Grooming Tips for your PWD

By: Lori DeCheine (January 2012)

Regular grooming of the Portuguese Water Dog is necessary, and includes brushing and combing the coat, removing mats, bathing/blow drying, clipping nails, dental care, and ear cleaning. Here are some guidelines.


Although the coat does not shed, it must be combed or brushed thoroughly to prevent matting and tangling. This is true for both curly and wavy coats. The best schedule is a daily 5-minute combing/brushing. If a daily regimen doesn't work, try three times a week for 5 to 10 minutes a session.

Purchase a Universal Slicker (pink version which has softer bristles). This brush works well for line brushing. To line brush, work from the feet up the legs to the body, neck, and finally the head. With the palm of your hand, push hair up and grasp a leg. Let the slicker brush pull hair out from under your hand as you slowly work your way up the leg. Line brushing your dog's side works well when he or she is laying down. Use your forearm to hold the hair up, letting the slicker brush pull hair down as you are brushing.

Removing Mats

Matting is caused when new hair grows and old hair dies; the dead hair clings to the new growth. Matting can also occur when your dog gets wet and his or her coat air dries. If your dog has mats, gently start brushing from the outside of the mat, gradually moving toward the skin. You should be able to run a comb through the entire coat when you are done brushing. Be careful to not burn the skin with the slicker brush. Mats need to be removed before bathing or the bathing process will lock the mats in. Plate mats, which are flat mats that lay against the skin, in an arm pit may have to be shaved off with a #7F blade. Plate mats in other areas of the coat can be removed using a wide-tooth thinning shears (30 teeth) by making three snips along the mat and brushing it out. Inexpensive thinning shears can be purchased at a beauty supply store. You can also carefully slice through mats with an open shears.

Bathing and Blow Drying

A good rule of thumb is to bathe your dog every 10 days to 2 weeks, unless it is summer and your dog is a frequent swimmer. Ensure the tub is not slick. A towel or rubber mat on the bottom of the tub is recommended. Make sure to use shampoo designed for dogs, as the pH and formulation is different than human shampoo.

Wet the rear of the dog first and work your way to the front and head. If he or she wants to shake before you're ready, just grab the muzzle, neck or head, hold onto it, and say "no shake." I do recommend investing in a professional dog blow dryer because it provides the correct temperature for dogs and gets the job done quicker. If using a people blow dryer, use a cool or warm setting only.

A dog blow dryer with the nozzle on helps to lift any mats away from the body. When blow drying your dog's head, take the nozzle off and turn the dryer to low speed. It will help calm your dog. When blow drying the face, squeeze the ears closed while drying. This also will help your dog to accept blow drying his or her head.

Clipping Nails

Nails should be clipped weekly. You will know your dog's toenails are too long when they click on the floor.

You will need a good pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers come in different weights (sizes). For puppies with small, thin nails, you can use a lighter weight nail clipper. Mature dogs with larger, thicker nails benefit from use of the Miller Forge orange-handled nail clipper. Bamboo also makes a nice sharp nail clipper.

It is good to be prepared in the event that you cut the quick of the nail and it causes it to bleed. Have some Kwik Stop (a powder that stops bleeding) open and a wet Q-tip available. (If you do not have Kwik Stop, you can also run the nail over a bar of soap to stop the bleeding.) However, if you estimate how much of the nail to cut off, and clip each nail the same length, you should be able to avoid cutting into the quick. White nails are transparent, so you will be able to see the quick. The more often you clip toenails, the more the quick will recede. If the quick is cut, do not be alarmed. Stick the wet Q-tip in the Kwik Stop, apply to the end of the nail, and apply pressure. The bleeding should stop almost immediately.

Dental Care

Weekly dental care has become an important part of canine maintenance grooming. Dogs taught to accept tooth brushing and gum care are less likely to develop tartar problems with resulting tooth loss. Make sure to use toothpaste designed for dogs. Dog toothpaste is chicken or beef flavored and can be purchased from some pet stores, pet supply catalogs or online sites, or from your vet. Allowing dogs to chew weekly on bones or bully sticks also helps to keep tartar at bay.

Ear Cleaning

It is good to pluck excess hair from your dog's ears before cleaning. You could even pluck your dog's ears while watching TV. With your fingers, pull small amounts of hair off the inside leather, and as much as you can reach from inside the ear. If desired, a blunt-ended hemostat can be used. Pull small amounts of hair until it is all removed. If your dog's ear feels greasy, puff a light coating of ear powder in the ear and on the inside of the ear leather before you start plucking the hair. This helps to get hold of the hair.

Use a cotton ball soaked in ear cleaner to clean the ear. I use Epi-Otic ear cleanser for routine ear cleansing in healthy ear canals. A weekly ear cleaning is recommended.


And finally, especially with the winter we have had, if your Portuguese Water Dog comes back into the house with snowballs clinging to his or her coat, spray them off in a warm shower.