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Portuguese Water Dog standing in profile outdoors.
©Zottelhund -

The Portuguese Water Dog is a happily energetic, athletic, and affectionate dog. They’re a perfect combination of working dog, loving companion, and ace athlete. Here are things to know about this beautiful bred.

1. They Have a Long History of Working With Fishermen

The PWD has an ancient history as a working dog and fisherman’s companion. Living and working on boats alongside the crew, they herded fish into nets, dove to retrieve broken or lost equipment, and could swim from ship to ship or ship to shore as a courier. With their intelligence and the strength and endurance their job demanded, they were important members of the crew.

2. American Interest Blossomed in the 20th Century

Americans began to fall in love with the Portuguese Water Dog in the mid-20th century. In 1958, a couple named the Harringtons were involved in a trade of rare breeds. They welcomed two PWDs from England to New York.

The Millers of Connecticut were the first people to directly import a PWD to America from Portugal. And in 1972, the Millers hosted the first meeting of what would become the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

3. The Breed Gained AKC Recognition in 1983

The AKC recognized the PWD in 1983. The following year, the PWD was able to compete as part of the Working Group.

4. They Have Webbed Feet

Along with their webbed feet, Portuguese Water Dogs have waterproof coats. They maneuver easily in the water and could swim all day.

Nancy Gaffney
Portuguese Water Dog ‘Gilligan’ loves competing in water work with her owner, Rachel Cullen. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America created water work exercises In order to help preserve the original working qualities of the breed. These skills include retrieving overboard objects and swimming buoys into place.

5. PWDs Come in a Variety of Coat Colors

Portuguese Water Dogs come in a range of coat colors, including black, brown, white, brown and white, and black and white. The texture of the coat can vary, too, either curly or wavy. PWDs are a good option for allergy sufferers because they don’t shed. Regardless of color and coat, they are ruggedly built, muscular dogs.

6. Their Coats Are Often Clipped in One of Two Styles

In addition to varying in coat and color, they may vary in their style of haircut. many owners prefer what’s known as a lion cut. According to PWD’s official AKC breed standard, the “lion clip” involves growing out the hair, then clipping the dog’s middle, hindquarters, and muzzle, leaving the hair on the end of their tail long.

The “retriever clip” involves trimming or clipping the entire coat to follow the outline of the dog’s body, resulting in a short coat no more than one inch in length. Again, the hair on the end of their tail is left long.

7. They Excel at Dog Sports

All that energy and intelligence help the breed excel at dog sports, like agility, AKC Rally. Unsurprisingly, PWDs might also enjoy participating in Diving Dogs.

2018 AKC National Agility Championship
Agility, 2018, Portuguese Water Dog
©American Kennel Club

8. They’ve Gained Fame Since Becoming First Dogs

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his family welcomed the breed into their home in 2009. Bo became First Dog in Obama’s first term in the White House. In 2013, during his second term, the Obamas added another PWD, Sunny, to their home.

Related article: Does My Dog Have Hair or Fur?
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