Portuguese Water Dogs were once working dogs that worked on the coast of Portugal. They herded fish into the nets; retrieved lost tackle or broken nets, and acted as couriers from ship to ship, or ship to shore. They worked not only in the warm Atlantic waters of Portugal but also the cold fishing waters off the coast of Iceland. In Portugal, the breed is called Cao d'Água (pronounced Kown-d'Ahgwa). Cao means dog, while de Água means of water.
It is a fairly rare breed that has slightly webbed feet ideal for swimming. Its closest cousin is the Standard Poodle.
PWDs come in a number of different colors. Black is the most common color. Sliver tipped, black and white, or brown can also be seen. White chests and legs on black or brown coats are acceptable. "Parti" coats, with white coat and black spots, are rare but they are becoming more popular in the US.
In Portugal the breed standard does not allow more than 30% white markings. White is one of the less-common colors. Their skin has an interesting bluish tinge that is hard to notice underneath the black fur. White varieties have pink skin and are more sensitive to sun exposure than black or brown dogs.
Two coat types can be found. A wavy coat falls gently in waves - not curls – while having a slight sheen. A curly coat is compact with cylindrical curls and it doesn’t have a sheen to it. The hair on the ears is sometimes wavy. White hair is usually finer than black hair.
PWDs have a single layered coat, and thus they are considered to be hypoallergenic. This breed does not shed its fur. Just like with human hair, it only falls out when the hair root has died. The hair is usually worn in a "retriever cut" or a "lion cut." The hindquarters, muzzle, and the base of the tail are shaved and the rest of the body is left full length. Sometimes an "improper coat" can be seen. This results from a genetic anomaly that causes the dog to have an undercoat.
They may not be shown in competitions, but otherwise they are healthy and have all the excellent traits of PWDs. Grooming entails trimming the coat every two months and it is usually easier to take the dog to a professional groomer.
Hip Dysplasia, Fatal Neurological Disorder may be an issue as well as GM-1 Storage Disease. To minimize the risk of your dog developing any hereditary health issues, you should buy a puppy from a reputable breeder.