“First Dog” Update – The AMC Weighs In

January 20, 2009


The following article, about the latest developments in the Obama’s puppy selection process, originally ran on PetStyle and quotes Dr. Ann Hohenhaus of The Animal Medical Center. You can read the original posting by clicking here.

The Race Is On: Which Pup Should Obamas Pick?
By Kathleen Roberts, PetStyle

obama_pup_articleDecisions, decisions. Picking the right family dog is no easy task, even for soon-to-be-president Barack Obama and his family. But they are making progress! After much research, they have finally been able to narrow the choice down to two breeds the Labradoodle and the Portuguese Water Dog according to an interview that aired on ABC’s “This Week” on January 11.

Both breeds with presidential pup potential are considered to be hypoallergenic, an essential quality for 10-year-old Malia Obama, who has allergies. With that requirement met, it would seem that it is all down to temperament and personal preference, though there are no guarantees that she won’t have a reaction to either dog, according to one expert.

“Although both dogs are touted as being hypoallergenic, which is probably why they made the Obama’s short list, human allergists do not consider any dog 100% allergen free. The best dog for the Obama’s will depend on Malia’s reaction and may come down to trial and error,” said Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, Director of Medicine Chair at The Animal Medical Center in New York.

So which breed is best? That is the question.

The Portuguese Water Dog
portuguese-water-dogEach dog has traits that make them worthy of becoming the next White House companion. The Portuguese Water Dog is described as “spirited but obedient,” according to the AKC. These are great qualities for a busy family with children. The Portuguese Water Dog is a well-established breed that has been around since at least 1297 with some believing it can be traced as far as 700 B.C. As the name suggests, they love the water and even have webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers. Their non-allergenic coat is also waterproof and non-shedding.

goldendoodle1The Labradoodle
The Labradoodle is considered a hybrid or “designer dog” to many dog lovers. They are created by crossing a Poodle (standard or miniature) and a Labrador Retriever. First created by breeder Wally Conron of Australia for Guide Dogs Victoria in 1989, this dog does not have as much history as the Portuguese Water Dog. But supporters of this cross think they are perfect just the same.

Crossing two established breeds, typically considered a no-no in the world of dog breeding, had a very noble goal to create a dog that had the low-shed coat of a Poodle and the gentleness and trainability of a Lab. The resulting pups would hopefully be ideal guide dogs for people with allergies. Since this is a fairly new breed in the world of dogs, puppies do not always have the desired traits and critics point out that the results of such a cross are unpredictable, unlike the Portuguese Water Dog.

However, like the Portuguese Water Dog, the Labradoodle loves the water. They are healthy and easy to train and are loved world-wide by families like the Obamas.

A Cat’s Meow?
Although the race for that special seat in the White House is on, some folks say that there has been one candidate missing from the platform our feline friend.

A spokesperson for the CFA-Iams Cat Championship had this to say:

Cat owners, such as Whoopi Goldberg and her Russian Blue cat, would be delighted if the President-elect would consider getting a cat. After all, 11 American presidents including Lincoln (a big cat lover) and Clinton had cats. So did our current president who lost his kitty India recently.

bombay-cat-obamaAt the CFA Iams Cat Championship, held in early October in Madison Square Garden, thousands of visitors voted two-to-one for a real Bombay cat named Barack Obama (the father was Bombay cat Colin Powell but that’s another story) over a British shorthair named Renegade that was representing John McCain.

If the daughters are allergic, then they should consider a Devon Rex or a Sphynx.

For the sake of Cat Karma, the White House needs a cat.

An Expert’s Perspective
So, what do the experts think about the right dog for the Obamas? Mychelle Blake, Communications Director for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and Editor-in-Chief of The APDT Chronicle of the Dog, had this to say, “I think that there’s been too much focus on breed in the media discussions about the choice of dog for the President-Elect’s family and not enough on temperament and exercise needs/activity level.

“For example, I’ve known some Labradoodles that are quite mellow and others that are really high-strung and incredibly energetic. Likewise PWDs are nice dogs, but they should keep in mind that this was a breed bred to work, and therefore requires a lot of exercise and stimulation. ” That said, Blake’s recommendations lies with the Labradoodle.

obamasSo, if I was given the choice to pick between the two for an active family with two young girls, and considering they want to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, my first choice would be an older dog, around two to three years of age, who has an observable, developed personality that is friendly, outgoing and whose energy level is moderate. I would suspect that they will have an easier time locating a Labradoodle up for adoption than a PWD so for that reason I would lean toward a Labradoodle.”

“I would also urge the Obamas to engage the girls, as well as the whole family, in training their new canine family member to develop a harmonious and happy relationship in The White House, and the APDT would be happy to help them with the transition of the “First Dog” into their lives.”

A surprising perspective was offered by Paul Owens (http://raisewithpraise.com/), author of “The Dog Whisperer” and “The Puppy Whisperer,” as well as a PWD owner for 16 years. “It’s important to find the right dog rather than the breed. Both are very sweet breeds. If I were to suggest a family dog that is easy to get along with, I would suggest the Labradoodle. They are a softer dog.”

Mr. Owens said that the PWD is a rugged dog who will quickly become “self-employed” if it is not given a job. So for an active family like the Obamas, a Labradoodle would be the best fit. “And I hope against hope that they choose a trainer who uses positive training methods.”

So, which dog will the Obamas choose? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Selecting the First Pooch…and the First Vet

November 12, 2008

The selection of the First Family-elect’s new canine addition has created much excitement and media buzz. Reporters and bloggers speculate daily on the type of dog the Obamas may choose when they move into their new abode in January. 

In the days ahead, the President-elect’s abilities as statesman will surely be tested as he makes tough decisions about the economy, healthcare, and conflicts abroad.  But what will require an equal amount of detente is the final decision about which new puppy his family will select. 

Like anyone making an important choice, discussion and compromise will surely be required. First daughter-elect Malia has expressed her opinion in favor of a Goldendoodle (a hybrid of the Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle), while President-elect Obama is leaning toward “a mutt like me.” 

We at The Animal Medical Center are aware that choosing the perfect dog is only the beginning. Equally as important as their choice of pedigree will be the selection of their new pet’s veterinarian. Even though the Obamas may need to compromise on which dog they choose, they should not compromise on their new pet’s veterinary care. 

The Obamas are no different than any American family in this regard. Because our pets are members of our families, keeping them healthy is a priority. Veterinarians can be our partners in helping each of us keep our pets in top physical condition — leading to longer, better quality lives both for the animals and for us. 

The Animal Medical Center recommends that every dog or cat owner consider these important tips when selecting a veterinarian:

  • Identify your veterinarian before you get your pet. Your new puppy or kitten should see a veterinarian as soon as possible, preferably within the first few days after arriving in its new home. 
  • Do your homework. Talk to your friends about the veterinarians they use. Check out the Web sites of several different veterinary clinics. This will give you information about hours and services to help you determine if you will be able to schedule routine appointments conveniently. Web sites usually give information about access to emergency services, which need to be readily accessible. 
  • Choose a vet in a convenient location. If you are lucky, you can find a high-quality veterinarian in your neighborhood. Like babies, new puppies or kittens need frequent veterinarian visits until they are about 1 year of age.  
  • Listen for good communication skills. Although the comforting presence of a gray-haired family physician (à la Marcus Welby, MD) has its appeal, there is more than just experience to be considered when choosing a veterinarian — such as his or her ability to explain your pet’s diagnosis or an upcoming procedure.  
  • Referral to specialists. A good veterinarian knows his or her limits and when to refer a problem to a specialist. Find out how your veterinarian makes referrals to a specialist and for what conditions. 
  • Talk to your children about what to expect on a visit to the veterinarian.  If you plan on bringing your children with you when you take your pet to the vet, spend some time preparing them. Puppies can be stubborn and determined to have their own way. Puppy-style tantrums occur during nail-trimming, dental examinations, and the taking of body temperature. Squealing, yelping, and howling by the puppy are common during routine vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases, and may upset unprepared children. After a visit to a veterinary clinic, puppies are typically very tired and should be allowed to rest for a few hours. 
  • Get a book. Head for the library and check out some of the many wonderful books written about caring for a new pet.

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