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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 7:50 EDT

Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog, also called Cão d’Água or the Portuguese Fishing Dog originated as a fishing breed. The breed may trace as far back as 700 B.C. to central Asia, but the breed was predominantly bred and used in Portugal. The Portuguese Water Dog was often used to retrieve broken nets and lost tackle, as well as herd fish into nets and act as a courier from one ship to another. The breed was frequently carried in trawlers which worked their way from Portugal to Iceland to catch saltwater codfish.

The Portuguese Water Dog and the Poodle may have developed from the same genetic pool. Both breeds have curly coats which do not shed. Both breeds are also highly intelligent. The Portuguese Water Dog, unlike the Poodle, has a long tail. The Irish Water Spaniel may be a descendant of the Portuguese Water Dog.

The breed nearly became extinct during the 1930s but a Portuguese Sephardic Jewish shipping magnate, Dr. Vasco Bensuade, led an effort to re-establish the breed. He was aided by Dr. Fransisco Pinto Soares and Dr. Manuel Fernander Marques, two Portuguese veterinarians. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was founded in 1972 by Deyanne Miller, who is responsible for the rise and preservation of the breed in America. The breed is still fairly rare, however.

The Portuguese Water Dog stands 17 to 23 inches tall and weighs 35 to 60 pounds. The Portuguese Water dog has a single-layered coat which is generally black, black and white, brown, or silver-tipped. The breed sometimes has white markings or irregular black spots on its wavy or curly coat. Rarely, the breed can have an undercoat, which is caused by a genetic condition and referred to as an “improper” coat. The breed has webbed toes, used for swimming. The breed also has brown eyes. The voice of the Portuguese Water Dog is very distinct; some are said to “yodel” and even “laugh” in a multi-octave vocalization.

The Portuguese Water Dog makes an excellent companion breed as well as watch dog. The breed is independent and loving, friendly and easily trained. The breed excels in dog sports as well as following directions in a working environment. Its watchdog abilities are primarily due to its distinct voice and its determination to defend its owner and home. The breed can make an ideal deaf-assistance dog as well, as it can obey complex commands as well as notify those who are hard of hearing, or not completely deaf, with its loud bark. The breed loves attention and thrives when it is around its owner a majority of the time. It can have separation anxiety problems if left alone for long periods. The Portuguese Water Dog also has a tendency to jump as a greeting, or dance on its hind legs. It is a high-energy breed which needs a job to do.

The Portuguese Water Dog is generally healthy but may experience hip dysplasia, Cataracts, PRA, and distichiasis, GM1 Storage Disease, or Juvenile Dilated Cardio-Myopathy.

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Portuguese Water Dog