How to Select a Breed
You are willing to commit to a dog
Okay, you've decided that you want a dog, and that you want one enough to train it, clean it, watch it, exercise it, and love it every single day. So the next question is: what kind of a dog will make it easier for you to do all those things? That brings us to breeds and breed standards. This method may help you decide.
What are your expectations?
First of all, make a list of the things you and your family do. Decide which ones you want to include the dog in (if you don't want to include the dog in your daily activities, stop here. Consider a stuffed animal instead). Be specific: for example, when you are hanging out at home, do you want the dog hanging out with you-in your lap, on the sofa, or at your feet-or one that is snoozing in another room, or staring out the front window at the big, wide world. When you go to the beach, do you want a dog that loves the water or are you happier leaving the dog at home or at a kennel if it's to be a longer trip? Think about things like the size and energy level you are looking for, too.
Here's a true fact: dogs don't just look different, they are different. Different breeds tend to have different personalities and different preferences. This is similar to humans, with one important difference: in dog breeds, parents with those same preferences and skills have been bred together for many generations. The result is that the tendencies of a breed are pretty well locked in. Your chances of success in dog ownership are higher if you start out with a dog whose genetic background steers it towards the type of life you have and the things you want to do with your dog.
Breed standards describe the general behavioral and size tendencies of dogs of that breed. The problem is that breed standards are written by folks who already love the breed, and so they tend to describe behaviors in glowing and positive terms. You need to be a bit more critical. When you read various phrases in a breed standard, ask yourself "what is the 'dark side' of this trait?" What would this trait be like if left unchannelled?" For example, if a breed standard says the dog is brave, that could mean a dog that is very pushy with strangers unless taught consistent greeting manners. Ask yourself how you feel about a dog that tends to jump up on people.
So what about a Portuguese Water Dog?
They are an active, energetic, extremely bright and creative breed. They are not a dog to just lay by the fireplace and doze. This does not mean they are constant activity in the home or "hyper". A properly exercised PWD certainly can understand "that's ENOUGH, now go lie down!" when need be. They seem to do well in homes with another, active dog, well behaved children over the age of 5 to 7 or, if a petless, childless home, people who are willing to go on walks, take them for a swim, play Frisbee, etc. Obedience training for the first year or so is practically mandatory. Continuing on is recommended. PWDs are remarkably well suited to the sports of dog agility, obedience and, of course, the PWDCA's water trials.
Coat and the "hypoallergenic" aspect of the Portuguese Water Dog
The low shedding quality that attracts many to this breed also means that they need grooming. They should have a single coat of hair (most breeds are "double coated"), that keeps on growing. It needs to be brushed and combed regularly, and clipped periodically. How often, depends on your desires, and the growth rate for the individual dog. No matter what, a Portuguese Water Dog will require a good bit of grooming time from you.
What IS a Portuguese Water Dog, really?
The following is a humorous, but pretty accurate description of what an owner can actually expect from life with a PWD. First the actual words of the standard, and then a look at those words in another light.
--- The Real Standard ---
General Appearance - Known for centuries along Portugal's coast, this seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a spirited, yet obedient nature, and a robust, medium build that allowed for a full day's work in and out of the water. The Portuguese Water Dog is a swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina, who aided his master at sea by retrieving broken nets, herding schools of fish, and carrying messages between boats and to shore. He is a loyal companion and alert guard. This highly intelligent utilitarian breed is distinguished by two coat types, either curly or wavy; an impressive head of considerable breadth and well proportioned mass; a ruggedly built, well-knit body; and a powerful, thickly based tail, carried gallantly or used purposefully as a rudder. The Portuguese Water Dog provides an indelible impression of strength, spirit, and soundness.
Temperament - An animal of spirited disposition, self-willed, brave, and very resistant to fatigue. A dog of exceptional intelligence and a loyal companion, it obeys its master with facility and apparent pleasure. It is obedient with those who look after it or with those for whom it works.
--- What It Really Means ---
General Appearance - Notorious as a brawler for centuries along Portugal's coast, this seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a pushy nature and a robust, medium build that needed the mental and physical demand's of a full day's work in and out of the water to reduce it's energy level to one that allowed it to hear and obey it's master's commands. The Portuguese Water Dog seeks and loves to splash and wallow in mud, water bowls, toilets with open lids, and any liquid--water, paint, etc. It does this with great finesse and stamina, unendingly, while aiding his master by retrieving any item that it sees and wants to carry, regardless of size, delicacy, or ownership. Its incessant retrieving instinct leads to a dog that must have something in it's mouth to carry, chew on, or swallow, whether that item be edible or decorative, such as furniture.
Makes you think, doesn't it?