Curious about the Portuguese Podengo? We explain the important details about these wonderful dogs.
Height: 8-12” at the shoulders
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Pedigree Breed?: Yes
Positives and Negatives of the Breed
- Good family pet
- Low shedding
- Easy to groom
- Small enough to live in an apartment or small home
- Playful and lively
- Needs a lot of exercise for such a small dog
- Strong prey drive
- May bark a lot
- Low boredom threshold
The Podengo dog is the best known of the Portuguese dog breeds and is the country’s national dog.
This breed is a Portuguese hunting dog that was bred originally to control vermin and protect homes.
It makes a fantastic family pet and is a good choice for families with children.
The Portuguese dog comes in three different sizes, and only the smallest or Portuguese Podengo Pequeno has been recognised by The Kennel Club as an official breed.
The three sizes are the Pequeno (which was bred to hunt rabbits), the Medio (for wild boar), and the Grande (for hunting wild boar and deer)
Unlike many other dogs of Portugal, the Podengo doesn’t originate here.
Instead, it’s believed to be descended from ancient Egypt’s Pharoah Hound, brought to the Mediterranean by Phoenicians in around 700 BC.
Prized as hunting dogs, the Podengo was especially good at catching rabbits – in fact, when its name is translated from the Portuguese, it means “rabbit hunter”.
The Podenco temperament is generally very good, making this type of dog a good choice for families with children.
This breed is agile and alert, with a natural propensity to hunt by sound, sight and scent.
They are highly intelligent, social and energetic dogs that thrive in the home environment so long as they’re kept busy, and they’re best suited to those who lead an outdoor, active lifestyle.
Thanks to their sociability and their playful temperament, they’re fit well into families with active children who are keen to play with them and participate in their training regime.
They may not be well-suited to elderly people or those who live a mostly sedentary lifestyle since their exercise needs will probably not be met.
You should note, however, that if you’re a first-time dog owner, a Podengo may not be the right choice of pet for you.
This breed needs to be correctly trained and handled from the beginning or they can be difficult to manage. Even if well-trained, they may run off due to their strong prey instinct.
Therefore, it’s best to only consider one of these dogs if you already have experience in training dogs.
Socialising is very important for this breed as is effective training. The Podengo needs to know who to rely on for guidance and direction.
Without a strong alpha to look up to, they may become the dominant dog and this makes them hard to handle and live with.
This breed forms very strong ties with its owner and this can lead to some separation anxiety.
If left alone for long periods, they can develop destructive behaviors and therefore often do best when paired with another dog.
They also have a tendency to bark a lot, and while they’re rarely aggressive, they make great watchdogs.
Like any breed of dog, the Portuguese Podengo is susceptible to some medical conditions that you should be aware of before buying a dog of this breed.
There are a few health issues that are known to affect Podengos.
- Luxating patellars (knee caps)
- Legge Perthes Disease
- Brain tumours
- Inguinal Hernias
- Cherry Eye
- Corneal Ulcer
- Ear infections
- Overshot/undershot jaw
- Aural haematoma
Of course, not every dog will suffer from some or all of these issues. Some Podengo puppies have retained baby teeth. They may also show hind leg lameness for no clear reason.
The Podengo breed is also especially prone to allergic reactions and will need to see their vet if one flares up.
It can be hard to pinpoint the cause of the allergy, but it could relate to:
- Dog foods with a high cereal content
- Dust mites
- Airborne pollen
- Tick or flea bites
- Chemicals in household cleaning products
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Despite the Podengo’s small size, it is a high-energy breed that needs a lot of exercise every day as well as plenty of mental stimulation.
You should expect to give a Podengo around 40 – 60 minutes of strenuous exercise every day, with plenty of time off the lead in a secure and safe environment.
Without enough exercise and mental stimulation, this breed can get bored quickly and can show destructive behaviours in the home to relieve stress.
Many owners of this breed find that a short morning walk followed up by a long and interesting walk in the afternoon works well, but these dogs also need to roam around your back yard if they can.
You will, however, need to ensure that you have a strong and secure fence as these high-energy active dogs can easily escape. They can also jump quite high if they put their mind to it, so you’ll need to think about the height of your fence before allowing your dog to roam at will unsupervised.
Although Podengo’s need a lot of exercise, it’s important to avoid over-exercising a puppy since their bones and joints are still developing and growing.
They should not be allowed to jump up or down from furniture or to go up or down the stairs at too young an age or it will put excess pressure on their spine and joints that could cause major problems later in life.
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Although the Portuguese Podengo is a very intelligent breed, they may be surprisingly difficult to train.
This makes them a poor choice for first time dog owners who don’t know from experience the best ways to train a dog. Training a Podengo must begin as early as possible.
Puppies must be taught their boundaries and the basics of good dog behaviour from the moment they arrive in their new home. Once they are fully vaccinated, their training can begin properly.
A lot of work will need to be put into recall commands as the Podengo has a very strong prey instinct and may therefore be unwilling to return when called if they spot or smell something interesting while off the lead. Many Podengo owners find that their dog responds well to a training class.
Podengos are naturally happier when they have a task to do. This makes them amenable to learning new tricks. If you make training a fun and interesting experience with limited repetition during short sessions they are more likely to pick up tricks quickly.
They don’t respond well to harsh correction or heavy-handed techniques, but they respond very well to positive reinforcement methods and especially appreciate high value rewards.
While Podengo puppies are very cute, they are fast learners and are very intelligent. This means that they can easily pick up bad habits as well as good ones.
If they are spoiled from an early age, they may learn behaviours that are difficult to correct later. This is why it’s especially important to teach your Podengo puppy exactly what is considered to be acceptable behaviour and what they are expected to do as early as possible to avoid later problems.
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There are two different types of coat that your Podengo may have – wire haired or smooth coated.
The smooth coated variety are much easier to groom than their wire haired cousins.
All you need to do is brush them once per week and wipe over their coat using a chamois leather at the same time to ensure their coat remains shiny and in a good condition.
If you have a wire haired dog, you will need to take a little more time on the grooming front. You will have to brush you pet’s coat two or three times each week.
This will prevent knots and tangles from building up in their coats. You should also make sure to clean their beard each day to remove food that has become trapped in the long hair around the muzzle.
Whether you have a wire haired or smooth coated dog, you’ll notice that the Podengo sheds steadily all year long. Not only that, but they’ll shed even more during the Autumn and the Spring.
You will, therefore, need to add extra grooming sessions into your schedule at these times of year to stay on top of their coat. This will ensure that all shed and dead hair is properly removed from their coat.
Remember that you should also check the Podengo’s ears regularly and keep them clean. If excess wax is allowed to build up over time, a painful infection can result which is hard to treat. Prevention is always better than cure.
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