What Kind of Dog Did President Obama Get?

Barack and Bo Obama greet each other outside of the Oval Office.
Barack and Bo Obama greet each other outside of the Oval Office. (Image: Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

George Washington, the first president of the United States, owned and bred the American foxhound, and Americans have been fascinated ever since with the dogs their presidents have owned. Barack Obama, the nation's 44th president, had an interesting dilemma when choosing a dog for his family. His then 10-year-old daughter Malia had allergies, which is one reason they chose a Portuguese water dog.

Better for Allergies

Folks who are allergic to dogs are allergic to the dander, the dead skin that comes off dogs when they shed. Though there are no truly hypoallergenic dogs, some dogs shed less than others and make better choices for allergy sufferers, which is the case with the Portuguese water dog. This dog sheds less than some breeds and needs regular and extensive grooming, according to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. Therefore, dander is kept to a minimum.

About the Breed

The Portuguese water dog in Portugal is called the "Cao de Agua," which means dog of water. He was bred to help fishermen by diving for fish, retrieving broken nets, guarding boats and carrying messages from boats to shore. He's an active, loyal and intelligent breed. He's also spirited, doesn't tire easily and loves the water.

About Bo

Senator Ted Kennedy gave the Obama family a male Portuguese water dog named Amigo's New Hope, a 6-month-old pup from Texas. The dog is black with white paws, chest and goatee. Daughters Malia and Sasha renamed the dog Bo for two reasons: Their cousins have a cat with the same name, and Michelle Obama's father, the girls' grandfather, was nicknamed "Diddley," after Bo Diddley. The Kennedy family owns Bo's brother, Cappy.

Some Controversy

When President Obama promised his daughters he would get them a puppy, the plan was to rescue a dog from a shelter. Bo -- at the time named Charlie by his first set of owners -- was returned to his breeder by the family who originally bought him. Taking a dog who was returned to a breeder isn't the same as rescuing a dog from a shelter. The president explained that it was unlikely they would find a purebred Portuguese water dog at a shelter so, instead, the Obamas donated money to the D.C. Humane Society.

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