The origins of the Cao de Agua portugues dog breed date back to the 12th century and was widespread throughout the Portuguese coastline. This breed can be considered native to the province of Algarve and has a proven kinship with the French bum, both having the barbet as ancestors. It is called the cao de agua because of its great love of water.
In fact, in ancient times he was used by fishermen to push fish into nets, retrieve equipment that had fallen into the water and carry messages from one boat to another. When in port he used to guard the boat when necessary. Unfortunately, this breed declined greatly in the 1960s when fishing methods changed and its help was no longer needed. It was listed as a rare and endangered breed, but the interest in this breed as a show and companion dog replaced its traditional role and saved it from extinction.
It belongs to the group of water search and retrieval dogs.
Even before that, if we want to look for its origins, this breed would derive from a dog native to North-West Africa imported by Berber populations in the Iberian Peninsula, dogs that were then crossed with French dogs and Portuguese shepherd dogs.
The reference for the breed standard for the cao de agua was Leo, a male specimen selected by a breeder and businessman Mr. Bensaude, who started a careful selection programme. This breed is not very well known outside Portugal, but has enjoyed success in America since the then US President Barack Obama was presented with a specimen of the breed by Senator Ted Kennedy in 2009.
Character of the cao de agua portugues dog breed
The character of the cao de agua is truly excellent; it is said to be faithful, vigilant, sociable, cheerful and loves physical contact. It is very fond of all the members of the family, whether they are children, young or old, but its defect is that it is often jealous of its owner, of whom it can be possessive, but it obeys orders without fuss, it is also impetuous and very willing, being above all a working dog.
It is a lively and active dog, which needs a lot of movement; it is also an excellent swimmer and is therefore recommended for hunting, especially in water, where it shows a great personality, a strong spirit of initiative and a discreet intelligence. It is also an excellent guard dog, but not a defensive dog, although it is a bold dog. It likes to take part in family life and is calm even in the presence of other animals with whom it generally gets along well.
It is generally wary of strangers. It is not a breed suited to being alone a lot, and must also be stimulated with games and new situations, otherwise it gets bored easily, in which case it can become destructive, chewing everything it finds. Its training is easy, as it loves to please its owner and is very obedient, although it always retains a small amount of stubbornness at heart, so socialisation is always necessary from puppyhood so that it can be properly integrated into the family environment and participate calmly in social occasions.
Appearance of the cao de agua portugues dog breed
The cao de agua is a medium-sized dog. The height at the withers for a male is between 50 and 55 centimetres and the weight between 19 and 25 kilograms; the female usually weighs a little less. Its structure is well-proportioned and natural, due in large part to its propensity for swimming. It is morphologically classified as a braccoid, it is mediolinear, well proportioned and very robust. The limbs are muscular and well turned out, especially the hind limbs, and the tail is thick at the base and gradually thinner, not too high nor too low, not reaching beyond the hock.
Its gait, when running free, is cheerful and moves with small but fast steps.
The head is massive and large but of elegant proportions. The skull in profile is slightly longer than the muzzle which is narrower and narrower up to the truffle, which is always wide and changes colour according to the dog’s coat. In fact it is black in black, white or black and white specimens and brown in brown specimens. The ears are rather small, set high on the head and drooping; the eyes are of medium size, well spaced and slightly oblique and can be either black or brown.
The main characteristic of the Cao de Agua is its coat. There are two varieties of this breed, which are distinguished by their coat. One has a long, slightly wavy, fluffy and shiny coat, the other has a shorter coat with small, flat, cylindrical and very tight curls. Both have no undercoat but the hair is continuously growing and there is no shedding. The coat is thick, strong and uniform. On the head both varieties show a longer tuft of hair. The colours are white, black, brown and black and white.
Health and care of the cao de agua portugues dog breed
This breed, like many breeds, can suffer from hereditary eye diseases or hip dysplasia, but also from otitis and cardiomyopathy. The life expectancy of the cao de agua is between 10 and 14 years. It needs a lot of daily exercise, at least one hour, but preferably even more, as it is a very active dog.
As far as its coat is concerned, it is a dog that requires a great deal of care. The coat grows constantly and requires frequent grooming to prevent the formation of knots and tangles in the coat. The grooming that is normally practised on this dog is the classic lion’s head grooming, with the front part left long, the back part shaved and a tuft left on top of the tail. However, it must be brushed and combed every day and requires frequent bathing and clipping. It has the particularly pleasing characteristic of not giving off any odour and not causing allergies in people sensitive to dog hair.
Its diet will be, as for all breeds, balanced and controlled, although it is not a dog that tends to put on weight as long as it takes adequate physical exercise.