Will The Portuguese Water Dog Be The New Lab?

 |  Apr 14th 2009  |   6 Contributions


Yesterday I posted on the Obamas decision to get a Portuguese Water Dog rather than a rescue. We received many comments with varying viewpoints.

I do want to clear up one point, I agree the decision of what kind of dog a person gets and where they get it is a personal one. However, when President, then Senator, Obama made the decision to announce at a public news conference that the family was looking at shelters it changes everything. Their private decision was no longer private, they invited the public in.

"We're going to adopt a dog, I think," Michelle Obama told Entertainment Tonight on September 30, 2008.

"A rescue dog," said then-Sen. Obama.

That being said, it is great to have a dog in the White House. Hopefully having a dog around will inspire President Obama to look into the important animal welfare issues that seem to have fallen by the wayside and put them back in the forefront.

The other issue to keep in mind is the concern the Portuguese Water Dog will go the way of the Labrador or the Dalmatian. When a breed becomes popular due to books, movies, or celebrities, people decide they want one too. Unfortunately it's usually without much thought about what goes into taking care of the breed. Or even if the breed will fit their lifestyle.

So it's a pretty good bet that more people will want to make the Obamas' new pet their new family pet after all the hoopla and news coverage over Bo. You look at that cute black puffball in the rainbow lei and think, "I want one!" But hold up, wait a minute. What looks cute, awesome and placid in picture form, is actually a really energetic breed (although still cute and awesome).

So we asked an expert to give us a Portuguese water dog reality check, to talk us down from making any hasty decisions. Diane Keppen, a veteran Annapolis breeder of Portuguese Water Dogs, happily agreed to help us out.

"Many of my friends who are breeders are very concerned about the fact that this wonderful breed will go the way of the Dalmatian," she says. "Like all the wonderful breeds that become popular, some people think look at that cute little dog on TV' ... and don't realize that this dog likes to greet you with a body slam."

Keppen says that last part jokingly, but there is some truth to the quip.

"They are a working breed, very athletic, very high energy," she says. "They need to work, and they need to have something to do, or they will find some thing to do, which may not be what you had in mind."

Portuguese Water Dogs can be very expensive, more than $2000, they take a huge time commitment, daily grooming, a lot of training and need plenty of exercise. This is not the dog for everyone. Look at what happened eleven years ago with Dalmatians. A staggering number of Dalmatians were purchased and abandoned following the release of Disney's 101 Dalmatians.

What about when Marley, everyone's favorite lab, became famous. Labs were already America's favorite dog, standing at the top of the AKC's list of most popular dogs for 10 years, now even more people wanted one. As a result, there are many Labradors available for adoption. Adding to the problem are the puppy mill owners looking for a quick buck, flooding the market with cute lab pups who will carry the breed's genetic problems.

Regardless of where you get a dog, it is a lifelong commitment. It should be a decision that is thoroughly thought through and not a rash decision based on a picture you see of an adorable puppy.

* Pic of puppy River

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