The Portuguese Sheepdog, also known as Serra de Aires Mountain dog and Cão da Serra de Aires, is among the most popular indigenous herding dogs of Portugal.
Those who lived in the breed’s native land where the mountain range Cão da Serra de Aires is located, call them “cão macaco”, which means “monkey dog”.
They were nicknamed as such because this breed is known for its alert and lively simian-like expressions and they are exceptionally intelligent.
Portuguese Sheepdogs are a very rare breed and were first recognized by the country’s Kennel Club in 1932.
They were later on granted a recognition in the international kennel arena by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1996 under the English name “Portuguese Sheepdog”.
The grant was given after the breed almost reached the verge of extinction in the 1970s.
Unfortunately during that time, they had immense difficulty adjusting and adapting to the barren climate in the Serra de Aires.
Historically, the modern Portuguese Sheepdog’s ancestors used to herd sheep, cattle, and goats across that terrain under the scorching heat of the sun.
They started to dwindle in number when urbanization in farming was introduced in the area.
The good news is that the breeders did not stop finding solutions to save the Portuguese Sheepdog breed for they have already proven themselves to be excellent companions.
They exported the breed to other countries and became very popular across Europe.
Fortunately, though, the breed started to get full recall because in 2006, they became recognized by the American Kennel Club and got designated under their herding group.
They are an extremely intelligent breed and believed to be descendants of the Briards and the Catalan Sheepdogs and closely related to Pyreneans.
Portuguese Sheepdog Care
Taking care of a Portuguese Sheepdog is actually an easy feat since they are a smart breed and they are highly sociable too around children. Just like all dogs, they, too, need tender love, support, and care.
A Portuguese Sheepdog needs to be groomed every now and then to avoid the accumulation of dander that can affect those allergy sufferers around them.
Work together with your vet to create a care routine for your Portuguese Sheepdog and make sure that you attend to all the regular checkups to detect the onset of any health issues as early as possible.
Since they are very lively, active dogs, they would be needing constant mental and physical stimulation.
The Portuguese Sheepdog is a medium-sized, extremely rare breed with chestnut-like, black, gray, and fawn colors. They can also grow a few white hair patches in some parts of their bodies. They are happy, assertive, and independent dogs.
They are a perfect watchdog and companion because they are also highly intelligent, lively, and loyal.
More and more families are owning Portuguese Sheepdogs across the globe because they are not just exceptionally intelligent, they are also very entertaining and fun to be around.
They make this really cute and peculiar look that is why the locals called them the “monkey dog”.
They can be very rowdy in their younger years, but early training and socialization can be of great help to their rambunctious behavior into a household-adjusted, well-rounded dog.
They are also a very vocal breed and can be a nuisance barker at times especially if they are bored or if there is a stranger.
With their high energy levels, it is important to keep them busy and provide plenty of stimulating activities like toys, social interaction, training, exercise, and more.
Portuguese Sheepdogs have a high tendency to be stubborn and dominant. If they feel that no one is in charge in the pack family, they will take over as the leader.
With proper training, mainly positive reinforcement, this breed can learn their place in the family.
They learn very quickly.
Size / Weight
The Portuguese Sheepdog can weigh up to 17 to 27 kilograms. Male dogs of this breed can measure from 45 cm up to 55 cm. Females stand from 42 cm to 52 cm.
A healthy Portuguese Sheepdog can live up to 14 years.
The Portuguese Sheepdog has a wavy long coat with normal coat density. They need regular brushing using a metal comb. You should also check for tangles regularly to protect their coat from any damage.
Weekly brushing is enough. Do not over-brush because this could cause the texture of their coat to change. Not over-brushing also helps to keep their unique wooly coat appearance.
Hair-trimming can be necessary too, but not too often. You can always call for professional pet grooming services if you cannot do the trimming on your own.
When it comes to shampooing their coat, please use a gentle or waterless shampoo in between their baths only if it is necessary like if they are really smelly or got mud all over their bodies.
Since they have a slightly thicker coat as compared to other breeds, it is necessary to regularly check them for ticks and fleas to eradicate the possibility of infestation.
Nail clipping is vital too, but for most active dogs who keep running around the yard or those who have the chance to frequently walk or jog with their owners will have the opportunity to sand their nails naturally.
Do not squeeze their feet too hard when trimming their nails. You can ask your vet for some tips on how to do it.
For Portuguese Sheepdogs, their paws may have excess hair around it and you can trim them as well. Do not forget to give them a treat and any type of reward for cooperating.
Portuguese Sheepdogs are prone to periodontal disease too so to avoid unnecessary dental problems as they grow up, please practice brush their teeth regularly.
This breed is territorial at times, especially to other animals. But given proper socialization, Portuguese Sheepdogs can get along well with other animals too. They are considered to be highly sociable and affectionate.
The Portuguese Sheepdog is a strong breed in general but they are also prone to stomach problems. They may encounter gastric difficulties if their diet is all over the place.
When looking for the best diet plan for your dog, it is important to consider the breed, weight, age, and overall health.
To prevent stomach aches and other gastric problems, it is best to give them fresh and human-grade ingredients with no cheap fillers. They need high protein meals and lots of fiber, calcium, and vitamin C.
The Portuguese Sheepdog is a very active breed and they can be restless without exercise. This herding breed needs about 1 hour of continuous activity daily, but should be backed with mental enrichment and stimulation.
They can benefit from daily long walks, purposeful activities such as fetching and Frisbee tossing, and Tug of War.
Dogs have bed preferences too just like us humans. The perfect bed for a medium-sized and hairy Portuguese Sheepdog is a firm memory foam mattress.
For a breed that is very active, it is important that they have an orthopedic support when they lie down especially for dogs with achy joints.
Collar & Lead
Avoid using a buckle-type neck collar. It can post risks to your Portuguese Sheepdog since they are a lively breed. It can hurt their necks when they lunge or pull.
A pet-safe harness with no pull functionality is still the best option for your them. It is simple and easy to use and perfect for training, jogging, walking, and even for playing.
A wide collar is also far better than a thin collar.
Training a Portuguese Sheepdog
Portuguese Sheepdogs are highly trainable. Some call them athletic because of their extreme energy levels and their ability to work for long hours (even for a day).
Their herding instinct is what puts them at the top in agility, showmanship, obedience, and tracking training.
If you prefer to train them by yourself instead of calling for professional help, it is best to establish a connection first with your puppy. The early months of your relationship play a significant role in the training process and progress.
For obedience training, you can do the recall, sitting, leaving food or an object alone, heeling, or staying. Portuguese Sheepdogs are very easy to train, though they can be stubborn at times.
Make sure that the trainer or the owner doing the training is firm and consistent. Otherwise, this breed will find it hard to be obedient and eventually take charge.
Brain games and sports can help them channel their herding abilities.
The Portuguese Sheepdog is a very intelligent breed, ergo, they need a lot of mental stimulation.
Though the Portuguese Sheepdog’s clear history is still a mystery, their theory is that they are a crossbreed of Briards, Catalan, and Pyrenean Sheepdogs.
It is believed that in the 1900s, Briards were imported from France to Portugal and crossbred with Catalan and Pyrenean. Thus, creating a modern sheepherding breed – The Portuguese Sheepdog.
Buying a Portuguese Sheepdog (Costs)
The kennel registered Portuguese Sheepdog puppy has a starting cost of £500.
Check with your vet if your area has particular paperwork requirements for owning a Portuguese Sheepdog. Basic paperwork that is required for this breed includes a pet registration record, proof of dog ownership, vaccination certificates, and breeding records.
Rabies vaccination is a must for all dogs.
It is also highly advised for pet owners of this breed to get an insurance since they are prone to several diseases as they age.
Health / Vaccinations
When it comes to our pets, we care for their health just like a family member because they are.
Here, we are going to pinpoint the health issues that a Portuguese Sheepdog may encounter throughout its lifetime in order for you to calculate predictable risks and draft a preventive health plan with your trusted vets.
Dental diseases affect 80% of dogs, but this is easy to prevent by committing to a religious tooth-brushing schedule.
Common illnesses a Portuguese Sheepdog is susceptible to are viral and bacterial infections. These include Parvovirus, distemper, and rabies. This is why it is very important for a puppy to get vaccinations for the above-mentioned up to date.
Portuguese Sheepdogs are at higher risk than other breeds to get gastric problems such as GDV (Gastric Dilatation or Volvolus) or bloating in layman’s term.
Since this breed has a narrow, deep chest, they are more prone to GDV. Their spleen can also be affected by the twisting of the stomach when filled with gas. It happens when the blood supply is cut off from the twisting. It can be quickly fatal.
To avoid gastric problems, vets recommend not abruptly changing their diet and introduce new food slowly.
Above all, keep them vaccinated up to date especially deworming which is a great way to remove parasites in the stomach.
Portuguese Sheepdogs are also prone to kneecap problems. Since they are lively dogs, their caps may slip out of place. It is called patellar luxation.
Cataract is another common condition that aging Portuguese Sheepdogs may experience.
FAQ about Portuguese Sheepdogs
Are the Portuguese Sheepdog hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, no. They are not hypoallergenic. They shed a lot given their coat density and length. But, gladly, there are ways to manage and neutralize their dander such as regular vacuuming especially the rugs and cloth-covered furniture, use of air filters, and brushing them outside of the house to remove excess fur.
Are the Portuguese Sheepdog aggressive?
Any dog can be aggressive if they are not given the proper care, training, and socialization that they need. In general, the Portuguese Sheepdog is not aggressive, but rather highly affectionate. They are a friendly, extremely intelligent (as tagged by the international kennel club), and are safe around kids and other age groups and even other animals too.
Can a Portuguese Sheepdog live in an apartment?
Apartment living is not a dead end for you to owning a Portuguese Sheepdog. They are very adaptable and they can thrive in an apartment, but they need to be sufficiently exercised.
Historically speaking, with all the challenges faced by the Portuguese Sheepdog breed, they are now tagged as an extremely rare breed. Not a lot of them can be found outside of Portugal.
They can adapt to apartment living too given they have enough exercise throughout the day for at least an hour.
With regards to their dominant personality, they need ample socialization and training to be able to blend well with any age group and other pets in the household.
In general, Portuguese Sheepdogs are excellent companions and great guard dogs. They are highly intelligent, independent, loyal, strong-willed, affectionate, easy to train, lively, and hardworking.