Puppy Resource Kit
We've created this resource to provide you with a better idea of what's involved in day-to-day care of a Portuguese Water Dog. It's a starting point and by no means complete; in fact, we encourage you to arm your family with books and online content several months prior to your PWD coming to live with you. A few suggestions:
- PWDCA Courier Magazine - Annual Public Edition
- PWDCA Resource Section of this website
- Before You Get Your Puppy, by Dr. Ian Dunbar
- Dog Behavior Q and A, a PWD-L Discussion
- The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, by Patricia B. McConnell (Book)
- The New Complete Portuguese Water Dog, by Kathryn Braund (Check your favorite bookseller)
- PWDCA Facebook Page
- PWD and General Dog Training Groups on Facebook
Just like us humans, PWDs need a certain amount of personal hygiene to safeguard their health and prevent disease. Though they're quite talented, PWDs still haven't quite perfected the ability to groom themselves. PWD grooming consists of a series of tasks, some of which are daily:
- Brushing & Combing - daily
- Nail Trimming - bi-weekly
- Ear Cleaning - as needed
- Bathing & Drying - 2 to 3 weeks or as needed
- Haircuts - 4 to 6 weeks
Maintaining a Healthy Coat
PWD coats present in a variety of colors (black, brown, white and shades in-between), sometimes with white markings and with a wavy or curly texture. There are two acceptable trims, commonly called the "Lion" and "Retriever" cuts. They have minimally shedding coats which have some great advantages (you can wear black without looking like a furry beast, for example), but there is a degree of downside to their beautiful coats as well. Their hair grows relatively fast, and it tangles and matts easily. There are basically three simple steps to keeping your PWD's coat looking gorgeous and feeling fabulous:
- BRUSH & COMB
It's important to keep your PWD as matt-free as possible, and brushing/combing daily will achieve this result effectively. So simple to do while on the couch watching TV, or at other comfortable spots around your home (they're either on your lap or by your feet anyway, right?). But once a matt takes hold, if you do not disentangle or cut it out (very carefully), it will grow into a tight wad of dirt, oil and hair that actually pulls uncomfortably on the skin of your beloved PWD. You'll note scratching in all sorts of places, but especially around the neck and behind the ears. You'll witness chewing on between the pads and on top of their paws. And it's almost impossible to avoid matts under their front shoulders (armpits). Occasionally, your PWD will succeed in extracting a matt or two; you'll see a wayward clump hanging on by a thread. But please don't allow it to get that far—matting can be incredibly uncomfortable to your dog and will result in your groomer having to shave him/her very, very short, and your PWD will be embarrassed to be seen in public because their human didn't take care of them properly.
WASH, DRY, & CUT
This is a little more complicated. It requires some skill, equipment and patience. You know those times when they say that it's better to spend the money and pay a professional to do the job, like say, an electrician? This is one of those times. Unless you're willing to invest in clippers, a set or two of pricey scissors, a grooming table, a high speed hair dryer AND grooming classes, of course. A good groomer is worth their weight in gold. A word of advice, even if 're a brave DIYer—take your PWD pup into the groomer's after its final puppy shots a couple of times to get it used to being in a unique environment and handled by a trusted stranger. It's a wonderful socialization opportunity and the groomer will probably teach your pup how to behave while being groomed.
That's it! General rule of thumb on haircuts is every six weeks. Washing frequency might be more often. Many PWD owners will wash, or a least rinse after any outdoor water activities (lakes, ocean, etc.). Otherwise, washing frequency is pretty much dependent upon how much trouble your PWD can get in to!
Equipment, Should You Decide to Try this at Home:
- Dog Clipper - It pays, in the long run, to purchase a good dog clipper, and keep it maintained. Even if you choose to have your dog clipped by a professional, you will find a good pair of scissors at home for tidying to be useful.
- Grooming Table - It's not necessary, but is very helpful. It can make you and your dog more comfortable during the grooming process. Your dog does need to be on a solid, steady surface where it feels secure.
- Brushes and combs are a must for every Portuguese Water Dog owner. Your breeder should be able to help you decide which ones, of the wide variety available, are appropriate for your needs.
- Nail trimmers or a nail grinder are another necessary item. Even if you choose to have your dog groomed by a professional, nail care needs to be done at home, on a regular basis. There are several types of nail clippers available. Another choice for many pet owners is an electric grinder. Some of you may have such a grinding tool already, sold under various names such as Dremel.
- Styptic powder, such as Kwik Stop is a good addition to your grooming tool box as well. Careful as you try to be, at some point you will cut too close and get the dog's quick (the live part) and the styptic powder stops the resultant bleeding.
- Ear cleaners The Portuguese Water Dog, like many drop eared breeds, can be prone to ear problems. Cleaning them out regularly can help prevent these. There are many good ear cleaners available over the counter, and from your vet.
- Shampoo - Your dog will need bathed on a regular basis. A human shampoo is not appropriate for bathing your dog. Their pH levels and needs are different than your own. Again, your breeder can help advise you on quality dog washing products.
- Conditioners can be very helpful to reduce matting and keep coat from splitting when being brushed.
- Dryers - After a bath, your dog will need dried. There are a number of very good blow dryers on the market. An item many Portuguese Water Dog owners find very helpful is the "forced air": type dryer. Consider putting cotton in your PWD's ears if they're sensitive to the noise.This literally blows the water off of the dog. Once most of the water is out of the coat, a traditional hand held dryer can be used to finish.
Please visit the Grooming Section of this website for the most up-to-date grooming guides and instructional material.
Many people don't realize that a Portuguese Water Dog is a working dog. Their historical purpose was to assist the Portuguese fisherman and do a day's worth of work. In order to have an efficient worker, breeders selected animals that showed potential for drive and stamina. Breeders continued to breed for the active, intelligent, strong working dogs. The traits were nurtured and today we have a breed of dog that is active and inquisitive. This means, to the average pet owner, that their PWD needs to be exercised effectively each day to keep mind and body healthy. An under-exercised puppy can be very destructive as they try to work off the built up energy. They can be very annoying, demanding attention from their owners. If left to their own devices a Portuguese Water Dog will undoubtedly get in trouble. All PWDs at an early age should be monitored carefully to avoid unwanted behavior.
At the very least a PWD should have a minimum of two 20-minute sessions of free running a day. They prefer to do things with their guardians rather than left to their own devices. A fenced in yard is great for a PWD owner. Your dog can have their own secure area to zoom around or chase a ball and stretch those legs preferably in the company of a human. Some owners who are away all day take their dog to dog day care where they are able to get plenty of exercise. These dogs become model citizens at home after a day of exercise.
Note: Controlled strenuous workouts such as long jogs should be done only after the growth plates on a puppy are finished growing, at about one year.
All purebred and mixed breed dogs are prone to hereditary health problems. The Portuguese Water Dog is no exception. The PWDCA encourages anyone considering a PWD to be aware of health issues and responsible breeding practices so that the PWD who joins your family has the best chance to live a long, healthy and happy life.
For complete information regarding PWD health, please visit the Health section of this website.
Why is training so important for PWDs?
Puppies grow very quickly. Before you know it, they are one year old and equivalent to a teenager. There is a lot of essential learning and socialization that will need to happen in those early months.
The Portuguese Water Dog is an intelligent breed which means they learn "the bad" as fast as they learn the good. You can direct that learning by starting your puppy's training early and taking him to school. Find a facility that has instruction in puppy manners as well as the important lessons of Come, Sit, Down, Stay, and walk on leash. These classes will not only teach your pup control, they will also be beneficial for the socialization that all Portuguese Water Dogs need at an early age. A good set of classes will also teach YOU how to teach your dog.
When to start?
Begin the training as early as possible. Waiting until the dog is six months old will only result in having to get rid of bad habits. Early training allows you to start your PWD off with good habits (not to mention helping you avoid falling into bad habits yourself!). Once you learn the basics of how a dog learns and how to train on your own you can continue to teach your dog after the sessions are completed. You will find that a PWD loves to learn. He will be open to new experiences and there is a huge variety of canine activities that you can enjoy with your PWD. From Water Work and Agility to Flyball and therapy work, a Portuguese Water Dog is often talented in a multitude of disciplines.
Private lessons are fine, but group classes are invaluable for the socializing your puppy needs. Try to research and observe a class before you enroll. Ask yourself:
- Are the dogs enjoying the class?
- Is the instructor proactively adjusting pet owners and training environment to protect against any negative experiences (e.g., dog aggression)?
- Is the training advice presented in an understandable way and seem sensible to you?
- Are there enough assistants so that help can be given to each student?
- Is the instructor available for questions after the class?
- Will you be comfortable with the teaching methods that the trainer utilizes?
If the answer to any of these is "no", you may want to keep looking.
Which Classes to Take?
There are several different types of classes available for basic pet training. There is puppy kindergarten (not to be confused with a puppy play group) which usually includes pups from 8 weeks up to 6 or 8 months. Sign up early as they fill up fast. Check to see what age they will start your puppy—you will want to get into classes as early as possible. These classes are ideal for puppy socialization. Look for puppy classes which will start you on some of the basic commands such as "Come", "Sit", "Down" and walk on loose leash. These classes are about six weeks long and should provide insightful information on living with your new puppy. In addition, there are beginning obedience classes for any dog who needs to learn basic obedience. They start in 4-6 week increments and the more advanced classes often are "drop-in", pay as you go. You can never take these classes too many times; your PWD's obedience will improve significantly the more often you attend.
Then there are classes which specialize on learning specific competitive events. For example: puppy training for showing in conformation or foundation classes for obedience and agility. It's best to start with a basic set of classes where you will gain control.
Once you and your PWD have mastered beginning obedience, there are a multitude of training classes offered for specialized performance and companion activities for fun and/or competition, such as agility, water work, scent work, flyball, trick dog, rally and more. This is where the real fun starts, because PWDs LOVE to work! For more information on the variety of performance activities PWDs enjoy, visit our Performance and Companion Sports section.
Today, there exists a variety of methodologies for training dogs. For example, there are motivational methods that utilize treats, toys, and lures to gain success. There is a method which uses a clicker much like dolphin trainers use. And then there are the older methods involving corrections and praise. In general, dogs will learn with all of these methods but many PWD trainers find they prefer the more motivational approaches using food rewards or clicker training. Picking a suitable class and instructor will require you to research or observe a class before you enroll. If you can't preview a class, ask your breeder or find someone who has gone through the full course and can recommend a set of classes.
Most obedience classes are there to teach you how to teach your dog. Once you have committed to a class you will see amazing progress, but only if you stick with it and do your homework away from class sessions.
Finding a Trainer
There are a variety of resources available to assist you in finding training classes that will fit your schedule and learning style. The sources listed below will help you make quick work of finding a qualified dog training for your PWD:
- Regional PWDCA Sanctioned Club - Check out their website and if you’re a member, get referrals from other PWD owners in your community
- AKC Training Club Search & Directory - AKC training clubs are searchable by types of training (obedience, rally, agility, scent work, etc.) and state.
- The Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) lists dog trainers in your area and is a great resource on a variety of training issues
- Humane Societies, Local Dog Shelters - Often, these organizations offer both online resources and in-person classes. Example: Marin Humane Society
- Your Local Veterinarian Office
Ouch! Why does my puppy bite me?
One of the jobs the first Portuguese Water Dogs had was to retrieve things. This required the breed to use their mouths. It is a breed trait. Whether it is retrieving, ripping, tearing and destroying, nipping or simply carrying something around, it is their nature to use their mouths. When you look at this breed, you find an intelligent dog who likes to explore their environment. This is done very often with their mouths as they taste, chew, and carry things. It is important for the owner to establish rules as to what can be mouthed and what can't.
Nipping and biting on humans must obviously be stopped. Showing the puppy how hard is too hard when biting on hands is an essential first lesson. It is the same lesson taught to a puppy by other littermates and the mother dog in the whelping box. A simple way to get this message across, when being mouthed and nipped on the hands, is to give a high pitched yelp as if you were another puppy telling your PWD, "Too hard!" This testing of the bite is important. From 11 weeks on, the rules will change—there should no longer be any biting on humans at all.
How to stop it
Substituting a toy or bone, employing a time out in a crate or simply walking away from the game may be all that is needed to stop the mouthing. Some PWDs are more persistent than others and will need firmer handling to stop this unwanted behavior. You may need to ask your breeder for suggestions on how to stop the overly mouthy, older PWD or in rare cases a behaviorist may need to be contacted.
Many PWDs have retrieving talents. This can be nurtured, especially if you want to go on to performance events such as water work. When a PWD retrieves something inappropriate, a basic "trade" (say "trade" and exchange the inappropriate item for a cookie or toy) works wonders to get it away from your pup. Avoid chasing after your PWD. That becomes a game that will be frustrating and possibly dangerous; besides, you'll never win. Have the pup bring you the object and then reward by giving something back that is better than what they brought you.
Your PWD will teethe during the first year. To relieve the pain of teeth breaking through the skin they tend to chew. Even after permanent teeth are in they chew as these teeth are being set in their jaws. They chew on anything that they can get their mouths on. This is when you provide safe and satisfy bones and toys just for your PWD. Sticks are probably not a good choice as your dogs can get splinters caught in their mouth. And let's face it, dogs enjoy the feel and taste of wood, any wood, including chair legs. Plush toys at this time will often be destroyed and stuffing possibly eaten. This is another reason why your puppy should be well monitored in the first year of his life.
By being observant and directing appropriate mouth behaviors you will have a dog with a very manageable breed trait. A PWD who will show his inherited retrieving nature can be trained to use this talent in the many performance arenas available to him.
Why Crate Train and what does it have to do with Housebreaking?
Simple Answer: Crate training is the most reliable way to housebreak a dog.
The main reason new pet owners often oppose the use of a crate is that they do not understand it. It is not a "cage" used for punishing the puppy. A crate is a useful training tool, just like a collar and leash, if used correctly. It has proven itself over and over again, in many different home situations, to be the fastest and easiest way to housetrain a puppy. Understanding this before you start will help you through this training process.
Our dogs are certainly not wild canines but they do still share some traits. Canines need a safe place, out of the way of the every day hustle and bustle of life. Many people will notice their dog or puppy choosing to lie under a chair or low table, watching the world go by. They are looking for a den. All puppies, and Portuguese Water Dogs more than many, can be very destructive. A crate is a place that can keep your puppy and your possessions from harm when you are busy.
In our homes, we can give our dogs a den of their own, and it can be comforting and useful for both dog and owner. Dogs will instinctually keep their den clean. This is an important point for you to understand. Use this information. This is the why a crate works for housebreaking your dog. Your puppy will learn to enjoy his crate and want to keep it clean.
There are times you can be fairly certain your pup will need to potty: when he wakes up from a nap, after he eats, after a play session, or anytime he hasn't been out for awhile. Like a small child, a puppy can not "hold it" for very long, so you must be aware and ever watchful.
When your pup cannot be under your watchful eye, he should be in his crate. When he is napping, he should be in his crate. While you are eating, cleaning or working, your puppy should be in his crate. This may sound excessive to some; it doesn't need to be. You need to schedule time to spend with your pup. (Refer back to Time for a Puppy page.) Have short training sessions throughout the day. Play with your puppy. Go for short walks around the neighborhood.
When you are casually moving about your home during the day and can do so, practice "tethering." This is simply attaching the puppy to your body. The easiest way to do this is to attach the leash to your belt or something similar. This keeps the pup with you, and yes, takes some of the pressure off of you to keep the pup from wandering away and getting into trouble.
Following is a sample day for you and your new puppy:
Puppy wakes up in his crate and you get up immediately and take the puppy outside on leash*. Puppy goes potty, praise the puppy. Puppy comes back into the house for breakfast. After breakfast you both go back outside for the puppy to go potty. Puppy goes and you praise the puppy. Now the puppy can be left loose in the house, under your watchful eye, to play for awhile. Maybe have a short training session. Then back outside to potty (don't forget the praise!) and into his crate for a nap.
Puppy wakes up from his nap and you immediately take him outside. Puppy goes potty, you praise, back into the house for lunch. Puppy eats lunch, goes outside with you and goes potty, you praise. Now is a good time for a short walk. Incorporate training into this as well. Ask puppy Sit while you reach for his collar and put the leash on. Good Puppy. Give a treat as a reward, outside for a quick walk around the neighborhood. Back home, potty before you go into the house if needed, praise. Playtime with puppy. Puppy goes back outside to potty, praise, back indoors for a well deserved nap in his crate.
Puppy wakes up from his nap, you both go outside, puppy goes, you praise, back in the house for playtime. Time to go back outside, puppy goes, you praise, maybe time for an evening walk. Back into the house, play, dinner, potty, praise, back inside.
Puppy has had playtime, training time and walks with his adored humans today. Outside to potty, into the crate for a well earned sleep period!
Now, you don't have to follow the above exactly. It is to give you an idea of how to work the puppy's schedule into your own life. Puppies, like children, need a routine.
If you work outside the home, be fair to your puppy. He cannot "hold it" all day while you are gone. If you can, try to get home at lunchtime. Either arrange for a friend or neighbor to visit during the day or hire a dogwalker if you can't get home. Please don't expect your pup to wait all day. He cannot. Make sure whoever visits the pup during the day understands the importance of taking the puppy outside as soon as he comes out of his crate and to praise when he goes potty. You must expect to spend more time in the evening with your puppy than if someone were home with him all day. Be prepared for this. You are the center of this young, living creature's universe. He has waited all day for you to come home. Enjoy it, and even on days you don't feel like it, you must spend time with the puppy.
Consistent and fair crate training as a puppy can make your entire life with your pet easier. When you are visiting in someone else's home or a hotel, your dog may be welcome if he will sit quietly in his crate when needed. When you need your dog out of the way during special occasions in your own home, you have a pet who will behave while in his crate. If your dog should need to be boarded or spend time in the veterinary hospital, he will not be nearly as frightened if he is used to being in a crate for periods of time. Your dog has a place he can choose to go when he needs time on his own.
Some people choose to not crate their dog while they are out once he is an adult. This can work for many dogs. With your Portuguese Water Dog however, please know that a mentally and emotionally mature dog may not appear in your home for three to five years!
*A word of Advice: Having the puppy on a leash for potty time can help keep him "on task". An off leash puppy is more likely to wander, sniff and want to play. After he has done his business you can certainly remove the leash, in your securely fenced yard, and play.
Portuguese Water Dogs and Kids
Portuguese Water Dogs get along great with children. You need to understand, however, that dogs are not human. PWDs will often consider a child as a canine littermate, can play rougher than you'd like and their play incorporates the use of their mouths. Therefore, it is important that you never let small children be unsupervised with your dog. If something were to happen, you would have no way of knowing whose "fault" it was. Did the child tease the dog, pull the tail, or hurt the dog in a way the precipitate a nip. An accidental bite will always be blamed on the dog. In all fairness, some PWDs are tolerant beyond normal limits with overly rough physical play. But accidents can still happen.
Just as you will be training your new pup, rules should also be set for children with regards to your PWD. A child needs to be told what is allowable and what isn't. And if a child is unable to be part of a puppy's guidance, do not let him have any of the responsibilities. If a child is too young to understand how to pick up a puppy, then don't allow it. If a youngster can't be trusted to help with housebreaking, then don't make that a child's responsibility. If a child won't pick his toys up off the floor, then he should realize they will be fair game for destruction by any PWD. One that last point, keep in mind that any item swallowed by a PWD may cause choking or obstructions and an emergency trip to the Vet.
Children and PWDs can be best of buddies. But expect slip-ups with kids and PWDs and try to instill reliability in both. Always keep a sharp eye on them when together. Never leave your dog and child alone together.
Do they shed?
They do not shed very much, but they do shed hair just like we do, more of 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 because of 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. You need to 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. It is important that you 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|
|Sex||Height (at withers)||Weight|
|Male||20 to 23 inches (the ideal is 22 inches)||42 to 60 pounds|
|Female||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 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 prior to 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.
Download a PDF of the Puppy Buyer Cheat Sheet.
Some of the content in the "Find a PWD" section was provided by: Lisa Baird, Verne Foster, Jane Harding, and Kathryn Monroe