Portuguese Water Dog Standard

The Board of Directors of The American Kennel Club has approved the following Standard for the Portuguese Water Dog as submitted by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc.

General Appearance

Known for centuries along Portugal’s coast, this seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a spirited, yet obedient nature, and a robust, medium build that allowed for a full day’s work in and out of the water. The Portuguese Water Dog is a swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina, who aided his master at sea by retrieving broken nets, herding schools of fish, and carrying messages between boats and to shore. He is a loyal companion and alert guard. This highly intelligent utilitarian breed is distinguished by two coat types, either curly or wavy; an impressive head of considerable breadth and well proportioned mass; a ruggedly built, well-knit body; and a powerful, thickly based tail, carried gallantly or used purposefully as a rudder. The Portuguese Water Dog provides an indelible impression of strength, spirit, and soundness.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Height at the withers–Males, 20 to 23 inches. The ideal is 22 inches. Females, 17 to 21 inches. The ideal is 19 inches.
Weight–For males, 42 to 60 pounds; for females, 35 to 50 pounds.
Proportion–Off square; slightly longer than tall when measured from prosternum to rearmost point of the buttocks, and from withers to ground.
Substance–Strong, substantial bone; well developed, neither refined nor coarse, and a solidly built, muscular body.

An essential characteristic; distinctively large, well proportioned and with exceptional breadth of topskull.
Expression–Steady, penetrating, and attentive.
Eyes–Medium in size; set well apart, and a bit obliquely. Roundish and neither prominent nor sunken. Black or various tones of brown in color. Darker eyes are preferred. Eye rims fully pigmented with black edges in black, black and white, or white dogs; brown edges in brown dogs.
Haws are dark and not apparent.
Ears–Set well above the line of the eye. Leather is heart shaped and thin. Except for a small opening at the back, ears are held nicely against the head. Tips should not reach below the lower jaw.
Skull–In profile, it is slightly longer than the muzzle, its curvature more accentuated at the back than in the front. When viewed head-on, the top of the skull is very broad and appears domed, with a slight depression in the middle. The forehead is prominent, and has a central furrow, extending two-thirds of the distance from stop to occiput. The occiput is well defined.
Stop–Well defined. Muzzle–Substantial; wider at the base than at the nose.
Jaws–Strong and neither over nor undershot.
Nose–Broad, well flared nostrils. Fully pigmented; black in dogs with black, black and white, or white coats; various tones of brown in dogs with brown coats.
Lips— Thick, especially in front; no flew. Lips and mucous membranes of the roof of the mouth, under tongue, and gums are quite black, or well ticked with black in dogs with black, black and white, or white coats; various tones of brown in dogs with brown coats.
Bite–Scissors or level.
Teeth–Not visible when the mouth is closed. Canines strongly developed.

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck–Straight, short, round, and held high. Strongly muscled. No dewlap.

Topline–Level and firm.

Body–Chest is broad and deep, reaching down to the elbow. Ribs are long and well-sprung to provide optimum lung capacity. Abdomen well held up in a graceful line.

Back is broad and well muscled. Loin is short and meets the croup smoothly. Croup is well formed and only slightly inclined with hip bones hardly apparent.

Tail–Not docked; thick at the base and tapering; set on slightly below the line of the back; should not reach below the hock. When the dog is attentive the tail is held in a ring, the front of which should not reach forward of the loin. The tail is of great help when swimming and diving.

Forequarters— Shoulders are well inclined and very strongly muscled. Upper arms are strong. Forelegs are strong and straight with long, well muscled forearms. Carpus is heavy-boned, wider in front than at the side. Pasterns are long and strong. Dewclaws may be removed. Feetare round and rather flat. Toes neither knuckled up nor too long. Webbing between the toes is of soft skin, well covered with hair, and reaches the toe tips. Central pad is very thick, others normal. Nails held up slightly off the ground. Black, brown, white, and striped nails are allowed.

Hindquarters— Powerful; well balanced with the front assembly. Legs, viewed from the rear, are parallel to each other, straight and very strongly muscled in upper and lower thighs. Buttocks are well developed. Tendons and hocks are strong. Metatarsus long, no dewclaws. Feet similar in all respects to forefeet.


A profuse, thickly planted coat of strong, healthy hair, covering the whole body evenly, except where the forearm meets the brisket and in the groin area, where it is thinner. No undercoat, mane or ruff. There are two varieties of coat:

  • Curly–Compact, cylindrical curls, somewhat lusterless. The hair on the ears is sometimes wavy.
  • Wavy–Falling gently in waves, not curls, and with a slight sheen.

No preference will be given to coat type, either curly or wavy.

Clip–Two clips are acceptable:

  • Lion Clip–As soon as the coat grows long, the middle part and hindquarters, as well as the muzzle, are clipped. The hair at the end of the tail is left at full length.
  • Retriever Clip–In order to give a natural appearance and a smooth unbroken line, the entire coat is scissored or clipped to follow the outline of the dog, leaving a short blanket of coat no longer than one inch in length. The hair at the end of the tail is left at full length.

No discrimination will be made against the correct presentation of a dog in either Lion Clip or Retriever Clip.

Black, white, and various tones of brown; also combinations of black or brown with white. A white coat does not imply albinism provided nose, mouth, and eyelids are black. In animals with black, white, or black and white coats, the skin is decidedly bluish.

Short, lively steps when walking. The trot is a forward striding, well balanced movement.


An animal of spirited disposition, self-willed, brave, and very resistant to fatigue. A dog of exceptional intelligence and a loyal companion, it obeys its master with facility and apparent pleasure. It is obedient with those who look after it or with those for whom it works.

Summary Statement

The Portuguese Water Dog is spirited yet obedient, robust, and of unexaggerated, functional conformation; sure, substantially boned and muscled, and able to do a full day’s work in and out of the water.


Any deviation from the described ideal is a fault. However, those inherent characteristics that are imperative for the maintenance of proper type, and therefore cannot be overlooked, are listed as Major Faults.

Major Faults

  1. Temperament–Shy, vicious, or unsound behavior.
  2. Head–Unimpressive; small in overall size; narrow in topskull; snipey in muzzle.
  3. Substance–Light or refined in bone; lacking in muscle.
  4. Coat–Sparse; naturally short, close-lying hair, partially or over all; wispy or wiry in texture; brittle; double-coated.
  5. Tail–Other than as described. Extremely low set. Heavy or droopy in action.
  6. Pigment–Any deviation from described pigmentation; other than black or various tones of brown eye color; pink or partial pigmentation in nose, lips, eyes, or eye rims.
  7. Bite–Overshot or undershot.

Diseases of the Breed

The attention paid to Health in the Portuguese Water Dog community cannot be overstated. Our Owners and Breeders demonstrate astonishing care for the health and well being of these magnificent creatures. It’s been said by many a veterinarian – “I love these owners for all the attention and care (and testing) they do!” Yes, Portuguese Water Dog owners are passionate about the soundness of their dogs.

There are multiple committees focused on the various aspects of Water Dog health. Health related subjects, however, don’t end here. The PWDCA is proactive in meeting the needs of its members and their dogs. Each of our Health Committee members is knowledgeable and available to exchange information and ideas with owners and breeders. The well being of our dogs is an ongoing process and the PWDCA responds with new committees and research projects when an important need arises.

In addition to the committees, one major effort is the Portuguese Water Dog Health and Litter Database, which was launched in August of 2005. This provides the opportunity for owners and breeders to share information on the health status of their PWDs in conjunction with the committee focus. It is an online database to which participants can refer in order to make informed decisions for the betterment and perpetuation of the breed.

Another effort involving more than 600 Portuguese Water Dogs today has been in existence since 1996. It is the Georgie Project that is a collaboration between owners and breeders of Portuguese Water Dogs and scientists at the University of Utah. It’s named in memory of Georgie, a Portuguese Water Dog that died of an auto immune disease. Georgie’s death brought together individuals who have cooperated to create this study. To learn more about genetics and the specific studies of Portuguese Water Dogs, you can visit the Georgie Project website.

For more information, please visit the health conditions section of the Portugese Water Dog Club of America website and the PWD Health & Litter Database.

A series of health related articles from the 2013 AKC Canine Health Foundation Parent Club Conference are a good resource to learn about different health related illnesses and injury related research.

Maddie on our boat in Maine.

PWD Informational Links

Portugese Water Dog Club of America

Mayflower Portugese Water Dog Club

PWDs NE (Maine/New Hampshire/Massachusetts Club)

Nutmeg PWD Club (Connecticut and Northeast Club)

Westminster Kennel Club

American Kennel Club

The Georgie Project – Description of a Collaborative Project between Genetic Researchers and PWD Breeders to Better Understand Canine and PWD Genetics

PWD Foundation – The Foundation Raises and Donates Money to Researchers Investigating Heatlh Issues of Concern to PWD Owners and Breeders

PWD Pedigree Study Group – Database Devoted to Creating the Most Complete Listing of PWD Pedigrees

PWDCA Health & Litter Database – The Portuguese Water Dog of America’s Database for Registering Litters and Keeping Up-to-Date Health Information on All Dogs/Bitches Arising from those Litters


Contact Us

Paula Markiewicz
Dandelion Portuguese Water Dogs

Email: info@dandelionpwds.com
Phone: 508-375-0053

We are located in East Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts