The Portuguese Water Dog

03 Sep

With its lovely nature and long association with the Algarve, it’s hardly surprising that the Portuguese Water Dog (cão de água) is a breed we often see at The Spotted Dog.

It's believed the breed was first introduced to Portugal by Moor traders. They quickly became a firm favourite with Portuguese fishermen thanks to their love of water and their ability to retrieve lost fishing nets and other items. This water-based ability, combined with them also being excellent guard and hunting dogs, meant they were soon in high in demand throughout Portugal.

By the late 1800's, King Carlos was an enthusiast and thanks to him, the popularity of the breed soared. In the 1930's a wealthy Portuguese shipping heir, Vasco Bensaude, purchased many of these wonderful dogs from local fishermen and started his own extensive breeding programme.   To this day, nearly all Portuguese Water Dogs can be traced back to this programme.

For an active family and especially one with a swimming pool or beach nearby, Portuguese Water Dogs make an excellent family pet. They can be:

  • Incredibly loyal and loving
  • Intelligent and easy to train
  • Playful and fun-loving characters

Like any other breed however, they are not without their challenges. They can be high energy and need lots of daily exercise and mental stimulation. They tend to have a low boredom threshold, and can be wilful when the mood takes them. When young, they can be somewhat "mouthy" and often chew on anything they come across.

Another key factor in their popularity is them having a single-layered coat that does not shed, something which people who suffer from dog related allergies particularly welcome.

Despite the obvious appeal of a dog not moulting, their grooming requirements should not be underestimated. They really need to be professionally groomed every two months and ideally, their coat brushed every other day. In fact, if left untended, the coat will keep growing indefinitely. The problems associated with this include hair around the eyes growing so long as to impede vision, and the matting of the body hair which can be very uncomfortable for the dog and can cause skin irritations. 

The difference in appearance within the breed can be significant with some owners traditionally preferring a longer coat (known as a ‘lion cut’), while in more recent times the shorter coat (known as a ‘retriever cut’), has become particularly popular.

With the lion cut, the hindquarters, muzzle, and the base of the tail are typically shaved, with approximately 1/3 of the tail hair left long, also known as a flag, and the rest of the body left full length. This more traditional cut originated with the fishing dogs of Portugal as the denser coat is thought to have diminished the initial shock of cold water when jumping from boats, as well as providing warmth to the dog’s vital areas.

The more popular retriever cut tends to be about 2.5 cm long, evenly over the body. This cut originated because breeders wanted to make them more appealing and low maintenance for buyers. It’s often the case that owners want the coat of their dogs cut very short, especially in the summer months, in a modified retriever cut.

All dogs have different grooming requirements, and receive highly personalised grooming care at The Spotted Dog.

More information on the many benefits of professional dog grooming is available on our website at  

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