Portuguese Water Dogs Spirited, Energetic Breed

The Obamas' new dog Bo is likely to keep the tweens on their feet.

April 13, 2009, 7:20 AM

April 13, 2009 — -- If the first family's new dog Bo follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, the Obamas should get ready for a high-spirited, energetic dog that is likely to keep the them on their toes.

The much-awaited first pup will move into the White House Tuesday. But as the Obama girls prepare to welcome their new family member, they should keep a few pointers in mind.

Sandy Mejias, whose family breeds, trains and grooms dogs at the Olde Town School for Dogs in Alexandria, Va, said Portuguese water dogs are the best. So what makes "Porties" so special?

First, they are smart. These dogs -- called the "Cao de Agua," or dog of water, in their native Portugal -- were used to assist Portuguese fisherman in not only catching fish but also carrying messages between boats and guarding boats on the dock.

What do you know about the Obama's new dog and his breed? Test Your Doggie Knowledge.

"They protected the boats, they protected the catch, they retrieved tackle, they took messages from boat to boat. ... They're an original working dog," said Mejias, co-owner of the Olde Town School for Dogs.

Second, they are devoted.

"They will be right there with you no matter where you go. If you walk from one room to the other, you'll turn around, they'll be right on your heel," Mejias said.

Third, they are social and interactive dogs, known for their athleticism and high energy. According to the American Kennel Club, Portuguese water dogs require daily vigorous exercise and respond well to training.

Fourth, they are survivors. In the 1970s, Portuguese water dogs were nearly extinct, with only 25 left in the world. But they have since made a comeback.

Finally, Portuguese water dogs are known leaders, and they like to follow a leader too.

"They need someone who shows them how the house works and where their place is in the house, and they do much better that way," Mejias said.

That may not be a problem for Bo, living under the same roof as the president of the United States.

"He should have a lot of practice in leadership before he gets this dog," Mejias said of President Obama, laughing.

Bo's Siblings

The Virginia family that owns Bo's sister, Chrissy, said the Obama girls should be ready for a high-energy dog.

"She's really energetic, and she's kind of the rambunctious little sister in a way," 13-year-old Madeline told ABC News. "Be prepared for a high-energy puppy and to make sure to keep your stuff out of reach."

Her brother, Connor, 11, is excited that their 6-month-old dog is related to Bo.

"I was like, 'Whoa! I cant wait to tell everybody about this,'" he said, laughing.

The tweens have dubbed the spirited Chrissy "the second pet."

"We figured since she's related to the first dog, technically, she'd be the second dog," Madeline said.

The two also own another Portuguese water dog, 3-year-old Patrick.

"It's good for kids to grow playing with dogs, and Portuguese water dogs are just so friendly to everyone, and I think they're going to have a great time going up," Madeline said.

Porties have caught the eye of the country ever since the Obamas expressed their interest in the breed. But those looking to buy one may have to wait. At a breeder in Virginia, all 10 puppies born just weeks ago were spoken for, even at $2,000 a pup.

The Obamas' dog hunt captured headlines the president told his daughters after winning the presidency that he would bring a puppy with them to the White House.

They had two requirements: First, 10-year-old Malia is allergic, so they needed the dog to be hypoallergenic. When the Obama girls met Bo a few weeks ago, Malia had no allergic reaction, according to ABC News' Jake Tapper.

And second, they wanted a shelter dog.

"This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary," Obama told George Stephanopoulos in January.

After months of speculation, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who himself owns two Portuguese water dogs, "gifted" the Obamas with the 6-month-old Bo on Easter weekend. The senator sometimes takes his dogs, Sonny and Splash, along with him to work on Capitol Hill and has written a children's book about their adventures.

Bo was bred by the same breeder as Kennedy's dogs. And because they did not get a dog from a shelter, the Obamas have pledged to make a donation to the D.C. Humane Society.

Malia Obama and are her 7-year-old sister, Sasha, named the black-and-white puppy Bo because their cousins have a cat named Bo and first lady Michelle Obama's father was nicknamed "Diddley," after the guitarist and songwriter Bo Diddley, according to The Washington Post. There's also speculation that the dog may have been named after the president himself, given that "Bo" spells out the president's initials.

In a congratulatory letter to the Obamas, the Humane Society of the United States noted: "The unconditional love of a dog can be particularly welcome for a first family as they face life in the public eye and the stresses of the presidential job. Just about every president has had a pet of some kind, and since the Civil War especially, pets have been a fixture at the White House. Most presidents have been dog owners, and more than 50 dogs have occupied its hallowed hallways."

But even though the mystery of the dog is finally solved, don't expect to see it with the Obamas right away. Bo the first dog will not make an appearance at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll happening Monday.

"I think it's important for them to get to know each other," White House social secretary Desiree Rogers said on "Good Morning America." "It's part of the all-American family. ... Every child wants a puppy, I think they've got theirs. ... More to come."

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