Portuguese Water Dog vs Spanish Water Dog: A Detailed Breed Comparison

For so long, dogs are not just considered pets. They are deemed very valuable as they can aid you at your work whether it be in the fields or at the seas. The ones most people prefer are the Portuguese Water Dog and the Spanish Water Dog. Owning either one of them is like having an extra helping paw! Both dogs are hardworking, reliable, and superb in strength and determination. 

If you like the sound of having a working dog, you might be wondering which between the two should you get. The Portie and the Spanish dogs are alike in so many ways with distinct characteristics that may put an edge against the other in certain areas. Also, they are both closely related! For an easier time to decide, let’s dive into the essence of these two rare breeds.

Breed Origins

Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: zizotheportie (IG)

Just by its name, the Portie dog is believed to have come from Portugal. However, some of its fanciers perceive him to be an ancient breed originally from the central Asiatic steppes which emerged around 700 BC. Until now, there is a huge debate as to whether it was the Goths or the Moors who brought this water dog to Portugal.

Speculations largely point us to the Goths as their dogs, later on, turned out to be the Poodles we know of today. From what we know, Poodles are closely related to the Porties due to the similarity of their genetic pool.

Spanish Water Dog

Photo from: firizzos (IG)

The Spanish Water dog comes from Andalusia, Spain, hence the breed name. This canine has been around for more than 800 years, but it was just newly recognized last 2015 by the American Kennel Club (AKC). This rough and ready dog is a multi-purpose companion as he can do different things such as herding, hunting, and water retrieving.

Although it has been established that this water dog is from Spain, the precise ancestry is still unknown. There are three assumptions on this: first, this doggy comes from North Africa as they were commonly used in farming and water work; secondly, its local ancestor comes from an Asian lineage; and lastly, that this dog initially came from Turkey and Hungary due to its striking coat resemblance with the Hungarian Puli.

Size, Appearance, Coloring

Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: montethewaterdog (IG)

If you think the Portie pooch only looks big due to his curly coat, the contrary is true. If you feel his body, you’d realize that he is well and substantially built giving an impression that he can outlast most other dog types when it comes to working in the water. He is medium-sized with a longer body compared to his height. The tail tapers at the base and has a fluffy tip, but this usually depends on the owner’s preference. 

The paws normally web which has developed so that he can swim seamlessly in the water while he retrieves pieces of gear or directs fish to the net. He can come in various colors and combinations which are:

  • Black & white
  • White & chocolate
  • Brown
  • White
  • black

Spanish Water Dog

Photo from: maraguvar_pdaemajaceite (IG)

Covered in curly, coiled hair, the Spanish Water dog displays a non-threatening charm. His wool is thick-looking and eventually turns into tapered cords once they’ve grown long. Although he is medium-sized, the Spanish doggy is smaller than a Portie. 

Spotting a Spanish Water dog from a Portuguese one may pose a challenge, but as long as you are familiar with the traits, you are surely going to be able to identify which is which. Spanish Water dogs have inexhaustible body types with ears that droop slightly forward, a nose that has the same color as that of his coat or darker. Other features include his well-arched toes and strong forelegs.

As for his color, the Spanish doggie shares the same set of shades with the Portie except for the addition which is beige. 


Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: zizotheportie (IG)

If you have established a strong bond with him, you have to expect showers of his affection towards you. This is no boring dog either! He loves to play and be clownish around his favorite humans. Due to his loving nature, this Portie is also great as a therapy dog. He is well-mannered and can even be trusted with kids.

Monitoring is still essential though as he has canine weapons that might be harmful, especially if kids become rowdy and rough with him. 

Spanish Water Dog

Photo from: waterdogduo (IG)

As a herding breed, the Spanish Water dog can socialize effortlessly with kids and other animals. He is naturally suspicious and reserved toward unfamiliar faces, so exposure might be necessary before he’d start giving anyone his trust. 

Generally, he won’t exhibit any signs of aggressiveness, but he remains to be protective. He is a good guard dog and you can strongly depend on him if you leave your kids on his watch for a short time. Moreover, since he used to herd animals, he might herd your kids too.

Trainability and Intelligence Level

Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: rio.the.pwd (IG)

Porties are so intelligent that they can outsmart anyone who is unsuspicious. As an owner, you have to be wary and observant with his actions or you’d end up playing on his terms! The advantage of his cleverness, however, is that he can learn tricks and skills in a short period. You just have to make sure that the drills and exercises are varied so he’d continuously be stimulated and motivated to obey you. 

This dog breed does well in agility, obedience, tracking, and water games as long as he is properly trained and reinforced positively.

Spanish Water Dog

Photo from: killeperro (IG)

The SWD is naturally intelligent. Work-oriented tasks keep him moving. This is because his working background already programmed this dog to accomplish duties regularly. Whatever appropriate activities you give him, he won’t stop working on them until the job is done. If you don’t intend this pooch to become a working dog, you can simply stimulate his thirst for mental and physical chores with fun games.

Additionally, training him won’t be overwhelming as long as you are firm with the rules. He is eager to please his owner and would try as hard as he can to learn things in an instant. 

Activity Level

Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: cindel_pwds (IG)

Given his working history, Porties need rigorous exercise as they are highly active every day. It is not a good idea to confine them in a space where they can’t do anything as this can be an onset of undesirable behaviors. Although Portie dogs are independent, they still won’t do well with their guardians. It is best to take them out for a swim as they love the water or let them accompany you in your daily jogs.

Spanish Water Dog

Photo from: paco_swd (IG)

Unsurprisingly, the Spanish Water dog also loves adventure. How much more if it has something to do with the water? You can take him and let him enjoy the boating ride or encourage him to play in the lake or a pool. His exercise needs must be met in a structured schedule as he was bred to do demanding work in the fields centuries before. 

Although he can be endlessly unexhausted, once his activity level is reached for the day, you can have your relaxation period. 

Living Condition

These two fluffy dogs can live anywhere! They have high adaptability levels and wouldn’t find it hard to adjust to an apartment or urban-style living. Just make sure that the environment is spacious enough for movements and that they can still meet their exercise needs. Moreover, it is ideal if they could socialize with other dogs from time to time. 

Maintenance Level

Portuguese Water Dog

Frequent brushing and grooming are necessary if you own a Portuguese Water dog because his coat is prone to matting and tangling. This makes him quite a high-maintenance doggy. Also, it is highly advised to brush him daily as well as give him occasional baths to make his coat smoother and more manageable. Check out his ears, nails, and teeth to ensure his overall health, and don’t forget to provide him high-quality food. 

Spanish Water Dog

When it comes to his coat, the Spanish Water dog needs little maintenance. Leaving his fur unbrushed is recommended even if it’s wet after playing in the pool. This is simply because his hair can deal with frequent water contacts. However, bathing him is still a prerequisite as foreign objects or debris could get trapped in his thick wool.

Never towel dry your pet, but rather resort to towel blotting. If knots appear, use your finger to detangle them. A yearly shearing down of his coat is encouraged.

Health Issues

Portuguese Water Dog

An average PWD has a lifespan of 11 to 13 years. Even though this is a healthy breed, he is vulnerable to certain health problems such as:

  • GM1 storage disease
  • Distichiasis
  • Addison’s disease
  • Canine Hip dysplasia

Spanish Water Dog

No dog such as the Spanish Water dog has zero potential to develop genetic health problems. Typically, he enjoys 12 to 14 years of life, but he can still be prone to certain medical issues such as:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
Photo from: portie.jack (IG)

Note: Most of the ailments can be prevented through regular health check-ups paired with nutritious food and diet. If ever they are not curable, they can still be treated to become less life-threatening through vet-prescribed medications.

Breed Popularity 

Due to their rarity, both the Portuguese and the Spanish Water dogs are still climbing the ladder when it comes to fame. In the US alone, however, they don’t do badly when it comes to certain families who are into strong and hardworking dogs. Currently, the Portie ranks 50th out of 197 dog breeds, while the Spanish Water dog is in 153rd place which is not bad at all considering that he just got recognized 6 years ago.

Good For First Time Owners

Sadly, both water dogs are not great for first-time dog owners. Porties and SWDs need to be trained by experienced individuals or else their capacity won’t be maximized. Moreover, since they can develop bad behavior, keeping them stimulated with the right drills is essential. If you badly want a water dog such as these two, it is best if you start by owning a much easier-to-handle pooch.

Fun Facts

Portuguese Water Dog

Photo from: marsharosenson (IG)
  1. The Portie gained massive popularity when two dogs of this breed took up residence in the White House during Obama’s presidency.
  1. He is a hypoallergenic dog! 
  1. The Portie almost went extinct when fishing became modernized and equipment started to replace them in their roles as water retrievers.
  1. This breed survived because of one dog! Vasco Bensaude mated the stud with all the females he purchased from other fishermen.
  1. Several dogs of this breed used to help in the Spanish Armada.

Spanish Water Dog

Photo from: dioxbooxbao (IG)
  1. This dog’s origin dates back thousands of years!
  1. Although they are known to be water retrievers and herding dogs, SWD’s are originally hunters.
  1. They can be shy around strangers.
  1. He is one of the easiest dogs to train.
  1. He is a natural protector whether it be animals or your family!

Which Dog Is Perfect For Me?

Despite the slight differences in size, maintenance, and temperament, these are two great breeds not suitable for binge-watching movies. To know which dog is perfect for you, scrutinize the areas where they both differ from each other. From there, evaluate which dog will suit your taste!