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Portugese water dog laying in grass

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Working group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 17-23 inches
  • Weight — 35-60 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Thick coat that requires grooming. Fur can be wavy or curly
  • Coat color — Solid or bicolor variations of black, white, and shades of brown. White markings are common for black or brown dogs in their feet, legs, chest, and muzzle.
  • Exercise needs — Active
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 11-13 years
  • Temperament — Friendly, athletic, and curious
  • Hypoallergenic — Yes
  • Origin — Portugal

Portuguese water dog fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Portuguese Water Dogs Oscar; Rio is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Portuguese Water Dogs love Daisy and Cali equally.

  • Going for a dip? Bring your Portuguese water dog! With their water-repelling coats, webbed feet, and rudder-like tails, the dogs are excellent swimmers. In fact, they were originally bred to assist fishermen along Portugal’s coast.
  • If you’re looking for an active dog, look no further than the Portuguese water dog. They love to play…and play and play and play! The breed has a reputation for being extremely energetic and doesn’t fatigue easily.
  • Portuguese water dogs are considered hypoallergenic. They hardly shed, making them good companions for people with canine allergies. But instead of shedding, their fur grows continuously, so keep those clippers handy!
Portugese water dog in snow

Portuguese water dog temperament and characteristics 

Portuguese water dogs are a high-energy breed, so they are a great fit for active pet owners. To tucker out these restless furballs plan long walks, hikes, runs, and plenty of indoor playtime. They’re also extremely intelligent, so with proper training, you can expect them to be obedient as well as affectionate towards children and other pets. They can be shy around strangers at first but will warm up over time.

Common Portuguese water dog health problems 

Portuguese water dogs are considered generally healthy, but are prone to some possible health conditions.

  • Hip dysplasia. Like most larger breeds, Portuguese water dogs are susceptible to hip dysplasia. The condition occurs when the head of the dog’s femur bone doesn’t fit neatly into their hip socket.
  • Gangliosidosis GM1. Modern testing has fortunately made cases of GM1 rarer in Portuguese water dogs, but the breed can still experience this genetic disorder. Symptoms include vision loss, behavioral changes, and seizures.
  • Eye conditions. Portuguese water dogs should have their eyes examined yearly to rule out conditions like progressive retinal atrophy.  Eye conditions like this can lead to gradual vision loss and even blindness if left unmonitored.
  • Addison’s disease. Portuguese water dogs are more at risk of addison’s disease than any other breed. The causes are unknown, and its symptoms mirror many different ailments, making it difficult to prevent and diagnose.

Cost of caring for a Portuguese water dog

While Portuguese water dogs are considered a healthy breed, it’s always a good idea to plan for veterinary costs associated with pets. Enrolling in health insurance early will reduce out-of-pocket expenses and protect you (and your furry friend) in an emergency. Insurance works differently for pets than it does for humans, so read up on the plans and consider alternatives like a pet savings account.

Portugese water dog puppy

History of the Portuguese water dog

The earliest account of a Portuguese water dog dates back to the 13th century when one was said to have rescued a drowning sailor from the sea. What makes this unsurprising is that the dog was bred to assist coastal fishing crews by herding fish into nets. Also known as a “Portie,” the breed took on other tasks like retrieving lost tackle and delivering messages from one ship to the next.

But, the dogs found themselves out of work when the Industrial Revolution modernized Portugal’s fishing industry. The breed began to diminish over time until Vasco Bensaúde, the owner of a large Portuguese fishing fleet, took it upon himself to save the breed by gathering the existing Portie’s and implementing a breeding program.

Caring for your Portuguese water dog

Like any breed, Portuguese water dogs require a lot of care. This includes dog-proofing your home, finding the right vet, and staying up to date on vaccines. They also require a ton of exercise and outdoor play, so consider FidoAlert for a free Fido ID and tag to stay prepared in the event they get lost.


Portuguese water dogs are a high-energy breed that need 40 minutes to an hour of exercise every day. While a home with ample space and a yard is ideal, they can do well in smaller homes and apartments if you can take them out frequently and bring them to a dog park.

Portie’s are excellent swimmers, so a lake or beach day could be a fun way to tire them out, so long as you are aware of water safety measures. Portuguese water dogs who are not properly stimulated will likely resort to chewing out of frustration and boredom.

Portuguese water dog walking on a pier


While having a hypoallergenic coat is a perk, Portuguese water dogs also require a lot of grooming because their hair never stops growing (as opposed to non-hypoallergenic dogs who shed their extraneous fur).

The longer they go without grooming, the shaggier they’ll look, so you’ll want to brush them every day and groom them monthly to avoid mixing them up with your mop. According to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, their hair is either wavy or curly, with the two most common haircuts being the retriever clip and the lion clip.

Additionally, you will want to routinely clean your Portie’s ears to avoid infections and brush their teeth for good oral hygiene.

Diet and nutrition

Portuguese water dogs are prone to becoming overweight, so understanding the suggested calorie intake relative to their size is important. Exercise is also a consideration, as a dog who gets more exercise will need more food than a dog who doesn’t get out as much. While pet parents should also consult their vet when determining the right amount to feed their dog, Portie’s are generally recommended 2 to 3 cups of dog food divided into two meals.

Training your Portuguese water dog

Portuguese water dogs are very smart, which makes them very easy to train! Not only will obedience training help stimulate these desperate-to-be-stimulated dogs, but it will curb bad behavior like counter-surfing and jumping on guests. Because they do well with obedience, agility, and water activities, you may even want to consider competition training with your Portuguese water dog as a way to satiate their high exercise needs.

Portugese water dog lion clip

Breeds similar to the Portuguese water dog

Not quite sure that a Portuguese water dog is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Labrador retriever. Like the Portuguese water dog, these highly intelligent dogs were originally bred to assist fishermen, making them excellent swimmers.
  • Afghan hound. Coming in at 50 to 60 pounds, this large breed is hypoallergenic with coat colors that range from black, white, silver, red, and blue and cream. They’re also highly active and would be a great exercise companion for active dog parents.
  • Poodle. If you don’t want to clean up clumps of dog hair all day, you may want to take in a Poodle. This hypoallergenic (and fashionable) breed doesn’t shed, and makes a great fit for anyone who doesn’t mind a little extra grooming.

Frequently asked questions

Do Portuguese water dogs shed a lot?

Portuguese water dogs do not shed, making them hypoallergenic. Instead of shedding, their fur grows out continuously which means they require frequent grooming.

Do Portuguese water dogs bark?

While the Portuguese water dogs seldom bark, they will do it out of frustration if not properly exercised or mentally stimulated.

Can Portuguese water dogs be left alone?

Portuguese water dogs love attention, especially from their owners. The dogs can develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long without enough exercise.

What are Portuguese water dogs known for?

Portuguese water dogs are best known for being hypoallergenic, highly intelligent, and excellent swimmers.

How smart is the Portuguese water dog as a breed?

The Portuguese water dog is a highly intelligent breed and are considered easy to train. This combined with their loving nature makes the breed a common choice for people looking for a service animal. Portie’s are a working group dog and do best with a job.