The American Kennel Club’s Working Group of dogs have a long history of toiling alongside man to help us do a variety of jobs. These are hardworking canines who love doing the job they were born to do. Loyal, strong, intelligent, sometimes stubborn, brave, and quiet able, these dogs have the stamina for the long haul, if necessary. Over the last decade, 15 members from the Working Group have gained in popularity with dog lovers. Breeds P – S are highlighted here.
Portuguese Water Dog is called the Cao de Agua (dog of water) in Portugal, his native land. What a Border Collie is to herding sheep, the Portuguese Water Dog is to herding fish. Once found up and down the Portugal coast, these natural born swimmers were used to drive fish into nets, retrieve lost items that fell overboard, haul in broken nets, dive for fish, carry messages from ship to ship and ship to shore, and guard his owner’s boat in foreign ports. Capable of working in the warm waters off Portugal’s coast and equally comfortable diving into icy North Atlantic waters off Newfoundland and Iceland, the Portie, or PWD, served as a fisherman’s right hand mate, and was considered a valued member of the crew, earning a portion of the day’s catch. The PWD can be traced back to 700 BC to the Central-Asian steppes close to the border between Russia and China. Sheep, cattle, camels, or horses were raised by people according to the area where they lived. Herding dogs were needed to work livestock, and because the region was isolated from the rest of the world, their dogs developed into a definite type, similar to the Portie. Only theories explain how these Asian dogs ended up in Portugal. It’s possible they were taken by the Berbers as they slowly spread out across North Africa to Morocco. During the 8th century, the Moors, descendants of the Berbers, settled in Portugal with their water dogs. A different theory has the dogs leaving the steppes with two different German tribes. One tribe, the Ostrogoths migrated west, and their dogs became the Poodle. Another tribe, the Visigoths, moved to the south to invade Rome. Their dogs became known as the Lion Dog because of the unique lion cut of their coat. In the 5th century, the Visigoths invaded Spain and Portugal, and dogs that accompanied them became the PWD. Regardless of how the Portie ended up in Portugal, the breed has remained unchanged in his native country for centuries. Portugal’s fishing industry began a slow decline by the end of the 1800’s, leaving water dogs without a job, and they were at risk of becoming extinct. The breed was saved in the 1930’s, and today has gained in popularity, moving from number 73 on AKC’s list of popular dogs up to number 55 over the last ten years.
Rottweiler Rottie history isn’t well known, but there is good evidence his ancestors are Roman Mastiff-type dogs used as drover dogs, to guard soldiers, and protect supply dumps. An army moves on its stomach, and the only way to supply fresh meat was to move large herds and flocks behind advancing soldiers. The Romans were ambitious with a strong desire to conquer all of Europe. Along the way, these Mastiff-type dogs mated with native dogs, creating new breeds. Around 74 AD, one campaign took the Romans to southern Germany, a region well suited for agriculture. Over the centuries, descendants of the Roman dogs were used to guard herds and drive cattle back and forth to market. To insure thieves would think twice before trying to rob them, after selling their livestock, cattlemen would put their cash filled purses around the neck of their Rottweiler. Butchers used dogs to pull meat laden carts for them. In the mid 1800’s the railroad and donkey diminished the need for drover dogs, and the Rottweiler became a breed that was no longer needed. In those days, dogs had to earn their keep, and when modern technology took over doing the job they had done, the dogs became unnecessary. The Rottweiler quickly began to decline in population. The beginning of the 20th century looked bleak for this breed until it was discovered the dog was a natural for doing police work. With Germany as his country of origin, he is named after the German town, Rottweil. Today, the Rottweiler has regained his former glory, gaining in popularity over the last decade, moving from number 13 up to 9 on AKC’s most popular dog list.
Siberian Husky is considered to be one of the oldest breeds. The Sibe is native to northern Siberia, and was created by the Chukchi tribe when their survival was dependent on a reliable means of transportation. They were forced to expand their hunting grounds and needed a dog with endurance to travel many miles to and from the Siberian coastal area where their main source of food, seal, could be found. Dogs had to be capable of running at a moderate speed over long distances pulling a light to moderate load, and doing it in frigid temperatures without exerting too much energy – vital energy they needed to survive in the harsh climate. The Chukchi dog, direct ancestor of the Sibe, became the workhorse for the Chukchi tribe, and their bloodline remained pure for at least 3,000 years up through the 19th century. When the dogs weren’t working, women took care of them, and because the dogs were in close proximity with children, only the most even tempered, non aggressive dogs were allowed to breed. Sibes were used not only to transport loads, they also kept watch over their family and home. Huskies were brought to Alaska in the early 1900’s by fur traders for sled dog racing. Norwegian immigrant, Leonhard Seppala, arrived in Alaska about the same time as the Husky, and he quickly became the man to beat in sled dog racing competitions. In 1925, a diphtheria outbreak hit the small town of Nome, Alaska, threatening everyone in town. Seppala and his team of Huskies, led by his lead dog, Togo, were part of a relay team of mushers that delivered life-saving serum in a historic run that covered 674 miles in only five and a half days. Huskies are proud, smart, fun loving, strong, problem solvers, escape artists, loyal, independent, stubborn, affectionate, high prey drive, common sense dogs with an endless amount of energy, and an excellent work ethic. They can be hard to train, and may not be the right dog for some owners. The Siberian Husky has gained in their popularity, moving from number 21 to the 16 spot over the last ten years.
Standard Schnauzer originated in Germany and is the oldest of the three distinct Schnauzer breeds and the prototype of the Miniature and Giant Schnauzer. Dogs similar to the Standard Schnauzer have been around since the Middle Ages where they took on duties around German farms and homes. These feisty dogs guarded livestock, their family and home, controlled vermin, and traveled with their owner to market to provide protection for their fresh produce carts. Albrecht Dürer, a German painter, had a fondness for his Standard Schnauzer he owned one for at least 12 years. His dog appears in some of his paintings between 1492 and 1504. Rembrandt also painted Schnauzers. During the 15th and 16th centuries, portraits of Schnauzers can be found in many paintings of that era. Sitting in the marketplace of Mechlinburg, Germany is a statue of a hunter with a Schnauzer sitting at his feet. This breed is described as “the dog with the human brain” because he’s intelligent and quick to learn. German breeders believe the Schnauzer is second to none in their bravery and awareness. During WW I and II, the army used Schnauzers to carry messages, and as Red Cross aides. German police utilized them as well. Today, this breed works as assistance and therapy dogs, search and rescue, and as bomb sniffing dogs. Known as the Wirehaired Pinscher until sometime in the late 1800’s, the Schnauzer was most likely developed by crossing the black German Poodle and gray wolf spitz which gave the breed his familiar pepper and salt coat. In Germany, black Schnauzers are common. Because of his poodle heritage, the Schnauzer can be trained to hunt and retrieve. The Schnauzer name came from one individual dog named Schnauzer who was shown in 1879 as the Wirehaired Pinscher at a dog show in Germany. Schnauzer means “small beard.” As a companion pet, they have been steadily gaining in popularity over the last ten years moving from number 101 up to 89 on AKC’s most popular dog list.
Pictured: Portuguese Water Dog – 10 week old puppy, Rottweiler, Siberian Huskies, Standard Schnauzer – 9 months old.
Dog Breeds Gaining in Popularity: Working Group A-C
Dog Breeds Gaining in Popularity: Working Group D-N
Dog Breeds Gaining in Popularity: Hound Group