As breeders of various breeds for nearly 30 years, we think Portuguese Water Dogs, aka Porties and PWDs, are the best all-around dogs for people, but we are biased and they’re not for everyone. We all know how smart Portuguese Water Dogs are, but with that intelligence and the ability to exercise critical thinking comes some real challenges for owners.

Portuguese Water Dog Doing His Job - Cathy Dugan ACE GCH Aviators Black Jack Legacy Select Dog Eukanuba 2013

Portuguese Water Dog Doing His Job – Cathy Dugan
ACE GCH Aviators Black Jack Legacy Select Dog Eukanuba 2013

Not for New Owners

For example, we would never place a Portuguese Water Dog with a rookie dog owner. Why? Because these dogs were bred and raised to work with and for humans, so they demand that their humans pay attention to them and give them tasks and jobs to do.
Portuguese Water Dogs do not do well in an environment where they are left alone many hours in a day. In fact, we know of too many situations where a Portuguese Water Dog grew to be neurotic and dysfunctional in a home where the dog spent too much time in a crate or alone every day.
One of the key questions on our owner application and a primary topic of inquiry during the interview with a prospective owner is how much time the dog will be left alone. More than once we have turned down a new owner because both owners worked all day or because their work and family schedule left no time for a dog. We wondered, “Why on earth did they think they wanted a dog?”

Why is a Portuguese Water Dog a Velcro dog?

We often tell people that their Portuguese Water Dog is a “Velcro dog”. By that we mean that the dog will want to be with you every moment of the day that you allow it. They will be by your side watching carefully what you’re doing, particularly as you work in the kitchen.
A common trait of a Portuguese Water Dog with a family is to figure out where in the house they can sit and observe the maximum number of humans. They figure out your schedule very quickly and if you deviate from that schedule, for feeding for example, they will let you know that something is amiss.
Portuguese Water Dogs are not dogs who can be ignored or simply put out in the yard all day without human contact. They thrive and demand human attention and want to know what it is you want them to do. If you don’t give a Portie a task, it will find one to do on its own; not necessarily what you may want. We tell people that their Portuguese Water Dogs will order out for pizza if you don’t give them enough to do.

Member of the Family

Portuguese Water Dogs closely resemble people, and in most families are treated as such. Holiday cards often have the dogs featured equally along with grandchildren and other members of the family.
Because Portuguese Water Dogs live relatively long; 12-15 years, they grow up with the family and become an integral part of everything the family does. They want to be included. One of the traits of a PWD is to want to stand up with their paws on your chest when they greet you. This is not just excitement to see you again, they want to look into your eyes and see how you are doing. Stories of Portuguese Water Dogs showing empathy and adjusting their moods to your condition are legendary. They are one breed used extensively as therapy dogs because they understand what their job is and react to their humans accordingly.
Many of our owners take their dogs to work with them. The dogs love this. In some cases, physicians have their dogs stay in the waiting room of their clinic. The dog greets every new patient and makes the rounds to ensure that everyone is OK. The physicians have reported that the anxiety level of their patients goes down dramatically when their Portuguese Water Dog is on the job.
As a hospice nurse, Cathy has taken our dogs with her when she visits a nursing home or hospice facility because the dogs provide a unique level of comfort to patients; the anxiety level drops as the dogs and people interact. Porties are very popular as therapy dogs in hospitals, clinics and children’s burn centers.

Portuguese Water Dog in Agility - Courtesy of Cathy Dugan

Portuguese Water Dog in Agility – Courtesy of Cathy Dugan

Portuguese Water Dogs, Children and Other Pets

PWD are regarded as one of the best dogs with children. They love kids, even infants, and will endure the usual hair pulling and eye gouging. To a Portie, a cat is simply an odd-looking dog. Many of our homes have cats, other dogs, birds and other animals and PWDs adjust to all of them. When a puppy goes to a cat home, the cat always becomes the alpha animal because Portuguese Water Dogs are not generally prey driven or territorial. They are happy to let someone else be in charge.
So, if you want a dog that will be a member of your household, a loyal friend, smarter than you can imagine as a dog, and is always enthusiastic and optimistic, consider a PWD. Looking for a dog who talks to you with an opinion about things and demands your attention? Like a dog who requires moderate exercise and will remind and challenge you when you don’t follow the schedule? If so, a Portuguese Water Dog is for you. Did I mention, that they don’t shed and are considered to be hypoallergenic because they have hair, not fur?

Portuguese Water Dog Ladybug Group 1 Westminster 2010 - Courtesy of Cathy Dugan

Portuguese Water Dog Ladybug Group 1 Westminster 2010 – Courtesy of Cathy Dugan

In 1987 Cathy Dugan began producing Dalmatians and founded Aviator Kennel ( with the goal of producing healthy and consistently high-quality dogs. In 1995 Aviator added Portuguese Water Dogs, with Cathy and Mike Dugan breeding top-winning PWDs, including GCH Aviators Luck Be A Lady, “Ladybug” who won the Working Groups at Westminster in 2011 and the AKC Eukanuba National Championship in 2010. Cathy judges Dals and PWDs.

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