The Obamas have picked a dog.
They are rescuing it. That’s the good thing.
Problem: it’s from a breed with really poor genetic diversity.
In 1975, there were 66 Portuguese water dogs and 85 worldwide.
All Portuguese water dogs descend from these animals.
It’s not that this is a bad breed. It’s not.
It’s that it is a relict. At one time, nearly every European country had a shaggy, low shed dog of the poodle type. The British version of this dog, and the precursor to the retrievers and water spaniel is the rough water dog, also known as the “water rug.” And relicts don’t have good genetic diversity. All of these dogs descend from a mere 30 dogs. That means they these dogs don’t have as many genetic cards to shuffle to breed for good health.
The Portuguese water dog is so inbred that it is model organism for genetics research.
I would say that in ten years that Portuguese water dog will have the following problems: 1/3 will have temperament issues and the average lifespan will be about 6 years.
This breed will not be able to withstand the popularity surge that is sure to happen. This surge will lead to puppy milling and uninformed backyard breeding. Both of which will lead to less genetic testing for disorders.
Ted Kennedy may have a pair of them, and he was probably instrumental in choosing the dog for President Obama. He might like them, but if he really understood their issues, he’d reconsider having the president choose one.
They need to do some more vetting, because the Portuguese water dogs will need a vet or two in the future.
I hope that this dog is chosen for the right reasons. Bill Clinton got Buddy the wild Labrador because he wanted a dog that made him look like a family man. This dog arrived on the heels of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He was chosen because Labs were (and still are) the number 1 dog breed in America. He couldn’t be a black one because that dog wouldn’t photograph well. He couldn’t be a yellow one because the dog’s color would photograph too well. So a chocolate was chosen. And to make matters worse, he was a working-type chocolate- the wildest kind of Lab you can get!
I don’t think Buddy was really President Clinton’s favorite animal. I’ve always felt that he was just a photo-op dog. If Clinton had really wanted a Lab, he would’ve done lots of research and found that the working-type dogs are very energetic. He would’ve provided a lot of room for the dog to exercise, or he would’ve gotten a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, which is exactly what Reagan did.
Reagan received a Bouvier des Flandres puppy as a gift. The Bouvier puppy, named lucky, had very strong herding instincts. He also used his teeth to herd. The problem was he was herding the staff.
So Lucky got sent to Reagan’s Ranch.
And Reagan got a Cavalier named Rex.
(It’s not that Cavaliers are wonderfully healthy, but Rex fit their lifestyle far better than hard driving Bouvier. And for that, I do give the Reagans some credit.)
Update: False alarm. Obamas still haven’t decided on dog.
The Portuguese water dog community can sleep soundly for now.
Update 4/13/09: The Portuguese water dog community has proven to be very careful in the unveiling of the Obama dog. I doubt that this breed will be ruined as my earlier “chicken little” thoughts suggested.
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