President Obama's Dog, Bo, is a Portuguese Water Dog. On Easter Sunday 2009, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, received the Portuguese Water Dog from Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife Vicki.
The President had promised his girls in his Election Night speech that they would get a puppy when they moved to the White House.
The final choice was made in part because Malia Obama's allergies dictated a need for a hypoallergenic breed. Due to its fleecy coat of minimally-shedding hair, the Portuguese Water Dog is considered a hypoallergenic dog breed.
A Second Portuguese Water Dog
Bo has occasionally been called "First Dog". In August 2013, Bo was joined by Sunny, a female dog of the same breed.
More About the Breed
According to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, the existence of the Portuguese Water Dog along the coast of Portugal goes back quite some time. Evidence exists that shows that in pre-Christian times, the "water dog" was held to be nearly sacred. In bygone times, this breed existed everywhere along the coast of Portugal. This well-balanced working dog was prized by the fishermen as a companion and guard dog.
Tasks required the dogs to be excellent swimmers and seafarers. Dogs were capable of diving underwater to retrieve fishing gear and to prevent the escape of fish from the nets. Constant swimming and working with the fishermen accounts for the remarkable muscular development of their hindquarters. This dog of exceptional intelligence and loyal companionship willingly served a master well.
In Portugal, the breed is called Cão de Água. 'Cão' means 'dog', 'de Água' means 'of water'. In his native land, the dog is also known as the Portuguese Fishing Dog. Cão de Água de Pelo Ondulado is the name given the long-haired variety, and Cão de Água de Pelo Encaracolado is the name for the curly-coat variety.
In the 1930s, Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy Portuguese businessman with an interest in dogs, was introduced to the Portuguese Water Dog by friends. He was told of a "magnificent working Cão de Água", and although there were only a few dogs still working on the boats of the fishermen, he eventually acquired a dog named "Leão". "Leão" (1931-1942) was the founding sire of the modern breed and of which the original written breed standard was based. The first litter was born on May 1, 1937.
It would not be for another 30 years that the Portuguese Water Dog would come to America. Deyanne and Herbert Miller are credited with the introduction of the breed to the United States. Their first imported Portuguese Water Dog, whelped July 12, 1968, was a descendant of Leão, Vasco Bensaude's dog. Named Renascenca do Al Gharb, she arrived in the United States on September 12, 1968. She was affectionately known as "Chenze"and she lived until she was 15 years old.