Water Work Trials of the Portuguese Water Dogs

The tests, Water Trials of the Portuguese Water Work are reserved for Portuguese Water Dogs. This is stated in the regulations of the Water Trails.

Working regulations of earlier times were always breed specific, because each dog had its work, but above all each breed was bred for a specific work. Dogs that showed particularly good ability for their work were selected as particularly suitable specimens for further breeding.

With the Portuguese Water Dog, one wanted a breed that showed great ability in diving, swimming, retrieving and also negative retrieving. They wanted a dog that could work 12 hours at a stretch and at the same time spend a day at rest. Space is tight on ships, so no fear of contact, but also ‘decent’ behaviour was a prerequisite for this work.

So it is one of the few, surviving, breed-specific tests. These tests have their origin in the loss of the dogs’ work on the ships. The first regulations were written in 1940 by the Portuguese Hunting Association.

The tests of the water work briefly explained

Portuguese Waterwork is a work that was developed specifically for the Portuguese Water Dog breed in the 1940s. At that time, the activity of Portuguese Water Dogs on ships was becoming less and less. But Portugal wanted to preserve the talents and skills for the breeding of this breed and wrote a regulation out of it. (For more on this, see History of Portuguese Waterwork). There are various water works for dogs. However, the Portuguese Waterwork gets our full attention. We love it because it recognises the PWD as a working dog, focuses on health and functionality, because a team can practise alone at any time, because it is relatively simple in its understanding of the disciplines and there is plenty of scope for fun as a result. Also, the Portuguese Water Dog tests are more like a meeting of Portuguese Water Dog owners than a test. And we like that!

This Portuguese Waterwork places its main emphasis on swimming, retrieving from the water and diving for an object. As well as working from the boat.

The Portuguese Water Tests are composed of 3 main features

Swimming – Diving – Retrieving

In the three levels of Portuguese Waterwork, the three disciplines increase from Level I to Level III. Here is a short, rough description based on pictures.

It should be mentioned in advance that in this work a secondary fact is easily underestimated: Namely, that the dogs are all together on the water. This means that they are exposed to the test event as well as to the perception of all dogs and people present. Rarely are PWD’s in their box in the car. This way of organising the test requires a high level of discipline from the PWDs: endurance, watching, enduring, staying with the handler, ultimately the highest level of focus in order to still bring the high level of concentration at the start. A great preliminary teamwork between dog and owner, in which the Portuguese Water Dog learns to do its work at the request of its owner.

Hardly any young PWD can withstand this tension, and some adult PWDs cannot either. So it happens from time to time that a PWD manages to free himself and take a closer look at what is going on in the examination area in order to cool down or to finally enjoy the fun in the water himself.


Swimming with the owner in Level I and II. A certain distance or time is swum with the dog in the water. Here the attention is on the swimming style of the dog and the teamwork in swimming together. The swimming style of a dog tells about musculature, structure, condition and funltion.

In level 3, the dog’s swimming is increased: the PWD retrieves an object from a person on land at the owner’s command by jumping off the boat, swimming to the person on land, picking up the object there, swimming back and delivering it to the owner on the boat, and getting back into the boat with the help of the owner.

Retrieving an object from the water

The exercises always start and end at the starting point. Depending on the level, the dog goes with the owner or only on command to retrieve the object. He brings the object back and hands it to the handler. In Level I the hammer is used as the object, from Level II onwards the buoy with rope and float as a dummy net, from Level III onwards the buoy with net. For safety reasons, the net is only used in Level 3, as the danger of tangling with the legs is too dangerous for an inexperienced dog.

Diving for an object in the water

Diving for an object increases in the 3 levels with the depth of the dive. In Level I, as shown in the pictures, the dog starts by diving at least head and ears under water to retrieve the object. (In the new regulations approx. 2022 of the CPC, in Level I the depth has been changed to 0.5 m to 1 m) In Level II the diving depth is increased 1 m to 1.5 m, and in Level III 1.5 to 2 m depth. Bear in mind that this depth can change enormously depending on the swell or current! In addition, the dog must not lose sight of the object in the waves.

Additional disciplines in Level 3

In level 3, two disciplines are added: a) The jump from the boat, because now he does all the disciplines from the boat. He dives for the diving object and retrieves the buoy with net. b) The swimming part becomes the fetching of an object, the hammer. When the handler on the boat sends it to a person on land, the PWD retrieves the object and brings it back to the boat. He hands the object to the handler before climbing into the boat with the handler’s help.

Jump from the boatThe first two pictures are from Level 3 at Lake Walen. The other pictures are from exercises from the workshops.