It took us a long time to be emotionally ready to bring another canine friend into our home after losing Petey (I miss that dog every day). After moving to Lisbon, we finally made the choice to adopt a dog. The process for adopting a dog in Portugal was easy. Picking one pup from all those gorgeous dogs at the rescue was not. Antonio and I kept going back to this cute blonde dog. He kept standing on his back legs and he won our heart. Turns out we adopted a medium Portuguese Podengo (also known as Cão Coelheiro – the rabbit dog).
I didn’t know he was a Podengo until I started walking him around in Lisbon at Parque Eduardo VII. People kept stopping me and telling me the breed name. Once I figured out what they were saying (I’m still learning Portuguese and they eat vowels like it’s breakfast), I came home and googled the breed. It was confirmed in seconds. I am now the proud guardian of a medium, smooth Portuguese Podengo.
What do Portuguese Podengos Look Like?
They come in three sizes: small, medium and large (Santino Maria is a medium). Their weight can range according to their size with small Podengos starting at 4 kilos (8 lbs) and large ones getting to 30 kilos (66 lbs). They’re super active, happy, and can be great companions who don’t do so well when left alone. It is said they are a healthy breed that can live from 12-16 years.
Santino Maria is the breed standard Portuguese Podengos for his length at 11kgs. Thin but not too thin.
Their coat can be either short and smooth (that’s our guy) or long and coarse. They’re usually blonde with white markings on top of their head, at the tip of their tail and on their paws. They should have beards with eyelashes noting their coat.
Podengos are great looking dogs regardless of size. Their head looks like a triangle (very similar to Pharaoh hounds). They’ve got pointed ears that are super tall (and sometimes break when they’re being attentive). They’ve got huge chest cavities (they need lots of air for running after prey – they’re super fast), and have beautiful muscle. Overall, they don’t have the same body issues that other dog breeds have when it comes to bone and muscle issues.
Portuguese Podengo History
As their appearance hints, they are descendants of Egyptian Pharaoh Hounds. It is said they made it to Portugal on Phoenician ships around 700 BC. They were trained to become hunters and still are, especially in the north of Portugal. This is actually pretty bad for them. The people at Pegadas e Bigodes (the rescue where we adopted him), told us that hunters keep Podengos for about a year. They keep them in small cages and they keep them hungry (because they think this will make them better hunters). Then, after the dogs have served their duty, they abandon them. It’s quite sad. Actually, when you go outside of the cities, most dogs are kept on a chain outside people’s homes all alone. That’s one of the few things in Portugal that really makes me sad. Luckily, they are starting to change things up when it comes to animal neglect and cruelty in Portugal.
Portuguese Podengo Personality
Since they were bred for hunting, they are smart, active, and alert. They love to sniff and those big ears pick up every sound in the area. This also means that they need tons of exercise and that they get bored easily. If you’re not an active person, Podengos are probably not the right dog for you. If you haven’t had a dog before, I would not necessarily recommend this breed.
They’re semi-obedient and require tons of training. I tried letting Santino off-leash, but he’s pretty stubborn and does not always come back when called. He’s also easily distracted and will ignore the comeback command. Apparently, this is typical of the breed. I know that I can only let him off leash in certain situations such as when he’s around tons of other dogs to keep his attention focused on one place.
Portuguese Podengo Socialization
It was very good for us that Santino lived at the shelter. He was already used to dogs and we did not have to socialize him to dogs. He wants to play with every dog he sees. Humans are a different story, there is no aggression at all, but plenty of fear. He still needs to be socialized with humans. He is not a fan of men, especially if he is wearing hats. If you end up with a Podengo, I suggest you do heavy training on socialization.
One thing we learned very quickly is how attached Podengos can get. They don’t like being alone and do better if you work from home or if there is another dog in the household. They can get separation anxiety when left alone, so begin to work at this early. Our little guy is already way too attached to me, so we’re working on making sure this does not become an issue later.
Do Podengos Bark A Lot?
Ours doesn’t. At least not yet and we’re working to discourage that behavior. Turns out because they are hunting dogs, they were bred not to be barkers – it would spook the animals they were chasing. When they do, they have a very particular sound to their voice and they are known to sing. Santino has a very cute high pitched bark. We thought our Podengo was mute for the first two weeks of being with us. He only barked when the cable guy came in to do repairs. Now he only barks when we are outside and he is startled by runners or when he sees people on bikes.
Do Podengos Shed?
Soooo….we were told Podengos only shed twice a year. Ours has been shedding plenty. Podengos aren’t supposed to have an undercoat. Perhaps Santino is shedding for his bi-yearly shed, but we’ll have to see what happens.
Podengos & Water
They like it but aren’t strong swimmers, so if you’re going to a body of water with a strong current. Try to keep them out. Also, don’t force your pup into the water. Let them discover it themselves.
Feeding Your Podengo
Podengos do well with a routine, so establish one early. Santino eats after his morning walk and before we have dinner. You should also keep their diet fairly stable so their tummy does not get upset. We do a simple diet of chicken, rice, and vegetables that we cook in the pressure cooker. One chicken lasts him about 3 days. I was told they tend to get picky as they get older. I see this already in our guy. Unlike Petey who ate anything that was put in front of him, Santino only likes a few things.
Portuguese Podengo Chewing Behavior
Ours loves to chew. He really enjoys doing so on our shoes, so we have to be extra careful not to leave any lying around. We’ve armed our home with plenty of chew toys and he loves his kong.
We’re still learning as we go with Santino Maria. He still gets startled by Antonio, especially if he is wearing a hat, but we see a little improvement daily. If you have questions about Podengos or about becoming an expat in Lisbon, just leave a comment.
Antonio chiming in:
They don’t kiss you as much as Petey did. But I love him none the less.