Considering adding a podengo to your pack?
It’s no surprise, as this ancient breed is a sporty, affectionate friend who’s also as sharp as a tack. That said, as a so-called primitive breed with high energy and an independent side, he’s not the best choice for every family, so knowing his quirks from head to tail is a must before bringing him home.
Below, we’ll explore the roots of the Portuguese podengo, dive into his daily needs, and share what it’s like owning one to fill in the blanks.
Podengo Breed Basics: Key Takeaways
- Podengos are high-energy hunting dogs. With a name that literally means “rabbit hunter,” the podengo is first and foremost a hunting breed with a strong working strive and an eye for chasing game, which matches well with some owners but is challenging for others.
- Podengos come in three sizes and two coat varieties. A doggo of many looks, the podengo can be pequeno (small), medio (medium), or grande (large) and may have a smooth or wiry coat.
- Podengos are intelligent but independent. The podengo is one smart sniffer, as he’s used to quickly solving his own problems during hunts, but that doesn’t mean he’s always willing to follow your commands, potentially leading to training frustration.
The Podengo Breed Basics
Getting to know the podengo starts with learning the basics about them. Let’s dive into must-know facts about these four-footers.
- Breed: Portuguese podengo
- Other Names: Podengo, Portuguese warren hound
- Coat: Two varieties – smooth and wired-haired
- Color Pattern: Solid yellow or fawn. The breed standard also permits white patches.
- Sizes: Three sizes: pequeno (small), medio (medium), and grande (large).
- Weight: Pequenos weigh 9 to 13 pounds, medios weigh 35 to 44 pounds, and grandes weigh 44 to 66 pounds.
- Height: Pequenos measure 8 to 12 inches at the withers, medios measure 16 to 22 inches, and grandes measure 22 to 28 inches.
- Intelligence Level: Highly intelligent
- Shedding Level: Regular moderate shedders
- Grooming Requirements: Low; smooth-coated podengos require occasional brushing, while wirehaired pups need regular combing to remove dead hair.
- Energy Level: High
- Trainability: Independent nature can make training a challenge
- Clinginess: Affectionate
- Breed Popularity: Rare in the U.S.
- Origin: Portugal
- Breed Registries: Recognized by the AKC, UKC, and FCI. The AKC recognizes the medio and grande as one breed, with the pequeno separate, while the UKC and FCI recognize all three sizes as the same.
- Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
- Suitability for First-Time Owners: Not recommended for beginners
The Podengo’s History
The podengo has a history riddled with unknowns, though most agree this hunting dog breed originated in Portugal around 700 BC. Meaning “rabbit hunter” in Portuguese, the breed is believed to come from dogs traveling with traders at the time.
The breed’s three sizes correlate to their hunting duties, with the podengo grande used in deer and boar hunts while the medio and pequeno participate in rabbit hunts. Explorers and merchants also used pequenos as ratters on ships.
The podengo is the national dog of Portugal and remains a favorite in its homeland, though they’re rare in the United States, with the first arriving stateside in 1994.
The Podengo Breed: The Good, the Bad, and the Hairy
Reading facts about the podengo is one thing, but what is it like to actually live with one of these furry friends? Let’s learn more about the upsides of the breed and its downsides to see if they’re a good fit for your lifestyle.
The positives of sharing your home with a podengo:
- Podengos are affectionate dogs by nature. The breed is loving with his family, especially the pequeno, who’s known to be quite the cuddlebug. He’s a good choice for families with kiddos and those looking for a dog who pours on the love.
- Podengos are athletes ready to play, work, and explore. As a hunting breed, he’s a natural on the trail and doesn’t mind a hardy hike, vermin-catching task, or jog with you around the block. Agility and lure-coursing are just two of the canine sports he’d excel at.
- Podengos are sociable sniffers with other canines. The breed originally hunted in packs and has retained this good-natured attitude with other dogs, getting along well with most four-footed friends.
- Podengos are a relatively healthy breed. Unlike many breeds, the podengo only has a handful of known health issues that are somewhat standard in the dog world, like hip dysplasia, luxating patella, and eye issues. Being so rare in the U.S., breeders can screen and monitor dogs for problems much easier, producing healthier puppies.
- Podengo grooming needs can be minimal. The smooth-coated podengo only needs the occasional brushing and washing, making him a low-maintenance breed. Even the wire-coated variety only needs a comb-through every few days to remove dead hair, which isn’t too much fuss.
These uncommon canines sound like awesome companions, and to many, they are. But the breed may not mesh well with everyone’s lifestyle.
Knowing the negatives is important to ensure they fit your household well.
The challenges of living with a Podengo:
- Podengos can be super independent. This breed is super smart, but he doesn’t always respond to commands, which can be difficult during training. Positive reinforcement is a must with him, along with mixing things up regularly to keep him interested.
- Podengos will follow their noses or eyes. As a hound, he’s always looking for exciting new sights and smells. These may be outside your fencing, so always monitor him outdoors and keep him secured on a lead in unfenced areas. If he sees or smells something interesting, he may bolt!
- Pogendos require daily physical and mental exercise. Couch potatoes (or super busy families) may find the breed’s playful, active nature too much to handle. This high-octane hunting dog needs to flex his legs and brain daily. He won’t be satisfied with a boring backyard or brief walks.
- Podengos are rare in the U.S. The breed isn’t common at all stateside, which makes finding a podengo (puppy or adult) difficult. You may wind up on a puppy waitlist for over a year or need to travel a considerable distance to meet with a breeder. If you’re after a pup ASAP, this isn’t the breed for you.
- Podengos may not be best for households with cats or small dogs. Like other sighthounds, this breed has a strong prey drive, so he’s prone to chasing small animals like cats. Larger podengos may chase little dogs, too, potentially leading to injury.
- Podengos can be wary of strangers. While affectionate with family, the podengo can be unsure of new faces. This vocal dog breed can also be a big-time barker at the doorbell or passersby outside the home.
- Podengos aren’t a good fit for colder climates. The breed’s natural coat doesn’t offer much insulation from the cold, making winter a real drag (and potentially dangerous) in some areas. A winter dog coat can keep your canine cozier, but outdoor time should be brief in cold weather.
Every dog is unique, so not every podengo is the same.
You’ll have outliers, with some bonding beautifully with cats and never chasing them and others being somewhat lazy, but it’s essential to know how most are.
Knowing these ins and outs doesn’t replace the best way to get to know the breed, however: discussing them with a breeder and meeting one or two for yourself.
Bottom Line: Is a Podengo Right for YOUR Family?
Podengos are fascinating four-footers with a long history by our side, but they fit in better with some families than others.
If these describe you, the podengo may be a good choice for your family:
- You’re experienced with dogs and dog training. The podengo’s independent streak can be a real headache for newbie dog owners to navigate, but those with patience and experience know how to appreciate (and work around) the breed’s occasionally headstrong ways.
- You’re active or enjoy dog sports. If you’re ready to jump head-first into daily exercise and canine enrichment, this is the dog for you. He’s an excellent canine contender for a hiking or jogging buddy and a natural at sports like agility, lure coursing, and Earthdog tests.
- You’re looking for a family-friendly canine. The podengo is extremely affectionate with his family and loves as fiercely as he plays, making him the perfect pup for households with kids.
- You have another dog or frequently interact with other canines. This sniffer is one of the dog world’s social butterflies, so living with other doggos or meeting new ones is usually no big deal if he has been properly socialized.
- You’re patient in your puppy search. As a rare breed in the U.S., podengo breeders are few and far between. Not only does this make it likely you’ll need to wait for a pooch (adult or puppy), but you’ll also likely pay more for the puppy versus buying a more popular breed.
The pointy-eared podengo is a unique character right at home in active families or sporting households. He remains one of the rarer breeds stateside, so finding him readily can be like winning the lottery. But for the right person, the podengo is well worth the wait and a jackpot with four legs.
Have you met a podengo? Do you have one (or more) at home? Anything you’d like to share with other pet parents interested in the breed? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear.