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9 Incredible Portuguese Water Dog Facts For Dog Lovers

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By Nicole Cosgrove

portrait of a white and black Portuguese Water Dog wearing a collar

Those of you who like to spend your weekends engaging in water sports and swimming may want to consider getting a Portuguese Water Dog. They are family-friendly dogs that are excellent for families with children and other pets.

And, while you may already know that they are great pets for those with allergies, here are nine other incredible things you may not know about this independent dog breed.

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The 9 Amazing Portuguese Water Dog Facts

1. They Have Webbed Feet

The Portuguese Water Dog has webbed feet, and a rudder-like tail helps them to effortlessly navigate and push through the strong water. Their coat is thick but waterproof, so it helps to keep them warm in the coldest of water.

The breed did not inherit the name water dog for nothing. These dogs were bred to swim. In fact, their favorite place to be is in the water.

portuguese water dog puppy
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

2. They Have Two Types of Coats

Portuguese Water Dogs have coats that can be wavy or curly. They do not have an undercoat, so as previously stated, they are an excellent choice for allergy sufferers. The coat is medium in length and is typically black, white, and brown in color.

3. They Have Interesting Haircuts

There are two haircuts that are accepted by the American Kennel Club for this breed. They are the lion cut and the working cut.

The lion cut was developed to allow the dog to work in the water without getting weighed down by their fur. The dog’s hind legs are completely sheared, giving it a majestic look like a lion. As silly as it sounds, it was developed to help the dog remain weightless and aid in keeping the dog warm while in the water by insulating its lungs and heart.

While the lion cut may be uncommon in the United States, in the European Show Ring, it is the only cut that is accepted for the Portuguese Water Dog.

Portrait of one brown portuguese water dog sticking out the tongue outdoors on the beach under a blue sky in the background
Image Credit: Alessandra Sawick, Shutterstock

4. They Are the Breed Choice of the Obamas

Yes, the former first dogs of the United States were Portuguese Water Dogs. Sunny and Bo Obama are both Portuguese Water Dogs. During the election in 2008, Barack Obama promised his daughters that whether he won or lost, he would get them a dog when the election was over. During his victory speech, he told his daughters, Malia and Sasha, “I love you both more than you can imagine. You have earned the puppy that is coming with us!”

They first got a male Portuguese Water Dog named Bo in April 2009. In fact, he was a housewarming gift from the late Senator Kennedy to the Obamas. The female Portuguese Water Dog, Sunny, was brought to the White House in August 2013.

5. They Were Loved by Ted Kennedy

The Portuguese Water Dogs are not only loved by the Obamas, but Ted Kennedy loved them too. His two Portuguese Water Dogs, known as Splash and Sunny, went everywhere with the late senator. He took them to press conferences and on boating trips.

My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C.” is a children’s book written by the late senator in the voice of his dog “Splash.”

portuguese water dog standing outdoor
Image Credit: Brook Robinson, Shutterstock

6. They Are Called the “Dog of Water”

Portuguese Water Dogs are called “dogs of water” or cau de agua and are bred to be impressive swimmers. They were originally developed to help fishermen in Portuguese while they were out at sea. The dogs would retrieve things that fell in the water and pull the nets inward to the boat. They were known to herd fish into the fishermen’s nets, like working dogs herd cattle and sheep.

7. They Have Helped Spanish Sailors

Since they are such excellent swimmers, they would carry messages between ships for the sailors of the Spanish Armada in the 1500s. It is believed that in 1588, when the Armada was taken out by the English, some of the dogs swam ashore and mated with the local dogs which may have led to the development of the Kerry Blue Terrier and the Irish Water Spaniel.

portuguese water dog near lake
Image Credit: Lynda McFaul, Shutterstock

8. The B.A.R.K. Team Helped Raises Money for “Pets In Need”

The Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps (B.A.R.K.) is a team of A-list Portuguese Water Dogs that had a job to do. When the San Francisco Giants would hit a homerun ball into the San Francisco Bay, the team of Portuguese Water Dogs would retrieve the “splash hits” coming from Pacific Bell Park. The balls were then auctioned off by a no-kill shelter called Pets in Need.

9. They Once Faced Extinction

As the fishing industry started to change, fishing dogs were no longer needed, and the Portuguese Water Dog almost became extinct. Then, in the 1930s, Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy fisherman, adopted Leao, the founding sire of the modern Portuguese Water Dog. He then founded the Portuguese Water Dog Club, and for many years, he held the position of Secretary General.

portuguese water dog in the forest
Image Credit: Brook Robinson, Shutterstock

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So, there you have it—nine incredible facts about the Portuguese Water Dog that you may not have known before! They are an interesting and unique breed that would make a wonderful pet for anyone, especially for those who live on the water or enjoy weekends at the lake as they were bred to swim.

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Featured Image Credit: Lynda McFaul, Shutterstock

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