If You Want a Loyal Dog Who Loves to Swim, Check Out the Portuguese Water Dog

May 26, 2017 at 7:35 a.m. ET
Image: TerryJ/Getty Images

Whether you're single looking for a loyal companion to take to the beach or on the hunt for an amazing (yet super-active) family dog, you really can't go wrong with a Portuguese water dog.

As their name suggests, these guys are natural-born swimmers (they have webbed feet, for crying out loud) and are super-smart, docile and easy to train. The cherry on top? Portuguese water dogs are a single-coat breed, meaning they don't have an undercoat that sheds, making them a great choice for people who are sometimes allergic to dogs.

And, I mean, look at that face.

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A little background

A wonderful swimmer and diver, the Portuguese water dog is often referred to as "Cão de Água" (dog of the water). Bred in Portugal to accompany fisherman on trips, this intelligent dog dove for fish, swam messages back and forth and acted as a guard dog of the boat. The Portuguese water dog is known for having a lion's cut, which is to aid while swimming in colder temperatures to keep vital organs warm. Once nearly extinct, a wealthy Portuguese man brought the breed back, and it is now mildly popular in Portugal and the U.S. as a fishing companion as well as a therapy and assistance dog.

More: 6 Dog Breeds That Don't Do Well in the Water

Breed standards

Here's the nitty-gritty on the Portuguese water dog.

  • AKC group: Working group
  • UKC group: Gun dog group
  • Average lifespan: 11 – 14 years
  • Average size: 35 – 60 pounds
  • Coat appearance: Curly- or wavy-haired
  • Coloration: Black, white, brown, silver fox, gray or any combination with white markings
  • Hypoallergenic: Yes
  • Other identifiers: Medium-size with athletic build, black nose, dark eyes, heart-shaped ears, straight legs with webbed feet

Is this breed right for you?

Extremely athletic, the Portuguese water dog does best in an environment that allows it to have high activity and possible swimming opportunities. If not provided with enough activity, it is likely that this breed will have behavioral problems. With a willingness to please, it is easy to train and will need it to keep a calm temperament. An average shedder, the Portuguese water dog is hypoallergenic and has simple grooming requirements. Affectionate with all members of the family, it does well with children and other animals if introduced to them young. This breed will do OK in an apartment as long as it is exercised, but it would most likely prefer a yard to romp around in.

A dream day-in-the-life

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There is no doubt that the ideal day for the Portuguese water dog would involve some type of swimming. Whether in its own backyard pool or in a local pond or river, this dog will be the happiest pooch on the planet if it has the opportunity to perform the doggy paddle. Very loving, the rest of its day would happily be spent with its family and end with a jog, as it is known to be a wonderful running partner.

More: Water-Loving Dogs That Are the Perfect Companion for Beach Bums

Originally published August 2014. Updated May 2017.

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