The Portuguese Water Dog


The Portuguese Water Dog comes from the same ancestors as the Poodle. There are several theories as to how he arrived in Portugal but the earliest recorded event involving a PWD was in 1297, when a monk told the story of a drowning sailor and the dog that saved him. The PWD was used by fishermen for centuries after that. He pulled nets, dove for fish, and protected the boat when it was in port. 

With the modernization of the fishing industry, PWD numbers plummeted. By the 1930’s the breed had neared extinction. Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy shipping magnate from Portugal, is entirely responsible for saving the PWD. He began a breeding program using the few dogs that remained. The most famous of his dogs was named Leao. Leao was bred to so many females that half of modern day PWD’s can be traced back to him.

The breeding program was a success and the Portuguese Water Dog’s popularity soared in America thanks to a letter written by Bensuade and published in an American magazine. Also contributing to the revitalization efforts was Deyanne Miller who helped form the Portuguese Water Club of America in 1972. The PWD was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1984.

President Obama took a Portuguese Water Dog with him into the White House.

Sizing up:

  • Weight: 35 to 60 lbs.
  • Height: 17 to 23 inches
  • Coat: Waterproof, wavy, curly
  • Color: Black, white, brown
  • Life expectancy: 10 to 14 years

What’s the Portuguese Water Dog like?

The Portuguese Water Dog has a very agreeable disposition. He loves his family but establishes the strongest bond with whoever he perceives to be the alpha. He takes direction well and is happy to always remain at his master’s side. 

The PWD loves the water of course, and will need a lot of exercise. He has high levels of energy which can’t be ignored.

The PWD will commonly jump to greet people and to get at whatever might be on the counter. If you hope to curtail this behavior you’ll need to start training early and always be consistent.

The PWD learns quickly and has an excellent memory. He also doesn’t shed and would be a great service dog. Often times he will be used to assist hearing impaired individuals.


The Portuguese Water Dog could possibly be afflicted by any one of several genetic diseases:

Takeaway points:

  • The PWD is an excellent family dog provided he’s exercised properly.
  • The PWD has a history of service and is a fast learning breed.
  • The PWD will want to stay by your side: he doesn’t like kennels or spending time alone.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.