Frequently Asked Questions about Portuguese Water Dogs

How big do they get?

SexHeight (at withers)Weight
Males 20 to 23 inches 42 to 60 pounds
Females 17 to 21 inches 35 to 50 pounds

Do they shed?

PWDs do not shed very much, but they do shed (all mammals shed at least a little).  PWDs, as well as other single-coated breeds, do not have an undercoat that sheds.  But hair from their single coat does fall out (or get kicked out) and you'll end up with rolling hair-bunnies on the floor.  Their hair is similar to human hair and will become matted if not combed thoroughly on a regular basis.

PWDs are hypoallergenic, right?

Portuguese Water Dogs are considered to be hypoallergenic because they are single-coated and shed less than double-coated breeds.  Other single-coated, non-shedding breeds include the Bedlington Terrier, Bichon Frise, Irish Water Spaniel, Kerry Blue Terrier, Maltese, Poodle, Schnauzer, and Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. 

To be "hypoallergenic" is to have a decreased tendency to cause allergies.  There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog.  Hypoallergenic dog breeds (single-coated or hairless) will still produce allergens, but because of their coat type will typically produce less than others.  People with severe allergies and asthma will likely still be affected by a hypoallergenic dog.

Coat color has nothing to do with a dog's hypoallergenic quality. 

Most people who have allergic reactions aren't allergic to the coat so much as to the dander, the bits of skin that come off the dog with the shed hair.  PWDs have less dander which, along with the saliva, are the substances most people with allergies react to.  But their thick, long coats can pick up pollen and dust from outdoors. 

If you have severe allergies it is suggested that you spend time with adult PWDs before getting one.  Many people are allergic to Portuguese Water Dogs, so please be careful.  Spend time with the breed before bringing one into your home as a family member. 

For more information about owning a dog if you have allergies, read this article by Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT.

Are they good with children?

A Portuguese Water Dog can be a great family dog - but the age of the children is a very important consideration. PWDs will often consider a child as a canine litter mate and could play harder than you would want. PWDs are exhuberant jumpers and can knock over small children. Also, they play with their mouths - nipping and biting. For these reasons, we feel that PWDs are not the best choice for a family with young children.

Things to keep in mind:
  • Children need to be taught how to interact with a dog.
  • Rules need to be set for the children and the dog, and strictly enforced.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of a dog's distress and move children away from your dog when it demonstrates any of those signs. There is always a potential for a bite if a child does something the dog finds painful or threatening.
  • A dog should never be adopted or purchased for a child. It needs to be an obligation that is taken on by the whole family. The children can assist, but they are not the primary caregivers. This is a parent's responsibility.

The scenes depicted in this image are NOT cute - they are DANGEROUS.

What are the main differences between male and female PWDs?

Males will be a bit larger and heavier than females (see above).  There is little difference in the temperament of male and female PWDs. Both sexes are equally intelligent and affectionate, and both make excellent companions. Intact males often mark their outdoor territory with frequent urination (sometimes referred to as "pee-mail"), but most stop this behavior once they have been neutered. On the average younger males tend to be more active than their female counterparts, but this normally evens out with age.

I've heard that PWDs are high energy dogs that can be difficult pets.  What can a PWD owner do?

PWD owners should be prepared to spend a lot of time teaching impulse control exercises, relaxation exercises, and learning to manage their dog vigilantly.  The PWD should be taught a reliable sit stay or down stay, as one of those commands can be issued to distract a PWD from a potential or actual negative behavior.  PWD owners should also ensure that the dog is getting constructive mental and physical exercises to channel all that energy.

Why are PWDs so expensive?

PWDs, like many other breeds whose popularity has risen, are often quite expensive. In the USA, the typical price for a young PWD puppy ranges from $2500 to $3000.  Older puppies and adults are usually less. 

We advise being wary of anyone selling PWD puppies for a lot less than the norm as that might mean the litter's parents have issues, or that a puppy mill situation exists. If a breeder has lowered a puppy's price due to a specific stated reason, you can make an informed decision as to whether you wish to purchase the puppy. But if no expanation is given for a lower than normal price, it would be wise to look elsewhere.

Conversely, just because a puppy's purchase price is around the typical asking price or more doesn't mean that the puppy's breeder is a responsible one.  Which brings us to the next question -

How can I tell whether a particular PWD breeder is a good one?

A responsible breeder will -
  • Enter their show prospect PWDs in conformation dog shows to see whether they have the "right stuff" to get their championship.  The show ring is the venue for determining to what degree a dog conforms to the standard for its breed. 
  • Obtain all PWDCA recommended health tests on their breeding prospect dogs.  These tests cost multiple hundreds of dollars, but the results help a breeder determine which PWDs would be suitable mates.  (Unsuitable matches can result in dead or unhealthy puppies.)
  • Only breed dogs that are suitable mates based upon the existing genetic health tests.  In addition, they will not breed a PWD unless s/he gets a passing OFA hip rating at 2 years of age. 
  • Provide a healthy, rich, environment for the puppies - preferably in the breeder's home (rather than a separate building or kennel), where the puppies will benefit from ongoing interaction.
  • Have their puppies extensively checked over by their veterinarian, micro-chipped and given their first series of puppy shots.
  • Screen prospective new owners very carefully. If a breeder doesn't ask many questions about you or your family and seems in a big hurry to "sign you up", that should be a red flag. Another warning sign is a breeder who downplays the more challenging aspects of the breed, assuring you that PWDs are great dogs for everyone.
  • Select a puppy for the new owners based upon the suitability of the puppy's temperament for the family, as well as the family's stated preferences.
  • Use stringent criteria to determine which puppies are show/breeding quality, and will require that the rest be spayed/neutered after they are the proper age (this age does vary from breeder to breeder). 
  • Provide a written contract for each puppy they place, and give potential owners an opportunity to review this contract before making a purchase.
  • Send puppies to their new homes only after they are at least eight weeks of age.
  • Provide the new owner with a take-home puppy information folder, printed and/or digital, containing the following:
    • Instructions on feeding, training, care and grooming, as well as basic information about the breed
    • The puppy's health and vaccination records to date
    • Copy of the parents' health test results (see above)
    • Copy of the puppy's pedigree
  • Provide an AKC Registration Application form to send to AKC, or have the new owner sign it and send it in themselves. (If the breeder chooses to wait until after receipt of spay/neuter proof, this should be documented in the sale contract.)
  • Always take one of their dogs back if it needs to be surrendered by the owner.

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