PWD Description

The Portuguese Water Dog, Cao De Agua, is an ancient breed, possibly first described in writing in 1297 by a monk. The monk describes the dog saving the life of a drowning fisherman. He described the dog as having “black coat of rough hair cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail”.

They were a prized companion and guard dog of the Portuguese fisherman. They could be found up and down the coast of Portugal. The job of a PWD was to herd fish into nets, retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, to act as a courier from ship to ship or ship to shore and they would guard the boats.

These jobs required the dogs to be excellent swimmers. Dogs were capable of diving underwater to retrieve fishing gear and to prevent the escape of fish from the nets. Constant swimming and working with the fishermen accounts for the remarkable muscular development of their hindquarters.

With the arrival of modern fishing techniques, the breed’s use, worth and eventually the existence of the dogs was dwindling. In the 1930’s, Vasco Bensuade, a wealthy Portuguese businessman with an interest in dogs, was introduced to the Portuguese water Dog. He was told of a “magnificent working Cao De Agua”, and although there were only a few dogs still working on the boas of the fishermen, he eventually acquired a dog named “Leao”. “Leao” was the founding sire of the modern breed and of which the original written breed standard was based.

It wasn’t until 30 years later when the first PWD was brought to America. The dog’s name was Renascenca Do Al Gharb was brought over by Deyanne and Herbert Miller on September 12, 1968. The Miller’s along with 14 other dedicated owners and friends formed the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

On June 3, 1981 the PWD was admitted to the Miscellaneous class of the American Kennel Club. On August 1, 1983, the PWD was accepted for registration in AKC stud books and then on January 1, 1984 they became eligible to compete in the show rings as a member of the working group. 

Highly recommended book: The New Complete Portuguese Water Dog 2nd Edition by Kathryn Braund, ISBN 0-87605-262-8