Portuguese Sheepdog

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Portuguese Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Portuguese Sheepdog

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #189 out of 243 Dog Breeds.

The Portuguese Sheepdog breed is also commonly known by the names cão macaco, monkey dog, macaque dog, cão da Serra de Aires.
14 - 15 years
Pedigree Breed ?
No - Not Currently KC Recognised
Males 45 - 55 cm
Females 42 - 52 cm at the withers
Males 17 - 27 kg
Females 17 - 27 kg
Health Tests Available
No Health Tests Currently Recommended
Average Price (More Info)
£663 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


The Portuguese Sheepdog is relatively unknown here in the UK although they are highly prized in their native Portugal and in other European countries. They are often called "Monkey Dogs" because of their monkey-like faces. Not only is the Portuguese Sheepdog a lovely looking dog, but they also make wonderful companions and family pets thanks to their kind, affectionate and loyal natures.


The actual origins of the Portuguese Sheepdog remain a bit of a mystery although these charming dogs are thought to be descendants of the Briard and the Pyrenean Sheepdog.  The breed was developed in the Serra de Aires region of Portugal because native breeds were not suited to the harsh conditions of the region. As such the Portuguese Sheepdog was developed to be robust so they could cope with the dry and often challenging environments while driving livestock which included sheep, cattle, goats, pigs and horses. Their coats offered them all the protection these dogs needed against the elements in regions where the winters were freezing and harsh and the summers arid and extremely hot.

Early examples of the Cão da Serra de Aires looked more like the Pyrenean Sheepdog, but over time and with Briards being introduced into the mix by the Count of Castro Guimarães during the 20th century which he did to improve the breed, they took on the characteristics of the dogs we see today.

At one time, their numbers fell dangerously low, but thanks to their kind dispositions and beautiful coats, the Portuguese Sheepdog earned a large fan base and as such breed enthusiasts saved the breed from extinction. Very soon, these charming dogs became better known as companions and family pets and their popularity soon spread to other European countries.

In 1932, these lovely dogs were recognised as a breed by the Clube Portuguese de Carnicultura. Then in 1996, they were recognised by the FCI and a breed standard was established although this is being revised. To date, the Portuguese Sheepdog is not recognised by The Kennel Club here in the UK and these charming dogs remain relatively unknown although, as previously mentioned, they are popular in many European countries. Anyone wishing to share their home with a Portuguese Sheepdog would need to register their interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list as so few puppies are bred every year.


Height at the withers: Males 45 - 55 cm, Females 42 - 52 cm

Average weight: Males 17 - 27 kg, Females 17 - 27 kg

The Portuguese Sheepdog is a medium size dog and one that boasts a lovely long coat that covers their entire body. They are known for their monkey-like features which adds to their endearing looks and why they are often referred to as "Monkey Dogs".

They have broad, strong well-proportioned heads with a nicely defined stop. Their skulls are a little longer than they are wide and flat between a dog's ears. They have a pronounced median line that goes halfway up their foreheads and quite a prominent occiput. Muzzles are short and straight although in some dogs, they can be a little hollow. Their lips are thin and tight with no overlap evident. The Portuguese Sheepdog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.

Their noses seem a little raised when seen in profile and have large, wide open nostrils. Noses are preferably black in colour although they can be lighter to match a dog's coat. Their eyes are round and moderately large being dark in colour with dark eyerims. The Portuguese Sheepdog always has an alert, calm and intelligent look about their eyes.

Their ears are moderately long and boast having fine leathers being set high and hanging down without any folds. Their necks are moderately long and merge smoothly into a dog’s shoulders without any dewlap being evident. Their shoulders are well muscled and nicely laid back with dogs having straight and strong front legs.

The Portuguese Sheepdog's body is longer than tall with dogs having nice level or slightly hollow backs. Chests are moderately broad and nicely let down with dogs boasting prominent forechests. Their ribs are lightly sprung and oval shaped, sloping towards a dog’s back end. Their loins are wide, nicely rounded and short while their croups slope slightly adding to a dog's athletic look. Their hindquarters are strong and well-muscled with back legs being straight and muscular. Feet are round and nicely knuckled up with tight, long toes and firm, thick, dark paw pads. Tails are set high being wider at the base before tapering to the tip. Dogs carry their tails down when relaxed, but higher when excited or on the move.

When it comes to their coat, the Portuguese Sheepdog boasts having a long single coat that can either be straight or it can have a slight wave in it. The long hair on a dog's face forms a moustache, eyebrows and beards. However, they have long hair all over the body and on their legs which includes between their toes. Their coats are quite harsh to the touch much like that of a goat. The most commonly seen colours are as follows:

  • Chestnut
  • Yellow
  • Grey
  • Fawn
  • Wolf grey


The Portuguese Sheepdog is highly intelligent and likes nothing more than to please forming strong bonds with their owners and their families. They are high energy dogs that like to be kept busy and as such they are the perfect choice for people who live in more rural areas of the country and who enjoy spending lots of time in the great outdoors with a canine companion at their side. They are not the best choice for first time owners because a Portuguese Sheepdog needs to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of this type of active, intelligent, working dog.

They are naturally wary of strangers which is a trait that's deeply embedded in their psyche and one of the reasons why they are so highly prized guard dogs in their native Portugal. However, rarely would one of these dogs show any sort of aggression towards a person they do not know, preferring to keep their distance until they get to know them.

They retain their strong guarding and herding instincts even in a home environment so it’s essential to gently curb these when dogs are still young and before it turns into a real problem. It's really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing dogs to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life so they understand what is expected of them.

A Portuguese Sheepdog is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle. With the right amount of socialisation and correct training, the Portuguese Sheepdog is an obedient dog and one that excels at all sorts of canine sports which includes activities like agility, herding, obedience and flyball to name but four.

Intelligence / Trainability

The Portuguese Sheepdog is a very smart dog and a quick learner with the added bonus being they are naturally obedient dogs. The downside to them being fast learners is that they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good ones which is why their training has to be consistent and always fair so that a dog understands what their owner expects of them. These dogs are never happier than when they are given something to do and why they are so amenable to learning new things.

The key to successfully training a Portuguese Sheepdog is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions shorter so a dog stays more focussed. Being so intelligent, a Portuguese Sheepdog would soon find more repetitive and longer training sessions boring. They are sensitive dogs by nature and as such they do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods, but they do respond well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs.

Children and Other Pets

Portuguese Sheepdogs make wonderful family pets and are known to be tolerant and patient are around children of all ages. However, because of their strong desire to herd everything that moves, they often like to round children up too which can turn into a bit of a problem more especially if there are younger children or toddlers in a household. As such any interaction between a dog and toddlers should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure things stay calm and nobody gets pushed around or knocked over.

When a Portuguese Sheepdogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together too. However, a Portuguese Sheepdog would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game. Care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets just to be on the safe side.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Portuguese Sheepdog Health

The average life expectancy of a Portuguese Sheepdog is between 14 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

The Portuguese Sheepdog is known to be a healthy, robust dog thanks to the fact the breed has remained relatively untouched. As such, they are not known to suffer from any of the hereditary and congenital health issues often seen in other breeds.

Caring for a Portuguese Sheepdog

As with any other breed, Portuguese Sheepdogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


The Portuguese Sheepdog boasts a long single coat that can either be straight or wavy and as such they need to be brushed several times a week to prevent any knots and tangles from forming. Special attention has to be paid to their moustaches and beards because food often gets stuck in the longer hair after a dog has eaten. As such, their beards and whiskers need to be regularly wiped with a clean, damp cloth. They shed steadily throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat.

It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


The Portuguese Sheepdog is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. They need at least 1 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Portuguese Sheepdog would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they may be feeling.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden whenever they can so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active and inquisitive dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.

With this said, puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.


If you get a Portuguese Sheepdog puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important for dogs to be given the right amount of daily exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Portuguese Sheepdog

If you are looking to buy a Portuguese Sheepdog, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year and you would need to pay anything upwards of £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Portuguese Sheepdog in northern England would be £47.30 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £83.08 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Portuguese Sheepdog and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Portuguese Sheepdog would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.

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