Cão de água

Discover fascinating facts about the Portuguese water dog

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2016


Dog of water

  • Cão de água literally translates as ‘dog of water’. This breed got its name from working alongside the fishermen. With their webbed feet, the dogs are great swimmers and can herd fish into the nets, retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and pass on messages from ship to coast.
  • These dogs originate from the Algarve, from which they travelled all over Portugal’s coastline. They’re also sometimes called cão de água Algarvio (Algarvian water dog) or cão pescador Português (Portuguese fishing dog).


Lion haircut

  • Think the cão de água looks a bit like a poodle? You’re right. The standard poodle is thought to be its closest relative. The main difference being that the Portuguese water dog is more robustly built.
  • The cão de água’s hair is either wavy or curly. Traditionally, the coat is worn in a lion cut, with muzzle, middle and rear shaved short and rest of the hair kept long (pictured). This way, the dog keeps warm in cold water while its back legs and tail can move around easily to swim and dive. Another option is the retriever cut, with the hair about 2.5cm long everywhere.



  • If you wouldn’t clip it, the Portuguese water dog’s coat would soon reach the ground. Much like human beings, their hair will keep growing indefinitely if left untended. However, most cães de água get groomed every few months.
  • Seeing as it’s a single coated breed, their hair-shedding is minimal (they lose about the same amount of hair as you and I). This makes the Portuguese water dog an ideal pet for people with allergies, like Malia Obama. Indeed, daughter of USA President Obama; two of the most famous Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, live in the White House.


Keep it busy

  • Portuguese water dogs make great family dogs, as long as they get loads of attention. Because of their background as a fishermen’s dog, they’re used to working entire days and need to be occupied.
  • Other characteristics of the cão de água are independency, a friendly nature and a high intelligence. Be warned: when it’s bored, it will destroy your furniture.

    Fan of all things furry? Read our October 2015 issue: Man’s best friends.


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2016

Posted in Typical Portugal.