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The Portuguese Water Dog is a working breed with a long history as a crew member on Portuguese fishing vessels. The dogs were responsible for carrying messages between boats and to shore, retrieving anything that went overboard, setting floats and fishing nets, and guarding boats and the catch while in port. The natural working ability, adaptability and intelligence of the breed were demonstrated by the efficiency with which these complex tasks were completed. The dogs were invaluable members of the Portuguese fisherman’s team. The Portuguese Water Dog today still retains these qualities – an affinity for swimming, strong retrieving skills, plenty of stamina for a long day’s work, and an intensity in performing the task at hand.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a working breed that has existed for thousands of years. As a contributing crew member on Portuguese fishing boats, they were responsible for herding fish into nets and retrieving lost tackle, broken nets or any other object which might have fallen overboard. They also carried messages between boats, and from boat to shore, swam fishing floats into place and guarded the boats and catch when in port. 

This required teamwork between the dog and owner, a natural willingness in the dog, and the intelligence to adapt routines to changing conditions at sea. Fishermen considered their dogs as working crew members that earned the right to a share of the catch each day.

The Portuguese Water Dog today is robust, sturdy and strong willed, with the “let’s do it” temperament of a happy working dog. Historically they had to be strong willed because they did a tough, demanding job. The dogs show eagerness, intensity and strong swimming and retrieving abilities.

The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America (PWDCA) designed a series of water work exercises to preserve these qualities and maintain the breed’s natural instincts for the future. The water tests were first offered in 1991, and include one certificate and four titling levels.

Junior Water Dog (PWDCA Title: JWD)

The Junior level provides an introduction to water work and demonstrates the dog's ability to perform basic skills necessary for title level work. Dogs who pass this level earn the Junior Water Dog certificate (JWD). The Junior Water Dog level consists of four exercises: 

  • Retrieving a dummy from shore at 25' 

  • Boarding a boat and riding with the handler 

  • Calling the dog from shore to swim to the boat 

  • Swimming a measured distance with the handler 

Apprentice Water Dog (PWDCA Title: AWD)

The Apprentice level provides a disciplined approach to traditional water tasks that channels the PWD’s natural willingness and abilities to swim, retrieve, retrieve underwater and ride a boat. This level requires more control and precision, and mastery of basic obedience skills that are applied to water work. Dogs who pass this level earn the Apprentice Water Dog title (AWD). This level consists of five exercises: 

  • An underwater retrieve 

  • Retrieving a dummy from shore at 60' 

  • Carrying a dummy to the boat, riding the boat with the handler, completing a recall on shore 

  • Retrieving a floating line from shore at 60' 

  • Swimming for 2 minutes with the handler 

Working Water Dog (PWDCA Title: WWD)

The Working level demonstrates teamwork and versatility in performing a variety of retrieving tasks. In addition, the dog must be well conditioned to complete the retrieving exercises within the time allowed, and comfortable jumping off a boat and re-boarding. Dogs who pass this level earn the Working Water Dog title (WWD). This level consists of five exercises:

  • Retrieving a gear bag on land 

  • Retrieving a dummy from the boat at 60' 

  • Retrieving three overboard articles from the boat (the dummy, float line and buoy ball) 

  • Retrieving a dummy thrown between two boats 

  • Blind retrieve of a floating line from the boat 

Courier Water Dog (PWDCA Title: CWD)

The Courier level demonstrates the dog's proficiency in performing useful tasks which reflect the breed's historical value as an accomplished courier and contributing crew member. There are multiple layers of skills in each Courier exercise, and a great deal of stamina is required to complete all the swimming. In addition, the dog must be comfortable working at a distance from the handler. Dogs who pass this level earn the Courier Water Dog title (CWD). This level consists of five exercises: 

  • A courier pouch exchange from boat to boat, where the dog delivers a message to a second boat and brings a message back to the first boat 

  • A blind retrieve of a floating line located on shore, where the dog swims from the boat to shore to retrieve the float line

  • A directed double retrieve of two dummys 

  • Retrieving a fishing net from a second boat and dragging it between boats 

  • Placement of a buoy ball, which requires the dog to swim 70' from the boat and handler, drop a buoy ball in a specific location, leaving it in place. 

Courier Water Dog Excellent Level (PWDCA Title: CWDX)

The Courier Water Dog Excellent title is awarded to dogs who pass the Courier test three times in two different locations.

Water Work Links

The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America web site contains information on water work. 

For some more information, check out these videos of the exercises for each title Water Exercises.

Our club offers water equipment for sale at our water trial and training seminars. In addition, the 4 My PWDS web site offers water equipment for sale.

Water Work: About
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