zylhdum · 2021-02-12

First Dog not right for everyone, breeders say

A high-profile pooch named Bo is sparking interest in a hard-working breed with a unique history.

But area kennels specializing in Portuguese water dogs – the pet of choice for U.S. President Barack Obama – say those contemplating one for their own home are best to bone up on the realities of ownership.

“They are a great dog for the right family, but they are not the best dog for everybody,” said Cathie Sockett, who runs Ondulado Kennel near Orillia with her husband Steve.

Soon after Obama’s four-legged friend was splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the globe, Sockett was fielding questions from curious callers.

“There seems to be a lot more interest from people that aren’t necessarily looking for dogs, but know that I have them and are asking about them,” she added. “Someone in Calgary said, ‘I’ve been looking pre-Obama.”

The water-loving breed was once a favourite of Portuguese fishermen who relied on the curly or wavy-coated canines to retrieve nets and ferry messages from ship to shore.

“They are a highly intelligent, problem solving, ancient working breed,” said Hawkestone resident Gillian Goldschmidt of Belouro Kennels.

The family-friendly dogs are also “high maintenance."

“They need both physical and mental stimulation because they are highly intelligent,” Goldschmidt added. “They are truly a family member, and they are like Velcro. They want to be with you.”

Sockett, who has six Portuguese water dogs ranging in age from 10 months to 13 years, concurred, saying the high-energy breed requires an active environment to thrive.

“Busy homes are good for them,” she added.

Both kennels work to ensure prospective buyers are well suited to caring for the animal.

“We are very selective about where they are going to go,” said Goldschmidt. “There is so much to consider. We like to meet (the buyers) a couple of times. And we don’t ship dogs. We want to meet people who are interested in getting one of our dogs.”

Reputable breeders register their dogs with the Canadian Kennel Club and require buyers to sign non-breeding agreements as a condition of sale, said Sockett.

“The concern is that people will start to breed (the animals) like crazy, and we don’t want that,” she said, noting that the dogs need to be screened for possible health problems.

As for Bo’s future, Goldschmidt could only speculate on his duties as First Pet.

“I don’t know what kind of job they are going to get the dog to do,” she added. “Courier documents in puncture-proof pouches?”

Goldschmidt and her husband Frank have three dogs of their own but no puppies at the moment.