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.
Featured image is courtesy of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.
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 its 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 its 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 on the floor by children.
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 whom it can bend to its wishes
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, with 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 whom 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 worth trying.
Coat and the ‘Hypoallergenic’ Aspect
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 growing. It needs to be brushed and combed regularly and clippered 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 suited than other breeds for people with allergies. 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 one 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.