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The Cão de Água Português or Portuguese Water Dog is an intelligent and fun-loving companion. Bo Obama, the First Dog of the USA, is a famous representative of the breed. Adventurous, loyal and affectionate, the Portie makes a wonderful family pet.

Character and Temperament

The Cão de Água Português is lively, loyal, intelligent and friendly. They are fun-loving dogs that often get people laughing. Their calm, affectionate side makes them very good with children and cats do not present a problem as long as the dog has time to get to know them. Portuguese Water Dogs are highly intelligent and it is important that they are trained properly. They are quick to learn and enjoy agility trials. The breed is notorious for chewing, but this should not present a problem if they are given exercise and mental stimulation. The Portuguese Water Dog is happiest when it is in or near the water, so it makes an ideal pet for a sporty family who live near a beach or river or who own a swimming pool.

History of the Breed

Portuguese Water Dogs were bred by the Portuguese fishermen who ranged far and wide across the Atlantic in search of cod. The dogs were used to ferry messages between ships in the fishing fleet, to retrieve lost tackle from the sea and to drive the fish into the nets. They are happiest when in or near water - they even have webbed feet! A Portuguese Water Dog was considered to be a very valuable member of the crew. The classic Lion trim, while looking very decorative with the muzzle and rear shaved, was developed to enable the Portie to swim well. The remaining long hair on the neck, head and chest protected it from injury and kept its vital organs warm. Porties are closely related to other water dogs such as the Poodle. With the development of new technology, numbers of the Cão de Água Português were diminishing, until Vasco Bensaude began a breeding programme in the 1930s to try and save the breed. The first Portie was imported into the US during 1958 and the AKC recognised the breed in 1983. Nowadays, they are increasingly popular both as family pets and as therapy dogs. Portuguese Water Dogs also excel at agility and water trials.


These medium sized, muscular dogs have a straight and level top-line. The muzzle is well-defined and the nose is broad and black while the high-set ears are heart-shaped and hanging. The tapering tail is not docked, to aid in swimming. Legs are straight and toes are webbed. Portuguese Water Dogs have thick, single coats which may be straight or curly. Colours include black, white, brown, parti-colours, silver fox and grey. Porties are considered to be a good choice for those with pet allergies, as they shed very little hair. However, the claim that they are hypo-allergenic should be treated with caution, as the amount of hair shed varies from dog to dog.


As active dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs are generally healthy, but there are certain health problems to watch out for. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that can be worsened by environmental factors. Puppies should be screened for this disease. GM1, a storage disease, is another hereditary illness that is fatal to puppies whose parents both carry the gene. A DNA test is available for this condition and reputable breeders do not breed from dogs who are carriers.