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Water dogs should come with warnings

  • Story Highlights
  • Breeders fear too many people will try to get dog like the Obamas' Bo
  • Breeder: Portuguese water dogs are "active athletes," not couch potatoes
  • They are more likely to rip up couch than to lounge on it
  • Dogs bond quickly with family and want to be with them all the time
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By Kara Yates
CNN
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(CNN) -- The nation's new "first dog" has heightened interest in its breed -- Portuguese water dog -- but not necessarily a thorough understanding of the dogs' needs, a pair of owners and breeders told CNN.

Malia Obama practices walking Bo as her parents and sister, Sasha, wait their turn.

Bo the Portuguese water dog meets the camera. Bo was a gift to the Obama girls from Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The dog, Bo, has triggered "the most publicity the breed has ever had since its introduction into the U.S. in the late 1960s," the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America said in a news release.

President Obama and his family welcomed Bo into the White House this week. Shortly afterward, the club's Web site was receiving a million hits an hour, said Susan Teasley, a club member.

Jane Harding, a fellow member of the club, said she has "received about a 10 percent increase in calls" since Tuesday, and some of the other breeders she knows also have reported more calls.

"Thankfully, people want to know more about the breed," Teasley said. "But water dogs are not for everybody, and it would be sad to see people getting the dog without doing the proper research."

Portuguese water dogs are "active athletes," far from couch potatoes, she explained.

In fact, they are more likely to rip a couch into pieces than lounge on it, Harding said, recalling a friend who had lost a sofa that way. Video Watch more water dog fun »

Portuguese water dogs can be miserable and destructive when alone, Teasley said.

And don't think you can close the door and keep them out. "They want to be with you at all times -- even if it's in the bathroom or your bed," she said.

Teasley and her husband breed Portuguese water dogs and often allow them to run free on the two and a half acres of land they own. They are "not apartment dogs," she said.

Harding agreed. "They aren't for people who want a tie-out dog or an apartment dog. For people like that," she joked, "we recommend a stuffed dog."

Portuguese water dogs love the outdoors, particularly if they have a garden to eat from, Teasley said as she wrestled to keep 7-month-old Misty Morning from eating the family's flowers.

Harding said she believes the first family will be successful with their new dog because "they have access to the best trainers, and they want to make this work."

For other Americans thinking about following suit, she cautioned, "Buyers beware. Do your homework and first read the information on the breed."

Teasley wants people to understand the breed to help avoid what she called the "Dalmatian syndrome."

After the movie "101 Dalmatians" came out in 1996, "thousands of people rushed to get the dog, and thousands of dogs ended up in rescue kennels," Teasley said.

What those who followed the Dalmatian trend may not have known is that Dalmatians shed profusely and they develop hearing problems, making it hard to train and call them, she said.

Both Teasley and Harding advised owners to get a mentor, as they expect Sen. Ted Kennedy to be to the Obama family. Kennedy owns Portuguese water dogs himself and recommended the breed to the Obamas. Video Watch Obamas introduce dog »

"For the first six to seven months of the puppy's life, they need training," Harding said.

She has diligently trained 8-year-old champion Bessie, who she said "produces phenomenal litters ... and has multiple titles" from the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

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Such organizations provide guidance to first-time dog owners. But it takes time to get a membership, Teasley said. Prospective members must apply for a one-year associate membership before they can receive a permanent one, she explained. That provides a cushion while they decide whether the dog is the right fit.

"It sounds like I'm trying to discourage people from getting (a Portuguese water dog)," Teasley said, "But I'm not. We just don't want dogs to come back because owners don't know what they are doing."

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