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Portuguese water dogs: Ten fun facts

February 25, 2009 |  5:43 pm

Splash, Sen. Ted Kennedy's Portuguese water dog

Word on the street suggests that the Obamas are leaning toward making a Portuguese water dog the new First Pet.  You know they're a breed preferred by allergy sufferers, but here are 10 things you may not have known about these spunky dogs:

  1. One of their original jobs was herding fish into fishermen's nets.
  2. They have webbed feet, one of the reasons they're such good swimmers.
  3. Their coats come in two types: curly and wavy.  The breed's standard states that neither coat type is preferable to the other in the show ring.
  4. In the native Portugal, the breed is known as  Cão de Água.  The wavy-haired variety is called Cão de Água de Pêlo Ondulado ("wavy-haired water dog") and the curly-haired variety is called Cão de Água de Pêlo Encaracolado ("curly-haired water dog").  Where's the creativity, Portugal?
  5. They're an extremely energetic breed; the breed standard describes them as "very resistant to fatigue" and lists shyness as a "major fault."
  6. The breed's ancestors are thought to include the poodle, Kerry Blue terrier, and Irish water spaniel.
  7. They're members of the AKC's Working Group and were recognized by the kennel club in the early 1980s.  They first became eligible for American dog show competition in 1984.
  8. Portuguese water dogs are often called "Porties" for short.
  9. For show purposes, their coats are clipped in one of two styles: the Lion clip and the Retriever clip.  The Retriever clip is a sort of buzz cut, with the dog's coat left no longer than an inch long (leaving the fur on the tip of the tail intact).  In the Lion clip, the dog's hindquarters are shaved in a fashion similar to the Continental clip often seen on show poodles (minus the tufts of fur on the hips).  This was thought to be a functional style for water dogs, since the full coat on the chest keeps the vital organs warm while the shaved rear allows for freedom of movement in the back legs.
  10. Sen. Edward Kennedy's two Porties, Sunny and Splash, are well-known in Washington.  Kennedy told the Boston Globe of Splash: "He's met Elton John. He was in the Oval Office. He has a dog bone from President Bush. He gave me this rawhide dog bone and wrote on it, 'From Barney to Splash.' I take him to all the hearings; he always sits under the table. He goes to press conferences, to the Cape. He loves to take long trips in the boat. He could sail all day."  (Splash is also the narrator of Kennedy's book for children, "My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington, D.C.")

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Sen. Kennedy's dog Splash approaches Nicholas Davis, 9, right, while Kennedy reads to children at the Knight Children's Center in Boston. 

Credit: Chitose Suziki / Associated Press.

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