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The Portuguese Water Dog - is it the right breed for you?

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Author: Susan Koranki

So, the Obamas have finally added that new puppy to their family, and his cute little face is staring at you from every newspaper/magazine/website you come across and suddenly you find yourself thinking "Aawww... he's so sweet. I want one of those"

But wait.... just because the 'First Family' has one, it doesn't mean YOU should! Every dog breed is different, with different needs, behavior, and requirements - and every home is different too.

Portuguese Water Dog puppies are adorable teddy bear 'look-alikes', and their lively and affectionate personalities makes them very endearing. But before all those cute photos in the media have you searching for a breeder with a puppy to sell, it's a good idea to take a few minutes to learn more about the breed, and figure out whether it's the right 'fit' for you.

The Portuguese Water Dog is an old breed, know in it's native land as Cao de Agua (literally meaning 'dog of the water'). The ancestors of todays' PWDs played an important role in their country's' fishing industry, and were used to herd fish, retrieve lines/tackle, carry messages from boat to boat or to shore, and act as guardians when protection was needed.

A medium to large sized dog, an adult will measure anywhere between 17 and 23 inches in height, and weigh between 35 and 60lbs. A female will usually be smaller/lighter than a male, but both sexes should be solidly built and muscular.

This courageous, hardy and spirited dog still carries the attributes of a working breed, and in spite of it's cuddly looks, it is most definitely not a lap-dog. Portuguese Water Dogs need lots of vigorous exercise and an active lifestyle, but can be happy in an average-sized home/yard if given plenty of opportunity to run and play on a daily basis.

They bond closely with their owners and always want to be by your side. This isn't an independent breed who can be happy left alone for long periods inside or out, and your Portuguese Water Dog pup will want (and need) to be an integral part of your family's' life.

Outgoing, intelligent and eager to learn, Portuguese Water Dogs make great obedience or agility dogs, and although often considered too small to fill the 'service dog' role, they can be great therapy dogs. Regular socialization and obedience training are very important if you want your PWD to grow up to be all that it can be.

Portuguese Water Dogs can make excellent family pets, and their exuberance and energy levels make them a lot of fun but they can sometimes 'play rough'. They're also known to be a 'mouthy' breed, and may nip/bite more than usual.

Although consistent correction will eliminate the mouthing and rough-housing, if you have very young children you may want to take this into account. Generally this breed is fine with other dogs, and can live alongside cats if introduced to them early on.

Their tendency towards 'mouthiness' can also show up as excessive chewing, and you'll need to make sure you have a lot of very sturdy chew toys handy for your Portuguese Water Dog puppy (or your home and belongings will suffer!).

The long wavy or curly hair that makes them so adorably 'shaggy', needs regular grooming and a daily brush or comb is the best way to keep matts and tangles at bay. Regular clipping or trimming is also recommended.

Portuguese Water Dogs have a single layer coat which is very low-shedding and this means they are considered to be a hypoallergenic breed. If you or your children have dog hair allergies, this breed is less likely to trigger symptoms. However, it's important to remember that allergies vary greatly from person to person, and there's no such thing as an 'allergy-free' dog breed.

It's best to spend some time around any breed you are considering BEFORE buying a puppy, that way you can find out exactly how you're affected by them.

If this breed sees a sudden growth in popularity, finding a healthy puppy from a reputable breeder may become a bit more difficult. Poor breeding practices fueled by the prospect of a quick financial profit, have been responsible for a decrease in the overall health and looks of many breeds in the past.

If you decide that a Portuguese Water Dog is the one for you, take the time to find a responsible breeder with dogs who have been screened for potential genetic/hereditary conditions, and who offers a health contract.

Some conditions that may be found in this breed, and for which screening is available for breeding stock, include Hip Dysplasia, GM1 Storage Disease, PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), and Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy. If the breeder you're talking to asks you a lot of questions, that's a good sign... it means that she really cares about the homes her puppies go to.

When it comes to the adoption v purchase issue, there are some very strong feelings on both sides! There are thousands of dogs in shelters and pounds all around the country who are in desperate need of loving homes, and they're almost always there through no fault of their own.

Adoption should always be considered when you're adding a new puppy/dog to the family, even if you have your heart set on a purebreed, because there are many purebred rescue organizations.

However, Portuguese Water Dogs are not in the same position as, say, Labrador Retrievers. There simply isn't the same number (or even close to it!) of puppies or dogs looking for new homes as there is with the more popular and well known breeds. Finding a Portuguese Water Dog breeder in your area is going to be a challenge, and the chances of finding a purebred PWD being in a local rescue center or pound are very slim.

There may be mixed-breed pups who have Portuguese Water Dog ancestry, and these will make just as wonderful a pet as any purebred puppy - but, if you want a purebred pup who can be registered, buying from a reputable breeder is probably going to be your best option.

So, IS the Portuguese Water Dog right for your family and lifestyle?

... If you've read this whole article and can honestly say that you can provide a Portuguese Water Dog with a home environment where it can thrive, the time and attention it needs, AND you're still in love with that adorable teddy-bear look, I wish you and your new best friend a long and happy life together.

About the author: Learn more about the Portuguese Water Dog at

Author is a life-long dog lover, and owner and webmaster of, a website dedicated to helping new puppy owners raise happy, healthy puppies.

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