That the Portuguese Water Dog has been around for a long time is without question. There is documented evidence of the breed being around in the 12th century, or at least of a dog which closely resembled the modern PWD being a dog which had a “black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail.”
The dog was originally bred to assist the fishermen and the work it does is unique. It is taken out on the fishing boats, and works as a retriever of tackle that falls or is washed over-board, fish that jump the nets or line, a life saver, and as a courier from boat to boat or shore as the need arises. As well as being a strong swimmer he has the ability to dive underwater if needed.
The Portuguese Water Dog has very keenly developed senses with a good sense of smell, acute hearing and keen eyesight. His intense loyalty and sensitivity to the atmosphere around, not forgetting a loud and fairly deep bark, made him useful as a guard on the fisherman's boat. He was highly valued and was treated as part of the crew, receiving a ‘wage’ which took the form of part of the catch. As technology developed the Water Dog’s role diminished and, in the 1960s, it was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the rarest breed of pedigree dog.