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Experts' advice for training Obama family's pup

Malia Obama walks Bo, the family’s new dog, at the White House this month. Malia is joined by mom Michelle, sister Sasha and dad, President Barack Obama.

Associated Press

Malia Obama walks Bo, the family’s new dog, at the White House this month. Malia is joined by mom Michelle, sister Sasha and dad, President Barack Obama.

NEW YORK — Bo, the Obama family's new Portuguese water dog, is sure to get the best presidential care. He is the top dog, after all. But pet experts and Portie owners still have some advice for the first family on training their new pup. Associated Press

From Billy Rafferty, Portie owner and co-author of the upcoming book Happy Dog: Caring For Your Dog's Body, Mind and Spirit

Be consistent in training. Don't let the dog get away with anything, or you will have to start training from the beginning. Watch out for counter-surfing — stealing food from the kitchen counters or the dinner table. Lots of exercise, as Porties are high-energy dogs.

From Stephen Zawistowski, executive vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Teach him manners as soon as possible. The basic commands — "sit," "stay," "come," "down," "heel," "off" and "leave it" — will improve the Obamas' relationship with Bo, and the dog's relationship with others. Use little bits of food as a lure and reward.

From Elena Gretch, certified dog trainer and Portie owner

Make sure the dog is well socialized. The presidential puppy should meet and interact with different people, children and other dogs in safe and controlled settings. The introductions should be staged so they are positive and fairly brief.

From Andrea Arden, celebrity pet trainer of New York's Andrea Arden Dog Training

Pay attention to what you feed Bo. Avoid dog food with potential allergens and artificial flavors and preservatives. The first ingredient on the list should be a high-quality protein — chicken, beef or fish. Since Portuguese water dogs are energetic, feed the dog out of a food-stuffable toy.

From Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University

Make sure the dog gets good, routine health care. While vaccinations protect dogs from most infectious diseases, dogs can get heartworm disease and intestinal parasites.

From Steve Brooks, certified dog trainer of Los Angeles' SteveBrooksK9U

Change the name. Bo is not a good name for a dog because it sounds too much like "no" and the dog is going to get confused. (The Obama daughters reportedly chose the name because Michelle Obama's father was nicknamed Diddley. Bo is an apparent reference to the singer Bo Diddley.) Diddley or Bowie would be more ideal — dogs generally respond better to two syllable names.

From Mary Burch, animal behaviorist, director of the American Kennel Club's S.T.A.R. (Socialization Training Activity and Responsibility) Puppy Program

Establish consistent feeding times, exercise and bonding times. Consistent feeding time helps with house training. Puppies need a lot of exercise or they can develop what appear to be behavioral problems, such as nipping and biting. Family and play time will also help the puppy bond with everyone in the family.

From Betsy Saul, co-founder of, an online database of adoptable pets

The girls should form a strong relationship with Bo early on. She suggests Malia and Sasha participate in everyday activities, such as feeding him — sometimes even by hand — and getting his leash out when it's time for a walk. Simple gestures will help the new puppy develop a positive association with the girls and strengthen their bond.

Experts' advice for training Obama family's pup 04/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 7:42am]
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