The Portuguese water dog is set up to be a successful swimmer with his thick tail and webbed feet, thus the name. The Portuguese water dog has a poodle-like coat with no undercoat, so the breed rarely sheds. Unfortunately, the silky, wavy coat grows year-round, making grooming and trimming a necessity.
At least twice a week, give your Portuguese water dog a thorough brushing. Spray your dog’s coat with a leave-in detangler. Brush in the direction of hair growth using a pin brush or slicker brush. Start at the back of your dog’s head and gently work down his back. Brush the curly hair on each leg, on top of his head, on his chest and along his long tail. Work out any mats with a metal comb. Hold the hair out from the skin and comb the end first, working back toward the skin.
Give your Portuguese water dog a bath at least once every month or two to keep his coat clean and free from bacteria. Wet the curly, single coat. Add a line of pet-safe shampoo down his back. Gently massage the shampoo into his coat. Do not scrub, this may cause the curly coat to mat or tangle. Rinse the shampoo out of his coat until the water coming off is clear. Add a silicon-free conditioner to your dog’s coat. Silicon is too heavy and may weigh down the curls. Rinse the conditioner out completely. Wrap a towel around your clean Portuguese water dog, but do not rub. Allow his coat to air dry if possible. Otherwise, use a hairdryer on low-medium setting to finish drying him.
The working retriever trim is a simple cut that does not require the use of clippers. After brushing your Portuguese water dog and removing the mats, use a pair of grooming shears to even out his coat. Start at the back of his neck and work toward the tail trimming the hair to about an inch in length. Based on your personal preference, either trim the hair on the legs, head, chest and neck even with the body or leave the hair an inch longer in these areas to achieve the working retriever look. Have a professional groomer clip the hair on your dog’s face and anal area. The lion clip is often seen on the Portuguese water dog, especially at shows. This cut consists of an evenly scissored head, chest, and front legs and shoulders. The muzzle is clipped close with a No. 4 to 10 blade. The midline of the dog's back to the middle of his tail is also clipped short, with the end of the tail left long. The back legs are clipped short. This cut should be performed by a professional groomer who has experience with close clips.
Start brushing your Portuguese water dog when he is a puppy. This teaches him patience necessary for future grooming while allowing you to bond. Do not wash your dog too much. Giving him more than one bath a month strips his silky coat of the natural oils and may cause dry skin. Clip your dog about every six weeks to prevent mats and keep his coat looking healthy. The hair in your Portuguese water dog’s ears needs plucking each time your clip him as well to prevent infections.