This is an essential page for you to read if you are going to be getting one of my puppies.
Please note, unless otherwise specifically agreed, your pup will be desexed before leaving and this is included in the price of your pup. In addition, if you are getting a pup interstate or overseas, you are personally responsible for all transport costs. This is not included in the base price of your pup.
We are pretty much asked from when the pups are 2 days of age what their temperaments are like. So, just to make it clear, it takes weeks for us to understand what the pups are like. I would rather wait as long as possible to determine which pup goes where, because for the sake of a few days, I think it’s best, like I’m sure you do, that I have as much clarity as possible. And I want to introduce the pups to a range of situations over several weeks, and noises to see how they react and interact. So it may be important for you to quell your enthusiasm to give me the necessary time and space to go through that process. We do not make those decisions in a 20 minute period, like some programs do. I consider the selection of your pup a very serious process which takes lengthy time and consideration, and we want to get this match as close as possible.
Your pup will usually leave us about 12 weeks of age. It will be vaccinated at least twice, and be microchipped. You will need to transfer the microchip over to you name as soon as you get the pup, and that paperwork will be with your pup. (It is particularly important that you get the paperwork out of the crate if your puppy is travelling via plane.)
With the female pups there will be a little lump where the operation took place for desexing. This will disappear in about 2 weeks. All pups have a small tattoo in their ear which indicates they are desexed. All pups are vet checked before they leave when they have their C5 vaccination. They will not need another vaccination until 12 months from now. They are also wormed again 3 days before leaving. I’d suggest worming again at 4, 6, & 12 months, and onwards after that.
Always keep a collar and name tag on your dog, from the minute you get it. I don’t need you to spend a lot of money on name tags. Just use a luggage tag, and have a back up one just in case, because you’ll be surprised how easy it is to lose them. Always have the dogs name on the name tag, and your phone number. I shouldn’t have to say that, but you’d be surprised the number of name tags I see on dogs with neither their name or phone number. I like collars & leads that have some reflective material on them. I think this is safer at night. I also like “martingale collars”. You can find these online. Please don’t pay more than $10 for a collar. And have a backup one just in case.
I like this product too: https://custompetcollars.com.au/collections/personalised-collars/products/new-super-premium-nylon-padded-neoprene-with-safety-reflection-strips-dog-collars
When you put the collar on for the first time, the pup will scratch it. Your immediate thought will be fleas. Sometimes you’ll call me to ask. The answer is always the same: the pup is getting used to the collar, give it a couple of days. We are lucky enough to not have fleas as an issue where we live at this point (and haven’t had for several years).
Pet insurance – this is essential
You must have health insurance on your pup/dog. This is part of our sales agreement with you. We will sign you up with Petplan for a free 6 week coverage. This doesn’t cost me or you anything, but gives you breathing space to begin with. There is an initial 72 hour waiting period until you can make a claim. As far as I know, no one has made a claim in that 6 week period. I cannot recommend a specific pet insurance plan for you as you need to work out what is best for your situation.
So right now, copy and paste this bit below and send me the details immediately, so I can organise the insurance:
Your home address:
Your intended puppy’s name:
Your emergency contact details:
As you are aware, it is part of our health agreement with you that all our dogs are fed a raw diet that a carnivore eats. This means pretty much: raw meaty bones, plus a little offal. No veggies, no fruit, no pasta, no bread, no grains, no rice, no coconut, no commercial food ever.
You can buy a whole chicken from Aldi for under $4/kg, take off the breast meat for your own dinner, and feed 500grams of what is left over, per day to your pup. Some pups will eat as little as 400grams a day, and some of the bigger guys, particularly during the growth phases will eat 600grams a day.
Do not feed big dinosaur bones from your butcher. These are teeth breakers.
But you can feed: fish, lamb, beef, eggs, etc, with chicken being the most common food.
A typical meal might consist of 2 chicken thighs, plus half a lamb’s heart.
Do not worry about feeding organic or anything “special” – for the most part, most of those terms are just for marketing purposes.
Your first shop might include: 3 chickens, a bag of chicken thighs, 3 lamb’s hearts, perhaps 1 or 2 chicken carcasses, a couple of lamb shanks.
It will always be cheaper to feed a raw diet, than it will any sort of commercial diet. And yes, when I look at your dog, I can tell quickly if it has not been fed a correct diet.
Check out the raw feeding facebook page I run (and have done on several forums since 1997):
I don’t have a big presence on this group anymore due to my time restraints, but if you mention you have one of my dogs, then someone will bring it to my attention.
Please do not feed minced meat or diced meat. Where ever possible feed meat on the bone. eg: chicken thigh. Your dog needs to take its time to eat.
If buying fish, go for what is cheapest and small. So things like sardines (fresh not canned) are excellent.
There is no prize for spending the most amount of money on your dog’s diet.
For lots and lots of further information on diet check out my long standing site on feeding raw to your dog, cat, and even ferret.
Treats and Training:
When your puppy is young, for the most part all you need is lots of verbal positive reinforcement, rather than treats.
As your dog gets older, tried dried/cooked liver or chicken. Only a tiny amount. Where ever possible, keep with the positive verbal reinforcement.
Remember, by the time you’ve picked up your puppy you should already have been booked in to dog training. These need to happen every week for the first 6-12 months of the dog’s life. I can always tells a dog that has been to training, and one that hasn’t.
If you see a very well behaved Portuguese Water Dog anywhere, this is because the owners have put in a lot of work early. Well behaved dogs do not happen by accident.
If you forget or neglect to train your dog, you will be spending a lot of time and money later on to correct all the bad behaviours it has learned.
You must start dog training before the pup is 3.5months old. There is no getting this time back if you have missed it.
Please groom your puppy every day for 5 mins for the first 2-3 months. This is to get the pup and you used to the process. Their coat doesn’t need that amount of work, but their brain does. Handle the feet especially. Trim the nails weekly. Clean the ears twice weekly. Get the pup used to lying down for grooming, and give him/her a bath weekly and use the blow dryer. These are all important steps you must do now.
I like to keep the hair on the muzzle trimmed right back, particularly around the eyes, and at the back end, just in case there are loose stools. Much easier to clean up if there is minimum hair.
And if you are going to use a groomer, book them in for their first visit within 6 weeks, so that both your pup and the groomer gets used to this. Groomers are worth their weight in gold, so you want to schedule in visits every 6-8 weeks, unless you are going to groom the dog yourself. I support either way.
And please tip your groomer. Each and every time. And if you want your dog prettied up for Christmas, make sure they are booked in at least 2 months beforehand. Do not expect your groomer to work 16 hour days just before major holidays because you haven’t planned properly. And if you have tipped your groomer properly during the year, usually they will be able to find a slot for you more easily.
If you want to buy clippers, try the Wahl two speed, easily available with a #10 blade.
You will definitely want to shave off the coat coming into summer, and always before the pup turns 1 when the adult coat comes in.
If I’m not showing my dogs, I will often shave them off 3 times a year. I also love the lion trim which I’d encourage you to put your dog in.
If you’ve neglected doing some grooming and your dog’s coat is matted, then it needs to come off. It is cruel to expect a dog to be de-matted. I have had people present dogs to me expecting me to perform some grooming miracle on their matted dog. No, I don’t want to see your sad face when your dog is shaved off, unless you want to see my annoyed face that you have expected miracles when you should have been grooming your dog. And I also do not want to hear “the kids were supposed to be doing the grooming. They will be so upset that she’s now shaved off.” Wrong on so many levels. If I have to explain why, we have a problem.
The 3 r’s.
Recall: You should keep your pup at home for the first 2 weeks after it arrives. You must teach it its name, and to come when it is called. You want 100% recall.
There will be no out of control Portuguese Water Dogs down at the dog park. There is nothing funny about a badly behaved dog either on or off lead. And trust me, you do not want to get the lecture from me on this.
Retrieving: Teach your pup to retrieve in the first 2 weeks you get them. You want the pup retrieving that ball or toy religiously. Don’t overdo the exercise component.
Raw food: See above. Easy and necessary. Call me if you need help. If your vet gives you grief about this, give them my number and I’m happy to talk with them.
Regardless of breed, I have always believed that dogs need 2 exercise sessions a day. Before you go to work, and after you get home from work. They do not have to be lengthy.
Regardless of breed, you want your dog running. This is why teaching retrieving is so important. You can have your dog totally focused on you, and doing its exercise in a nicely controlled way and coming back to you each and every time.
You don’t want to over-do the exercise. With my dogs I let them determine, to a degree, how much work they do. So when I take them down to my dam for a running session, I’ll often have a group of dogs and two tennis balls flying through the air, and the dogs decide how much work to do. An exercise session might last 20-25 mins plus walking time to and from the dam. Clearly small pups need much less.
Your dog must run. They can walk all day and at the end of it say to you “so when are we going to exercise?” Running through retrieving really works wonders.
Do not exercise in the heat of the day. Ever.
You will find with these exercise sessions your dog will mostly sleep during the day when you are away.
Exercise sessions will keep both you and your dog fit, but won’t keep them trim. Your dog should be kept lean through dietary management primarily. There are no prizes for the fattest dog. And an overweight puppy and dog are prime candidates for muscular & skeletal issues including HD.
I don’t run with my dogs because I’m a klutz. Also my long training runs can be in excess of 20km, and I don’t have water supply routes along the way. Yes as your dog gets older you can take it for runs. Keep these a reasonable length and work your way up to appropriate distances and an appropriate pace.
In addition: make sure your dog is well lead trained. This has to happen before they are 4 months of age. If you need to use a harness of any type, this is the best way of saying to EVERYONE “I couldn’t be bothered training my pup properly early!” You don’t want to be that person.
This means your dog consistently walks pleasantly beside you without pulling on lead.
Those first 3 days/nights:
Those first few days and nights are exciting and scary. It can be overwhelming. If you haven’t read any of Jan Fennell’s books, I’d suggest you get your hands on one. They seem to be pretty much the same in terms of theme, so just get “The Dog Listener” and go from there.
Yes your pup is leaving my pack and coming to yours. So they will be worried and stressed. The immune system will become weaker during this time, which is why I want you to keep the pup at home for the first 2 weeks, to minimise exposure to extra immune stressors.
You want to let the pup find its way around your house and back yard.
You do not want to over-handle your pup. They have 4 legs, let them use them. Show the pup where their bed is, and encourage him/her to use it. Take the pup outside for its business every hour on the hour, and after a sleep and a meal. Toilet training should happen easily if you are consistent and vigilante. And when it is done in the right spot, met with positive reinforcement by you. Mistakes will happen inside perhaps, and this is not something you punish the pup for. Instead, you will need to learn the signs better.
In these first 3 days you are establishing neurological pathways in that little puppy’s brain. Think about what behaviours you want as an adult and aim to start teaching them.
Keep the pup off your couch and your bed, and out of any areas you don’t want it in. Make it successful by setting it up to win by removing shoes and kids’ toys that may prove too tempting.
Some people will crate train their pup. There are some excellent vids on youtube and articles about this. Google it and you will find lots of info.
Probably the biggest mistake people make at this point is over doing the pup/human relationship. This is a dog, not a furry human. It needs to be treated as a dog. Often when people are having issues, I advise them to do less, not more. ie: stop talking to your pup non stop like a baby. Put your pup down.
Great times to talk and pay attention to your pup are during grooming sessions, and training sessions.
Things to buy for your pup
There is no doubt, the pet industry relies on you buying a lot more things for your pup than you actually need. In fact, if you’re not careful 85% of the money you spend on dog items is completely wasted.
Don’t feel as if you need to go to “up market” dog “boutiques” to buy your dog stuff. In 99% of cases, they are getting the exact same supplies that the cheaper guys are getting, just packaged differently. I’d suggest checking out the Reject Shop, Big W, Aldi, Kmart, etc as a starting point. I’d probably avoid Coles and Woolworths as there is way too much markup there. If you want to invest big, try Petedge in the US when the dollar comparison is sound.
In terms of bed, the best beds are Kuranda, sold by Therian. I’d suggest the poly option rather than the aluminium as I’ve found the corners on the aluminium ones disintegrate very quickly. You can buy them on line. It is a bigger outlay of cost initially but these beds should last 5-10 years.
In terms of brushes, you want to get your hands on a “slicker” and a comb with a handle on it. You can even start with a cheap human brush. There is absolutely no need to spend a lot of money on these.
Shampoo: I use Pantene Aqua Light – the human one. It’s a clear liquid. (they had a similar product called Sheer Volume which they have stopped producing.)
Clippers: as I said earlier, try the 2 speed from Wahl. You should be able to get these for about $220. This is a very good investment if you are going to groom your own dog. Keep your receipt. I’ve had a couple of pairs die early.
Liver treats: only get those made in Australia. You can cook them yourself, but your house will smell of this delightful odour for DAYS. Ask me how I know.
Toys: seriously just go to the Reject Shop or Kmart. Please note: they will quickly learn to take the squeaker out of every toy, and whilst this is hilarious the first few times, you’ll quickly find yourself burning through the cash as you replace them. Ask me how I know.
Because of the ludicrous charges from many vets these days you will need dog insurance. The horror stories I could tell you of what people have been charged for things that I probably wouldn’t have gone to the vet for. Most recent: $2500 for 2 days – the dog has gastro. Yes this is more than they paid for the pup. Last year another friend pay $400 for gastro. 90 mins at vet. Blood test revealed nothing (it rarely does). Dog sent home with antibiotics.
That being said, in one of the rare instances one of my dogs is at the vet, last time it was for a lesion on the oesophagus. Expensive and necessary. Symptoms were: lethargy, dinner uneaten, drinking and then vomiting the water almost immediately. Diagnosis has included multiple xrays, general anesthetic to determine if it was a blockage, high dose of antibiotics. 2 days on drip.
We’ve also had dogs diagnosed for all sorts of things that they possibly could not have had. In one famous example a vet south of Brisbane diagnosed one of the dogs with a disease that had been eliminated in the 80’s, and those affected dogs didn’t live past 8 months of age. This particular dog was aged 2. The same vet then diagnosed the dog as having 2 cruciate injuries requiring immediate surgery. When I said “like hell”, he then diagnosed the dog with a rare African parasite. You can’t make this shit up. What was wrong with the dog? It had a nerve out in its back which I had originally suspected and told the owner and the vet at the beginning. We had a greyhound “muscle man” look at the dog and fix it in 5 mins. Cost $20. The vet had charged $1500 to not fix the problem over a week.
Just like human doctors are not great at helping us with muscular skeletal issues, vets aren’t necessarily great with that either. Yes you’ll find the odd good one, but there are serious gaps in their education. Mind you, expecting students to learn the ins and outs of 20 different species in a 5 year degree is an impossible ask.
It is useful to find a local person to you who is the equivalent of a osteopath. They are often known as “muscle men”. You need to find one who treats racing greyhounds. Normal cost is between $15-$25 per visit. Use google to find one. Just like with a human osteo, you should only need one visit. If the injury is old and/or has become chronic, you may need more. I know with the injuries I face from running, it’s not hard to get a muscular/nerve issue that needs treatment. And indeed I have spent a fortune with a current nerve issue in my hip that looks like it will only heal with time. So while these doggy equivalent practitioners can make great inroads, some issues are tricky. Do not rush to operate.
There are over 10,000 different medical issues your dog can get. Humans live longer and have even more. In this breed, there are 4 genetic conditions we can test for. There is no such thing as being able to guarantee against all health conditions.
Whilst I am very seriously concerned with the mis-diagnosis of pets but when it’s 11.30pm on a Saturday night and your only option is an emergency vet, then yes this is why you must have health insurance.
There are definitely vets who will over-charge, and use all sorts of tricks to “over-service” you. Things like “oh your dog needs a regular teeth clean” – when your dog has been getting meaty raw bones every day, and no carbs. Whilst your dog may need this done when much older, eg: 10 years, very unlikely to be an issue early on. Some vets will go for “let’s operate now!” before ruling out much simpler and easier options first. I am astounded at how quickly some vets will go to operate. Some vets will give you a quote for a procedure and when you take the day off work and turn up, you will hear “now would you like your dog on a drip during this procedure”, “would you like antibiotics”, “would you like pain relief” – all these things should be included in your initial quote, not suggested by reception staff when booking in. I’ve heard of vets telling clients that a $600 ear clean is necessary when $20 worth of antibiotic ear solution should be used first. Some will recommend additional vaccines with the spiel if you ask, “well we know this isn’t recommended, but just to be sure, and you want the best thing for your dog right?” This is disgraceful behaviour.
Ask friends in your local area which vets are recommended and find out about pricing before you have an emergency. There is one big “major chain” vet in Australia that I suggest you keep well away from. I will tell you who that is when you get your pup.
Also if you find out which vet in your area regularly treats racing greyhounds, it is more than likely that they are a better facility than others. Where possible, you want to have the senior vet deal with more serious issues, and for basic procedures and checks, use the younger vets.
And amazingly, the vet profession is about the only medical profession that recommends you feed highly processed food. Yes whilst everyone else is saying “eat fresh and healthy like your body is designed to in order to minimise health issues!” …. not vets. If your vet gives you any grief about diet, don’t bother getting into a confrontation about it. They will try to baffle you with bullshit – give them my name and number and simply say, “this is what my breeder recommends. She said you might want to talk to her about diet. Here’s her number. You guys can have a discussion and get back to me.” I have only ever had one vet call me. He was recommending a very expensive pellet “food”. I said to him, “congratulations you now own the health support provision for this dog. You can now provide this person with all the support regarding this!” He quickly responded, ” well the dog can eat whatever you recommend then.” sigh. At least if you’re going to call me, stand behind what you’re saying.
But you will find all sorts of people, mostly well meaning but particularly inexperienced, who will advise you on all manner of things pertaining to you pet. Remember, there is no one more experienced in this breed in Australia than me. I certainly don’t know everything. By far. And the more I learn, the more I realise how much more there is to learn. Portuguese Water Dogs are my hobby. A hobby I’ve been involved with for nearly 30 years. And I now run a business that deals with pets every single day, working 7 days a week all year round, dealing with all sorts of breeds. Use the plethora of information in my head to your advantage. (although if you call me at 11pm on a Saturday night to talk about when you should worm your dog, you will be put on permanent phone block.)
Allergies: it is common across all breeds to see coat allergies during spring. In the vast majority of situations this is caused by grass. The most common types of grass are the worst allergy causing agents. In some instances you may need to go for a vet visit to get it checked. Often the dog is put on a course of prednisone. I do not have issues with my own dogs and grass because at my place we only sustain native grasses. We do not have the luxury of lots of disposable water to grow luscious areas of modern domestic grass.
Another source of allergy is preservatives used in minced pet food. This is one of the reasons we want you to avoid that. It is common to find that preservatives have been used in supplies at pet stores. Pretty much unless minced meat is minced and sold within 24 hours it will go off. And the way that doesn’t happen is when it has preservatives put in it.
As a final note, do not even think about using homeopathic stuff on your pet. At best, this rubbish works on placebo effect only. Which means it will have zero effect on your dog, and will certainly never improve any medical condition they have. It is disturbing that some vets (and doctors, sigh) have recommended these in the past. This is the quickest sign to run away as fast as you can and find someone who actually has a clue.
it’s important to keep the ears clean. Remember, erect ears are what occur naturally in nature, not floppy ears, so we’re already not in the best position.
Contrary to what vets and others will tell you, I’ve personally found that there is no relationship between how much time your dog spends in the water and ear issues.
In addition, we’ve also found, there is a greater chance of ear infections and issues when the ears are plucked.
You can spend a whole lot of money on ear issues. They are usually first noticeable when the dog starts shaking their head. The ears can smell, and there can often appear to be a purplish colour to the gunk in them. If your vet rushes in and says “we need to operate”, then please find another vet. It is only in the most extreme case that this would happen. In fact, a client I have of another breed actually undertook a very expensive operation which closed up the ear canal resulting in the dog becoming deaf – which they knew was going to be the case. Unfortunately the ear issues have continued.
If there are grass seeds in the ear, however, an operation may be necessary. (this is a pretty unlikely event, and we’ve only had this happen twice with all my dogs in 20 years, and in one case, a toy poodle, I was able to pull the grass seeds out with tweezers. This case presented with her shaking her head, her ears were sore to the touch, but there was no discharge and no smell.)
The best product we have found for ongoing ear cleanliness is a product called “F10 Germicidal Treatment Shampoo”, also recommended by my vet, which helps break down the waxy residue. It is about $20 a bottle, and will last you years if you make it up to the required dilution.
In terms of ear infections, my vet makes up a product called BNT Ointment into a 50ml bottle. It has Nizoral 2% x 30ml, Enrolflaxacin 450mg, dexamethasone 30mg. It is by far the best product we have found. In severe cases you may need some prednisone. 1ml is given twice daily when there are issues, and 1ml a week ongoing. I get charged about $50/bottle.
The trick with ear issues is to stay on top of them.
Setting you and your pup up for success
A final note, perhaps, although I will come back and tinker with this page and update it as time permits and ideas are generated:
- In the first 2 weeks after getting your pup, please keep it at home. I want you to teach your pup recall and retrieve during this period. No exceptions. Youtube is your friend for a plethora of training ideas.
- Don’t make a big deal of your pup being at your home. Curb your understandable excitement.
- Treat your pup from the beginning how you want it to act as an adult
- Establish a routine. Pups love routine. And this will make your life easier.
- When you do “socialise” your pup, this must involve activity that has everyone ignoring your pup. You don’t want your pup to believe it’s the centre of the universe. You will actively need to take steps to get people to ignore your pup, and this includes visitors and those who genuinely but mistakenly believe “every dog loves me” so ” this means I get to touch every single dog!” We’ve had people lie down on concrete footpaths to have dogs climb all over them. Seriously stupid stuff. Your pup needs to learn to wait quietly (rather than behave like a brat) whilst the humans talk, drink their coffee, or whatever.
- Train, train, train. Run mini training sessions that is the length of an ad break during your favourite tv show. eg: when the 30 minute news bulletin is on at night, run 5 mini training sessions during that period. Don’t give food rewards at that point. Give lots of enthusiastic responses. eg: “you are the smartest puppy in the world and you should be going to university!” Later on you can use food rewards.
- Be firm with visitors and family members about their behaviour. They can completely de-rail the training and behaviour of your puppy. More often than not people mean well, but some people will actually deliberately stir up your puppy. It is no fun having a dog that looks like it needs to be on ADD meds because it’s been allowed to be revved up all the time.
- I have no magic wand for fixing poor dog behaviour. When dog is out of control at 8 months of age, you’re going to have to spend thousands of dollars to try and fix it, and you’ll mostly be unsuccessful. Rehabilitating dog behaviour is a specialist field. You will need to seek specialist help. ie: not me. Or alternatively, and my absolute preferred option: train your dog from the minute you get it and keep training it. And then you will end up with a lovely dog and you will be an icon in your community! Put in the effort in those first 9-12 months and you will be thanking me profusely for it later.
- Make me proud
- Have fun with your dog! This is an excellent breed to own, and if you do all the right things in terms of training and feeding and looking after your dog you will just have the greatest time.
This is an ancient breed of historical significance. As an owner you have a responsibility for the future of this breed. You can do it.