Skip to Main Content

The Obama Effect

Written by PETA | February 27, 2009
i-love-dogs / CC
Portuguese Water Dog
Portuguese Water Dog

Well, Michelle Obama has gone and done it: She ‘fessed up to People magazine that the first family is leaning toward adopting a Portuguese water dog. To give her credit, she stresses that the family plans to adopt the dog from a shelter or rescue group, but we sure do wish that she’d quit fixating so much on the dog’s breed.

Already, the mere mention a few months ago that the Obamas had narrowed their choice to a “Portie” or a Labradoodle has caused a flurry of Google searches for those breeds. I personally know a couple who bought not one but two goldendoodle puppies because anything “doodle” is oh-so-fashionable these days. (This same couple had previously visited an animal shelter and was poised to adopt two homeless mutts until they became wooed by the latest fad, proof of our assertion that breeders kill shelter dogs’ chances of finding homes.)

Admittedly, it probably sets a slightly better example to adopt a Portuguese water dog than it would to pick a Labradoodle or a goldendoodle—those breeds are virtually guaranteed to come from puppy mills.

But Portie enthusiasts with a conscience are not terribly happy about getting a nod from the Obamas. As they and PETA’s Daphna Nachminovitch point out in this Associated Press article, whenever a breed becomes fashionable, puppy mills jump into the game to satisfy the demand of uninformed people. Only later do these folks realize that, oops, Porties would willingly run several marathons and swim across the English Channel—all before breakfast.

I used to dog-sit for a Portie named Riley. He was a sweetie, just as breeders claim, but he was also hyper, to put it mildly. He had boundless energy and was obsessed with water—if he jumped into the river that runs alongside the PETA dog park, it was almost impossible to coax him out. In the car, he bounced Tigger-like from back seat to front, in between bouts of carsickness. He was the ideal dog for, say, Michael Phelps or a professional surfer—not so ideal for a busy family.

What the Obamas (and lots of other people) don’t seem to understand is that you don’t have to pre-select a certain breed and then set out to find a dog who meets that criterion. You can go to your local animal shelter, walk down the rows of cages, and pick out a dog of any old breed (or, better yet, mix of breeds), spend some time with him or her, and discover that, yes, this is the dog for you. It’s kind of a crazy idea, but I’m hoping it just might catch on.

Written by Alisa Mullins

Commenting is closed.
  • abigail says:


  • Margaret says:

    I agree with the 2nd poster Sarah. They should not be picky about the breed. They should pick a dog from an animal shelter that has a personality that suits them. Dogs are not supposed to be fashion accesories.

  • Christina says:

    I think the fact that they are getting their dog from a shelter is wonderful. It’s ok if they have their heart set on a specific breed. As long as they advocate for shelter dogs it’s ok if other people are inspired to get similar dogs as well. There are rescue groups that are breedspecific. I don’t think anyone should give the Obamas a hard time about this.

  • Brittaniee Amanda Hall. says:

    In your last bit of text how your talking about how you can just go into the animal shelter look around and find the right dog Your 100 Right thats the way I found my dog Keshia And not only was she the one for me my family adapted and started to love her very quickly and I’m happy to say that the last eight years or so of having her have been so much better

  • B says:

    I believe that as long as you rescue a dog or cat you are doing a great thing. Both of my cats were rescues although not from shelters. Ten years ago I purchased my dog from an individual. My shorty wants a dog and we are going to a rescue organization for it. Yes she is narrowing down the breed first but I don’t see the problem with that.

  • mmaloy says:

    outlaw shelters send puppies to direct state owned facilities.

  • Purpleflippers says:

    I agree that it is best to adopt from a shelter and to geta mutt not only becasue there are so many there chances are low but also because they live longer healthier lives however i understand that at least one of the Obama’s girls has allergies hence the hypoallergenic breeds

  • Zoey says:

    The reason the Obamas are going with a pure breed is because the oldest daughter has a dog allergy. Therefore they need to get a breed that is hypoallergenic. THAT is why they are choosing the breed before they pick out the dog. Do you research people!

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I am willing to bet that after the fun wears off the dog will be cared for by a member of the staff just like most White House pets are. The Bush’s Scotties were usually excersised by the gardener.

  • Dog Lover says:

    I love all dogs no matter the breed mutt or pure bred shelter or pet store. I was unaware of all the puppy mill business when my husband and I bought our 2nd dog BUT be that as it may…I got her HALF PRICE I could not believe that they could do something like that to a living creature! Nobody wanted her because she had a biting problem she probably did come from a puppy mill but how could I not save her?! Especially knowing what I know now and what kind of conditions she was born into. I knew that they could only mark her down so much and then what could happen to her? She was so skinny a bow legged and she had kennel cough I couldn’t leave her there I had to save her. All I am trying to say is I totally understand and I have vowed to never BUY a dog again but to me EVERY dog should have a valued life. It’s not their fault that they are pure bred or at a pet store they didn’t choose that life. Just the same as shelter dogs did not choose to be neglected so are they really that different? They all deserve a fair chance at life I could not imagine my life without my dogs regardless of where they came from in my eyes I saved both of them even though one came from a pet store.

  • Donna Poore says:

    I call shelter dogs Throw awaysbut that is all I have ever wanted. They are loving and caring and I think that they know that you have saved their lives. We had 5 at one time and we were one big happy family. All lived there time on this earth with us in our house bed and 12 acre of land they never wanted for anything. My husband is a disabled veteran and we are home 247. I loved them all and continue to love the 2 we have now. 2 yr pitbull mix maybe and an 11 yr Corgi mix. There is a dog out there for the Obama’s in a shelter somewhere… I just hope that they find it.

  • CL says:

    “we sure do wish that she’d quit fixating so much on the dog’s breed.” Their daughter is allergic. I don’t see whats so bad about them wanting a dog that won’t cause their daughter to be miserable. Look at it this way they are helping a dog while taking their daughter into consideration as well. Mutts are no better than purebreds. “But Portie enthusiasts with a conscience are not terribly happy about getting a nod from the Obamas. As they and PETA’s Daphna Nachminovitch point out in this Associated Press article whenever a breed becomes fashionable puppy mills jump into the game to satisfy the demand of uninformed people. Only later do these folks realize that oops Porties would willingly run several marathons and swim across the English Channelall before breakfast.” It is not the fault of the Obamas if people are ignorant enough to buy a dog simply because someone famous has it. If PETA is concerned about that then they should be working more on making sure the public researches what type of dog they are getting before they actually do it.

  • kelly says:

    There is NO SUCH THING as a hypoallergenic dog That is crap that breeders made up to get dumb gullible people to buy dogs.

  • Marybelle says:

    So that 6 to 8 million animals do not get killed in shelters every single yearin the U.S.alone!the public MUST adopt only from shelters and rescue groups instead of buying from a breeder or pet store and of course also spay and neuter their pet.It truly is narrow minded that people will actually go out and look for this breed of dog that the Obama’s are getting when there are so many on death row waiting right now in shelters and rescue groups waiting for that second chance to live.

  • Megan says:

    If someone is mindless enough to buy a dog just because someone famous has the same breed they probably aren’t the sort of people that would do any research about where the dog comes from. Blaming the Obamas for people’s ignorance is like blaming Marilyn Manson for children being violent. People need to inform themselves and that’s what people like us are here to help them do.

  • Mandy says:

    First of all not everyone is able to handle the emotional process of going to a shelter and picking a dog out of dozens of pitiful dogs that are all as worthy as the next. Personally if I were to see all those sad faces I’d suffer from PTSD. There’s no way that same person is going to be able to ‘test drive’ several of the dogs to find the perfect match. What is better for the dog to have guidelines when you go in so that you know exactly what you’re looking for and precommit to that dog or to have no idea and bring dogs home the ONLY way to know if a dog without a history will be happy in your life and vice versa and test them out only to have to return them if they don’t putting them back in the horrible place they came from? There is no perfect way to adopt a dog but I believe the Obamas are going about it in the most responsible intelligent compassionate manner. As for the allergies some parents don’t want their children to be miserable and all allergies are different. You may not mind your cat cuddling your face in the night but the same thing could kill someone else. It’s scientificallyproven that some animals are more less allergenic than others. Being an animal caretaker requires copious amounts of RESEARCH. People who don’t research are the same people who take their pets to the shelters to begin with.

  • petalove says:

    allergies shmallergies. i’m allergic to my cat and frankly i don’t care if he comes up and sleeps right by my face at nite because i love him that much

  • Lacey Matthews says:

    Lots of commenters have mentioned Malia’s allergies but that’s part of the “mythology” that surrounds the Obama dog issue. Lots of dogs can be hypoallergenicnot just Porties and poodlesthe Obamas just need to let Malia interact with the dog to see if she has a reaction. I have allergies and that’s what I did when I adopted my dog. And yes he’s a mutt.

  • Linda Hanson says:

    The problem with the Obamas trying to “rescue” a portuguese water dog is that the PWD organization has done a very good job over the years of making sure very few PWDs ever end up in shelters. I certainly hope that if they do “rescue” a PWD that it will be a true rescue and not a rescue setup by some organization. Hopefully they will stand by what they pledged to truly rescue a dog in need.

  • Melody Padron says:

    so just because there are strays that need homes the dogs that are bred don’t deserve a good home? That just seems really contradictory. I do believe in adopting dogs i have 3 mutts but i also have 2 pure bred chiuahuas i love them all but i dont think the ones i saved deserve any more love than the ones i bought.

  • Heather says:

    I’m really happy Michelle Obama is adopting from a shelter Why does it matter if shes looking for a certain breed? Atleast she isnt going to a puppy mill place right? Thats a little much to be focusing on…

  • Aaliyah says:

    Remember that Malia has allergies so the breed does in fact matter. I also have dog allergies which is why I have a bichon frise. A bichon like poodles and portuguese water dogs are hypoallergenic dogs and many people who have dog allergies can in fact live allergy free with these breeds.

  • Rayne says:

    The Obama’s are only choosing certain types of dogs due to the alergy in thier houehold they cannot help if it becomes fad.The people want a dog and if they were a regular American fmi right now it would make no difference on which dog they picked. Everyone has thier dream animal just let them choose thiers in peace.

  • Antoine. says:

    You are not picking out a shirt or a car. You are choosing a living creature who will become a member of your family! Imagine if we dealt with other relationships like that? If we showed up at a matchmaker service and said that the woman or man we will fall in love with MUST look like this picture. some people do it and mail order brides from Asia or Europe… What if we told our children to only make friends with children who look a certain way? words like racism and prejudice come to mind. WE are going to build a relationship with the dog that we adopt into our household how shallow and vain to say that the dog MUST be of a certain breed? What does that say about us? is your childhood dog a poodle or is he buster? How would you react if I told you that my dog of 14 years just died and all I have to say about him is what breed he was? What was his name? what did he like? what was his personality? How much did you love him? How much did he love YOU? I am often annoyed that meateaters find it difficult to understand basic animal rights but this is not even animal rights this is OBVIOUS. breedism is shallow and cruel.

  • Alison says:

    I am happy that they are choosing the Portie over the “labradoodle”. Though the Obamas can’t exactly just pick any dog the Obama girls are allergic. If they were do get a nonhypoallergenic dog they would have to put it back into the shelter since it would harm the girls. It is true with the puppy mills unfortunately America is not educated enough when it comes to this.

  • sarah says:

    This article fails to mention why they feel they have to be breed specific because one of their daughters is allergic to most dogs. Luckily there are breed specific rescue groups. She is STILL saying they want a RESCUE.

  • Curtis says:

    While I’m glad they say they’ll adopt I really do wish the Obama’s weren’t so breed obsessed.

  • Nadine says:

    You have apparently forgotten that one of their daughters has allergies which is why they have to limit their choices.

  • CN says:

    “What the Obamas and lots of other people don’t seem to understand is that you don’t have to preselect a certain breed and then set out to find a dog who meets that criterion. You can go to your local animal shelter walk down the rows of cages and pick out a dog of any old breed or better yet mix of breeds spend some time with him or her and discover that yes this is the dog for you. It’s kind of a crazy idea but I’m hoping it just might catch on.” Well said. If only Michelle were reading this.

  • J says:

    What about rescue associations for certain breeds? Our dog is a rottweiler although we think she might have some lab in her as well that we adopted from one of these associations and we can’t imagine life without her!

  • Jill says:

    I think they may be interested in the Portuguese Water Dog because of allergy issues.

  • Pepsi One is Fun says:

    NT Yeah I understand that but frankly as long as its a shelter dog lets be glad that people are just adopting from shelters.

  • SM says:

    I completely agree that everyone who is considering adopting a pet should adopt one from a shelter. I have a 3yearold australian shepard collie mix who we adopted from the humane society our previous dog we had gotten from the pound and our cat we had found on the street. These animals are not pets but our family members and are treated as people too. Adopting from a shelter provides the satisfaction of knowing that your have done something good for another life. We all should realize what is best for the animals and be consened with “what’s in fashion!!!”

  • codemasterda says:

    I love to have a german shepherd or a husky both are adorable breeds but I am not going to be picky about a dog I have a mutt for a dog he is part chow and we met by chance and we have been the bestest friends since. Sure you can shop for a good breed but its best to find a dog that needs the most love and give it a good home with lots of love and care. who knows your best friend might be found in a shelter and can be a mixed breed like my pal chase who I won’t ever replace for a husky or shepherd.

  • Pepsi One is Fun says:

    Its all about personality and what not.

  • WolfGirl21 says:

    I volunteer at an animal shelter and seeing all of the wonderful doggies there I know that it doesn’t take some fancy pure bred pup to make it special a mix is equally as special. Cats too. All a person has to do is walk around a shelter interact with some of the potential companions there cat or dog that catch their eyeand see if one really connects with them which there usually is one that does. Shelters are like types of heroes. But people also need to spay or neuter their pets so shelters wouldn’t always be overwhelmed with animals!

  • Joanna says:

    If it’s true that people tend to ressemble the dog they keep then can we assume Michelle and kids are active intelligent and hard working to a fault? I do not think its a mistake for the Obamas or any family to have specific traits they want in their pet. How else are they going to try and get a dog that fits with their lifestyle? Would a low energy dog want to entertain two active kids in a busy home? Unfortunately there are probably alot of very nice overactive PortiesGoldensLabsPoodles and similar type dogs in the shelter world for the Obamas to select from. This is just the type of dog people get and then get give up becuase they cannot handle its energy. Any type of dog you want you can find in the shelter. Hopefully you will have the wisdom to find a dog that you can love just the way it is.

  • grant says:

    The Obama’s had to mind which breed they were picking because one of their daughters is allergic. Portie’s are considered a hypoallergenic breed thus more suitable for their daughter… Bottomline they said they were going to get a “rescue” dog and they are. You can’t pin the acts of puppymills or people who want to own the same dog as them on the Obama’s.

  • Rex's mom says:

    In case you dont know Malia Obama their 10 year old daughter is allergic to dogs. So they dont have too many breeds to choose from that won’t affect her allergies. I assume Portuguese Water Dogs won’t cause too much of an allergic reaction as other dogs do. But I wish Barack would stop calling it a Portuguese Water HOUND! It’s water dog not hound.

  • NT says:

    I agree the point of choosing to “adopt” a dog is going to a shelter and adopt the one that steals your heart. What the Obamas are doing doesn’t sound too compassionate it’s like saying “I want to adopt a baby but he has to be from Finland no more than one monthold blonde with green eyes”. Not cool.

  • Sarah says:

    I heart shelter dogs!!! I have two gorgeous companions who both came from a shelter and I adore them! I think everyone should go to a shelter for a companion!

  • Brien Comerford says:

    Inhumane malevolent and greedy puppy mils must be outlawed.