Thought to have arrived in Portugal along with traders possibly travelling through North Africa, the Portuguese Water Dog was developed for the working purpose of water retrieving, becoming one of the most prized dogs of native fishermen. Known in its homeland as the 'Cao de Agua' meaning 'dog of water,' the Portuguese Water Dog falls with the Kennel Club's 'working' branch of canines and is a hardy, all-purpose breed. In the 1930s, due to technological advances, the Portuguese Water Dog found itself redundant and diminishing in numbers. It was purely due to careful breeding that the Water Dog was not made extinct, although it remains rare today. Officially recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1983.
Rustic in appearance, the breed is commonly recognised in colour and tricolour variations of black, chestnut and white. Its profuse coat is curly when clipped short and woolly when left long. The Portuguese Water Dog boasts a medium build, strong, straight limbs, defined nostrils, a broad chest and eyes that match the colouration of the coat. Its natural affinity with water is obvious, and the breed is well recognised as a born-swimmer, self-appointed guardian of property and home, and inherent herder, inclined to round up and retrieve smaller animals. The Portuguese Water Dog shares its classification with Retrievers, Spaniels, Pointers and Setters.
An intelligent and versatile breed, the modern Water Dog is utilised in bomb detection and Search and Rescue in its homeland Portugal, equipped with keen senses, agility and vigilance. Despite its police usage, the breed possesses a warm and friendly temperament that suits it to any home setting; compatible with children and other house pets when introduced gradually, the Portuguese Water Dog is the ideal breed choice for a family or dedicated sole owner. A healthy Portuguese Water Dog will weigh an average of 16-25 kg with discrepancies across gender, and have a life expectancy of 10-14 years when shown the appropriate care.
Generally resilient and healthy, the Portuguese Water Dog is not known to suffer from any serious, breed-specific ailments. No genetic or hereditary diseases are identified with the breed, although its relative rarity makes this difficult to ascertain. Due to the thick coat that covers its entire body, it is not uncommon for hair to grow within the delicate ear canal, leading to discomfort and infection. Various eye disorders are seen, as is GM-1 Storage Disease, a rare condition affecting the nerve endings, prevalent in the breed and usually fatal.