Thursday, July 9, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
The Obama family recently got a new puppy, and Sasha and Malia named him “Bo.” This breed was picked because the Portuguese Water Dog is purported to be better for people with allergies. Bo is a black and white Portuguese Water Dog, and was six months old when he went to live at the White House. In light of that, I thought I would do this month’s breed profile on the Portuguese Water Dog.
The Portuguese Water Dog was first recognized by the AKC in 1981, so they are a relatively new breed to the AKC. They are a member of the working group and the size standard for the breed is a height of between 17 to 21 inches at the withers for females and 20 to 23 inches for males, with a weight of 35 to 50 pounds for females and between 42 and 60 pounds for males. The reason for the diverse size ranges are due to the fact that smaller dogs were better suited to smaller ships, and large dogs were better suited for larger ships. Their lifespan is between ten and fourteen years of age.
In their native country of Portugal, they are known by three names. Cao de Agua, which means “dog of water,” is the main name they are known by. The two other names are Cao de Ague de Pelo Encaradolado, which is the name given to the curly coated variety, and Cao de Agua de Pelo Ondulado, the name given to the long-haired variety of water dog. Their duties included being a courier between ship and shore and from ship to ship, as well as retrieving lost nets or tackle, and herding fish into nets. They were even used by the Portuguese in the frigid waters of Iceland when the fleets sailed there to bring saltwater codfish back to Portugal.
According to the AKC, the Portuguese Water Dog was originally bred to be “a calm, intelligent breed of fine temperament, rugged and robust, with a profuse non-allergenic, non-shedding, waterproof coat, and webbed feet; he is an ideal outdoor dog, capable of limitless work.” They come in many colors including black, brown, white, black and white, brown and white, black and silver, brown black and white, and brown brindle. There are several theories that Portuguese Water Dogs and Poodles come from the same genetic lineage. The Portuguese Water Dog is shown in two clips: the lion clip and the working-retriever clip, and there are fans of both.
By the early 20th century, the numbers of the Portuguese Water Dog had dwindled and the breed was on the verge of extinction. This was due to advances in fishing and getting away from the fishing traditions that had been in place for many years. Thanks to the efforts of Vasco Bensuade, a wealthy Portuguese shipping magnate with a fondness for dogs, the breed was saved. Because of his efforts a breed standard was written. Bensuade’s first dog Leao, (which means lion) became the founding sire of a kennel that Bensuade set up. After his death, Algarbiorum Kennel was acquired by Conchita Branco, who was a former lady bullfighter.
However, despite Bensuade’s best efforts the Portuguese Water Dog was again on the verge of extinction in the 1960’s, as there were only about 50 dogs in existence in the world. Fate stepped in again, in the form of Deyanne and Herbert Miller, Jr. Due to the persistence of the Millers, the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was formed in 1972 with fourteen other breeders. The breed was admitted to the AKC in June of 1981 under the miscellaneous category, and in 1983 they were admitted to the working group.
Today I am happy to report that there are over 5000 Portuguese Water Dogs, so it doesn’t seem like it will be going away soon. If you want an active dog that loves to work and swim, this may be the breed for you.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently