What To Know About a Portuguese Podengo

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 10, 2022
8 min read

The Portuguese podengo is a lively breed categorized in the miscellaneous class of the American Kennel Club (AKC). 

There are a number of different varieties of this dog breed. They differ in terms of size and coat type. All types of podengos are excellent hunters and affectionate pets. 

Body size. The Portuguese podengo size can vary greatly. The AKC recognizes two varieties — the large, or grande, size and the medium, or medio, size. Other kennel clubs around the world recognize a third variety referred to as the small, or pequeno, type. 

Large podengos can range from 22 to 28 inches tall at the shoulder. Medium podengos range from 16 to 22 inches at the shoulder. Depending on their size, healthy large podengos can weigh anywhere from 44 to 66 pounds. Medium podengos can weigh anywhere from 34 to 44 pounds. 

Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your dog is overweight.  

Body shape. Portuguese podengos are well-proportioned dogs. They’re almost square in profile since they’re approximately as long as they are tall. Their chests should reach to about their elbows and have a medium width.

Podengos have distinctive head shapes. They’re shaped like four-sided pyramids. The muzzles are slightly shorter than their skulls and broader at the base than the tip. 

Their forelegs are straight, and both sets of legs should be well-muscled. The legs end in oval-shaped feet with long toes. 

Lifespan. The Portuguese podengo lifespan is typical for their size. The dogs can live anywhere from 10 to 15 years. This means you should be prepared to spend at least a decade with your pet before choosing to bring one home, particularly if you’re adopting them when they’re still a puppy.

Coat. Portuguese podengos have two distinct coat types — smooth or wired. The smooth coats are short and very dense. Dogs with smooth coats also have a second undercoat. 

Wire-haired coats are rough, harsh, and less dense than the smooth versions. Wire-haired dogs don’t have a second undercoat, but the coat does form a distinctive beard in the wire-haired variety that isn’t seen in smooth-coated dogs. 

The coats can come in fifteen recognized colors, including: 

  • Chestnut
  • Fawn 
  • Gold 
  • Gray
  • White and black
  • Blonde

The coat may or may not come with white markings. No other types of markings are typically seen in the breed. 

Eyes. Portuguese podengos have almond-shaped, highly expressive eyes. They’re medium-sized and shouldn’t protrude too much from the skull. The color varies with their coat color and ranges from honey to brown. 

Personality. The Portuguese podengo personality is that of an independent, intelligent dog. Their intelligence comes in handy when they’re out hunting, but it can make them difficult to train. 

They’re very agile, playful dogs that love spending time with their families. These dogs are also very alert and make for moderate watchdogs. 

The AKC rates them a five out of five for their affection for their trusted companions. 

Grooming. The wire-haired and smooth varieties of Portuguese podengos have somewhat different grooming needs. The wire-haired versions shed in waves. The entire coat will progressively die off and be replaced by a new coat. You’ll need to brush it regularly to remove dead hairs. 

The smooth variety needs to be brushed less often, just every once in a while to keep it shiny. Both varieties will need occasional baths when they become too dirty or smelly. 

You need to check their ears regularly for debris and signs of infection. Clip their nails on a regular basis. You could even use a nail grinder to avoid splitting or cracking the nails. 

Brush their teeth on a daily basis with a dog-safe toothpaste to complete their grooming routine. 

Feeding. Make sure that your pet has access to clean water at all times. 

Your Portuguese podengo should be fed with high-quality dog food. Try to find a brand that your pet enjoys. Make sure that the nutritional requirements are specific to their stage of life, including puppy- and senior-specific foods.

One thing to keep in mind is that this breed has strong hunting instincts. Your pet may try to feed itself by hunting, which can be problematic. Keep a close eye on what your dog is eating to prevent them from becoming ill or obese.   

Always consult your veterinarian before choosing to make an at-home blend for your dog. Making your own food is a complicated process. You need to make sure that you’re meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. 

Also, make sure that you know what human foods are safe for your dog to eat before feeding them anything from your kitchen.

Exercise and mental stimulation. Overall the AKC rates the Portuguese podengo a four out of five on their energy scale. The medium-sized version of this breed has a larger amount of pent-up energy than the large size. This means that the medium-sized dogs will need more exercise.

All versions of this dog love to play. They don’t have a problem entertaining themselves with toys. They were also bred to work as packs and can get plenty of exercise playing with other dogs. They’ll often chase and stalk one another around your house if you have multiple dogs. They’re also great at many dog-based sports like agility, speed, and endurance competitions.  

These dogs need as much mental stimulation as they do physical stimulation. Interacting with them as part of fun activities like fetch, walks, and dog sports are fun ways to engage them both mentally and physically. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs, but all dogs should get a core set. 

This includes vaccinations for:

These can begin as early as six weeks of age. There are also other non-core vaccinations that you can discuss with your veterinarian. 

Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you. 

Heartworm medication is also recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S.

Portuguese podengos don’t have standard health screening in their country of origin. You should talk to the breeder about the dog’s lineage before selecting a puppy to adopt. They can be pretty healthy dogs, but there are still some problems that you should watch out for. 

Portuguese podengo health issues can include: 

  • Allergies. Allergies to dust, mold, and pollen can make your dog’s skin itch. Podengos can also be allergic to certain foods. Symptoms usually appear within your dog’s first three years of life and can get worse each year. Your dog may rub their face, lick their paw, or develop frequent ear infections when they have skin allergies. There are many different treatment options depending on the extent and location of the allergies. 
  • Thyroid problems. A common problem is hypothyroidism, a condition where your dog’s body can’t make enough thyroid hormones. Signs can include dry skin, hair loss, and behavioral problems. Your veterinarian should screen for this condition on an annual basis. Treatment is usually in the form of a pill to replace certain hormones.
  • Deafness. This is a heritable condition, so pay attention to your pet when they’re young to see if they listen to you. Have your veterinarian check them out as soon as you notice any problems. The condition could be an ear infection that requires immediate treatment.
  • Certain Cancers. This breed has a higher rate of cancer than other breeds. Signs can vary depending on the type of cancer and how far it’s progressed. Have your veterinarian regularly inspect your pet and get them an appointment if you notice any significant changes in their behavior. 
  • Heart disease. Heart murmurs can be an early sign of heart disease in your pet. With early detection and the proper medications, your dog can live for years with heart disease. You should have your veterinarian check them regularly to catch the condition early on.
  • Hip dysplasia. This is where the ball and socket of your dog's hip joint don’t develop properly. The bones grind against each other, eventually wearing down and making it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog’s joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life.

Portuguese podengos were bred to work in packs and get along very well with other dogs. They also work well with young children. The AKC rates them a five out of five for both traits. Still, they can be wary of strangers and prefer to approach them on their own terms. 

You need to be firm when training these dogs, or they’ll stop paying attention to you. Luckily, they’re very motivated by food and positive reinforcement. Early socialization is key, and you may want to consider training classes to keep them behaving their best. 

In terms of physical characteristics, the dogs shed a moderate amount, but this will depend on the type of coat that your dog has. They rarely drool. They bark a moderate amount of the time, usually when they’re provoked by a stranger or some kind of disturbance. 

In all likelihood, the Portuguese podengo came from the multi-purpose hunting dogs that the ancient Phoenicians brought with them when they journeyed around the world. The ancestors of the podengo probably arrived in Portugual sometime after 600 BC, when the Phoenician traders first sailed all the way around Africa. 

Over the next 2,000 years, the dogs adapted to the climate and environment in Portugual. The wire-coated variety is a more recent addition to the breed, likely originating sometime in the 20th century. 

The large and medium-sized dogs are not typically interbred in order to preserve the size distinctions. The different sizes were specifically created to hunt different kinds of game. Large podengos were bred to hunt large game like boar and deer. They’re meant to exhaust and detain their prey until their human companions can arrive. 

Medium podengos were bred to hunt rabbits and other small game. They’re particularly good at flushing out their prey, stalking it, and retrieving it for their human. They hunt with a cat-like style and are capable of digging prey out from the ground if necessary. 

The dogs were first recognized by the AKC in 2013. They’re the most popular in western and mid-western states within the U.S.