Archive for January, 2009

All About the Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog
(Photo by Steffen H. Wohnort)
The Portuguese Water Dog (Photo by Steffen H. Wohnort)

The Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) made news in early 2009 as one of the two finalists to become the “first dog,” as President-Elect Barack Obama’s family announced in early January that they’re deciding between the Portuguese Water Dog and the Labradoodle in their search for a new dog.

The History and Origin of the Portuguese Water Dog

While the Portuguese Water Dog is not as popular and well-known as the Poodle or Golden Retriver, it’s actually a very old breed with a faithful following.

This breed originated in – you guessed it – Portugal more than 2,000 years ago. The Portuguese Water Dog breed was developed in the coastal fishing villages of Portugal, where these working dogs served several purposes as a companion, watchdog and fishing assistant.

The Portuguese fishermen used the PWD for several purposes. The dogs would jump into the water to “herd” fish into the fishing nets. They were also adept at diving, which meant these dogs were great for retrieving fishing gear and lost nets. The dogs would also swim between boats and from boats to the shore to deliver messages, among other things.

This breed’s history as a working dog and companion of Portuguese fishermen explains this dog’s strong stamina, powerful hindquarters, his intelligence, his strong drive to perform tasks and please his owner, and, of course, his love of water.

Portuguese Water Dogs: Coat and Appearance

In general appearance, this dog is often mistaken for the Poodle by people on the street.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a large dog, typically weighing between 40 and 60 pounds. There are two coat types: wavy coat and curly coat. The coat is actually more of a hair than fur. PWD’s coat comes in shades of black, brown and white.

Are Portuguese Water Dogs Hypoallergenic?

The Portuguese Water Dog is actually preferred by many dog lovers who have allergies. Like Poodles and the Bichon Frise, the PWD has one coat. This lack of an undercoat means a dramatic reduction in shedding, which makes housekeeping and grooming easier. This attribute is also great for many people who are allergic to dogs, as many are allergic to the undercoat.

But beware! While the Portuguese Water Dog is considered a “hypoallergenic” dog breed, it’s important to note that no dog is truly “hypoallergenic.” Some people are allergic to the dander as well as the fur, and since all dogs have dander, all dogs are capable of creating problems for an individual with animal allergies.

The Portuguese Water Dog’s Temperament

The Portuguese Water Dog has a working dog temperament: eager to please, generally friendly with most strangers and extremely devoted to his family. This is not a shy or soft-spoken dog; the Portuguese Water Dog is confident, loyal and eager to get going!

Like all working dogs, the PWD is a high-energy breed, both in a physical and in a mental sense. So this means anyone considering this breed will need to provide plenty of walks, jogs and games of fetch in the yard. This is not a dog breed that will be satisfied by one or two brief walks each day. Boredom and inactivity can be a dangerous thing for a working breed; if a Portuguese Water Dog is not kept mentally and physically active by his family, he will go in search of mental and physical stimulation on his own and you may not like what he comes up with! Like all working dogs, the PWD needs a “job” to be happy, so he’s apt to assign himself to a job if you don’t do it for him and that job may be barking at the neighbors or unstuffing the couch!

In sum, the Portuguese Water Dog is an intelligent and friendly working breed that’s especially at home in the water. If you like the PWD, you may also enjoy reading about another working dog – the Siberian Husky.

(Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Is a Siberian Husky the Dog Breed for You?

Siberian Huskies Doing What They Do Best – Running! (Stuart Blacklock Photo)
Siberian Huskies Doing What They Do Best - Running! (Stuart Blacklock Photo)

Siberian Huskies are most commonly recognized as sled dogs, a favorite of mushers worldwide for their endurance and their high tolerance of cold climates. These dogs can also make great pets for the right type of person; Siberian Huskies, while beautiful dogs, are not a breed for everyone. As an owner of Siberian Huskies and several other dog breeds, I can confirm that there is a very big difference in the way that Siberian Huskies interact with humans compared to many other dog breeds.

Siberian Husky Appearance, Form and Function

Siberian Huskies are bred to work as sled dogs. They’re bred for their thick coats, their enduarance and ability to run pulling light loads for long distances in cold climates. The Siberian Husky has a medium, compact build, usually weighing between 40 and 60 pounds. This breed is graceful and light on his feet, and while not an extremely fast runner, huskies get tope scores for endurance.

The Siberian Husky is often confused with his cousin, the Alaskan Malamute, which has a larger, bulkier build and rounder face.

Siberian Huskies are one of the few dog breeds with blue eyes, which is an attraction to many “Sibe” owners. Huskies can have both blue eyes (an ice blue in appearance), both brown eyes or one brown eye and one blue eye. The Siberian Husky’s erect ears are extremely expressive, tilting and moving as a mode of expression.

The husky comes in two basic colors: white and grey and white and a brownish red. The coloring can vary slightly from dog to dog, with some grey and white dogs appearing almost black in some areas. The same goes for the white and brown/red huskies, as the coloring can range from a light ruddy tan to a rich rusty red.

Wondering about the Siberian Husky’s other method of self expression? Howling. Siberian Huskies do not generally bark. They howl and yowl and yodel when they’re mad, sad, happy, frustrated or experiencing virtually any other emotion, and Siberian Husky owners will find that they’ll know what their dog is experiencing based on his vocalizations. In fact, the Siberian Husky’s howls are contagious among dogs – they have a way of getting entire neighborhoods of dogs howling together in symphony. That said, potential Siberian Husky owners should be aware of this potentially bothersome Husky trait when considering this dog breed.

Another important note about this breed’s physical appearance is his fur – in short, he sheds. A lot. The Siberian Husky does require daily grooming and even with daily brushings, this dog can shed copious amounts of fur year-round. Owners must also be careful during the warm summer months, as this breed does not deal well with heat, so he will require a hair cut or an air conditioner in the home.

Husky Behavior and Temperament

Huskies tend to be very in-tune pack animals and most really appreicate the company of other canines. Huskies tend to do very well when kept with other dogs.

The Siberian Husky’s personality is easy-going and friendly, polite and alert and very eager to take part in activities like a walk, jog or romp in the park. These dogs are actually quite accepting of strangers and they are less apt than many other breeds to get overzealous during greetings. The Siberian Husky’s demeanor is that of a polite, mature, calm dog, even in adolescence.

It’s important to note that the Siberian Husky is not a lap dog. Even as puppies, this breed is not apt to cuddle with you on the couch or in bed. They are simply not a “lovey dovey” breed of dog. They are independent dogs who enjoy a more passive human presence as opposed to a direct sitting-on-your-lap interaction. For this reason, Siberian Huskies make a wonderful companion for a car ride or a great jogging partner (as long as you’re not jogging in really warm weather!)

Due to their degree of aloofness toward humans, many Siberian Huskies do not do well with young children. In tune with their pack dog heritage, this breed is more apt to nip than some other dog breeds. The Siberian Husky does not normally appreciate the cuddles and direct interactions that children typically offer; a husky will find these close interactions overwhelming and this can lead to dog bites involving youngsters. In fact, the Siberian Husky is deemed a “high bite risk” breed by many house insurance companies as a result of their tendencies toward aloofness. As a result, anyone considering a Siberian Husky will want to investigate whether their home insurance company has any breed restrictions in place involving this particular dog breed.

Owners of cats and small pets will need to be cautious when adopting a working dog like the Siberian Husky, as these dogs are particularly in tune with those canine instincts. This breed may chase cats and even “hunt” small animals, including pocket pets. So it’s important to take a zero-tolerance stance, discouraging any inappropriate behaviors if they arise. Some owners will also need to take measures to ensure that the SIberian Husky does not interact with and make prey of small animals like guinea pigs, ferrets or rats.

The Siberian Husky – Summed Up

While the Siberian Husky gives the impression that he is calm and reserved, every dog of this breed has a little bit of mischief inside, especially as puppies. So like owners of all working breeds, it’s important that husky owners keep track of shoes, clothes and other items that are commonly chewed by dogs. Fortunately, many bad chewing habits can be quelled by keeping the Siberian Husky well-exercised and by providing hard rubber chew toys to keep his mind occupied.

In sum, the Siberian Husky is a medium-sized, well-mannered working dog. He is a cheerful, polite and faithful companion, who is more than happy to accompany you on a walk or car ride. He’ll also be satisfied to simply enjoy your company, relaxing in the same room with his human and dog companions.

Looking for more of a lap dog breed? Consider the lovable Pug or the feisty Miniature Pinscher!