Time for a Puppy
The first question you need to ask yourself before you begin this journey is, do you need a puppy (or dog) at all. A dog is a lot of fun but a lot more work than many people realize. Having a family dog means caring for it in every way -- from the physical activity required, to meeting the dog's need for mental stimulation. Hopefully, this dog will be a member of your family for the next 10 to 15 years. Are you ready? Is your family?
When you contact breeders about a PWD, they'll assume that you've already considered the responsibilities involved in having a dog. They'll want you and your family to describe and demonstrate your readiness. And they'll want to understand why you feel a PWD is right for you.
Doesn't every family need a dog?
It seems that very often a family gets a dog "for kids." Kids and dogs can be a great thing! However, it is the rare child who keeps up with that pledge to "take care of it all by myself." Even the most dedicated and sincere children soon find friends, sports, and their own social life interfering with the family pet's daily needs. Primary care for a dog must be something the adults in the household want and are willing to take responsibility for.
Do you have the time now?
Puppies are like babies. They have accidents, they don't sleep through the night, and they can destroy things. They are not doing this on purpose; they are learning the rules of life in your family. It isn't fair to become angry with the puppy for this. Do you have the patience to work through this time of life? What other commitments do you have in life now? A demanding, full time job? Small children in the home? What do you do when the puppy needs to go out, now, and your toddler is sitting and playing? Do you take the time to put the child somewhere safe and secure or call a family member to attend the puppy? That's all the time it takes for an "accident" to occur with the puppy. Not its fault, just a baby with a small bladder and little control. A puppy takes a lot of time out of your schedule. An adult dog can demand less of your time, but still needs attention.
When you add a dog to your family you want it to be a well behaved and happy addition everyone enjoys being around. A well-mannered dog doesn't "just happen." It is the result of training and patience, over time. Every dog requires exercise. The Portuguese Water Dog's exercise requirements are higher than many other breeds.
Your PWD will need to be groomed regularly as well. This is a weekly job for the brushing, and less often but just as important for the more extensive grooming.
Can you afford to be a responsible pet owner?
Aside from your initial purchase price, there are many other expenses to pet ownership. When you first get your puppy there is the initial series of vaccinations, purchase of the equipment (bowls, collar, lead, crate, and toys) and a good puppy kindergarten class. After these start-up costs, maintaining a dog can add up to a significant amount annually with food and vet bills. With a Portuguese Water Dog, you also have grooming costs, or the expense of purchasing equipment and learning to groom the dog yourself.
What will your future hold?
What will your life bring in the upcoming years? Are you childless now, but planning a family soon? Will you have time for the dog when your baby arrives? Will your children soon be grown, off to school or otherwise out of the home? Will the adults want to be able to travel and not be tied down to a pet? The American Kennel Club coined the phrase, "A Dog is for Life; not just for Christmas" on a bumper sticker many years ago. This was created to describe why dogs should not be purchased on a spur of the moment gift whim, but given long term consideration. A dog is for life. It is a sad fact that many people don't seem to realize this. This is why so many dogs end up in shelters across this country.
Please take the time to think seriously about the above questions before deciding to add a dog, any dog, to your family. Then answer these questions about owning a Portuguese Water Dog in particular, and be honest with yourself in your answers. It can save you and your family possible heartache in the future.
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 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 activities you want to include your dog in. If you don't envision it as part of your family's day-to-day life, stop, and reconsider. Most dogs, especially PWDs, that aren't a part of family fun makes for an unhappy dog AND unhappy dog owners! 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 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 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. It would help if you were 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 unchannelld?" For example, if a breed standard says the dog is brave, that could mean a dog with strangers unless taught consistent greeting manners. Ask yourself how you feel about a dog that tends to jump up on people.
A dog with a "strong retrieving instinct" is a dog that will tend to want to chew things-anything in sight, as a matter of fact-to a much higher degree and for a longer period of time than the average puppy. Ask yourself if you are willing to constantly supervise the dog, crate it when you are gone, and buy lots of chew toys. A "determined" dog may mean harder to train. An "aloof" dog may not want to be the cuddler you have been dreaming about.
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 constantly active 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 education 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"), which keeps growing. It needs to be brushed and combed regularly and clipped periodically. How often depends on your preferences 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.
Since they shed very little (but they do shed, all mammals shed at least a little), they are often better for people with allergies than other breeds. However, it is suggested that if you have severe allergies, you spend time with adult PWDs before getting one. Many people are allergic to Portuguese Water Dogs. Please be careful. Look up "hypoallergenic" in the dictionary; "Having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction." It does NOT mean non-allergenic. People can be and are allergic to all breeds of dogs. Nothing is more upsetting, to the buyer, breeder, and pup, than having to return a pup because of a family member's allergy! It's tough for all concerned. Spend time with the breed before bringing on into your home as a family member. Allow the allergic person to bury their nose in the dog's fur and really give it a chance for a reaction.
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 standard's actual words, and then a look at those words in another light.
The Real Standard
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 shore. He is a loyal companion and an 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.
Steady, penetrating, and attentive.
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 to those who look after it or with those for whom it works.
What It Really Means
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 demands of a full day's work in and out of the water to reduce its 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 its mouth to carry, chew on, or swallow, whether that item is edible or decorative, such as furniture.
He is a clinging companion and an incessant alarm barker. This highly manipulative breed is distinguished by two coat types, either curly or wavy, which require extensive grooming—bathing, brushing, combing, detangling, etc.—far in excess of the time that would be spent vacuuming up dog hair. If not groomed regularly, small amounts of dirt, twigs, dust, mats, and other yard matter Velcro themselves to the unruly coat until being redistributed in the home, a common PWD owner decorating trend referred to as "bringing the outside in." It has an impressive head of considerable breadth and well proportioned mass, which it uses for head and body rams; a ruggedly built, well-knit body which enables it to counter-surf and jump onto tables and over fences; and a powerful, thickly based tail, carried gallantly or used purposefully as a rudder or to clear items off coffee tables and destroy Lego constructions built by children on floors.
Direct, rude, and demanding. The Portuguese Water Dog likes to be at eye level with humans, resulting in an almost un-extinguishable jumping-up greeting behavior.
An animal with a mind of its own, brash, and ADHD. A dog of exceptional ability to manipulate people and its environment, and a strong desire to lead makes it incessantly desire to be around humans that it can bend to its wishes. If trained by a person with patience, superior intelligence, and unilateral focus, it will obey its master with facility and apparent pleasure until it decides to test or until it devises an alternative to try.
Do they shed?
They do not shed very much, but they do shed hair just like we do, more or less, depending on the length and thickness (all mammals shed at least a little). Portuguese Water Dogs, as well as other single-coated breeds (Poodles, Bichon Frises, Kerry Blue Terriers, Wheaten Terriers, to name a few), do not have an undercoat that sheds. That undercoat shedding is what most people with allergies have problems with.
Portuguese Water Dogs are hypoallergenic, right?
Portuguese Water Dogs are considered to be hypoallergenic because they are single-coated. To be "hypoallergenic" is to have a decreased tendency to cause allergies. There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog. Hypoallergenic dog breeds (single-coated or hairless) will still produce allergens, but their coat type will typically produce less than others. People with severe allergies and asthma will likely still be affected by a hypoallergenic dog.
If you have severe allergies it is suggested that you spend time with adult Portuguese Water Dogs before getting one. Many people are allergic to Portuguese Water Dogs, so please be careful. Spend time with the breed before bringing one into your home as a family member.
Are they good with children?
Portuguese Water Dogs get along great with children. It would help if you remember, however, that dogs are not human. Portuguese Water Dogs will often consider a child as a canine litter mate and could play harder than you would want; and they play with their mouths. You must never let small children be unsupervised with your dog(s).
Can they stay by themselves all day?
Portuguese Water Dogs are people-oriented and long to be with their "crewmates" or family. Thus they do not do well in a kennel environment or left alone for long periods of time.
What is meant by the PWD "Standard"
The standard of a breed defines how a particular breed should look as well as general temperament. Breeders attempt to breed to this established standard, and it also serves as a tool for judges to use to evaluate dogs in the show ring. Below is a visualization of the written standard for the PWD. You can also view the written PWD "standard," as submitted by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc. and approved by The Board of Directors of The American Kennel Club.
How big do they get?
|Portuguese Water Dog Standard
|Height (at withers)
|20 to 23 inches (the ideal is 22 inches)
|42 to 60 pounds
|17 to 21 inches (the ideal is 19 inches)
|35 to 50 pounds
Where can I see one?
One way to see a Portuguese Water Dog is to visit AKC all-breed dog shows, which are held throughout the country. AKC provides a listing of shows by state in its AKC Event Search. Be sure to look for conformation events. A conformation show normally lasts from early morning until late afternoon, depending on the number of dogs entered. Be sure to look at the specific show guide, called a "Premium" for the date, time and ring location.
In addition, Regional PWD Club representatives can help you locate PWD events and owners nearest to you. You might even consider joining a local club and participating and/or volunteering for activities before getting your PWD; you'll be sure to have fun, get to know the breed a bit better and receive great breeder referrals
How do I find a responsible Portuguese Water Dog Breeder?
Please visit Find a Breeder to assist you in navigating the process of finding and evaluating responsible PWD breeders.
The PWDCA maintains an online Breeder Referral List to assist you in locating responsible breeders who deeply care about the future of the breed. It is by no means complete, as many reputable breeders may choose not to publicly list here. Instead, they might list their contact information on their Regional Clubs' websites. Or they might find their puppy owners by referral or from return clients. While we do not vet them, you will find that breeders who are PWDCA and Regional PWD Club members normally follow the health recommendations of the PWDCA. Please keep in mind that PWDCA member-breeders pay to be listed here. The PWDCA does not guarantee, recommend, or endorse any breeder.
What are the Health issues I should be concerned with?
The health issues of greatest concern within this breed include Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Storage Disease (GM-1), and Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDCM).
Please reference the Health section of this site for more information.
The PWDCA, Inc. strongly recommends that any dog used for breeding be at least two years old, be examined for and evaluated free of hip dysplasia, individually tested for GM-1 status, Optigen rated for PRA status, and have an annual CAER (formerly CERF) test to determine overall eye health.