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What are they like to live with?

Breed Characteristics

The UK breed standard states:

Characteristics: Very intelligent and tremendously energetic ‘fisherman’s dog’ with great swimming and diving traits.

Temperament: Pleasant disposition, self-willed but very obedient to owner. Brave and tireless.


From the outset, it is important to note that PWD are not a breed suitable for everyone. Some breeders say they are not suitable as your first dog, others say they are not suitable if you have children under 5. We don't believe that is true. Yes they have their challenges, but, we believe that with the right training, feeding, exercise and mental stimulation PWD’s can be the perfect family dog capable of doing almost anything asked of them.


However, all potential owners need to know that Portuguese Water Dogs are strong-minded, with an independent streak so your consistent, strong, firm, loving & persistent leadership is a must. You will need the time, space and bucketloads of patience. 


Known for being a loyal, friendly and intelligent dog that likes nothing better than to please, they soon become valuable members of a household and like nothing more than to be involved in everything that goes on around them.


The PWD is tireless and, although keen to learn, they do have a very definite streak of obstinacy.  They are wilful and determined: traits that need to be controlled from a young age as, without consistent training and clear direction, they may become unruly. It is important to remember that training is essential and training of commands/tricks and training good manners are two different things. 


The PWD is the eternal optimist of the dog world and is always ready to join in activities, especially games and they definitely prefer company. They mix well with other breeds of dog and have a seemingly endless supply of energy, They are well suited to canine activities such as agility, showing,  and working (swimming) trials and are quite capable of obedience exercises to a very good standard. Some say PWD are likely to find obedience work at the elite levels a little stifling for their exuberant nature and they prefer more physical activities which allow them the freedom to express their personality. We have found them capable of anything you train them for. 


PWD will walk to heel on a lead, but it takes persistent training, without it they have a tendency to pull.


Portuguese Water Dogs are very excitable and a bouncy breed. This should be taken into consideration when having a puppy. This can be managed by teaching them impulse control. However, people that own the breed or are thinking about purchasing one, understand that this is a strong part of their character and are loved for it.


As well as being an excitable breed, Portuguese Water Dogs are natural retrievers. This instinct is strong so tugging and chewing tendencies can be very strong. They like to explore the world with their mouth, carrying things or picking up any object they desire. To help satisfy their mouthing / oral fixation, they need to be provided with appropriate training and plenty of toys.  It is important to remember that they will mouth (this is different to biting but if left untrained can lead to unwanted behaviours) and any children in the home need to be fully supervised & taught how to behave around a dog.


They love being around humans and may attach themselves to one. Separation anxiety is likely to develop in this breed if their physical & mental requirements are not met – they need at least 30 mins to 1 hour per day of vigorous activity. PWDs like to be in sight of their human, they often do not like to be left alone. However, we have found that with careful training  PWD’s can be left in outdoor runs during the day. Like all dogs, they need to learn that separation and time away from their humans is ok. 


Because they are so intelligent, Portuguese Water Dogs need to be given the right amount of daily mental stimulation, otherwise, a dog could develop some unwanted and destructive behavioral issues around the home. They need clear, positive and consistent training. They are quick to learn but do things in their own time. It is good to stick to a training method and be relentless. We would strongly recommend that all PWD are fully socialised and at least attend basic puppy training. Further training classes or Kennel Club Good Citizen classes are invaluable in developing good manners, obedience, tricks and an excellent bond with your PWD.  

PWD have a multi-octave voice, because of this, their bark and other sounds they make are very distinctive. They may well ‘talk’ to their owners. This can be endearing but also challenging especially if they simply don't stop. 


PWD are renowned for jumping as a greeting and owners may need to limit this behaviour, especially if they have children or visitors. Some PWDs will stand upright at kitchen counters and tables, especially if they smell food above them. This habit is known as ‘counter surfing’ and is characteristic of the breed.

They are a coated breed with a single layer of thick hair. This needs regular (daily) grooming otherwise it will matt in knots like felt and become painful. We can not stress enough that you must dedicate time to brush them. They do moult but far less than other breeds.

PWD, like all dogs, produce allergens in the protein in their shed skin cells (called dander when attached to the shed hair), saliva and urine. No dog can ever truly be hypoallergenic and people will still react to PWD. They can only be considered to be a lower allergenic risk because they shed less. 


PWD love to have their bottoms scratched and will often reverse up to you to demand attention. 


PWD will find the weakest member of the family and will try to persuade the human to feed them from the table with a gentle nuzzle, pleading look or paw.


PWD can often lie across your feet while you are cooking or working, acting as the perfect footwarmer (or trip hazard!)


PWD will tolerate cats if brought up with them in the home but are likely to chase unfamiliar cats, squirrels, and birds. Some have a far higher prey drive than others and will chase birds & chickens. They have been known to catch and kill rabbits and even bring down deer. 


They are long-lived - with a life expectancy of up to 14 years.


Height at the withers:  Males 50 - 57 cm,    Females 43 - 52 cm

Average weight:          Males 19 - 25 kg,     Females 16 - 22 kg

PWD can take longer to mature than many dog breeds,  2 to 3 years.  It is important to consider this when training your dog or exploring Neutering -  castration for dogs or spaying for bitches.

This is not a breed for everybody, being a coated dog (requiring high levels of grooming), with a lively outgoing character with a willful mind of its own. They are gentle & patient - but boredom can cause them to be destructive.


In the right hands with correct training, they become valued members of a family that will repay the time and love invested in them. 

So how would you describe your Portuguese Water Dog?


Some current OldeEly Portie owners truthfully describe their dog and share some advice with prospective owners.

What do OldeEly PWD owners really think about Porties? 

As experienced owners and breeders we love them but tell people that as high energy, intelligent, working breed they are definitely not suitable for everyone. We will always tell you what they are like to live with - both the good and the bad. They can be a challenge, even for experienced dog owners and even experienced Portie owners. They are loveable but challenging; quick to learn but hard to train; adorable but wilful; energetic but lazy. They need attention, consistency, stimulation, exercise, and to learn good behaviour and manners. If left untrained they can become unruly. We always say: 

"You get the dog you deserve: the more you put in - the more you will be rewarded with a well adjusted, better-behaved dog."


As much as we enjoy telling people about the breed it is always good to get the views of other owners. To help prospective owners understand the breed a little more, some OldeEly PWD owners have kindly agreed to pass on their accumulated knowledge. After all, it is always good to learn from the experience and mistakes of others. 


How would you describe your Portie in 3 words?

  • Needy, gregarious, pack-animal

  • Loving, adorable, lunatic

  • Affectionate, loyal, comedian.

  • Cuddly, confident, mischievous

  • Loving, fun, energetic

  • Loving, characterful, challenging

  • Loyal, bright, wilful

  • Gentle, bubbly, foolish

  • Mad, intelligent, bestfriend

  • One-off, sensitive, nutty

  • Affectionate, energetic, comical


Now be honest: what 3 words do you really use to describe them when they are being wilful?

  • Demanding, Loud, Knobhead 😂 (you said be honest!)

  • Attention-seeking, vocal, persistent.

  • Sassy, deaf, persistent

  • Stubborn, still fun, cheeky

  • Wilful (definitely), obstinate, persistent

  • *%~#!, idiot, stubborn, fool

  • Deaf, exasperating, obstinate

  • STUBBORN! trying and err ..... stubborn


What do you know now that you wish you had known then? 

  • That buying lots of expensive toys is a waste of money. The bottle sock is the best thing ever.

  • How vocal they are. The noises. Which is great when having fun but annoying when he’s grumpy, whining in the car especially

  • 'Mouthy' = ouch (less so now but first 9 months is very challenging)

  • Training commands and training good manners are two different disciplines

  • Lapdogs can come in all sizes

  • Being a water dog means they will like mud, but not necessarily the bath that follows!

  • They are not as easy to train as I’d been led to believe (and I run my own dog walking business)

  • How much time and consistent effort needs to be put in.

  • Well firstly I had no idea that PWD could hate water! It's embarrassing.

  • They are a highly trainable breed - yes...when it suits them! One of ours can learn tricks eg play dead rollover etc very quickly, is successful at agility, yet she will not come back when called. She comes back when she is ready. No off-lead for her!

  • The counter-surfing - they love it - make sure everything is out of reach and watch their paws they almost hyper-extend when there is food on the counter. 

  • One of ours does chase smaller animals: cats, chickens and she did catch a wild rabbit in the garden so beware!

  • Being an owner of 2 made it difficult! I think that's one thing we have found - how different the two of them are despite being the same sex and breed.

  • That she would eventually be such a joy

  • They are addictive


What advice you would give to a new Portie owner?

  • Don't get this dog if you have not got time for them, 

  • Don't believe people who say they are placid - don't get this dog if you think the breed is easy.

  • Have a backup plan as in a dog sitter/friend. We can leave her for short periods but just like humans, she needs company.

  • They are Velcro dogs, give them as much attention as you can, they love to play ‘with’ you rather than on their own. 

  • If you have children then really try to prepare them for the mouthing. 

  • Don’t give up with training. Be strong, you can do it.

  • Approach as you would with dementia: forget it, for now, try again in a minute

  • They are not for the faint-hearted or for couch potatoes. 

  • Groom, brush and groom some more. A little every day is better than painful time time at the groomers.

  • They bond very strongly so expect to have a lot of input into their day. They are clearly a very special and intelligent breed who thrive on interaction. 

  • They do make you laugh everyday!!

  • Create a ranked list of what motivates your dog (i.e toys, treats, being off lead, affection etc.) and use them to help with training. 

  • Never stop socialising them 

  • You get out exactly what you put in - we wound up with the most affectionate creature that LOVES training and scent work, but it took time and effort.

  • Be prepared to brush and brush some more, the hair mats and is painful  

  • Cornflour is great for matts.

  • Be prepared to exercise them loads.

  • Stick to a certain training method and be relentless.

  • You will not find a better-natured breed, well maybe, but Porties are lovely

  • Make sure training starts as early as possible

  • Comb/brush them all the time as a puppy! Get them used to being groomed. Then find a good groomer as soon as you can. Their coats do take some looking after!

  • As soon as they are old enough enrol in Puppy classes/obedience training.

  • Our first Portie would rip her beds up so she sleeps on vet bed now. Our youngest sleeps in a crate on vet bed. Follow vetbed man on Facebook - (However you will Spend a small fortune on his amazing designs)

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