President Barack Obama will soon make the most important selection to his cabinet: the First Family Dog. The final selection will supposedly be between a Portuguese water dog and a Labradoodle for first daughters Sasha and Malia, who suffers from pet allergies. While there's no such thing as a completely allergen-free dog, there are non-shedding breeds that cause less saliva and dander—the two main triggers for pet allergies. So, if you're looking for a family dog, this list oughtta perk your ears up. We've also thrown in some pet name suggestions, in case the Obamas (or you) need some pet-naming help.
Portuguese Water Dog
This medium-size dog is well known for being affectionate and having a good temperament with children, as well as its loyalty and its stable nature. "Portys," or PWDs, are easy to train and highly intelligent—so smart, in fact, that they can often outsmart their owners! Eager to please, Portuguese water dogs enjoy the spotlight. (Imagine the awesome photo ops!) Plus, since their curly coat grows slowly, it rarely sheds. But that means the occasional grooming is needed so they don't start looking like the Shaggy D.A.
POSSIBLE NAMES: Portuguese names like Davi or Faro. Or maybe a water-themed name like Moses,
Kyla, ("strait of water") or Yara ("water lady").
These are the first of the so-called "designer hybrid dogs," which were purposefully bred in the 1980s in Australia. Labradoodles, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, have become extremely popular as family dogs, leading to other trendy yet hilarious-sounding hybrids such as Goldendoodles, Schnoodles and Cadoodles. But since Labradoodles were the first of the hybrid bunch, their non-purebred status has an established temperament, and they are generally gentle, playful and mostly hypoallergenic, with minimal grooming. Think of them as an SUV edition of the poodle: slightly more rugged and all-terrain.
POSSIBLE NAMES: Dooley, Barley,
Ozzy (as in, the Land of Oz) or Matilda (Australia is home of "Waltzing Matilda"!).
Although associated with France, poodles were actually first bred in Germany. The name comes from the German word "pudel," which translates to "splashing dog." Poodles come in three sizes: standard (42 pounds), miniature (28 pounds) and toy (15 pounds), and their curly coats don't shed or give off the same kind of dander as other dogs. Known for their intelligence, easy trainability and being good with children, poodles also need constant attention. Poodles also need regular grooming, but there's no real need for the fancy froufrou and wussy pom-poms that you see in dog shows. They can look, well, normal.
Some good, strong German names like Emma
(which actually means "one who hears well," which is fitting for a dog!).
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
First bred in Ireland, wheaten terriers are medium-size, and their non-shedding wheat-colored coats feel like a teddy bear, so they're cuddly soft. Wheatens are frisky and playful and have endless energy. But as with all terriers, which are bred for rooting out game, training has to start early, as a puppy, and patience is positively a must. Otherwise, you may find your shabby-chic sofa looking, well, shabby and not so chic! They also need regular grooming, otherwise they can tend to look like an overused shaggy bath mat.
POSSIBLE NAMES: Buffy
Despite being the smallest of the bunch at 7 to 12 pounds, the bichon frise, which literally translates to "curly lap dog," is the yappiest of this bunch. This breed is similar to the Portuguese water dog in that it sheds almost none of its white, fluffy fur. But bichons do need to be groomed often to prevent them from looking like a dust mop. Their temperament is happy-go-lucky, but they need lots of training, with set rules, otherwise they'll be "yapping" while running your whole household.
POSSIBLE NAMES: Curly
, or in the French tradition,
An ancient breed out of Egypt, the basenji is a triple threat: non-shedding, odorless and barkless! Full of curiosity and playful energy, basenjis are almost cat-like, and their affection is reserved. However, basenjis, also referred to as the African dingo, are described by the American Kennel Club as "intelligent" and "independent," but also an "affectionate" and "alert breed," which means they can have a mean streak. And although they don't bark exactly, they can still make some throaty noises that sort of sound like a tea kettle, which may be annoying in its own right.
African names such as Dingo,
Peruvian Hairless Dog
From barkless to hairless! Friends of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Association generously offered the Obama family one of their puppies. This wacky breed is a triple threat of being hypoallergenic, hairless and, of all things, toothless. But this dog's hair, or lack thereof, requires special care to prevent dryness and needs weekly baths to keep clean. Described as lively and friendly, but also protective and alert, this breed isn't usually recommended for first-time dog owners.
POSSIBLE NAMES: Pelon
or Guapo (Latin Americans like to nickname things that are the opposite. So, Hairy
, respectively. 'Cause let's face it: a dog with no hair? A little creepy.)
Mutt," "Mixed-Breed," "All-American"
Of course, mutt owners will say that mutts make the best family pet, and that rescued dogs are the most loyal. What's more, studies have shown that mixed breed dogs tend to live longer and are healthier, too. However, like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're truly gonna get with a mutt. And for allergy sufferers, there isn't a guaranteed type of allergen-free coat. You can just hope that the particular mix the shelter claims the mutt is (after all, Labradoodles and Cockapoos are types of mutts) is going to work in your favor. So if that border collie/Portuguese water dog/chow/Lab mix captures your heart at your local animal shelter, you may very well decide it's worth risking a sneeze or two by giving him a good home and reducing the unwanted-pet population in one furry swoop. Besides, according to recent studies, the exposing your kids to dogs and cats when they're young actually prevents allergies rather than causes them. So there's that, too!
An everyday dog deserves a solid, everyday name, like Jack
. Or Caleb
, which mean "dog" and "little wolf hound," respectively.
Do you have experience with any of these dog breeds or others not mentioned here? Leave your opinions in the comments below.