The First Dog has joined his new family, the Obamas, in the White House. “Bo” is a Portuguese Water Dog, and has already begun obedience training so he may become a well-mannered dog and an asset to the Obama family as he charms the rest of the nation.
The Portugese Water Dog is not a generally well-known breed. The likelihood of this medium-sized breed becoming the newest “fad” dog means that many families may choose to adopt a Portuguese Water Dog without understanding the nature and needs of this working dog breed. Choosing the wrong breed of dog for your family companion can lead to chaos, and too many “fad” dogs end up in shelters because they just weren’t the right fit for that particular family.
Portuguese Water Dogs share the general characteristics of most working dog breeds. Working dogs are highly intelligent, quite active, and independent. They often act on their own, and can quickly learn to outsmart their owners. Herding instincts are strong in working dog breeds, and they’ll run the family when they are allowed to do so. Early socialization and consistent obedient training are vital to raising a manageable and contented Portuguese Water Dog.
Working dog breeds are happiest when they have a job to do. Portuguese Water Dogs are expert swimmers, aided by their wide, webbed feet, and can swim and dive tirelessly. For centuries, the Portuguese Water Dog assisted fishermen off the coast of Portugal. These dogs would ride in the boats with fishermen, helping to pull in nets, retrieve tackle and broken nets, carrying messages between boats or boat and shore, and even herding fish!
Advancing technology made the Portuguese Water Dog practically obsolete around the turn of the 20th Century, and the numbers of the breed began to decline. The breed made its first appearance in the U.S. when a pair were received by a Mr. and Mrs. Harrington of New York in 1958, in a trade of rare breeds. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was formed in 1972, when only twelve dogs of this breed were known to exist in the United States.
Although they are somewhat independent by nature, Portuguese Water Dogs characteristically love people and are eager to please. The combination of these traits makes them easy to train when proper techniques are used. This dog needs an owner who has some experience with dogs, and will teach his dog its proper role in the family “pack.” Treated like a child or plaything, the Portuguese Water Dog may become overly aggressive in the protection of its home and family. A well-trained Portuguese Water Dog will be an excellent family guard dog, letting you know when strangers are near but not acting aggressively unless the situation calls for it.
Early exposure to different people, places, sights and sounds will create a well-adjusted dog who is not overly timid or fearful (and potentially dangerous). The basic sit/stay/down commands should be taught at three to four months, with more advanced training beginning at six months. The owner must train the dog with patience and consistency, reinforcing its training regularly. Firm, but gentle, handling is a must. Working dogs may become bored quickly with repetitive activities and short, frequent training sessions will yield the best results.
Is the Portuguese Water Dog Right for My Family?
This breed needs lots of attention and exercise! They don’t do well left alone for long periods, and are not a good choice for families whose members are all at work or school during the day. In their boredom, they may entertain themselves in a most destructive manner! Portugese Water Dogs typically get along well with children and other pets, but have a tendency to use their mouths in play (like most retriever breeds). Always supervise small children when they are playing with your dog, and teach your children to treat all dogs with respect!
Active families who love outdoor activities and want a dog companion to accompany them would be a good fit for the Portuguese Water Dog. These adaptable dogs are an excellent choice for owners who want to participate in dog activities such as obedience and agility trials, Frisbee and flyball, but are just as happy going swimming or jogging with you, or fetching a stick. Your Portuguese Water Dog will be most content when it has adequate exercise and mental stimulation, and will benefit from at least one long, brisk daily walk.
The coat is similar to a poodle’s (it is thought the two breeds have a common ancestry) and is considered hypo-allergenic, making the Portuguese Water Dog a good choice for families with allergy sufferers. The single coat is usually curly or wavy, longer in some lines than others, and sheds little. A daily brushing will keep the coat in top shape and help it retain its water-resistant properties. The coat needs clipped occasionally, but not as often as the poodle’s.
Some lines in this breed have genetic predispositions to canine hip dysplasia, GM-1 storage disease (a fatal nerve disorder apparent at about six months), progressive retinal atrophy and juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy. Buy your Portuguese Water Dog from a reputable breeder who takes care to produce dogs of sound health and even temperament.
This is a general breed description of the Portuguese Water Dog. Individual dogs within a breed may vary in appearance, temperament, and behavior.