: Pictures, Colors, Bark, Characteristics, and Diet

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The Portuguese Water Dog (Water dog) is a purebred fisherman’s dog from Portugal. The average male is 20 to 23 inches (50.8 to 58.4 cm) tall and weighs 42 to 60 lbs (19.1 to 27.2 kg), while the average female is 17 to 21 inches (43.2 to 53.3 cm) tall and weighs 35 to 50 lbs (15.9 to 22.7 kg).

They are born in litters of 4 to 8 puppies and reach their adult size at around 18 months old.

Portrait of a Portuguese Water Dog

Affectionately known as Porties, Portuguese Water Dogs have long, thick, wavy, or curly single coats that can be black, brown, white, black and white, or brown and white.

They also have robust builds, stout legs, long tails, webbed feet, dark black or brown eyes, and floppy ears. 

They are friendly, loyal, and intelligent dogs with an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. Caring for a Portie dog includes 2.5 to 3.5 cups of high-quality diet and 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily. 

The breed also has a bite force that falls between 200 and 400 PSI and a loud, multi-octave bark, which is rarely heard of. Their running speed reaches around 27 mph.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about the Portuguese Water Dog. 

Table of Contents

What is a Portuguese Water Dog?

Portuguese Water Dogs were originally bred to ride and work on Portuguese fishing trawlers, mainly in the Atlantic ocean.

They would herd fish into nets, retrieve lost or broken equipment from the sea, and carry messages between ships or from ship to shore. 

Their ancestry is made up of ancient European water dog breeds and is similar to the ancestry of the Poodle, their closest canine cousins.

Why are They Called Portuguese Water Dogs?

Portuguese Water Dog wearing a life jacket
A Portuguese Water Dog wearing a life jacket beside the lake

Portuguese Water Dogs are called by their name because of their origin. They came from Portugal and were originally bred to work in water. In their homeland, they are called Cao de Agua, which means “dog of the water.”

Where Did the Portuguese Water Dog Come From?

The Portuguese Water Dog originally comes from the Algarve region of Portugal. However, the breed later flourished in America after their re-establishment following their brush with extinction in the 1900s.

When Did the Portuguese Water Dog Originate?

A Portuguese Water Dog sitting beside the garden
A black and white Portuguese Water Dog sitting beside the flowers garden

The Portuguese Water Dog has ancient roots and was first recorded by a monk in the late 13th century.

Thanks to the development of fishing technology, the need for them lessened, and they almost went extinct in the early-mid 1900s.

Thankfully, shipping magnate Vasco Bensaude saved the breed with a strong breeding program that started in the 1930s. In fact, about half of today’s Portie dogs can be traced back to his dogs. 

His work was carried on by Peruvian bull-fighter Conchita Cintron de Castelo Branco, Portuguese kennel owner Dr. António Cabral, and American Deyanne Miller, who popularized the breed in the US, and they worked together to increase the breed’s gene pool.

The breed arrived in America. It was later recognized by the AKC in 1983. 

How Many Portuguese Water Dogs are There in the World?

By the 1980s, the number of Portuguese Water Dogs had risen to 650 thanks to the breeding programs mentioned above, with the majority of the dogs living in the US.

They’re still considered relatively rare dogs worldwide but are fairly popular in the US, ranking 49 out of 195 AKC’s most popular breeds in 2020

What are the Characteristics of Portuguese Water Dogs?

A Portuguese Water Dog at Kansas city
A Portuguese Water Dog at the Liberty Memorial Tower, Kansas city – Image source

Portuguese Water Dogs are a common breed known for their loyalty and obedience. They are also intelligent and quick to learn new tricks, which makes them popular family pets.

Here are the most common traits of the Portuguese Water Dog. 

  • Friendly – Portuguese Water Dogs tend to get along with everyone, although they can take time to warm up to strangers. 
  • High energy – They are active, high-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise, adventure, and mental stimulation
  • Excitable – Porties are an excitable breed known to jump, hop, and dance when they’re excited. 
  • Loving – They can also be loving and affectionate with their family members.
  • Loyal – Porties are incredibly loyal dogs that enjoy being at their owner’s side at all times.
  • Intelligent – The PWD is very bright and likes to learn. With the right trainer, they can learn to obey complex commands and perform many different roles. 
  • Strong-willed – Like a lot of water dogs, the Portuguese Water Dog is very strong-minded and can be stubborn without consistent training. 
  • Brave – They’re a protective, fearless breed that can make good watchdogs. 
Portuguese Water Dog Characteristics Rating 
Relation with Family 5
Good with Children 5
Friendly with Strangers 4
Friendly with Other Dogs 5
Easy to Train 5
Energy Level 5
Barking Level 3
Mental Stimulation Needs 5

What Does a Portuguese Water Dog Look Like?

Portuguese Water Dog walking on the shore
A Portuguese Water Dog walking on the Sombrio Beach, Canada

Portuguese Water Dogs have long, thick, wavy, or curly single coats that can be black, brown, white, black and white, or brown and white.

They also have robust builds, stout legs, long tails, and webbed feet. They also have pairs of dark black or brown eyes and of floppy ears. 

How big is the Portuguese Water Dog?

The average male Portuguese Water Dog is 20 to 23 inches (50.8 to 58.4 cm) tall, while the average female is 17 to 21 inches (43.2 to 53.3 cm) tall.

They need to live in medium-large-sized homes, and they can live in apartments with the right care. If you are planning on crate training your Portie dog, you’ll need a 36-inch crate. 

How long does a Portuguese Water Dog grow?

Portuguese Water Dogs take 18 months to reach their full adult size. They reach adolescence at six months old, sexual maturity at 9 to 10 months, and full mental and social maturity at 20 months. 

What is the average weight of Portuguese Water Dogs?

The average male Portuguese Water Dog weighs 42 to 60 lbs (19.1 to 27.2 kg), and the average female Portie weighs 35 to 50 lbs (15.9 to 22.7 kg). Their exact weight will vary on their breed size and activity level. 

What is the Average Life Expectancy of Portuguese Water Dogs?

The average life expectancy of a Portuguese Water Dog is about 10 to 14 years. However, this can vary depending on the individual dog’s health and environment.

Portuguese Water Dogs are relatively healthy but prone to hip dysplasia, GM1 Storage Disease, Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).

Most Water Dogs enjoy a long and happy life with proper care.

What Coat Type do Portuguese Water Dogs Have?

A Portuguese Water Dog laying on the floor
A spoiled Portuguese Water Dog just laying on the floor – Image source

Portuguese Water Dogs have long, thick, hypoallergenic, single coats that can be either wavy or curly.

They need to be brushed 2 to 3 times a week with a slicker brush to remove loose hair and debris and occasional baths with an all-natural dog shampoo. 

What is the Portuguese Water Dog’s coat like?

The Portuguese Water Dog’s coat can be either wavy or curly and soft to touch. Although, many Porties have a mixed hair type, with curly fur all over the body and wavy fur on the tail and ears. 

How long is the Portie’s coat?

Portie’s coat is long. So it needs regular, monthly trimming to keep it in good condition and prevent knots, tangles, and matts. There are several cute haircut styles for owners, including the retriever clip and the lion cut.

How dense is the Portuguese Water Dog’s coat?

Despite being a single-coated breed and having no undercoat, the Portuguese Water Dog’s coat is very thick and dense and traps dirt easily, which is why it needs regular grooming. 

Do Portuguese Water Dogs shed much?

The Portuguese Water Dog is a hypoallergenic breed, meaning that they shed so little hair that they are unlikely to cause an adverse reaction in people with allergic to dog hair. 

Can Portuguese Water Dogs Live in Hot Weather?

A Portuguese Water Dog sitting near the beach
A Portuguese Water Dog sitting near the beach while looking far – Image source

The Portuguese Water Dog is tolerant of both hot and cold weather. That said, no dog should be exerted in hot conditions due to their long and thick single coats.

They should have constant access to shelter and water in the summer months. This breed can tolerate a temperature of 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs Love Water?

As their name would suggest, the Portuguese Water Dog does love water. They are terrific swimmers and love to splash around and play in the water, so pools and beach days are very much favored by the breed!

What Colors Are Portuguese Water Dogs?

Two Portuguese Water Dogs in a tree
A black & white and a chocolate Portuguese Water Dogs sitting on the tree – Image source

The Portuguese Water Dog breed comes in a small number of colors, such as black, brown, white, brown, and white, and black and white, which is the most common color combination.

Their skin is noticeably bluish for those Portie dogs with black, white, or black and white coats.

What Markings Do Portuguese Water Dogs Have?

Black and brown Portuguese Water Dogs usually have white markings. It’s common to see these small patches on their chins, chests, legs, and feet. However, only the white markings on the body are acceptable.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Good Family Dogs?

Portuguese Water Dogs are great family dogs. They’re gentle, fun-loving, and are best suited to active families that like long walks and playing lots of games.

They’re great with kids, and other dogs and are even known to be good with cats. 

Portuguese Water Dogs Temperament Rating
Adaptability 4
Friendliness 5
Mouthiness 5
Playfulness 5
Family-Oriented 5
Stranger Tolerance 4

Are Portuguese Water Dogs good with other dogs?

Portuguese Water Dogs tend to be very good with other dogs, especially those that they are raised with, but even unfamiliar ones, too. They can also get along with other family pets like cats. 

Are Portuguese Water Dogs friendly with other people?

While every dog is different, Portuguese Water Dogs typically have sociable and outgoing personalities. They are known for being friendly towards their human family members and those they know well.

However, they can take a while to warm up to new people, but they’re rarely unfriendly. 

Can Portuguese Water Dogs get along well with strangers?

The Portuguese Water Dog can take a little while to warm up to strangers, as mentioned above, but they should not be unfriendly unless a stranger is behaving strangely or aggressively. 

How do Portuguese Water Dogs get along with young children?

Portuguese Water Dogs make great playmates for children, as they are gentle, friendly, and playful. That said, all children should be taught how to interact safely and respectfully with their pets.

Can Portuguese Water Dogs Adapt Easily?

Two Portuguese Water Dogs laying down together
Two identical Portuguese Water Dogs laying down together – Image source

Portuguese Water Dogs are adaptable dogs. They can live in decently sized apartments so long as they get enough exercise and mental stimulation. However, they are prone to anxiety when left alone for too long. 

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Aggressive?

Portuguese Water Dogs are not an aggressive breed. In fact, they are known for being gentle, loving, and affectionate. They are also highly intelligent and trainable, making them ideal companions for families with children.

But since they are protective and will defend their families and homes against threats, they can behave aggressively without proper training and socialization.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Dangerous?

A Portuguese Water Dog looking at the back
A Portuguese Water Dog checking who’s at the back – Image source

Portuguese Water Dogs are not dangerous dogs. They aren’t known for getting into fights with other dogs.

However, without proper socialization, they may become anxious or aggressive. They do require owners willing to invest the time and effort necessary to train and socialize them at an early age. 

Do Portie Dogs Bite?

Adult Portie Dogs are not known to be prone to biting and are often described as “Velcro dogs” for their loyal and affectionate nature.

However, with their powerful jaws and a bite force of between 200 and 400 PSI, they can certainly do some damage if they bite.

Fortunately, bites from Portuguese Water Dogs are relatively rare, and with proper training and socialization, these loving dogs make excellent companions.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Protective?

Portuguese Water Dogs are a protective breed. They will use their voice to alert you of threats and ward them off. They can even make good guard dogs and don’t back down to threats. 

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Affectionate?

A lovely Portuguese Water Dog picking a flower
Meet Luna, a lovely Portuguese Water Dog picking a flower for the owner – Image source

Portuguese Water Dogs are very loving, affectionate dogs. They enjoy spending time with their loved ones and those that they know well and can show their affection in lots of different ways. 

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Loyal?

Yes, Portuguese Water Dogs are a loyal breed that makes an excellent companion. They are devoted to their families and are known for their affectionate nature.

They form strong bonds with their owners and are typically very attached to them.

However, Portie dogs don’t like to be alone, so it’s not recommended to regularly leave them for more than 4 to 6 hours.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs Like to Cuddle?

A lazy Portuguese Water Dog
A lazy Portuguese Water Dog just lying on his bed – Image source

Every dog is different, but Portuguese Water Dogs do tend to be very cuddly dogs. Most of them love cuddling up on the sofa, but some will prefer to express their affection with quality time and play.

Does the Portuguese Water Dog Love Freedom?

Portuguese Water Dogs have a moderate wanderlust potential, meaning they have an average tendency to wander off and explore.

However, they are highly trainable, so this is easily kept under control by practicing recall and setting boundaries. 

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Easy to Train?

Portuguese Water Dogs are a bright breed keen to please and quick to learn. They are highly trainable but independently minded, leading to stubborn behavior without clear commands and strong rewards. 

So, keeping your training sessions clear, concise, positive, and fun is best. Start young and be consistent; these dogs can learn to do just about anything! 

How Smart is the Portuguese Water Dog?

A Portuguese Water Dog in an agility show
A Portuguese Water Dog running on the ladder during the agility show – Image source

The Portuguese Water Dog is a very smart breed of dog that is capable of learning to do a lot of different commands and fun tricks. They can also be trained to perform lots of different working roles. 

Can Portuguese Water Dogs be used as working dogs?

As mentioned above, Portuguese Water Dogs can perform several working roles, such as assistance, mobility, seizure response, therapy, and watchdogs. 

Do Portuguese Water Dogs Bark a Lot?

The Portuguese Water Dogs is not a vocal breed of dog. They will bark to alert you of disturbances within the home, but they are not known for being overly vocal or barking excessively. 

How does a Portuguese Water Dog bark?

When they bark, the Portuguese Water Dog has a loud, multi-octave voice. Their bark’s exact Hz and decibel levels aren’t recorded, but they are known for their distinctive, musical voices.

Do Portuguese Water Dogs Have High Energy Levels?

A Portuguese Water Dog running through the logs
A young Portuguese Water Dog running through the huge logs – Image source

Portuguese Water Dogs are relatively high-energy dogs that require plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy. They make great running or hiking partners and love to play fetch. 

However, they can also be content with a leisurely walk around the block or some playtime in the yard.

So, if you’re looking for an active dog to keep you company on your next adventure, a Portuguese Water Dog may be a perfect choice! 

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Active?

Portuguese Water Dogs need at least 30 minutes to 1 hour of exercise per day, preferably split into two walks. They like to swim and jog with their owners.

Hence, this breed’s owners should ensure to help Portie Dogs achieve their daily physical needs.

How Fast Can a Portuguese Water Dog Run?

The Portuguese Water Dog has a running speed that can reach 27 miles per hour. They make great running companions, as the average adult Portie should be able to run for over 5 miles at a time. 

Are Porties Playful Dogs?

A Portuguese Water Dog picking a ball at beach
A black Portie picking a ball at the beach – Image source

Porties are very playful dogs that need lots of mental stimulation to avoid boredom. Below, we’ve listed some fun activities, toys, and games owners can use to keep them entertained.

  • Hide and seek
  • Treasure hunt
  • Cup game
  • Puzzle toys
  • Treat dispenders
  • Snuffle mats 
  • Sensory toys
  • Swimming

Does the Portuguese Water Dog Drool a Lot?

If you’re not overly fond of dog drool – you’re in luck! The Portuguese Water Dog is not a heavy drooler. That said, dogs can drool a little when they’re around something that smells tasty. 

What Does the Family Life of Portuguese Water Dogs Like?

The family life of a Portuguese Water Dog is filled with love and fun activities. They live to be a part of the pack and are always up for the next big family adventure.

They can be good companions for families who like outdoor activities that involve water.

What is the Price Range for a Portuguese Water Dog?

A Portuguese Water Dog at outdoor
A charming portrait of a Portuguese Water Dog outdoor – Image source

The average cost of a Portuguese Water Dog in the US is $2000 – $3000. They’re one of the most expensive breeds you can buy because they require a lot of health tests for breed-specific health conditions. 

However, it’s essential that buyers ask breeders for these tests to avoid heartache and expensive vet visits and that a vet signs the documentation to ensure legitimacy.

Puppy farms often fake health documentation and treat their animals poorly, so it’s best to buy from a small-scale or hobby breeder that takes good care of their dogs. 

What Kind of Food Should Portuguese Water Dogs Eat?

Portuguese Water Dogs are a unique breed of dog that has some specific dietary requirements. The best dog food for Portuguese Water Dogs is high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates.

This is because Portuguese Water Dogs are a highly active breed that needs a lot of energy to sustain them. 

The Portuguese Water Dog is a medium-sized dog, which means he should have between 2.5 – 3.5 cups of food per day, split between two meals.

The amount of food you feed your Portie dog will depend on his size, age, metabolism, and activity levels.

What are the Best Dog Foods for Portuguese Water Dogs?

A Portuguese Water Dog about to eat
A Portuguese Water Dog got his kibble meal – Image source

We’ve created a list of the best dry dog foods for Portuguese Water Dogs based on the recommended guidelines above. Here are our top product picks for Portie puppies and adults.

Best food for Water Dog puppies:

Best food for adult Water Dogs:

What Other Dog Breeds Look Like the Portuguese Water Dog?

A black and a white Standard Poodle dog
A black and a white Standard Poodle dog with a similar hairstyle – Image source

The Portuguese Water Dog has a fairly distinctive appearance, but they do have a few look-a-likes. Let’s take a look at some of the dog breeds you could easily mistake for a Portie.

  • Standard Poodle
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Barbet
  • Cantabrian Water Dog
  • Lagotto Romagnolo

The Verdict: Should You Get a Portuguese Water Dog?

If you want a low-maintenance breed, the Portuguese Water Dog will not be the right dog for you.

However, if you want a big ball of fluff that gets along with everyone and likes to go on adventures, you couldn’t ask for a more loyal, loving, fun companion.

If you’re interested in getting a Portie dog, just make sure you can commit to the regular grooming and the companionship and make enough time for walkies and play every single day.

If you can do it, your life will be a lot of fun!

Do you have a Portuguese Water Dog? Let us know what you love about them in the comments down below!

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