Portuguese Water Dogs, A Kid’s Best Friend

Mellow the Portuguese Water Dog
Mellow, our 4 month old Portuguese Water Dog

Every Kid Needs a Dog

Our family likes animals. We currently have six English Angora rabbits (I really should put up some pictures of those adorable fluff balls), three chickens (there were more, but some evil creature of the night has been raiding our flock), and two cats. Despite all of these fine furred and feathered companions, our kids have been begging us for months to get them a dog.

Conveniently, the dog that we’ve been waiting for since before we were married happened to come available in the middle of those begging months. So, by the time the begging got particularly pleading (there was a birthday conveniently placed that they hoped would give them leverage), we were able to tell them “Maybe….someday….we’ll see”, all while knowing that a surprise was on its way from Alto Mare PWD’s.

Meet Mellow- our four and a half month old Portuguese Water Dog. (You can read more about this breed on their Wikipedia page here.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the breed, Portuguese Water Dogs (which I will be shortening to PWD- that is a finger-full to type!) are a highly intelligent breed that is closely related to the Standard Poodle. They are a bit stouter, more muscular, and less refined then a poodle though, and it is pretty easy to tell them apart. Like the poodle, the PWD has hair instead of fur, so they don’t have nearly the shedding problem that most dog breeds have.

While the hair thing is nice, my favorite thing about PWD’s is their excellent temperament. They are known for being loving, gentle, and patient, and that is something I’ve seen in my own experience with the breed. This is actually the third PWD I’ve had in my life, and they have all been fantastic.

A Working Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog breed has a fascinating history that impacts their behavior to this day. They were bred by Portuguese fishermen to help out on their boats. They would swim out to herd fish into the fishermen’s nets, to retrieve lost tackle, or to send messages between ships. I’ve heard that they were also used to detect the presence of sharks in the water- if the dog refused to jump in, that meant there was something deadly below the boat!

Because of that history, the breed is a bit different than most. Instead of chasing cats, squirrels, or birds, PWD’s love to chase fish! The dog we had growing up would jump in the pond while we were on walks and try to catch any fish she could see. They have webbed feet, which make them excellent swimmers, and they love to play in the water. We had a pool, and I’d watch her take a couple laps, then race around the yard, before hopping back into the pool. It was like some kind of aquatic zoomies.

A Family Dog Breed

My grandparents, on my mother’s side, were in the dog business. They started out with Cocker Spaniels, but by the time I came around they had switched over to Portuguese Water Dogs. When I started begging for a dog as a young boy, my parents got us a PWD named Maggie. Maggie was already a Grand Champion by the time we got her, so I missed out on the puppy experience, but she was the best dog a boy could ask for.

My younger sister was only a toddler at the time, and I got to witness the PWD’s legendary patience first hand as my sister used her for a pillow, a horse, or a trampoline.

Because Maggie was a Grand Champion, we also got to experience two litters of puppies with Maggie. Those are some of my favorite memories from my youth, and ones I hope my kids will get to experience with Mellow. In the meantime, we’re enjoying this toddler/preschooler puppy phase that I didn’t get to experience growing up.

Mellow and her stick
Mellow and her best friend Stick

Mellow, a Good Dog

We’ve had Mellow for a week as of today, and she is already a welcome addition to the family. She’s still young, and so not quite house broken, but the kids love to play with her. She sees my wife as the alpha running the pack (she isn’t wrong), and has learned, though not yet mastered, “settle down” and “leave it”.

An interesting trait of PWD’s is that they choose one human to bond with – possibly from their history from working with one fisherman on a boat. In Mellow’s case, that person is my wife. Mellow will listen to anything my wife says, but pretty much just ignores me.

We’ll work on that.

So far, the puppy is getting along great with everyone… Except the cats. They are starting to learn that she just wants to play though, so we have good hopes for their future relationship.

We are enjoying having Mellow so much, that now I am thinking that maybe Wyoming Bones should have a dog. Or maybe Blurble counts as one. Or maybe Blurble should get the dog. What do you think?

Elden Walseck

I am the author the Wyoming Bones series of adventure and treasure hunting books set in Minecraft for middle grade readers.

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