Portuguese Water Dog vs Poodle: Determining the Better Water Retriever

Have you, for once, got confused when you saw a Poodle and a Portuguese Water dog (PWD)? If yes, I can’t blame you. Both canines appear, act, and have the same work history (water retrieving) and this is because they share the same genetic pool. 

We all know that Poodles are one of the most famous dogs in the world and that they are smart as well as very fashionable. Considering that, it’s reasonable to assume that the PWD carries the same qualities and could be a great match against the well-known Poodle. 

Both dogs are alike in so many ways yet they vary in a lot of areas. Their uniqueness stands out well and we’ll unravel their identities through this article. 

Breed Origins

Portuguese Water Dog

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With the name alone, you’d rightly guess that the PWD comes from Portugal. True to its name, the Portie’s native title, “Cao de Agua’ means “water dog”. He is particularly a fisherman’s best friend centuries ago as he used to raid the seas and lead fish to the nets. He’ll also gather all dropped fishing gear that is in the water or deliver messages from one boat to another. 

When fishing modernization emerged, the breed’s demand dramatically plummeted. It was through a wealthy shipping magnate, Dr. Vasco Bensaude that this dog survives to this day. Despite the revival, the numbers remained low and the breed was almost pushed to extinction in the 1970s. Thanks to the determination of several breeders, the PWD is still here with us today!


Photo from: cosmiccaliberpoodles (IG)

Poodles are believed to have come from Germany in the 15th or 16 century. During these times, they are used to retrieve shot games that are in the lake, river, or ponds. They are built well to do this work in the waters. It is fair as well to acknowledge some opinions that tell us this dog might be related to the Barbet which is a French Waterdog. The likeness and the historical implications suggest the possibility made the Poodle popular as it is today.

Currently, there are over 40 Poodle mixes known as Doodle dogs. Owners are striving to make their dog’s offspring as durable, intelligent, and robust as the Poodle breed.

Size, Appearance, & Coloring

Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: molly.pwd (IG)

What makes the PWD’s appearance remarkable is his wavy or curly coat that either flaunts the lion or retriever cut. This medium-built dog has symmetrical looks and is well-built for vigorous activities whether it be a real water job or simply an exercise. 

This dog sports a large head that is proportionate to his body, with thin ears that are set nicely on his head. Usually, the eyes are rounded or obliquely shaped and are variously in brown or darker colors. The nose complements the coat color, but in some cases, this can be darker as well. As for the body, his length is greater than his height.

On a different note, a PWD has a single coat that often comes in black, white, and various shades of brown. It’s possible as well if the doggy carries a combination of these colors.


Photo from: hope.antonela_jasper.poodles (IG)

The Poodle breed comes in three types: the standard, the miniature, and the toy. All of them have a square outline with a pronounced neck, a straight backline, and prominent legs. In fact, once you spot a Poodle, the first thing you will notice is likely his elegant legs. More so if the dog is well-groomed and styled. 

If we go by the Standard Poodle, the size is medium-large. The appearance is well-set with two dropped ears, a long muzzle, and a partially docked tail. For this dog breed, its coat is its best feature. Hence Poodle owners groom their pets to achieve a specific look. Some others resort to a corded coat that resembles dreadlocks. 

Commonly, Poodle colors can come in white, black, silver, apricot, and chocolate. Blue, cream, and red appear occasionally. Multi-colored ones are not up to the American Kennel Club’s standard, but two-toned Poodles are allowed. 


Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: sir_rufus_pwd (IG)

A Portie is labeled as a dog who does not know what fatigue is because of the high levels of energy stored to last a day. Moreover, this dog is strong and brave enough to be a good watchdog as water retrievers are naturally mistrustful of strangers. It is also typical of this canine to be keen on details and be strong-willed when it comes to doing his daily activities. 

This hardworking dog loves being mentally and physically challenged as well as receiving lots of love from his family. He would usually have a favorite family member, but he’ll strive to spend equal time with the rest of his owners. When it comes to companionship, as long as he’s been raised with your other pets, friendship will sprout!


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Generally, Poodles are described as alert, active, instinctual, and loyal. They can bond quickly with their owners compared to other dog breeds. Additionally, this breed is shy towards strangers and isn’t very aggressive. If you’re considering having either a watchdog or a guard dog, the Poodle might not be the right fit, although some of this dog type has mild to moderate protective instincts. 

The size of the Poodle affects the general temperament. Miniature and toy Poodles are more mischievous than their larger counterparts.  Nevertheless, this breed is excellent for families and first-time owners.

Trainability & Intelligence Level

Portuguese Water Dog

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Training the Portie is not a difficult task. This is because he is naturally smart and determined to learn tricks and skills. His eagerness to please his owner also pushes him to learn things quickly! The only thing you have to be aware of is that the PWD is so intelligent that he can outsmart you. You have to think several steps ahead to prevent him from taking the leadership from you. 

To keep him interested in the skill training, ensure that the lessons are varied and not monotonous. Training can be done for as early as 8 weeks or once the puppy gets in your humble abode. Since each dog is an individual, some might take months while others, weeks, in learning house rules and other essential skills.


Photo from: cosmiccaliberpoodles (IG)

Poodles are notoriously smart and easy to train. Just make sure that when you teach them new things, you let out a positive, exciting vibe, or else your Poodle will sense the lack of motivation and absorb the same energy from you. Taking advantage of his intelligence will not only make you have an extra helping paw in the house, but you’re also saving yourself from his destructive behaviors.

Never permit your Poodle to get bored. Give him tasks, play with him, or take him to doggy parks. Don’t forget to correct bad behavior and reinforce training with praises and treats.

Exercise Needs

Portuguese Water Dog

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The activity level of the Portie should be equal to his energy. His exercise needs must be closely monitored especially during his early years since he matures quickly in only a few months. If his body doesn’t receive enough exercise and his physical development stops, this can lead to serious health issues.

A 30-minute exercise is enough to retain his health. You can do this by bringing him for a jog or a hike. 


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Knowing that there are several types of Poodle sizes, the exercise length will greatly vary. Age and health status are also top factors for activities because you wouldn’t want to exhaust your dog to death. In General, the AKC suggests that a typical Poodle must have at least an hour of exercise. Poodles love games of fetch and late afternoon or early morning walks.  

Maintenance Level

Both breeds are high-maintenance dogs. Resources frequently fall under the grooming category due to these dogs’ thick and curly coats. If you’re considering getting a Portie, you have to brush and comb him every day whilst giving him occasional baths. As for the Poodle, you have to ponder about the upkeep and expense of giving this dog a professional grooming session to maintain the luxury of his appearance.

Cost per Puppy

Portuguese Water Dog

Getting a Portie puppy would certainly cost you a lot. The price range goes from $750-$2000. If you go for a reputable breeder and get yourself a pet or show quality doggy, this would increase to $3000. The expensive price tag is mostly driven by several high-priced health tests a PWD must undergo.  


Aside from the maintenance costs of taking care of a Poodle, purchasing one isn’t cheap at all. For a Standard Poodle, he’ll be around $600-$1500. If you go for the toy and miniature Poodles, you might need to pay $1000-$2000. This will depend from breeder to breeder including the age of the dog you are buying.

Health Issues

Portuguese Water Dog

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Porties, who live for 11-13 years, are generally healthy dogs as long as they were ethically bred. However, they can still develop medical issues either earlier or later in life. Particularly to this breed, the rare GM1 neurological condition may strike on a 5 to 6 month-old puppy. He may also have Addison’s disease, allergies, alopecia, and gastrointestinal disorders.


Poodles are one of the sturdy breeds we know. They live a long life span of 10 to 18 years. Despite that, they have a long list of possible autoimmune diseases such as Evan’s syndrome, chronic active hepatitis, and chronic thyroiditis. Other health concerns are Addison’s disease, tracheal collapse, epilepsy, bloat, and hip dysplasia. 

Breed Popularity

Out of the 200 breeds recognized by the AKC, the PWD ranks 50th while the Poodle bags the 7th spot. Although both dogs are closely related to each other, it seems that there is a huge gap in ranking between them. Several implications have largely affected this such as the PWD’s near extinction and current low numbers. As for the Poodle, his charm and majestic appearance are what fascinate most dog lovers.

Fun Facts

Portuguese Water Dog

  1. This dog has webbed feet which makes him a great swimmer.
  2. He loves to play in the water!
  3. His high levels of energy make him a great exercise buddy.
  4. Despite his wavy or curly coat, the Portie doesn’t shed too much.
  5. Due to his social nature, a Portie shouldn’t be left alone for too long.


  1. Although there are three sizes for the Poodle, they all still need to comply with the breed standard.
  2. Poodles don’t have fur, but hair.
  3. Most Poodles have jobs as guide dogs, assistance dogs, or therapy dogs.
  4. Many American celebrities owned a Poodle and that includes  Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe.
  5. The Poodle is meant to do work rather than be a fashion icon.

Which Is a Better Water Retriever?

Since both the Portie and the Poodle functioned as water retrievers, it is fair to say that they are equally great to have for the kind of field sport they are originally used to. Porties proved themselves useful for fishermen as they increased the amount of fish to be harvested while the Poodle excellently gathered the prize for their hunt.

Looks-wise, their cuts are quite similar only that the Poodle has more varieties than that of the Portie who only has two styles. If you prefer the rugged and thicker look, the Portie will sport your taste well. If you have the fashion spirit and want to flaunt a dog with an edgy style, a Poodle will suit you!