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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Portuguese Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Portuguese Sheepdog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
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 playful, fun-loving natures. 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 good news is that breed numbers are slowly rising in the UK although anyone wanting to share a home with a Portuguese Sheepdog would need to register their interest with a breeder for the pleasure of doing so bearing in mind that waiting list may be long and a well-bred puppy can often command a lot of money.
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 first records of the breed having been kept during the 20th Century. 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 eye rims. 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 in the breed are as follows:
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard.
When a Portuguese Sheepdog moves, they do so with great purpose covering a lot of ground when they do.
Prospective owners should be wary of any puppies or dogs that show any sort of exaggeration whether in their looks, conformation or temperament. Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums.
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 must 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 the alpha dog is in a household, 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.
Portuguese Sheepdogs are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they must be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with their specific needs. They can be wilful and stubborn when the mood takes them which means that if allowed, they could get the better on a novice owner making them harder to manage and live with.
Portuguese Sheepdogs are very social by nature and even though they have working and hunting dogs in their lineage, they do not have a very high prey drive. However, this is not to say that a dog would not give chase to a smaller animal when the mood takes them, and this includes squirrels and the cat from next door.
Portuguese Sheepdogs have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, they quickly learn how to get their own way when they want something. They are known to be “monkey-like” in their behaviour which has earned the name “monkey dog” in their native Portugal.
Portuguese Sheepdogs were bred as working dogs which is something that is deeply embedded in their psyche. As such, they are better suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and households that have secure, well-fenced back gardens a dog can safely roam in whenever possible to let off steam.
Although Portuguese Sheepdogs form strong ties with their families, they do not typically suffer from separation anxiety providing they are not left to their own devices for too long at any one time. No dogs like to be left alone for long periods of time which often sees them developing unwanted and destructive behavioural issues which could include incessant barking.
Some Portuguese Sheepdogs like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings.
Most Portuguese Sheepdogs love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a dog off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own. It is also important to thoroughly dry off a dog’s coat to prevent any moisture from being trapped in their coats which could cause a skin allergy.
Portugues Sheepdogs are natural watchdogs and are always quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about or when something they don’t like is going on in their environment although they would rarely do this aggressively, preferring to stand their ground and bark.
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.
Like all puppies, Portuguese Sheepdog puppies are very cute and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in a new home. However, once and puppy is nicely settled in owners must start out as they mean to go on which means laying down rules and boundaries so that a puppy understands what is expected of them. It also helps establish a pecking order and who is alpha dog in a household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
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 must 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.
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. The health issues that most affect the breed are as follows:
Portuguese Sheepdog puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
As with other breeds, some Portuguese Sheepdogs gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Portuguese Sheepdogs are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Portuguese Sheepdog breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
There are not breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Portuguese Sheepdog because they are not a Kennel Club recognised breed. However, breeders should follow KC breeding guidelines on how many litters a dam should produce and her age.
The Portuguese Sheepdog is not a Kennel Club recognised breed, as such there are no KC Assured Breeder requirements in place.
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.
Portuguese Sheepdog puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Portuguese Sheepdog puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Portuguese Sheepdog puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Portuguese Sheepdogs need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Portuguese Sheepdog in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Portuguese Sheepdogs need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Portuguese Sheepdogs don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
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 should 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 builds 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.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Portuguese Sheepdog puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 12 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Portuguese Sheepdog should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Portuguese Sheepdog can be fed the following amounts every day:
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 £49.57 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £85.45 a month (quote as of March 2018). 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 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 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 well-bred, healthy Portuguese Sheepdog puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Finding well-bred Portuguese Sheepdog puppies can be hard because so few are bred every year in the UK world which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Portuguese Sheepdogs there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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