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Some fans of Portuguese water dogs aren't so happy about the Obamas' interest

Portuguese water dog First Lady Michelle Obama's highly publicized interview with People Magazine, which started dog lovers everywhere talking about the possibility of the president's family bringing home an energetic Portuguese water dog, was big news yesterday. 

Even Mrs. Obama's press secretary's comment that the Obamas "have not selected a breed.... Mrs. Obama likes the Portuguese water dog, but she is only one of four votes" wasn't enough to stop tongues from wagging about the allergy-friendly -- and somewhat uncommon -- breed.

"Porties," as the dogs are often called by fanciers, don't need the publicity that such high-profile owners would bring, says Stu Freeman, president of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America

Many of the breed's fans don't want to see it saddled with "101 Dalmatians Syndrome" -- a phenomenon often reported by animal rescue professionals who find large numbers of people rushing out to buy the "it" animal of the moment. Once the animal grows and the reality of its needs -- for instance, Dalmatians, while unquestionably adorable, are a high-energy breed whose exercise requirements are too much for many owners -- become clear, the animals wind up dumped in shelters. "There's always the danger of something like that," Freeman told the Associated Press.

And the AP reports on another fear of Portie fans:

[Elena Gretch, a dog trainer and owner of two Portuguese water dogs] worries that if the Obamas choose the breed, puppy mills will sprout up. The dogs cost $1,800 to $2,500 and aren't as common as other popular breeds. They're prone to hip dysplasia, so finding a good breeder is important, she said, and the dogs don't often end up in shelters for adoption.

The dogs also require a lot of attention, grooming and outdoor exercise. "It's agile, it's a great swimmer, it loves to be outdoors," said Gretch, founder of the pet care and training service It's A Dog's Life in New York City.

But Portuguese water dogs are usually not great for first-time dog owners, said Freeman, because it takes experience to train them.

"These are dogs that if you don't keep them busy, they will be busy and do something you don't want them to do," he said.

Readers responding to Michelle Obama's comments about the future first dog yesterday were split on the idea of the Obamas bringing a Portie to the White House.  What do you think -- is this the wrong breed for the first family, or are some Portie fans just trying to keep the breed all to themselves?

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A Portuguese water dog retrieves a ball.  Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (25)

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Portuguese water dogs are not easy to train. I don't think the "Portie" fans are protecting the breed just to be elitist about it, but they are being honest that they are might not be a good fit for a young family in politics and in the public eye.

I'm not saying this because I'm a fan of the breed - I actually don't like them. The two I have met were ill trained and difficult to manage so I've seen the worse case scenario.

FYI, no actual Portuguese Water Dog breeder calls the breed "Porties".

PWD is the proper short form.

Calling them Porties clearly indicates you have no idea about the breed.

It's none of my business but seems like a little Shih Tzu would be the perfect White House dog. they are playful,loveable, loyal and don't require a lot of exercise. Although they do require daily grooming. You can take them almost anywhere because they're so small and they are wonderful companions for older children. They also don't shed so are considered good for people who have dog allergies.

We are owners of a rejected working breed dog (golden) owned previously by someone with no time for the dog. I think the first family is too busy to have an active working breed, especially a swimming breed. We have a pond and our swimming dog is now contented and well exercised, we also have a farm and the dog is able to run and play. Also, I am retired and home with the dog so it is not left alone to be bored and destructive. People do not consider all the factors, simply picking a hypoallergenic dog is not a good criteria and is short changing the dog.

it is all for show. they say they are going to get one from a rescue shelter, but who gets rid of a $1800 to $2500 dog? no one. another case of Obama saying one thing, and then doing the opposite.

FYI being elitist about "PWD" versus "Portie" is one of the most hilarious pathetic things I've ever read.

This is a very active water breed that will tear up things if not properly trained or exercised. Who's going to do that? The President and First Lady are going to be too busy, the girls are in school. I guess that leaves the White House kennelman, whose salary we pay. So many unfortunate dogs are arriving at the shelters, surrendered by families who have lost their income and can no longer take care of them. The only person I know who has this breed is Teddy Kennedy but before his stroke he was a waterman and outdoorsman with the funds to pay for help himself. They need to go down to local shelters and pick a mature dog who is already housebroken and beyond the puppy stage. An animal desperate not to be euthanized. I don't like seeing this elitist attitude continued at the White House.

The "first dog" should not be a pure bred, but a mutt--as are most Americans. :-)

The Obama family should go to www.petfinder.com and look for poodle mixes.

I adopted 2 standard poodle/miniature poodle/jack russell mixes (Mom was a purebred standard poodle and dad was the mini poodle/jack russel mix!). They are now full grown at 35 lbs...sweet tempered, playful, love water.

They are very smart and were easy to train. Another plus, since they have hair like a poodle...they are great for people with allergies!

Oh give me a break... You people find ANY reason to complain about the Obamas.
As if the dog won't get constant care. You think when they are not able to be there, the dog won't have constant care? It will be one of the most pampered dogs in the world.

People even find a way to criticize the presidents choice of a pet. Amazing...

A) Who the ___ cares what dog they get?

B) If the President and his family go out and purchase a dog for thousands, or even hundreds of dollars it would be a total dissappointment to me. Get a smaller pound puppy and show America something diffrent

I don't think it will be a good dog for the girls. It seems like the dog needs a yard, attention, water and lots of exercise. The girls are in school during the day who is going to watch it? Senator Kennedy's dog has access to all the things listed above.

I think a the hairless dog the people of Peru donated would be a much better fit or the Bichon Firise. President Obama said he did not want a little dog but in his environment that is just what the girls need.

I am not very familiar with "porties", altho I am familiar with several breeds, and dogs in general. People have a tendency to pick a dog for a single desireable trait; I happen to believe this does in fact contribute to the crowding we see at shelters. You can't buy "the perfect dog", you mold it. And it takes work. You learn how to shape the character of your pets over time: I have a feeling a novice dog owner starting with a dog that requires an "Alpha" owner with experience is a recipe for disaster. Obama family: please give this issue more thought and do your homework!

Maybe breeders don't call them portie's but I own one and often call him a porti, or Portuguese. I know/own the breed, and the males and females seem different. The females can be more demanding and mischievous. Yes they are high energy, but devotion is maximum, and they are trainable but stubborn. He would liven up the White House, and the country.

Wow. Who cares what kind of dog they get. How bout that economy?

I agree completely with breed aficionados that are worried about the impact. My mother was given a pup from an uncommon breed whose health (we learned later) has been mangled that way. There are a few good breeders refusing to breed any dog that has a relative with genetic faults now, but far more that make a living off selling the pups. Search the web for inherited/genetic issues before picking a dog, it'll save you money & heartache!

With any luck, the fact that Portuguese Water Dogs aren't really tiny and cutesy will protect the breed. It will probably help if the Obamas get a full-grown rescue dog, which could boost the popularity of saving cast-away pets as well.

@none -- The big thing that matters in breeding is making sure you aren't passing on genetic defects up the wazoo, not how dignified your term for the dogs is. :-p

For all of you who DON'T own a PWD, learn something about the breed before condemning the Obama's for maybe wanting one. We have owned 2. They are a wonderful breed. Yes, they do require attention, grooming, excecise. But what breed doesn't? If the Obama's want a dog that just sits around and does nothing, then this IS NOT the breed for them. These dogs are very playful, very smart and easily trained. They can almost train themselves. And...they are very good around children. And the main thing for the Obama's is a dog that won't irritate Malia's allergies.
It is true that they will not find a PWD to rescue. By contract , most breeders require that if a purchaser does not want the dog , it will be returned to the breeder. The PWD Society very carefully guards against mistreatment of these dogs.

Whatever dog they want will do great. They have an entire staff to take care of the dog and people who know how to train them. Every President had a dog, do you really think they picked up poop or walked it 3 times a day. Or left in a crate all day. No way. That dog will get the undivided attention of a caring family and staff. The family will work hard to take care of the dog, it will be a great lesson for their children to be responsible. And, they are very well supported by people who are used to having a temporary family in the WH with old and new pets. Any dog would be loved to its very core, trained well and happy. Any dog they chose would be a lucky dog. No matter the breed.

Why don't they bring in the dog expert, Cesar Millan from the Dog Whisperer? It would be a great experience for everyone and Cesar would help them find the appropriate dog for their family!



People do that all the time when they have the resources, keep the dog for family fun time, training and exercise done by a pet trainer and sitter.

No doubt the first family will indulge in these luxuries.

What should they name the dog?

How about DOTUS - Dog of the United States?
or Karl Rover? StimuLassie?


I am tired of hearing that a "PWD" "Portie" or whatever your pleasure is, is not a good first dog for a young family. 17 years ago we got our first PWD soon to be followed by another one. They were wonderful dogs that matched the young energy or our young family. We now have our new Portie as empty nesters and love him to pieces. We wouldn't think of having any other breed and we are proud that the first family is considering it also. Honestly, I am thinking that they have enough help to train the dog properly. We are trusting President Obama to run the country, I think we can trust him with a PWD.

Frostypaws is absolutely right, learn about the breed before you make ridiculous comments. My wife and I own a Portie (yes its OK to say that), and its a wonderful breed.

No, the Obama's can't go get a mutt because of the allergy issue.

I am a little nervous about over population of the breed, It's the same thing that happened to Irish Setters when Nixon had one.

Yes the Economy is important, but if you would like to talk about that, go to a different forum.

They most likely will NOT find one in a shelter because of the typical Portie contract.

A Portie is a fantastic first dog for the girls. They are loveable, playful and VERY good with children. Porties do a great job of conforming to your life. If you're active they will be active with you, if you feel like lying around, they will do that too. It is a fantastic breed, I think the girls would love it, and I hope that it does not spur irresponsible breeding.

My $.02

@ LW - How bout that economy, huh? Well, maybe there are plenty of people out there who want some light-hearted, entertaining news to uplift them in a time of economic stress and strife. This is the LA Times' Unleashed blog - all about animal news. If you want to read about the economic news, go somewhere else!

MikeM856 and a few others said this so well. People who are "owned' by Porties (yes, I say that too!) know what a remarkable breed this dog is!
Usually, they are smarter than us Humans, but they patiently put up with us till we get it "right".
They have a better sense of humor than most people who write on blogs. I believe that The First Family will be responsible owners and the Obama girls will have a family member for, hopefully, a long time! And, yes, let's not forget (this is to all the Designer Dog responders) these dogs are 100% hypo-allergenic and if you are allergic to dogs, this is a key factor!
We love our PWD and he supported Obama and raised money for his campaign! We are proud of this.
My $.03!


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