Portuguese & Spanish Water Dogs

We have three dogs on the farm: Matilda a black curly coated Portuguese Water Dog, Tomas, a brown Spanish Water Dog (shown in the main background photograph)  and Matilda’s daughter, Chiquita, a brown curly coated Portie from Matilda’s litter of four years ago. 

They are all fabulous dogs and we can heartily recommend both (related) breeds as pets or working dogs. They are very intelligent so you can teach them lots of things including Agility exercises which they just love. You will find that they are very rare in the UK and so you may have to search for a while to find a puppy. Some people we know have been waiting 2-3 years to find a Portie to buy. There are a few reputable breeders and these can usually be sourced on The Kennel Club website. If you get stuck, give us a call and we will try to hep you out.

Puppies close up c

We’ve put something about the “Porties” characters below.

“Portie” characteristics

The Portuguese Water Dog is a magnificent dog and quite rare, especially in the UK. They are medium-sized dogs (about 19-21 inches high), robust, and possess a waterproof coat and webbed feet which, as their name suggests, gives them the ability to swim all day. Originating from the Portuguese region of the Algarve, where they were taught to herd the fish into fishermen’s nets, to retrieve lost equipment from the seabed, and to take messages from one boat to another, or from boat to shore. They also worked as guard dogs, protecting sailors’ fishing boats and their homes. Its Portuguese name is Cão de Água, meaning “water dog”.


” . . . people often buy “Porties” because they do not have an undercoat that sheds hair, and so there is a decreased tendency to cause allergies . . . “

People often buy “Porties” because they do not have an under-coat that sheds hair, and so there is a decreased tendency to cause allergies. That’s certainly why we bought our Water Dogs – Malcolm is slightly asthmatic, but the dogs have never affected him. They are sometimes referred to as “hypoallergenic” but that’s not strictly true. Our three dogs live with us on our small farm and are vey much part of the family. They enjoy the run of the place and have their own dog house but always seem to be left to sleep in the kitchen! They are very territorial and make lots of noise every time someone draws up to the house. Regular visitors soon get to know that they are all mouth; and all they want is recognition and a good stroke. After the first few minutes of noisy excitement they settle down just as quickly. Just below is a photograph showing Chiquita (right) and her mum (black) at her side, just after their hair grooming session. We tend to prefer the “Retriever” cut whilst they’re roaming the farm, but the other pedigree cut is the “Lion” cut, which is very distinctive.


We only very rarely breed out Porties.  We didn’t buy Chiquita’s mother, Matilda, to breed four years ago, but the dogs are so rare in the UK that we thought we had a duty to let her have at least one litter. We searched for a breeding partner, and eventually came across Alex, who is an American champion and was imported into the UK.

Portugese water dogs history

The dogs are famous for their coats, which can be curly or wavy, and is black, white, or brown, or combinations of black or brown with white. It may be kept in what is called the lion cut (the coat on the hindquarters and muzzle are clipped close to the skin), or the retriever cut (the entire coat is clipped to one inch in length and follows the outline of the dog). The wavy coat is long, ranging from a slight wave to corkscrew effect. The curly coat appears shorter, and ranges from corkscrew to tight cylindrical curls. Either way, the coat needs a little grooming two or three times a week to prevent matting and to remove dead hair. Whereas Matilda is more curly, Chiquita is more wavy.

Porties really are super dogs. They are very loyal, strong, brave, protective, fun loving and very intelligent, so respond well to obedience training. Although no longer primarily a fishing dog, in recent years the breed has been successfully trained in various fields, including agility, assistance and therapy dogs, heel-work to music, drug detection, search and rescue, and water trials.

” . . . they make good retrievers but because of their intelligence can get bored easily . . . “

They are very energetic and enjoy being kept busy with plenty of exercise. Mental stimulation (agility, search & rescue,advanced obedience) is just as important to this clever, thinking dog. They make good retrievers but because of their intelligence can get bored easily.

Companionship is very important to a Portie – they have been bred for centuries to live closely with their families, so they like being with their owners, and don;y like being left alone for long. A natural retriever, the Portie will pick up everything in its path, especially on your return when it tries to please you with gifts, usually stones or slippers! They can and will chew most things, especially when they’re young.

Not everyone is meant to be a Portie owner, and not just because of the high cost of purchasing one. Before buying one, please check out the breed and its characteristics and make sure it is the right dog for you. Both you and the dog will be much happier if you are a good fit for each other.

” . . . size-wise the males are about 20-23 inches high at the withers and weigh 42 to 60 lbs; the females are a little smaller at 17 to 21 inches and 35 to 50 lb . . . “

Porties are generally good with children, other dogs and other animals, especially if they have grown up with them. Youngsters (up to two years old) can tend to romp and jump with great vigour and things can go flying, so it’s worth bearing that in mind around very young children or the elderly. They have been linked to the Poodle, Pulis, the Water Spaniel, Newfoundland, Barbet, Kerry Blue Terrier, and the retriever, and in part they are similar to all of these. Size-wise the males are about 20-23 inches high at the withers and weigh 42 to 60 lbs; the females are a little smaller at 17 to 21 inches and 35 to 50 lb.

Many British Portuguese Water Dogs live well over 12 years, and 15 and 16 years is not uncommon. Matilda and Chiquita are both third generation pedigree registered with The Kennel Club (www.thekennelclub.org.uk/).