Fun Facts on the Portuguese Water Dog

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: June 9, 2009
Fun Facts on the Portuguese Water Dog

A First Look at the First Dog

Barack Obama promised his daughters he’d get them a puppy when he became president. And when Easter '09 rolled around, he definitely kept his word — acquiring Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog, from a breeder. Pet people know an animal in the house is not only a gift that keeps on giving (they’re great at love), but also a fantastic stress reliever — which might come in handy when you’re President of the United States of America.  

But why did President Obama choose such a rare dog? So rare, in fact, there’s only about a thousand of them worldwide. Let's learn a few things about the Portuguese Water Dog and find out what attracted the new Commander in Chief to this breed.  

A Family Friend

The Portuguese Water Dog (also known as a Portie or PWD) is a medium-sized, sturdy, muscular dog with webbing between its toes, which helps it to swim. In temperament, the Portie is affectionate, fun, smart, energetic, pleasant, and loyal — something you need when you’re friends with the leader of the free world. Apart from that, this dog does not shed its wavy or curly fur, which means they’re good for people with allergies. And, as the President’s daughter Malia has allergies, Bo was a great choice.  

The Portie is also an easily trainable, brave dog that’s great with kids. It's not a sit-around-the-house-looking-pretty kind of pooch, but one that needs both mental and physical activity. Perhaps the new First Dog, Bo, can even help out President Obama with sticky situations, as well as play a game of basketball (or should that be water polo, since Bo is a water dog?).  

Part Dog, Part Fish?

Although its ancestry is thought to have begun along the steppes of Central Asia around 700 B.C., the Portie really came into its own along the coasts of Portugal, where the dog would not only herd fish into the nets, retrieve items dropped into the water, act as courier between boats and between boats and shore, but also would guard both the boat and the catch when at port.

However, as the 19th century drew to a close, conventional fishing methods were quickly becoming modernized. Soon, Portuguese fishermen were trading in their Water Dogs for more advanced fishing equipment, and the breed began disappearing all along the coast.  

From the Ashes...

Pushed almost to the brink of extinction, the Portie was saved by a Portuguese fishing magnate in the 1930s. This man sought the dogs out from the old fishermen to enroll them in a breeding program, which has now not only saved this breed, but, through the attention of the President of the United States, brought it much publicity — so much so that Germany has recently sold out of all Portie puppies. This is good news for a rare but fun and wonderful dog breed.  

So, if you were in search of a canine companion, search no more. After all, if the Portuguese Water Dog is good enough for President Obama and his family, then it just might be good enough for you, too!  

Image: Clyde Robinson / via Flickr

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