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Standard of the Portuguese Water Dog

Reproduced with permission from The Kennel Club Updated Feb 2024

A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Breed Watch section of the Kennel Club website for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. However if a dog possesses a feature, characteristic or colour described as undesirable or highly undesirable it is strongly recommended that it should not be rewarded in the show ring.

General Appearance

Robust, well balanced, of almost square shape, very strongly muscled on shoulders. Hard, penetrating and attentive expression.


Very intelligent and tremendously energetic ‘fisherman’s dog’ with great swimming and diving traits.


Pleasant disposition, self-willed but very obedient to owner. Brave and tireless.

Head and Skull

Head and Skull Large, well-proportioned skull slightly longer than muzzle, well defined occiput. Stop well defined. Muzzle tapers slightly. Median furrow extends for two-thirds the length of skull. Frontal bones prominent. Nose wide, nostrils wide open. Black nose in black, black and white, and white dogs. Nose liver in brown, brown and white and brown tones.


Medium, round, set well apart. Black or dark brown with dark eye rims.


Heart shaped, dropped, thin, set well above eye level, held close to head, except at back. Tips not below neck line.


Scissor bite, jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws, strongly developed canines.


Short, straight, strongly muscled. Carried high, no mane or dewlap.


Straight, strong boned and well muscled. Shoulders muscular and well laid. Pasterns long and upright.


Length from point of shoulder to point of buttock approximately equal to height at withers. Withers are wide and not prominent. Chest wide and deep, reaching to elbow. Ribs well sprung and carried well back. Short, strong loin. Moderate tuck-up. Croup only slightly inclined.


Straight and very strongly muscled, well angulated, buttocks long and well curved, strong hock, metatarsals long.


Round, rather flat, toes not too long or too knuckled up. Membrane reaching to tip of toes, covered with hair. Central pads very thick.


The tail is a distinctive feature of the breed and should be medium set, thick at base and tapering, not reaching below the hock.

When attentive carried in a ring not reaching beyond the middle of the loin.


Walking, lively short steps. A light trot and energetic gallop.


Profuse, covering whole body except under forelegs and thigh. Two distinct types, both without undercoats. (a) Hair fairly long, loosely waved with slight sheen, hair on head erect, ears well feathered. (b) Hair shorter, fairly harsh and dense, compact curls, lacking lustre, head hair similar to body, hair on ears somewhat wavy.

Muzzle and entire hindquarters from the last rib clipped. Two thirds of tail clipped from set on.


Black, white, various shades of brown, black and white, brown and white. Skin bluish under black, white, and black and white dogs.


Height: dogs: 50-57 cms (191/2-221/2 ins); bitches: 43-52 cms (17-201/2 ins). Weight: dogs: 19-25 kgs (42-55 lbs); bitches: 16-22 kgs (35-48 lbs).


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.


*Note for prospective puppy buyers

Size – the Kennel Club Breed Standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the Size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the Size measurements stated in the Breed Standard.

Last updated May 2017

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