Portuguese Water Dog

FCI standard Nº 37

Portuguese Kennel Club. Revised by R. Triquet & J. Mulholland and Renée Sporre-Willes
Group 8 Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs
Section 3 Water dogs
Without working trial
Acceptance on a definitive basis by the FCI
Tuesday 01 February 1955
Publication of the official valid standard
Tuesday 04 November 2008
Last update
Monday 30 March 2009
En français, cette race se dit
Chien d'eau portugais
Diese Norm ist in deutscher Sprache sichtbar
Portugiesischer Wasserhund
En español, esta raza se dice
Perro de agua portugués
In het Nederlands, wordt dit ras gezegd
Portugese Waterhond
In his country of origin, his name is

Cão De Agua Português


Assistance with fishing and retrieving as well as companion dog.

Brief historical summary

In ancient times, the Portuguese Water Dog could be found throughout the entire Portuguese coast. Thereafter, due to continuous changes in fishing methods, the breed was located mainly in the Algarve region which is now considered as its original birthplace. Its presence on the Portuguese coast is probably very remote and thus the Portuguese Water Dog should be considered as an autochthonous Portuguese breed.

General appearance

A dog of medium proportions, bracoïd tending to rectilinear to slight convex. Harmonious in shape, balanced, strong and well muscled. Considerable development of the muscles due to constant swimming.

Important proportions

Of almost square shape, with the length of body approximately equal to height at the withers. The ratio of the height at the withers to the depth of the chest is 2:1; the ratio of length of skull to muzzle is 4:3.

Behaviour / temperament

Exceptionally intelligent, it understands and obeys easily and happily any order given by its owner. An animal with impetuous disposition, wilful, courageous, sober and resistant to fatigue. It has a severe, penetrating and attentive expression, as well as remarkable visual and scent faculties.
An excellent and resistant swimmer and diver, it is the inseparable companion of the fisherman for whom it performs a multitude of tasks, both in fishing and in guarding and protecting its boat and property. While fishing, it will willingly jump to sea to retrieve escaped fish, diving if necessary and likewise if a net breaks or a cable becomes loose. It is also used as a liaison between boats and shore or vice-versa, even at great distances.


Cranial region

Well proportioned, strong and broad. Parallel longitudinal axes of the skull and muzzle.
Seen in profile it is slightly longer than the muzzle (4:3). Its curvature is more accentuated at the back and the occipital protuberance is pronounced. Seen from the front the parietal bones are rounded with a slight depression in the middle; the front is slightly hollow, the frontal furrow extends to two thirds of the parietal bones and the superciliary arches are prominent. 
Well defined and slightly behind the inner corners of the eyes.

Facial region

Wide, with well open and pigmented nostrils. Black in black, white and pied animals. In brown specimens the nose is the same colour as the coat, but never marbled.
Straight, broader at the base than at the extremity.
Thick, especially in front. Commissure not prominent. Mucous membranes (palate, under the tongue and gums) deeply pigmented in black, deep brown in brown dogs.
Jaws and teeth
Strong, healthy teeth, not visible when mouth is closed. Strong and well developed canines. Scissor bite or pincer bite.
Medium sized; noticeable and rounded in shape; set well apart and slightly slanted. The iris is black or brown and the lids are thin and black edged, brown in brown dogs. Unapparent conjunctive.
Set above the eye line, held against the head, slightly raised from the rear and heart-shaped. Thin in texture, their extremity never reaches below the throat.


Straight, short, rounded, well muscled, well set and carried high; connecting to the body in an harmonious transition. Without ruff or dewlap.


Straight; level.
Wide and not prominent.
Straight, short, broad and well muscled.
Short and well connected to the croup.
Well proportioned, slightly sloping with symmetrical and non apparent hip bones.
Wide and deep. Its lower edge should reach the elbow. The ribs are long and well sprung, providing great respiratory capacity.
Underline and belly
Gracefully shaped and reduced in volume.


Natural, of medium set-on, thick at its base, tapering towards the end. Should not reach below the hock. When attentive curls in a ring, not reaching beyond the middle of the loin. It is a useful aid for swimming and diving.



Strong and straight. Upright. Slightly sloping pasterns are admissible.
Slanting in profile and transversely. Strong muscular development.
Upper arm
Strong and medium in size. Parallel to the main body line.
Long and strongly muscled.
Strong bones, broader when seen from the front than from the side.
Long and strong.


Upright and well muscled. Slightly sloping hocks are admissible. Buttock strong and well rounded.
Upper thigh
Strong and medium in length. Very well muscled. Stifle joint turned neither in nor out.
Lower thigh
Long and very well muscled. Turned neither in nor out. Well slanting from front to back. All tendons and ligaments are strong.
Il se meut parallèlement au plan médian du corps.
Long. Without dewclaws.


Rounded and flat with slightly arched toes of medium length. The webbing, extending over the whole length of the toes, is composed of limp tissue and covered with abundant and long hair. Black nails are preferred but, according to coat colour, may also be white, striped or brown. The nails do not reach the ground. Hard central pad and normal thickness in the other pads.

Gait and movement

Easy movement with short steps at walk; light cadenced trot and energetic gallop.


Thick, supple; not very tight; internal and external mucous membranes preferably pigmented.


The whole body is abundantly covered with strong hair, with no undercoat. There are two varieties: one long and wavy and the other shorter and curly. The first is slightly shiny and woolly; the latter is dense, lustreless and forms compact cylindrical curls. Except for the underarms and groin the coat is even all over the skin. On the head it forms a topknot of wavy hair in the long and wavy variety and of curly hair in the curly variety. The hair in the ears is longer in the long and wavy variety.
The coat is black or brown of various shades, or solid white. In black or brown coats, white is accepted in the following locations: muzzle, topknot, neck, forechest, belly, tip of tail and lower extremities of the limbs, below the elbows and hocks. The white coat must not be albino, consequently the nose, eyelids and inside of the mouth should be pigmented in black, and brown in brown dogs.
In this breed partial clipping of the coat, when it is too long, is typical. The hindquarters, the muzzle and part of the tail are clipped, leaving a plume of full length hair at the tip of the tail.

Size and weight

Height at withers
Males 50 - 57 cm, ideal height 54 cm. Females 43 - 52 cm, ideal height 46 cm.
Males 19 - 25 kg, females 16 - 22 kg.


• Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Faults listed should be in degree of seriousness.

Serious faults

 Head too long, narrow, flat or pointed.
 Muzzle too tapered or pointed.
 Eyes light, too protruding or too sunken.
 Ears incorrect set, too big, too short or folded.
 Tail heavy, dropped in action or raised perpendicularly.

Disqualifying faults

 Aggressive or overly shy.
 Over-sized or under-sized.
 Undershot or overshot.
 Wall eye, uneven in shape or size.
 Deafness congential or acquired.
 Tail docked, rudimentary or non-existent.
 Presence of dewclaws.
 Hair different from the described types.
 Albinism, marbled nostrils in whole or in part.
 Any other colour than the described type.

NB :

• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• The above mentioned faults when occurring to a highly marked degree or frequently are disqualifying.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.




Detailed history

For the Water Dog, as for other breeds in Portugal, there is very little information coming from his country: The standard only indicates that, "already in a very distant time, these dogs were found on along our coasts; we must therefore consider them as a Portuguese race, "but it is not more precise as to its location, the province of the Algarve being to be considered only" as the current cradle of the race, since, as a result of the modernization of fishing systems, these dogs are found only in this part of Portugal".

Armed with this information alone, it is impossible to locate the presence of this dog in Portugal. On the other hand, if one relies on its physical appearance, one can think that it has the same origin as the Barbet. The two dogs are alike as the French Club President, MJ-C. Hermans, could write: "We could, not long ago, present Portuguese water dogs in France as Barbets and vice versa. In principle, the size distinguishes them, the Barbet being larger than the Portuguese, but, between a Portuguese water dog a little too big and a Barbet a little too small, it is not obvious. It is therefore possible that the Portuguese Water Dog comes from the Middle East. There would be mention of a water dog in a sacred book of ancient Persia, and such a canine type would appear on Egyptian frescoes. It is clear that all this is very distant and very vague.

We do not know much about her recent history, except that the breed made its entry into the cynophilia in 1939 and that since then it has a standard, reworked on points of detail four times (the last draft dating back to 1976). Since its creation, the Portuguese Book of Origins has recorded around thirty champions, the best known being a certain Zum Zum de Alvarde, who has appeared in all major European exhibitions and has an impressive record.

Since 1981, a special canine exhibition of Portuguese breeds has been organized in Albrantes, but the participation of water dogs remains modest; it is more significant at the national dog show of Portuguese breeds in Lisbon, because it must be won to claim the title of champion of Portugal: more than a dozen subjects are present.

The breed was introduced in the late seventies in the United States, but it has been recognized by the American Kennel Club since 1983 (that year, 721 subjects were registered). The success of the Portuguese Water Dog across the Atlantic is mainly due to American "handlers" (professional presenters and groomers), who can present it as they wish. His arrival in Britain dates from 1980, and in France from 1987.

The Portuguese Water Dog has therefore become a companion and exhibition dog. In recent years, in fact, it is as such that he is more and more popular in his country. And it must be said that, in his traditional tasks, he had almost disappeared.

This dog, which is not used in hunting, is classified among the water dogs, in the eighth group of the official nomenclature of the FCI, where he therefore neighbors with hunting breeds. This is not a gross mistake, as it would take little effort to introduce him to the work of his cousins: he has a pronounced instinct for rapport and a good flair.

Nevertheless, it is a "fishing dog". Like the ancestors of Newfoundland and Labrador, he had to search for fish escaping from the net or unhooking from the hook by diving underwater if necessary. He could still pick up a broken mooring or torn net, make the connection between the boat and the shore, and, on the beach, become the watchman of his master's boat and equipment.

Although lively and active, he is very docile and obedient. The adjective "battler" was also deleted in the 1976 standard, which suggests that the Lusitanian Water Dog was originally much more impetuous. While it must be groomed, but there are no draconian requirements in this area: the entire anterior part of the dog is left as is, with the exception of the muzzle, which is shorn; the posterior part, it is entirely mowed, without bracelets on the legs; we leave only a pompon at the end of the tail (which is not cut short at birth, as in the Poodle). It is a lion toilet simplified or rustic, far enough in its result of the appearance very elegant and neat Poodle treated lion. According to J.-C. Hermans, the grooming of the Portuguese Water Dog, however, is similar to that of the Poodle Exhibitions, which, originally, the fur coat stopped at the shoulders. Although Portuguese grooming is not very demanding, it is not a question of arriving at the excesses and fantasies "made in the USA".

This dog can have two types of hair: either a long hair, flat and wavy, or a curly hair (and shorter). According to some, the long hair appeared as a result of crosses with other dogs. Moreover, the curly hair is somewhat neglected by Portuguese fans. There are also specimens with intermediate fur, called "third hair" in Portugal. Note finally that it is quite possible not to groom this dog, which is then exactly like a Barbet moderate size.

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