Two Portuguese Water dog's standing on rocks

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The Portuguese Water Dog is an intelligent, energetic breed. You can have a lot of fun with “porties” who love to lounge around at home as much as they love to run and play. PWDs are a great choice for families who have the time and energy to spend with them.

Have you recently acquired a new family member through a Portuguese Water Dog adoption? However your Portuguese Water Dog puppy found its way into your home, it's important to understand their personality traits and how you can properly care for them.

In this article, we'll discuss their roots in the Iberian Peninsula and typical behavioral characteristics of this intelligent breed. Did you know that President Obama's family had two Portuguese Water Dogs in the White House? Continue reading to learn how to properly care for your Portuguese Water Dog so you can give them the best life possible. 

The Obama had two Portuguese Water Dogs in the White House, Bo and Sunny

History & Origin of Portuguese Water Dogs

According to the American Kennel Club2, porties are a synthesis of dogs bred over the centuries to help fishermen do their work. The sturdy, willing water worker probably emerged as a crossbreed between dogs brought to Andorra, Portugal, and Spain over the centuries. 

This might have included breeds of dogs from the Visigoths, Romans, and Moors. Eventually, they developed into the long-haired, friendly breed we know and love today.

But when did porties become popular in the US? The Obama family had two Portuguese Water Dog puppies that grew up in the White House. Bo, the male, and Sunny, the female, lived alongside the Obamas throughout their time in the nation’s capital. Most PWDs have awesomely friendly attitudes and are eager to please their favorite people.

Other names for this breed include Cão de Água or Portuguese fishing dog.

Portuguese water dog height, weight, and lifespan information

Physical Attributes of Portuguese Water Dogs

Like people, all dogs have unique traits. However, there are common features that define this breed. Let’s take a look at the weight, height, lifespan, coat colors, and other characteristics that many porties share.

Here are some common physical attributes for PWDs3:

  • Weight: Males, 42 and 60 pounds; females 35 and 50 pounds.
  • Height: Males, 23 inches; females, 21 inches.
  • Lifespan: Your PWD is likely to live 11 to 13 years.
  • Coat colors: Portuguese Water Dogs usually have wavy coats, and some can be very curly. Black, brown, and white coats with patches of similar shades result in the patchwork pattern typical of these Iberian canines. Do you hate cleaning up fur during shedding season? That won’t be a problem with PWDs because they don’t shed. Unlike other species, this breed has no undercoat.

When it comes to grooming your dog, there are two main styles to consider. You can either clip the entire coat for easy care or just clip the coat on the muzzle and hindquarters to show off your porty’s style and finesse.

Portuguese Water Dog behavioral traits

Behavioral Characteristics of Portuguese Water Dogs

So, what are the behavioral characteristics of Portuguese Water Dogs? 

Portuguese Water Dogs are generally very bright and obedient. They were bred for their cooperative qualities required to become a fisherman's helper.1 Many trained porties develop athletic prowess when it comes to water sports and work. Overall, the Portuguese Water Dog temperament is pleasant and fun.

They are often highly intelligent and very active. But if you don't want your dog to gnaw on your hands or furniture, provide plenty of chew toys to satisfy their oral fixation.1 Typically, PWD's are loving and friendly to new people. However, they are also vigilant, so don't be surprised if they let you know when guests have arrived.

You may wonder how easy it is to train Portuguese Water Dog puppies. These dogs typically require lots of time outdoors and love being near the water. So if you live in an apartment, be sure to bring them out often and prove them with plenty of games and exercise.

It's relatively easy to train most porties. But some owners find that their independent nature requires consistent leadership to remain well-behaved.1 Also, you'll never have to guess what your PWD is thinking. They are strong-minded and have an assertive sense of humor.

Of course, every dog is different, and your dog may not have all the traits discussed for Portuguese Water Dogs. Their overall temperament can be influenced by a number of factors, such as genetics, training, health, and age.

Tip: To keep your pup relaxed at home, even during times of stress, provide them with a sanctuary space where they can relax and play on their own.

Portuguese Water Dogs Health Risks

It’s important for Portuguese Water Dog breeders to know common health risks for their dogs. If your PWD suffers from anxiety or hip dysplasia, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, you can utilize telemedicine for pets to treat allergies and other conditions that keep your dog from living their best life.

Some health risks4 that are common to Portuguese Water Dogs include the following:

  • Addison’s disease impacts the adrenal glands, causing low blood pressure, weakness, vomiting, and dehydration.
  • Allergic reactions may include hair loss, itching, and inflammation.
  • Eye disorders common in PWDs include cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, (PRA), and microphthalmia.
  • Gastrointestinal problems may cause your Portuguese Water Dog to vomit, develop diarrhea, and have a hard time swallowing.
  • Gangliosidosis is a genetic disease resulting in a buildup of toxic substances in the brain and other organs.
  • Heart diseases common in this breed include cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, and valve defects.
  • Neurological disorders include epilepsy, degenerative myelopathy, and cerebellar abiotrophy.
  • Orthopedic diseases and disorders affecting porties include hip dysplasia and patellar luxation.
  • Thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can also cause illnesses.

Caring For a Portuguese Water Dog

Caring for a Portuguese Water Dog involves preventive care, grooming, exercise, and overall well-being. 

Preventative care

Make sure your dog gets their vaccinations on time. Your veterinarian will give you a schedule of when and what shots your dog needs to protect them from common diseases. Don’t forget to schedule regular checkups so your vet can spot early signs of some of the health issues common in Portuguese Water Dogs.

Speaking of teeth, did you know that dental care is very important for your dog? You should brush your dog’s teeth at least once a day with a special toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs. This will help prevent plaque and tartar from building up on their teeth and causing problems like bad breath, gum disease, or tooth loss. You can also give your dog some dental chews or toys that can help clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

Neuter or Spay Your PWD

Another thing you should consider is spaying or neutering your dog if you’re not planning to breed them. Spaying or neutering has many benefits for your dog’s health and behavior, such as reducing the risk of certain cancers, infections, and unwanted behaviors like roaming, male on male aggression, or marking. 

Talk to your veterinarian about the best time to neuter your dog as some studies indicate that neutering when porties are fully grown can help prevent certain behavioral disorders.


Now let’s talk about grooming. Your Portuguese Water Dog has a beautiful coat that needs a lot of attention to keep it looking good. Brush their coat at least once or twice a week with a slicker brush or a comb to prevent matting and tangles.2 Or, let the groomer do it every few weeks.

You should also bathe your dog as needed, usually every 4-6 weeks. Use a mild shampoo to avoid drying out their skin or causing irritation. Don’t forget to check and clean your dog’s ears regularly with a cotton ball and a gentle ear cleaner to prevent painful ear infections. Also, trim your dog’s nails regularly with a nail clipper or a grinder made for dogs.


Your Portuguese Water Dog is an active and energetic breed that loves to exercise and play.2 They need 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day, such as walking, swimming, hiking, and playing fetch. You can also try some mental stimulation activities like puzzle toys, obedience training, or interactive games that challenge their mind.1

Most importantly, don’t forget to spend quality time with your Portuguese Water Dog every day. They are very loyal and affectionate dogs that crave human attention and companionship. Give them lots of love, praise, cuddles, and treats. They will reward you with their devotion and happiness.


Are Portuguese Water Dogs cuddly?

Portuguese Water Dogs are usually loving and friendly to their owners and enjoy being close to them. They may like to cuddle, but they are not lap dogs. So, avoid hugging them too tightly. You may also want to supervise your children around porty puppies to avoid injuries to your tolerant PWDs.

Can Portuguese Water Dogs swim underwater?

Portuguese Water Dogs are excellent swimmers and love water. These dogs have webbed feet just like ducks and their waterproof coats help them swim efficiently.1 They can swim underwater for short periods of time but avoid encouraging them to do so to avoid injury.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs good pets?

Portuguese Water Dogs mesh well when properly matched with the right household. These pups are intelligent, active, and loyal, helping them adapt to different lifestyles and environments. However, they require a lot of attention, exercise, and mental stimulation. Note that Portuguese Water Dogs may have a stubborn streak, causing them to mouth off at times. They also need regular grooming to keep their coat healthy.

Final Notes

Remember that every dog is unique and may have different needs based on their personality and health status. But if you’re looking for a loving, affectionate, loyal dog, porties are for you. 

But remember, these dogs are very active and require a lot of mental and physical stimulation, so make sure to engage with them often. But always consult with your vet if you have any doubts or questions about how to care for your Portuguese Water Dog.

You can reach out to the team at Dutch today to get your pet health questions answered. With Dutch, you can connect with licensed veterinarians who are available to answer any questions you may have about your dog’s health. Use Dutch today to get prescriptions delivered free to you.



  1. Breed info. portuguesewaterdog. (n.d.).

  2. McCullough, S. (2021, November 1). Portuguese water dog history: The fisherman’s Loyal Working Dog. American Kennel Club.

  3. Portuguese water dog breed - facts and traits: Hill’s pet. Hill’s Pet Nutrition. (n.d.).

  4. Portuguese water dog club of america, inc. (PWDCA) - powered by amo. (n.d.).

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