Portuguese Water Dogs are intelligent, hard working, energetic, and usually friendly. Along with their water repellent coat and webbed feet, these traits made them good water dogs for assisting fishermen. In addition to water trials and retrieving items such as baseballs, tennis balls, and floating toys that take advantage of their swimming abilities, Portuguese Water Dogs enjoy dog sports such as musical freestyle, agility, tracking, and obedience as sport that provide physical and mental stimulation while strengthening their bond to their families. Portuguese Water Dogs can also bond with people by being good jogging companions and service or animal-assisted therapy dogs.
The Portuguese Water Dog has its roots in sixteenth-century Portugal. As the name of the breed suggests, they are wonderful swimming dogs and were originally bred to assist fisherman. Portuguese Water Dogs sent messages between boats, retrieved fish and other items from the water, pulled in the nets and, at the end of the day, were used to guard the boats. They occasionally were called upon to save fishermen who fell in the water. During the off-season, Portuguese Water Dogs were used to herd. As commercial fishing equipment took the breed's jobs in the late 1800's, they were threatened with extinction. At one point there were only about 25 Portuguese Water Dogs left in the entire world, but Dr. Vasco Bensuade embarked on a successful effort to save the breed. The first pair of Portuguese Water Dogs found their way to the United States in 1958 and the breed rebounded very well from near extinction. The American Kennel Club admitted the Portuguese Water Dog Club into the Working Group in 1984.