The Portuguese Water Dog almost faced total obliteration as a breed. Once his job as a fisherman was lost to the emerging technologies in the fishing industry, the dog was not needed any longer. He was no longer bred, and he almost completely died out. In fact, at one point of time in the 1970s, there were only 25 Portuguese Water Dogs in existence anywhere in the world. Resurgence of the breed was thanks to a Portuguese shipping mogul named Dr. Vasco Bensuade who took on the repopulation of the breed. He had seen the benefits of the breed as working dogs and he took a great interest in them.
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It is thanks to Dr. Bensuade that there are currently over 10,000 Portuguese Water Dogs in the United States today. The breed was imported to the United States and the growth of the breed in the US was thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Miler, two of the founders of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, who took a pair of the rare dogs received in trade and began to breed them in the US. But it was Dr. Bensuade who is responsible for appropriately breeding the dogs so there was a reliable breed standard that could be recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1984.
Another big help in the reestablishment of the Portuguese Water Dog in Portugal and in the US was DR. Antonio Cabral. Dr. Cabral worked with many other people to bring the Portuguese Water Dog back from near extinction. In fact, his dogs were bred to have a special "mark of Cabral," which is a triangular patch of differently colored hair a few inches from the base of the dog's tail. This mark is not on all Portuguese Water Dogs, and it can only really be seen when the dog's hair is clipped short.
Even with the newly reformed interest in Portuguese water Dogs, they are still quite rare in the US and in Portugal. They are not a common entry into such shows as England's Crufts Competition, which had only about 15 entries for the breed in 2002. The dog is popular in Finland, however, and is still used there as a fishing dog.
The Portuguese Water Dog can be taught a number of impressive tricks and tasks. He can still work as a retriever and in San Francisco he still does. The organization called the Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps, or B.A.R.K., is a group of Portuguese Water Dogs who are trained to fish homerun balls out of the bay after they are hit over the wall of Pacific Bell Park.
There is one Portuguese Water Dog who has even written a book. The dog belonged to Senator Ted Kennedy, and his name is Splash. Splash is the "author" of a book entitled My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington. This fictional children's book is not literally written by Splash, but he is the narrator of the tale.
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