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History of the Breed



The existence of the Portuguese Water Dog along the Algarve on the coast of Portugal can be traced back to very remote times.  Evidence exists which indicates that in pre-Christian times, the "water dog" was held to be nearly sacred, and severe penalties came to those who killed a "water dog".  There are many theories surrounding the dog, but none dispute that this remarkable dog has an ancient ancestry.  The first written description of the Portuguese Water Dog is dated to 1297, and concerns a monk's report of a dying sailor who had been brought out of the sea by a dog which had a "black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail".  Due to the historical clip still in use, many writings describe the breed as a "Lion Dog".  It is said that the current day Poodle, Kerry Blue Terrier, and Irish Water Spaniel are possibly ancestors of the "water dog".


In bygone times, this breed existed everywhere along the coast of Portugal.  This well-balanced working dog was prized by the fishermen as a companion and guard dog.  He lived on the working boats where he was taught to herd fish into nets, to retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and to act as a courier from ship to ship, or ship to shore.


Tasks required the dogs to be excellent swimmers and seafarers.  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.  As noted in the breed standard, this dog of exceptional intelligence and loyal companionship willingly served a master well.


In Portugal, the breed is called Cão de Água (pronounced Kown-d'Ahgwa). 'Cão' means 'dog', 'de Água' means 'of water'. In his native land, the dog is also known as the Portuguese Fishing Dog. Cão de Água de Pelo Ondulado is the name given the long-haired variety, and Cão de Água de Pelo Encaracolado is the name for the curly-coat variety.


Historic milestones for the Portuguese Water dog in the United States include:

•In 1972, sixteen dedicated owners and friends of the Portuguese Water Dog gathered in New Canaan, CT, to form the what now exists as the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.  There are currently over 1,000 members of this national club.

•The Portuguese Water Dog was admitted to the Miscellaneous class of the American Kennel Club (AKC) on June 3, 1981. Three months later, the breed had its first Obedience champion, Spindrift Kedge. 

•The Portuguese Water Dog was accepted for registration in AKC stud books effective August 1, 1983, and became eligible to compete in the show rings as a member of the Working Group, effective January 1, 1984.  At that time, 182 dogs were registered.  (excerpt from site)



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