Portuguese Water Dog
A Friendly Hypoallergenic Water-Loving Dog Who Is a Perfect Pet for Children
A dog made famous in 2009 by becoming a resident of the White House, a Portuguese Water Dog was given to President Obama by the late Senator Ted Kennedy. A relatively rare breed preferred for its hypoallergenic qualities and friendly disposition, “Bo” (a male) often referred to as the “First Dog,” was later joined by “Sunny,” a female, in 2013.
While some experts believe that the Portuguese Water Dog traces as far back as 700 B.C., the precise ancestry of the breed is not clear. Experts proclaim that the breed belonged to early inhabitants in the area of the Russian/Chinese border near the Central-Asian steppes. These inhabitants are said to have raised horses, cattle, sheep, and other livestock. Portuguese Water Dogs (at the time known as Asian herding dogs) purportedly herded these animals, but were captured by the Berbers who then migrated to Morocco. The Moors, descendants of the Berbers, arrived in Portugal in the 8th century with these rugged Asian herding dogs.
Others adhere to the theory that around 400 A.D., the dogs from the Asian steppes were split into two groups: the German pudel (today's poodle) which belonged to the Ostrogoths (part of the German tribes) who traveled west, and the Lion dog – the name given to the dogs that went south with their masters (the Visigoths) who invaded Spain and Iberia (today's Portugal). This theory provides a common genetic ancestry between Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was founded in 1972 and the breed was admitted to the AKC in 1983. Today it is classified as a member of the Working Group.
The Portuguese Water Dog is often mistaken for a Poodle, primarily because of the similarity in their coats, which are curly, wavy, and dense. Medium to large in size, most Portuguese Water Dogs weigh between 35 and 60 pounds as adults, and stand about 17 to 23 inches high at the withers.
A muscular dog with a sturdy build, this breed has a level, straight topline and is just a fraction longer than it is tall. Heart-shaped ears hang close to the head. Expressive, alert eyes are generally dark in color. If you have wondered why the breed is referred to as a "water dog," the reason is that it has been bred for swimming and has webbed feet. The colors commonly found in the Portuguese Water Dog are brown, white, black, brown with white, or black with white.
Outgoing, energetic and even humorous, Portuguese Water Dogs are defined by exceptional water skills and adore playing in the water. Used extensively to catch fish and generally assist with a multitude of water-related tasks on Portuguese fishing boats, this is a friendly breed that thoroughly enjoys children and being included in family activities.
Portuguese Water Dogs do not like to be left alone for extended periods of time, preferring constant companionship. Therefore, this is not the perfect pet for owners who work full-time. The Portuguese Water Dog is a trainable breed with high intelligence. While not aggressive or threatening, this dog will likely bark when a stranger approaches your home, making it also a good watchdog.
Because of its high energy and activity level, this dog will find most ideal a home with a fenced yard. Apartment living is not recommended because of the breed's size and need for frequent exercise. Homes with plenty of room to run, whether in a suburban or rural area, are the perfect setting for this dog, who will be healthy and happy if you provide an hour or two each day of play and vigorous activity.
Because the Portuguese Water Dog benefits from mental stimulation, taking it along while you hike, jog, or engage in other activities will provide good sources of diversion.
Like many breeds, the Portuguese Water Dog is prone to PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy). Other health issues found with this breed, although not common, include Addison's disease, skin allergies, hip dysplasia, as well as renal and cardiac problems.
Cardiomyopathy is perhaps the most serious health issue facing the breed, as this form of heart disease can cause sudden death in puppies over two months old. Addison's disease, which affects the endocrine system, is symptomized by loss of appetite and lethargy.
Ear infections may be common because of the substantial amount of hair in the ear canals. On average, a healthy Portuguese Water Dog fed a balanced diet and given plenty of exercise will live 10 to 14 years.
Brushing on a frequent basis (two to three times per week) will remove loose hair and keep your pet's coat tangle-free. The Portuguese Water Dog sheds very lightly, and has a single coat, so minimal grooming is required. However, because your dog will enjoy swimming whenever it gets a chance, it's important to rinse with clean water so that dirt, salt or chlorine are removed. Dry the ears thoroughly after bathing or swimming as well.
Check your dog's teeth and nails regularly, and trim nails as needed. The sound of clicking on a hard floor is a good indication that your pet’s nails need trimming. You may also consider clipping your pet's hair or having it trimmed by a professional every four to six weeks to maintain a neat look.