PORTUGUESE WATER DOG (Cão de Agua Português)

TRANSLATION : Portuguese Kennel Club. Revised by R. Triquet & J. Mulholland and Renée Sporre-Willes.


ORIGIN : Portugal.




UTILIZATION : Assistance with fishing and retrieving as well as companion dog.


F.C.I. CLASSIFICATION :            Group     8          Retrievers, Flushing Dogs,

                                                            Water Dogs.

                                             Section 3 Water dogs.

                                             Without working trial.


BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY : In ancient times, the Portuguese Water Dog could be found throughout the entire Portuguese coast. Thereafter, due to continuous changes in fishing methods, the breed was located mainly in the Algarve region which is now considered as its original birthplace. Its presence on the Portuguese coast is probably very remote and thus the Portuguese Water Dog should be considered as an autochthonous Portuguese breed.


GENERAL APPEARANCE : A dog of medium proportions, bracoïd tending to rectilinear to slight convex. Harmonious in shape, balanced, strong and well muscled. Considerable development of the muscles due to constant swimming.


IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS : Of almost square shape, with the length of body approximately equal to height at the withers.


The ratio of the height at the withers to the depth of the chest is 2:1; the ratio of length of skull to muzzle is 4:3.


BEHAVIOUR/TEMPERAMENT : Exceptionally intelligent, it understands and obeys easily and happily any order given by its owner. An animal with impetuous disposition, wilful, courageous, sober and resistant to fatigue. It has a severe, penetrating and attentive expression, as well as remarkable visual and scent faculties.

An excellent and resistant swimmer and diver, it is the inseparable companion of the fisherman for whom it performs a multitude of tasks, both in fishing and in guarding and protecting its boat and property. While fishing, it will willingly jump to sea to retrieve escaped fish, diving if necessary and likewise if a net breaks or a cable becomes loose.   It is also used as a liaison between boats and shore or vice-versa, even at great distances.


HEAD : Well proportioned, strong and broad. Parallel longitudinal axes of the skull and muzzle.



Skull : Seen in profile it is slightly longer than the muzzle (4:3). Its curvature is more accentuated at the back and the occipital protuberance is pronounced. Seen from the front the parietal bones are rounded with a slight depression in the middle; the front is slightly hollow, the frontal furrow extends to two thirds of the parietal bones and the superciliary arches are prominent.

Stop : Well defined and slightly behind the inner corners of the eyes.



Nose : Wide, with well open and pigmented nostrils. Black in black, white and pied animals. In brown specimens the nose is the same colour as the coat, but never marbled.

Muzzle : Straight, broader at the base than at the extremity.


Lips : Thick, especially in front. Commissure not prominent. Mucous membranes (palate, under the tongue and gums) deeply pigmented in black, deep brown in brown dogs.

Jaws/Teeth : Strong, healthy teeth, not visible when mouth is closed. Strong and well developed canines. Scissor bite or pincer bite.

Eyes : Medium sized; noticeable and rounded in shape; set well apart and slightly slanted. The iris is black or brown and the lids are thin and black edged, brown in brown dogs. Unapparent conjunctive.

Ears : Set above the eye line, held against the head, slightly raised from the rear and heart-shaped. Thin in texture, their extremity never reaches below the throat.


NECK : Straight, short, rounded, well muscled, well set and carried high; connecting to the body in an harmonious transition. Without ruff or dewlap.



Top line : Straight; level.

Withers : Wide and not prominent.

Back : Straight, short, broad and well muscled.

Loin : Short and well connected to the croup.

Croup : Well proportioned, slightly sloping with symmetrical and non apparent hip bones.

Chest : Wide and deep. Its lower edge should reach the elbow. The ribs are long and well sprung, providing great respiratory capacity.

Underline & belly : Gracefully shaped and reduced in volume.


TAIL : Natural, of medium set-on, thick at its base, tapering towards the end. Should not reach below the hock. When attentive curls in a ring, not reaching beyond the middle of the loin. It is a useful aid for swimming and diving.




FOREQUARTERS : Strong and straight. Upright. Slightly sloping pasterns are admissible.

Shoulder : Slanting in profile and transversely. Strong muscular development.

Upper arm : Strong and medium in size. Parallel to the main body line.

Forearm : Long and strongly muscled.

Carpus (pastern joint) : Strong bones, broader when seen from the front than from the side.

Metacarpus (pastern) : Long and strong.

Forefeet Rounded and flat with slightly arched toes of medium length. The webbing, extending over the whole length of the toes, is composed of limp tissue and covered with abundant and long hair. Black nails are preferred but, according to coat colour, may also be white, striped or brown. The nails do not reach the ground. Hard central pad and normal thickness in the other pads.


HINDQUARTERS : Upright and well muscled. Slightly sloping hocks are admissible.

Buttock : Strong and well rounded.

Thigh : Strong and medium in length. Very well muscled. Stifle joint turned neither in nor out.

Second thigh : Long and very well muscled. Turned neither in nor out. Well slanting from front to back. All tendons and ligaments are strong.

Hock : Strong.

Metatarsus (rear pastern) : Long. Without dewclaws.

Hind feet : Identical to the forefeet in all aspects.


GAIT/MOVEMENT : Easy movement with short steps at walk; light cadenced trot and energetic gallop.


SKIN : Thick, supple; not very tight; internal and external mucous membranes preferably pigmented.




HAIR : The whole body is abundantly covered with strong hair, with no undercoat.

There are two varieties: one long and wavy and the other shorter and curly. The first is slightly shiny and woolly; the latter is dense, lustreless and forms compact cylindrical curls. Except for the underarms and groin the coat is even all over the skin. On the head it forms a topknot of wavy hair in the long and wavy variety and of curly hair in the curly variety. The hair in the ears is longer in the long and wavy variety.


COLOUR : The coat is black or brown of various shades, or solid white. In black or brown coats, white is accepted in the following locations: muzzle, topknot, neck, forechest, belly, tip of tail and lower extremities of the limbs, below the elbows and hocks. The white coat must not be albino, consequently the nose, eyelids and inside of the mouth should be pigmented in black, and brown in brown dogs.

In this breed partial clipping of the coat, when it is too long, is typical. The hindquarters, the muzzle and part of the tail are clipped, leaving a plume of full length hair at the tip of the tail.



Height at withers :

Males:              50 - 57 cm. Ideal height 54 cm.

Females:          43 - 52 cm. Ideal height 46 cm.


Weight :

Males:              19 - 25 kg.

Females:          16 - 22 kg.


FAULTS : Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect on the health and welfare of the dog.



  • Head : Too long, narrow, flat or pointed.
  • Muzzle : Too tapered or pointed.
  • Eyes : Light, too protruding or too sunken.
  • Ears : Incorrect set, too big, too short or folded.
  • Tail : Heavy, dropped in action or raised perpendicularly.



  • Behaviour : Aggressive or overly shy.
  • Size : Over-sized or under-sized
  • Jaws : Undershot or overshot.
  • Eyes : Wall eye, uneven in shape or size.
  • Deafness : Congential or acquired.
  • Tail : Docked, rudimentary or non-existent.
  • Feet : Presence of dewclaws.
  • Coat : Hair different from the described types.
  • Colour : Albinism, marbled nostrils in whole or in part. Any other colour than the described type.


Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.


N.B.: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Standard color variants

The coat is black or brown of various shades, or solid white. In black or brown coats, white is accepted in the following locations: muzzle, topknot, neck, forechest, belly, tip of tail and lower extremities of the limbs, below the elbows and hocks. The white coat must not be albino, consequently the nose, eyelids and inside of the mouth should be pigmented in black, and brown in brown dogs.

In this breed partial clipping of the coat, when it is too long, is typical. The hindquarters, the muzzle and part of the tail are clipped, leaving a plume of full length hair at the tip of the tail.


Thanks to Ms. Silke Hollje-Schumacher for the photos below:


copyrigh Cadamostos


copyrigh Cadamostos


Copyrigh Cadamostos

Aquatass_Magic_Touch--Brown with white markssoso_053

Copyrigh Cadamostos                                                                copyrigth Cadamostos

Bjoerklundens_Helgon_Lucian_Stjarrna-black with white marksFDiverChDelSursMakinAllTheRightMoves

Copyrigh Cadamostos                                                            Copyrigt Cadamostos

How to cut the PWD


There are two varieties of Portuguese Water Dog coat that meet the breed standard:

  • Curly - compact, cylindrical curls, somewhat lusterless. The hair on the ears is sometimes wavy.
  • Wavy - Falling gently in waves, not curls, and with a slight sheen.

More info: ww.pwdca.org




Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a group of inherited diseases that cause irreversible degeneration of the retina and eventually causes blindness.

PRA was first reported in the Portuguese Water Dog in 1990 and is prcd-PRA (progressive rod-cone degeneration). Since that time the PWDCA and their members have supported the research work of Dr. Gustavo Aguirre and Dr. Greg Acland and their associates at the University of Pennsylvania. Their research has developed a DNA mutation gene test to identify dogs that are either normal, carriers or affected with prcd-PRA. The current test for prcd is available from OptiGen. Please visit http://www.optigen.com for more information

Normal/Clear, Carrier, and Affected are used to designate a dogs test results. Carrier and Affected dogs should only be bred to Normal/Clear to avoid producing prcd puppies. OptiGen results should not be used to determine if a dog should be used for breeding, or not used for breeding. For information on having a dog OptiGen tested go to: http://www.optigen.com.

Newly diagnosed form of PRA: A new form of PRA has been recognized in Portuguese Water Dogs. This new form of PRA appears to be an early onset variety as affected dogs are approximately two years of age. Dr. Gus Aquirre and his staff at University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) are collecting data to identify affected and at risk dogs in an effort to meet our goal of obtaining future genetic test for this condition.


Resource: http://www.pwdca.org

History of the PWD

The existence of the Portuguese Water Dog along the Algarve on the coast of Portugal can be traced back to very remote times. Evidence exists which indicates that in pre-Christian times, the "water dog" was held to be nearly sacred, and severe penalties came to those who killed a "water dog". There are many theories surrounding the dog, but none dispute that this remarkable dog has an ancient ancestry. The first written description of the Portuguese Water Dog is dated to 1297, and concerns a monk's report of a dying sailor who had been brought out of the sea by a dog which had a "black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail". Due to the historical clip still in use, many writings describe the breed as a "Lion Dog". It is said that the current day Poodle, Kerry Blue Terrier, and Irish Water Spaniel are possibly ancestors of the "water dog".

In bygone times, this breed existed everywhere along the coast of Portugal. This well-balanced working dog was prized by the fishermen as a companion and guard dog. He lived on the working boats where he was taught to herd fish into nets, to retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and to act as a courier from ship to ship, or ship to shore.

Tasks required the dogs to be excellent swimmers and seafarers. Dogs were capable of diving underwater to retrieve fishing gear and to prevent the escape of fish from the nets. Constant swimming and working with the fishermen accounts for the remarkable muscular development of their hindquarters. As noted in the breed standard, this dog of exceptional intelligence and loyal companionship willingly served a master well.

In Portugal, the breed is called Cão de Água (pronounced Kown-d'Ahgwa). 'Cão' means 'dog', 'de Água' means 'of water'. In his native land, the dog is also known as the Portuguese Fishing Dog. Cão de Água de Pelo Ondulado is the name given the long-haired variety, and Cão de Água de Pelo Encaracolado is the name for the curly-coat variety.



In the 1930's, Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy Portuguese businessman with an interest in dogs, was introduced to the Portuguese Water Dog by friends. He was told of a "magnificent working Cão de Água", and although there were only a few dogs still working on the boats of the fishermen, he eventually acquired a dog named "Leao". "Leao" (1931-1942) was the founding sire of the modern breed and of which the original written breed standard was based. The first litter was born on May 1, 1937, at the Algarbiorum Kennels.

Renascenca do Al Gharb



Charlie de AlvaladeCh. Charlie de Alvalade

It would not be for another 30 years that the Portuguese Water Dog would come to America. Deyanne and Herbert Miller are credited with the introduction of the breed to the United States. Their first imported Portuguese Water Dog, whelped July 12, 1968, was a descendant of Leao, Vasco Bensaude's dog. Named Renascenca do Al Gharb, she arrived in the United States on September 12, 1968. She was affectionately known as "Chenze" and was the foundation bitch of Farmion Kennels. "Chenze" lived until she was 15 years old.


Although individual Portuguese Water Dogs can be afflicted with various orthopedic problems, the primary disease condition affecting the breed is CHD, or Canine Hip Dysplasia. CHD is a common canine inherited condition that is not apparent at birth, in which there is irregular development of the hip joint as the dog grows. This results in a poorly fitting ball and socket, which with even normal activity tends to develop degenerative joint disease over time. CHD is a complex disease and it is believed that several genes are probably responsible. None of these have yet been identified and the only way to diagnose the disease is by examining radiographs of the hip joints. Many researchers believe the main contributors to hip dysplasia are joint laxity (or looseness) and a shallow acetabulum (or socket). Environmental influences can affect the expression of the disease. There can be a wide range of outcomes for the dog afflicted with CHD: some diagnosed by routine radiographs live normal lives and never develop clinical symptoms, where others are so uncomfortable or incapacitated that they require surgery. There are a number of things owners can do to help the PWD with CHD live as comfortably as possible. These include keeping weight off, regular moderate exercise, medical management, and in some cases surgery. All cases need to be looked at on an individual basis.

Resource: http://www.pwdca.org

Storage Disease (GM1)

Storage Disease (GM1) is the focus of the GM1 CommitteeStorage Disease (GM1 gangliosidosis) is a recessive, genetic disorder. It is produced only when two carriers are bred together. The disorder is caused by a lack of an enzyme that allows the build up of toxic substances in the nerve cells. It is fatal to affected puppies.

Action Taken by the PWDCA

The PWDCA sponsored testing and research at the Neurogenetics Laboratory of New York University to find the defective gene responsible for GM1. Now that this has been isolated and a definitive gene test developed, the club provides simplified information and applications for this DNA test. The club guideline is for all breeding dogs to be tested unless an AP rating has already been provided. An AP rating was based on the use of the blood assay test through several generations of a dog. It is no longer issued.

Why the PWDCA is Addressing This

GM1 can be fatal to puppies produced by two carriers.

How the PWDCA is Addressing This

After many years of using the available blood assay test that helped provide a 95% to 99% accuracy in determining carriers, a DNA test was developed and has been in use since September, 1999. Dogs are now DNA tested and found to be either "Normal" or "Carrier". If a Carrier is bred, it must be to a Normal so that no affected puppies will be produced.

A GM-1 Coordinator is responsible for educating PWD owners and breeders on Storage Disease. The activities to accomplish this include: maintaining the protocol for the GM-1 testing procedure; updating and modifying the test form as needed; keeping all information current on the PWDCA Web site (coordinating with the Web Master); and providing information on PWD test ratings and the qualifying criteria for those ratings.

The coordinator acts as the liaison between the NYU testing laboratory and the PWDCA and maintains a copy of the GM-1 database with updates of new test results as reported by NYU. The coordinator has the responsibility of issuing duplicate certificates on behalf of the Club upon verification with the database.  The PWDCA only accepts GM-1 results from NYU.


Resource: http://www.pwdca.org

History of the Portuguese Water Dog

Historic milestones for the Portuguese Water dog in the United States include:

  • In 1972, sixteen dedicated owners and friends of the Portuguese Water Dog gathered in New Canaan, CT, to form the what now exists as the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. There are currently over 1,000 members of this national club.

    Charlie de Alvalade

  • The Portuguese Water Dog was admitted to the Miscellaneous class of the American Kennel Club (AKC) on June 3, 1981. Three months later, the breed had its first Obedience champion, Spindrift Kedge.
  • The Portuguese Water Dog was accepted for registration in AKC stud books effective August 1, 1983, and became eligible to compete in the show rings as a member of the Working Group, effective January 1, 1984. At that time, 182 dogs were registered.
  • The first ever PWD to win a Best in Show came to Ch. Charlie de Alvalade on June 30, 1984. He was a brown curly whelped on May 16, 1978 and imported to the United States from Portugal by Deyanne and Herbert Miller, Jr. He also was the first American Champion. With popularity and responsible breeding growing in the United States, registered dogs totalled 601 in 1990, 649 in 1991, 803 in 1992, 826 in 1993, 792 in 1994, and 919 in 1995.

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