Portuguese Water Dog Breed

Get to know the preferred breed of the Obama family.
By: PawCulture Editors
Portuguese Water Dog

About the Portuguese Water Dog Breed

The Portuguese Water Dog is a well-mannered, adventurous dog breed that is widely accepted as an excellent family companion. Its popularity was established in Portugal, where it is referred to as Cao de Agua – Cao meaning dog, and de Agua meaning water.

Portuguese Water Dog Physical Characteristics

The Portuguese Water Dog is large with a deep chest and high and tucked in abdomen. Its head is triangular with rounded black eyes and a long muzzle. Its tail, meanwhile, is long and thing and carried over the back.


Most commonly seen in black, white and variations of black and white. It is, however, sometimes seen in brown.


The coat of a Portuguese Water Dog is short to medium in length, with tight curls across all over.

Portuguese Water Dog Personality and Temperament

Activity Level

Moderate to High


The Portuguese Water Dog is perfect for an active family, especially one that enjoys water activities. It gets along well with children and other dogs.

Things to Consider

The breed is known to bark loudly in response to new things it sees and hears. It also is considered by many to be “mouthy” — placing things in their mouth in order to hold or chew them. However, you may improve the manners of a Portuguese Water Dog with obedience training.

Portuguese Water Dog Care

Ideal Living Conditions

The Portuguese Water Dog fares well in country or city settings.

Special Requirements

The breed requires daily exercise and regular grooming in order to keep its curls in check.

Portuguese Water Dog Health

The following conditions are commonly seen in Portuguese Water Dogs:


Portuguese Water Dog History and Background

The ancestors of the Portuguese Water Dog are thought to trace back to herding dogs that worked the steppes, or plains, of central Asia, near the Chinese-Russian border around 700 B.C. Experts believe that these herding dogs were introduced to Portugal by the Visigoths in the 5th century; although, there is another theory that its ancestors came to Portugal by way of the Berbers and Moors in the 8th century. The Water Dog’s lineage may also be linked with the lineage with the Poodle. Both have traditionally been used as fishing companions, and share several physical similarities.

Once found all along the coast of Portugal, the breed was used mainly to herd fish into nets, retrieve lost fishing equipment, and act as a boat-to-boat or boat-to-shore courier. The breed became so well known, in fact, it was often used as a member of the trawler crews, fishing in waters as far north as Iceland.

However, as the 19th century drew to a close, conventional fishing methods were quickly becoming modernized. Soon, Portuguese fishermen were trading in their Water Dogs for more advanced fishing equipment, and the breed began disappearing all along the coast.

Dr. Vasco Bensuade, an influential shipping businessman, was instrumental in saving the Portuguese Water Dog, and through promotion and organization, the breed became a mainstay in dog shows.

The breed was briefly introduced in England in the 1950s, but its popularity quickly waned, as did its numbers there. Fortunately, some U.S. citizens, including Mr. and Mrs. Harrington of New York, and Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Miller of Connecticut, were able to acquire some of the earliest imports of the breed into the United States (in particular, a female puppy was purchased from Senhora Branco, a former lady bullfighter who had inherited Dr. Bensuade’s kennels in Portugal).

Along with 16 other people, the Millers were able to found the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America on August 13, 1972. At the time, only 12 Portuguese Water Dogs were known to have existed in the U.S., but with dedication and work, the number of dogs in America had grown to over 650 by 1982.

In 1984, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed as a member of the Working Group. During their time in the White House, President Barack Obama and family adopted two Portuguese Water Dogs, named Bo and Sunny. Today, it is sought after because of many wonderful characteristics, including its calm demeanor and love of the outdoors.