The History of the Portuguese Water Dog

In Portugal the Water Dog is know as Cão de Água (IPA: [ˈkɐ̃w dɨ ˈaɡwɐ]; literally ‘dog of water’), “Diving Dog” or “Portuguese Fishing Dog”. In Portugal, the dog is also known as the Algarvian Water Dog referring to its area of origin.

(The New Quest of the Schooner Argus, 1965)

Historical theory finds the Portuguese Water Dog on the development road from the central Asiatic steps as early as 700 B.C. to the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th Century; and on to the British coastline as working crew of the ships on the Spanish Armada in 1588.

In his homeland the Portuguese Water Dog thrived as a courier between fishing boats. These seafaring working dogs carried messages between ships and ship to shore, stood watch in the bow, barking warning of danger in the surrounding fog. Capable of diving underwater to retrieve submerged articles, they dove fearlessly into the sea to retrieve broken nets and tackle that had gone overboard. At home he was a loyal friend to the fisherman and his family.

The advancement of modern marine technology over a 400 year period; radar, radio communication and equipment, caused the near extinction of the Portuguese Water Dog by the 1960’s.

A number of dedicated breeders in the U.S. revived the breed in 1970’s, and by 1981 there were approximately 500 dogs within the United States. Portuguese Water Dogs were then recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1984, and eight years later the Canadian Kennel CLub recognized the breed.