Sammy's Story
The Story of an Unadoptable Dog

About Portuguese Water Dogs


Whether the Portuguese Water Dog [the PWD] came before the  Barbet, or vice versa,  the Cão de Agua is an ancient breed that has existed and worked in Portugal for centuries.

Similar Water Dogs are said to have been known to the Romans as “Canis piscator.” 

Some were known as “Canis leo” , apparently because the hair on their rear quarters was clipped off.  Pictures showing these “lion dogs” are also known.

Many believe that the PWD was brought directly to the Iberian peninsula by the Moors. 


Fishermen quickly found the PWD an irreplaceable companion and co-worker.  They were highly capable and helpful,  in numerous ways.

The PWD’s excellent swimming skills allowed it to be used for: communication between ship and land; laying out their nets in the water; and diving in deep water to retrieve fallen objects; amongst other diverse fishing-related  activities.

The PWD was also an excellent guard dog for his master’s boat and catch.

Modern PWDs retain all of these skills.  However, their usefulness to fisherman has been largely superceded by technology.

The PWD remains highly trainable with a strong love of water and of retrieving.  Not surprisingly, they also do well in agility work. 


Introduced into the USA in the 1960s, the PWD is a strong, muscular, medium-sized dog. Males should stand 50 – 57 cm at the shoulder.  Females should stand 43 – 52 cm. The PWD should weigh between 16 and 25 kg.


Like the Barbet, the PWD has two coat types.  Long and wavy, with a fine sheen.  Or, shorter and curlier with rough, thick, compact curls–not shiny.

Both coat types in the PWD come in Black or Brown, with or without White markings (which may cover no more than one third of the body); or the dog may be all white. White dogs must be well pigmented.

The tail is undocked. [Tail docking and similar disfigurations are now prohibited in much of  Europe.]   The PWD carries its tail curved over its back.

Wikipedia Photo of PWD Black wavy coat type

Black Wavy Haired PWD.  Credit Wikipedia.

In the show ring, the PWD coat must be shown in the traditional Water Dog lion clip with hind quarters shaved, similar to their Poodle cousins, but without pompoms.


The PWD is an energetic, intelligent, social, working dog.  Like the Poodle, it needs mental and physical stimulation and challenges.  And it needs to be with people.  Absent these requirements, like a Poodle, a PWD is unlikely to thrive.

Like their Poodle and Irish Water  Spaniel cousins,  many PWDs are  also committed to clowning around, especially when young. 


You may also wish to read:

About Poodles

About Irish Water Spaniels

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