In Portugal, the breed is known as the Cao de Agua (pronounced Kown-d’Ahgwa) where can be traced back in history along the Algarve along the coast. There are many theories about the origin of the breed, but none dispute that it has an ancient ancestry. The first known written description of the Portuguese Water Dog dates to 1297, and relates a monk’s report of a dying sailor rescued from the sea by a dog with 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 used, many writings describe the breed as a “Lion Dog”. Some believe that the today’s Poodle, Kerry Blue Terrier, and Irish Water Spaniel possibly share ancestors with the “water dog”.
In times past, this breed was found extensively along the coast of Portugal. This well-balanced working dog was valued by the fishermen both as a companion and guard dog. The dogs lived on the working boats where they were taught to herd fish into nets, to retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and to act as courier between ship to ship, or ship to shore.
Tasks aboard the fishing vessels required the dogs to be excellent swimmers and seafarers. Dogs were capable of diving underwater to retrieve fishing gear and prevent escape of fish from the nets. As noted in the breed standard, this dog of exceptional intelligence and loyal companionship willingly served a master well.
Like any dog, the PWD does have hereditary health issues and may fall ill to any number of canine diseases. Please visit the PWDCA health information section to learn more about these issues. Fortunately an ever growing number of genetic screening tests are available to PWD breeders to enable them to bring puppies into the world that will never be affected by these genetic diseases. Most water dogs will live healthy, happy lives given good diets, routine grooming and health exams and plenty of exercise.
Grooming the PWD
PWDs possess a “single” coat, which means there is no undercoat, in either a wavy or curly coat type. The individual hairs do not fall out and appear on your furniture and floors as happens with most breeds. Rather, in common with the poodle, the hair is caught up within the coat and will lead to tangles and mats if not carefully brushed and/or combed out at least twice a week. The coat grows out at a fairly quick rate. Trimming will need to be done at least every 6 to 8 weeks, perhaps more frequently depending on the individual dog.
The PWDCA has excellent grooming guides. Generally the wavy PWDs are shown in a lion clip. Some pet owners enjoy keeping their dogs in a shorter version of this trim. The curly PWDs are shown in either the lion or retriever clip and most pet owners chose the retriever clip for their curlys. With the proper grooming equipment, practice and patience, grooming your own PWD can be an enjoyable, rewarding past time for both you and your dog. It takes time to learn the techniques to make them have that “water dog” look but it’s worth it! If grooming isn’t your cup of tea, you should plan on finding a good groomer familiar with PWDs and taking your dog in every 6 to 8 weeks for a “do.” If this is your choice, print out the PWDCA grooming guide for the clip of your choice and take it with you to the groomer.