Portuguese Water Dog: Energetic, Intelligent, Loyal

Portuguese Water Dog: Energetic, Intelligent, Loyal
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All dogs can perform amazing tricks, but few do it as naturally as the Portuguese Water Dog. Millions of people enjoy having dogs as pets thanks to their ability to provide companionship and plenty of affection. Portuguese Water Dogs are friendly and energetic canines ready to provide you and your family with plenty of fun memories.


Originating in Portugal, this working dog breed is highly regarded for handling different tasks efficiently. If you ever thought about owning a Portuguese Water Dog or love dogs in general, this guide has plenty of helpful information. Read on further to learn more about this dog's personality, physical traits, history, care tips, and more!



Portuguese Water Dog Breed Characteristics 

Also referred to as Portie, the Portuguese Water Dog breed has plenty of admirable features. This canine is not just athletic; it is a gorgeous dog.


Different dog associations established a breed standard to preserve its outstanding features so that dog breeders can refer to it and pass on the Portie's physical features. Dog owners can also refer to the following Portuguese Water Dog characteristics to determine if a dog breed they adopted is purebred.



Overall the Portie has a large head that is well-proportioned to the rest of its body. The head is supported by a muscular neck that is short and held high. The medium-sized eyes are well apart and are black or various shades of brown.


The ears of the Portuguese Water Dog are flat on the sides of the head but do not go below the jaw. It has a broad nose that can be black, black, white or any shade of brown. The teeth should be visible when their mouth is closed.



The Portuguese Water Dog has a broad, deep chest and well-sprung ribs that allow maximum lung capacity. Its back is firm and has a leveled top line. The tail of the Portie should not be docked. The long tail is furry at the base and supports the breed when it is swimming.



The Portie's upper arms are strong with muscular shoulders. The front limbs are long and full of strength. The back legs of the Portuguese Water Dog are powerful and look parallel when viewed from behind. One of the unique features of the Portie is its webbed feet. The feet are round but are meant to aid this breed when it comes to swimming.



portuguese water dog in grasslands up close green



Portuguese Water Dog Breed Size

The Portuguese Water Dog is considered a medium-sized dog. There are slight differences in size between female and male Portuguese Water Dogs.


  • Male: Male Porties can grow up to 20-23 inches tall at the withers and weigh between 42-60 pounds.
  • Female: Female Portuguese Water Dogs can reach up to 17-21 inches tall and weigh 35-50 pounds.


If you adopt a Portie puppy, there are several stages of growth it will go through before it reaches its mature size.


Portie Puppy Growth Size

Two weeks after they are born, Portie puppies can double their weight. By their 5th week, most puppies have developed their legs to the point where they can run.


When Portuguese Water Dogs reach at least six months of age, they will begin transitioning into adulthood as they become sexually mature. As medium-sized dogs, Portie puppies can take over a year to fully mature into their adult size.


Related: Puppy Growth Chart [Stages Of Growth + How to Determine Ideal Size]


Portuguese Water Dog Personality

Dog owners and dog lovers are not just mesmerized by the Portuguese Water Dog's good looks. The Portie's temperament is highly desirable and one of the many reasons this breed makes an excellent family pet.


  • Energetic: The Portuguese Water Dog is very animated and enjoys playtime. Although some canines start as energetic puppies and become shy adult dogs, the same is not true for the Portie. With high energy levels, this dog enjoys living with people with active lifestyles.
  • Intelligent: Highly regarded for being smart, the Portie is capable of learning advanced tricks and tasks. Thanks to their intelligence, this dog breed is generally easier to train than other canines, thanks to its ability to retain information and store it in their memory.
  • Loyal: Dogs are naturally devoted to their families, and the Portuguese Water Dog loves being by its family's side at all times. It is common to see the Portie relax next to their owners on the couch while watching a movie.


A Portuguese Water Dog with these personality traits is a breed capable of performing simple jobs and playtime tricks with ease as it aims to please its master. One way to see the full extent of your dog's personality is by providing it with plenty of exercises.



Portuguese Water Dog Breed Exercise

As a high-energy dog, the Portuguese Water Dog requires plenty of exercise to remain happy and healthy. This dog breed is perfectly suited for a family who has the time and effort to provide the Portie with plenty of physical and mental stimulation.


On average, the Portuguese Water Dog will require at least 30-60 minutes of physical activity each day. Failure to meet the breed's physical needs can result in bad behavior such as excessive barking, increased whimpering, and chewing, which can destroy household items. Here are some fun activities for your Portie to enjoy! 


Dog Sports

Whether recreationally or competitively, dog sports are an excellent way for your dog to get physical activity and mental exercise. Here are some examples of popular dog sports.


  • Dock Jumping
  • Confirmation
  • Agility
  • Rally Obedience
  • Lure Coursing


There are other dog sports your Portuguese Water Dog can participate in. Dock jumping involves having your dog to a long-distance jump into the water and perfectly suits the Portie's swimming abilities. Lure coursing requires your Portie to chase a lure against other dogs to see who is the fastest.



One of the easiest ways to provide your Portuguese Water Dog with exercise is taking it on walks. Walking your dog around the neighborhood or in different locations helps expose it to different settings and socialize with different people or dogs.


As an energetic dog breed, the Portie can accompany you on hikes or long runs. It is common for dogs to mark their scents while walking. A responsible dog owner should always clean up after their dog has used the restroom during walks.


Dog Puzzle Toys

One way to keep your Portuguese Water Dog mentally sharp is with dog puzzle toys and other mentally stimulating activities. There are different types of puzzle toys, but they all serve the same purpose, to provide your dog with a task it can focus on. A lot of puzzle toys serve a treat when your Portie can solve it.


You can build homemade agility or obstacle course in the backyard to provide your dog with both an engaging mental and physical activity. Different types of training provide your Portuguese Water Dog with interactive exercise while teaching it a set of useful skills.



Portuguese Water Dog Breed Training

Training is recommended; without it, your Portuguese Water Dog will more likely have undisciplined behavior. Training your dog requires plenty of patience, time, resources, and effort.


Dog owners can find free dog training resources online or can invest in professional dog training services. Regardless of what you use to train your Portie, it is important to use positive reinforcement and praise to keep your canine companion motivated. Treats are a great way to entice your Portuguese Water Dog to fulfill training exercises. There is no such thing as a dog being too old to learn new tricks. Here are some types of training you should consider for your Portuguese Water Dog.


  • Obedience: It is important to train your Portie to obey your commands. As an intelligent dog breed, the Portuguese Water Dog can learn more advanced commands, like shaking its paw or standing on its hind legs.
  • Potty Training: Potty training should be introduced to your Portie from the time it is a puppy. Puppy training pads are a helpful tool to minimize accidents. It is also important to schedule bathroom breaks for your Portie throughout the day.
  • Crate Training: Train your Portuguese Water Dog to retreat to its crate for when you are having too many guests over or traveling with your dog somewhere. Dogs should not stay in their crates for hours but should be taught to cooperate and go inside their crate without a lot of trouble.
  • Dog Sports: As working dogs, Porties enjoy learning advanced tricks, and dogs sports fit that role perfectly. With enough time and patience, you teach your canine friend to excel in different dog sports and enroll them in official competitions where they can win awards!


Dogs have a pack mentality and require a calm and confident dog owner who can establish themselves as the pack's alpha. A trained dog results in a disciplined yet friendly Portuguese Water Dog.



Portuguese Water Dog Breed History

The Portuguese Water Dog Breed's history stretches back hundreds of years to remote times. They originated along the Iberian coast of present-day Portugal. Here's a timeline of Portie's history.


  • Portuguese Fishing Dog Origins: Generations of Portuguese fishermen relied on this working dog to help them during fishing trips. The Portuguese Water Dog's swimming ability can herd fish, retrieve broken nets, and deliver messages between boats.
  • Close to Extinction: Fishing technology improved and replaced many of Portie's tasks. The reduction in work was one of the major contributors that almost made the Portuguese Water Dog breed extinct. Thanks to the efforts of a wealthy dog enthusiast, the breed survived.
  • The Present-day Portie: The Portie's popularity slowly spread over to the United States over a few decades and led to the creation of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America in 1972. The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the Portuguese Water Dog breed in 1983.


Although this breed is hardly used as fishing dogs, they still have a love for the water. Thanks to its webbed feet, it is common to see the Portie swimming in its family pool. It is still as intelligent and hard-working as it was centuries ago. The Portuguese Water Dog is used as hearing assistance dogs and as therapy dogs.



brown portuguese water dog up close



Common Health Problems Found in the Portuguese Water Dog 

The Portuguese Water Dog is a sturdy dog who can live between 10 and 14 years with minor health issues. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to different health problems. Scheduling yearly trips to the veterinarian can help catch some of the more serious issues early. A quick physical can be helpful to assess your dog's current health as well. Here is a look at some of the health concerns in the Portuguese Water Dog breed.


  • Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Also known as JDCM, this condition affects young dogs, and it is a genetic mutation that can cause serious concern. According to research, it has been seen in the Portuguese Water Dog breed. Breeders submit their Portie puppies for testing to see if they carry the affected gene.
  • The Portuguese Water Dog breed can also develop eye conditions such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA causes receptors in the eyes to deteriorate and can lead to blindness. Blind dogs are still capable of living their lives happily.
  • GM1 Storage Disease: GM1 storage disease is an extremely rare condition that affects the enzyme production in dogs responsible for the breakdown of old molecules in the dog's brain. It is a fatal disease without a cure at this time. Dog breeders rub DNA tests on their litters to see if they are born with the recessive disorder.


Besides being informed on common health problems with this breed, dog owners can ensure their pet lives peacefully by providing the right kind of care.



How to Care for a Portuguese Water Dog

If you decide to adopt a Portuguese Water Dog, you should be ready to commit to the responsibility that comes with dog care. Caring for your dog deepens the bond between you and your pet. Here are essential care tips for your Portie.



Your Portuguese Water Dog may like laying down on the sofa, but it helps to have a dedicated space your dog can retreat to. An appropriate-sized crate can house your dog, its sleeping bed, water, and food bowls.


You can also get a doghouse for your yard where your dog can take breaks between playtime. It is important to have a fenced yard to prevent your dog from running away or being taken.


Playtime Outlets

Dog toys keep your dogs entertained on their own. Chew toys are great for the Portuguese Water Dog puppy who wants to test their growing set of teeth. Even if some dog toys are too pricey, a small tennis ball makes a great toy for playing fetch. You can use an old t-shirt as a makeshift rope for tug-o-war with your Portie. Feeding and grooming are two key components of dog care. The next two sections will have a deeper look into properly feeding your dog and keeping it groomed.



Nutrition and Feeding for a Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog requires a balanced diet that meets all of its nutritional needs. Dogs will happily eat the same food over and over again, but it helps to switch it up. There are different foods to consider depending on your dog's health and age.


  • Puppy: Puppies will obtain nutrients from breastfed milk for the first 8-9 weeks after birth. Keep a bowl of puppy food near the litter of Portuguese Water Dog puppies to help them wean off their mother's milk. Protein and calcium are important nutrients that help your puppy's skeletal growth.
  • Adult dog: Once your Portie matures into adulthood, you should aim to feed it 2.5-3.5 cups of food split into two servings a day. Seek premium dog food made with all-natural ingredients that are free of any artificial preservatives and flavors.
  • Senior canine: Studies have shown that dogs' bodily functions begin to slow down when they reach old age. CBD for dogs is a natural alternative to ease physical discomfort and ease joint swelling. Wet dog food is also easier to chew for older dogs of this breed.
  • Foods to avoid: Although the following foods are safe to consume, prevent your Portie from eating chocolate, garlic, and sweets. These common foods can cause symptoms of an upset stomach. Avoid cooked bones since they can break into smaller pieces and become a cooling hazard.


Dogs enjoy a homecooked meal that is catered to them. An example dog dish that provides plenty of nutrition is roasted sweet potatoes and unseasoned chicken breast. Consult with a vet or a professional dog nutritionist to develop a homecooked meal plan for your Portie.


Coat Color And Grooming

Looking good and charming comes naturally to your Portuguese Water Dog but requires plenty of grooming. Grooming should not be a boring chore but a fun way to bond with your Portie. Grooming is a major responsibility in dog care, and are some tips to keep your dog looking majestic!


Coat Styling and Brushing

The Portuguese Water Dog can have two possible coat types, wavy and curly. The coat can be any of the following colors.


  • Black
  • White
  • Different tones of brown
  • Combinations of brown or black with white


The coat is thick and covers the entire body. The hair on its body does not stop growing and requires a trim every 6-8 weeks. Trim the coat into a retriever or lion clip. To achieve the lion clip front part on the Portuguese Water Dog's body, make sure to trim the second half of its lower body and then clip it to resemble the appearance of a lion. A retriever clip involves keeping the entire coat trimmed to give it a natural appearance. You or a professional dog groomer can do your Portie's coat styling.


Research has shown that brushing your dog's coat helps spread healthy skin oils. Brush your dog's coat daily with a dog brush and comb to avoid tangles. Wash your dog every couple of months or when necessary to help get rid of the pool chemicals.


General Hygiene

Besides a fresh coat, you need to make sure to keep up with good canine hygiene for your Portuguese Water Dog. After running around in the yard, check your dog's eyes and ears for any debris or dirt. Use a q-tip or cotton ball to gently remove it.


Good dental hygiene can prevent dental diseases. It would help if you brushed your dog's teeth weekly or fed it specialized dental treats that help clean its mouth. Overgrown dog nails can be uncomfortable for your Portie and limit their movement. At least once a month, trim your dog nails.



Children And Other Pets

The Portuguese Water Dog is people-friendly and can also get along with other dogs and cats. They enjoy running around and participating in playtime with children.


Socialization in dogs helps them become more used to being around different groups of people and pets. Socializing starts from the moment they are first held as puppies. Dogs raised with other animals tend to be friendlier. It is important to teach young children how to properly handle a dog. The Portuguese Water Dog is playful and can sometimes knock small kids down. Never leave dogs and small children alone and unsupervised.



Portuguese Water Dog Rescue Groups

One of the best ways to find and adopt a dog of this breed is through a rescue group. The majority of dog rescue groups are non-profit, run by volunteers with a tenacity to help out dogs in need. Here are a couple of dog rescue groups to consider.


  • Portuguese Water Dog Rescue and Relocation Program: Working close with the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, this rescue group helps out owners who can no longer care for their Portie and helping them rehome these pets.
  • Rescue Pledge: This organization provides adoption opportunities for all breeds. Rescue Pledge also spread awareness on the unsanitary conditions of puppy mills.


Besides rescue groups, you may be able to locate and adopt a Portie from the local animal shelter. It is important to request the potential adopted dog's medical history and proof of vaccinations shots.



black portuguese water dog on beach



Portuguese Water Dog Breed Organizations

The Portuguese Water Dog is the rarest dog breed, but it does take time to find a puppy from a reputable breeder. Portie puppies are sometimes in high demand, and some people leave deposits down to claim a puppy before it is even born.


Both the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America and the American Kennel Club offers forums where breeders can advertise their puppies. To be partner organizations, breeders must show proof of health clearances. Whatever breed club you choose, make sure to always request the dog breed's health history for any signs of hereditary health issues that may affect puppies.



More About the Portuguese Water Dog

If Neptune, the Roman god of Sea, had to choose a dog for a pet, he would choose this breed. Although no longer assisting fishermen like they used to, this breed proudly remains loyal to their families. With their thick coats and webbed feet, the Portie has plenty of admirable features.


The first step in adopting a Portie is finding a trusted breeder or rescue near you. The second step is rereading this guide to learn more about this dog breed. If you want more information on dogs, check out HolistaPet!

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