If you're looking for a fun, medium-size dog to share your life with, consider the Portuguese water dog. This relatively rare breed, known as" cao de agua" in its native land, almost disappeared by the mid-20th century -- but a prominent Portuguese dog lover endeavored to save the working canine. Portuguese water dogs have become companion dogs -- even at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Portuguese water dog matures between 17 to 23 inches high at the shoulder, males larger than females. The American Kennel Club standard considers 22 inches the ideal height for males and 19 inches ideal for females. Full-grown PWDs weigh 35 to 60 pounds, with males tipping the scales between 42 and 60 pounds and females between 35 and 50 pounds.
If you or anyone in your household suffers from allergies, the supposedly hypoallergenic PWD makes a great fit. However, no dog breed is truly hypoallergenic, although certain breeds are less likely to provoke reactions in susceptible people. The breed's coat comes in two types: curly or wavy. No matter what type, the coat is thick and strong. The Portuguese water dog has no undercoat. The most common coat colors are black or white, black and white, brown, and brown and white. Your PWD's coat requires regular brushing and trips to the groomer to keep it in shape.
For centuries, Portuguese water dogs earned their keep by helping fishermen on boats. In the pre-radio era, fishers attached messages to the dogs, who delivered them to the shore or to other boats. At the dock, Portuguese water dogs serve as guards if the masters leave their boats. Dogs doing such work require athleticism, intelligence and hardiness, traits that their descendants share. Because life in and on the water is second nature to PWDs, they make especially good pets for people or families who enjoy boating, swimming and the beach.
Because it is a working breed, the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America notes these dogs are happiest when they have a job. Portuguese water dogs might no longer help fisherman haul in their catches, but PWD water work competitions simulate the dogs' breeding purpose. In competition, dogs dive for items underwater, retrieve, and relay messages between boats. The breed does well in agility, obedience and rally competition. Because of their good dispositions, Portuguese water dogs make excellent therapy dogs.
By Jane Meggitt
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.