What are the grooming requirements of a Portuguese Water Dog or Portidoodle?
Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs) and Portidoodles have a non-shedding hair coat, meaning their hair does not fall out at random. Does this mean you will never see hair in your house from a Portuguese Water Dog (PWD)? Nope! Just like humans their hair can break off and be found around the house, we find that there just isn't very much of it!
Because Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs) and Portidoodles have a non-shedding coat, they require daily, weekly and monthly coat maintenance to keep their coats from matting. Matting occurs when the hairs knot and tangle together, it then wraps around itself and the surrounding hair causing clumps of hair, which can also include loose hairs. Matting can cause your dog lots of discomfort as the mats bind together and pull on the skin, sometimes pulling out the hair in that area. Mats can form quickly, especially on active dogs. Matting often occurs in areas with lots of friction, like near the under leg areas, around the bum where the tail wags, behind the ears, under the collar and between the toes. If proper brushing and care is not taken with the coat then mats can form throughout the coat causing a lot of discomfort for your dog. If matting is extreme, it can cause the coat to pelt, meaning all the mats intertwine into a tight weave, which is extremely uncomfortable and can cause skin infections, impactions and other health issues for your dog. If pelting occurs, the only way to remove it, is by shaving your dog's hair down to the skin which can cause even more issues.
Can other things contribute to matting in your Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) or Portidoodle? Yes! Dogs that have a curly or wavy non-shedding coat that love the water can be more prone to matting. When their curly hair gets wet, it tends to curl even more, and if left to air dry it can curl around itself and the surround hair causing matting. Also dogs that spend a lot of time outside in areas with long grass or weeds, and forested areas can pick up burrs and seed heads which will stick to their hair and the hair can mat around the burr.
What can you do to prevent or lessen matting in your Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) or Portidoodle? Our first recommendation is to brush and comb daily! We recommend using a long pin brush or a slicker brush like this Chris Christensen slicker brush.
The longer pins on these types of brushes will help you to get through the hair all the way down to the skin. It is very important that you penetrate the whole hair coat to the skin, or you could get matting near the skin, with loose hair over the top. This will fool you into thinking that your dog is mat free, but instead they are matting near the base of the hair. Matting near the skin will cause the most discomfort and problems for your dog. The best way to ensure you are getting through the hair down to the skin is to check with a greyhound comb.
If you cannot comb through the hair to the skin, you will know that you need to brush more. Another successful way to know you are doing a thorough job brushing your dog is to line brush. Meaning you take your hand and part the hair, then you brush the hair out from underneath your hand a little at a time. We recommend working in sections using the slicker brush and then following with your comb.
Other measures that should be considered to prevent matting in your Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) or Portidoodle are using a forced blow dryer after bathing, swimming or water play. A forced blow dryer like the one below will blow the curl out of the hair as it dries and helps keep the hairs separated. We have found this makes a huge difference in maintaining the coats of our Portuguese Water Dogs and Poodles.
We also recommend that you use a brushing spray like "The Stuff" or Chis Christensen's "Just Divine" brushing spay during brushing to protect and condition the coat of your Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) or Portidoodle. These sprays will also help remove the tangles easier and they smell amazing!
We recommend regular bathing no more than once a week and at least every other week. Make sure to use a conditioner on their coat to help keep it hydrated, smooth and supple. This will help keep damage to a minimum, which helps prevent matting. We also recommend regular grooming visits, typically every 6-8 weeks. Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs) or Portidoodles with longer coats will need to visit the groomer more often, while those with shorter coats will be able to go longer between visits. We recommend finding a groomer experienced in working with Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs) or Portidoodles to discuss desired style, home maintenance and appointment frequency to get the best plan together for your dog. Make sure to consider the lifestyle and activity level of your dog when choosing the right hair style for your dog, those with a more active lifestyle might prefer a shorter hairstyle for convenience, while those with a less active lifestyle may be able to keep a longer haircut without as much inconvience. Also different coat types should be considered when determining hair style, we prefer to keep our curly coated Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs) shorter for convenience and our wavier coated Portuguese Water Dogs (PWDs) longer because they don't mat as easily.
We understand that life is busy and sometimes things just don't go as planned or we don't get to all the things on our to-do list. What if you are brushing out your Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) or Portidoodle and you find a mat? Don't worry you didn't fail, it happens to all of us. We get busy, the dogs get into the burrs, or a number of different things can happen, no one is perfect. If the matting isn't bad you can use a de-matting comb or a pair of thinning shears and cut into the mat to break it up and then comb it out. We only recommend this if the matting is very minimal and localized, because it can cause your dog some discomfort as you brush and pull the mat out.
If the matting covers a larger area or is larger clumps, we recommend visiting your groomer for a hair cut. More than likely they will need to shave your dog's coat. Occasionally they can use a longer blade, so that the hair will be a little longer like around 1/4 inch long, however if the matting is bad, they will need to shave your dog very short. If this happens, it's ok their hair grows back and you can try again, but some precautions should be taken that your dog doesn't sunburn, overheat or get too cold because their protective hair layer is gone. Often times groomer will charge extra for a shave down or matting removal since they have to be more careful not to cut your dog or cause too much discomfort as they remove the matted hair.
If you are struggling to keep matting to a minimum on your Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) or Portidoodle we recommend talking with your groomer about a shorter, lower maintenance hair style. It might be shorter than the Portuguese Water Dog standard cuts, but we feel it's important that you do what is best for you and for your dog!
If you would like to keep a more traditional Portuguese Water Dog cut, you can find the grooming standards on the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America's (PWDCA's) website at: https://www.pwdca.org