By Sharon Theimer
WASHINGTON: Bo the Portuguese water dog makes his official move into the White House today, and how President Barack Obama and his family introduce him to his new home — and the world — will say much about their skills as novice dog owners.
The White House will be the puppy's fourth home in his six months of life. He was born in Texas, then moved to his first owner's home in Washington, D.C., then spent nearly a month with Sen. Edward Kennedy's dog trainer in Virginia, and now is moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
A dog can become disoriented when moving to a new home, said Cesar Millan, host of the National Geographic Channel's ''The Dog Whisperer'' and co-founder with his wife of a nonprofit foundation to help abused and abandoned dogs.
''Being disoriented can lead an animal to become anxious, to become nervous, to become fearful,'' Millan said. ''In some situations they get really excited. So, regardless which state of mind the dog might go into, that's not going to be good for the dog.''
Among Millan's top tips: ''Day one or day two or day three, there should be a lot of walking involved. And before the dog eats, he should be very hungry, because that helps him to understand that the humans are helping him to work for food and water.'' Focus on establishing a routine to help the dog calm down, rather than comforting him and using his name a lot when he's upset, Millan said.
Bo was given up by his first owner because things weren't working out with the family's other dog. Kennedy and his wife Victoria, who had two Portuguese water dogs from Bo's breeder and acquired a third from Bo's litter, thought Bo would be perfect for the Obamas, and gave the dog to the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, as a gift, the dog's breeder and a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama said.
At 6 months, Bo is still very much a ''goofy puppy'' and like many Portuguese water dogs, may still be that way up to age 2 or even 4, said Stu Freeman, president of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. ''A puppy is a puppy and these are very active puppies,'' he said.
''The dogs are intelligent, they need to work and be kept busy,'' Freeman said. ''If you can't keep them active and amused, they will find something to do.''
Bo's official American Kennel Club-registered name is Amigo's New Hope, and his first owner called him Charlie. His new name could present some special training challenges, AKC spokeswoman Daisy Okas said.
''Since "Bo' sounds like "no' we would recommend that they work with a trainer to consult on the best commands to give the dog. So the trainer may recommend either hand signals for "no' or perhaps saying "stop' instead,'' Okas said. ''The dog could become very confused if it thinks its name is being called when it's actually being told to stop a certain behavior.''
Also, at least in the early days, the Obamas should set and carry out the dog's routine themselves, ''Dog Whisperer'' Millan said.
''It's all about gaining trust and respect, day one,'' Millan said. ''It's very important that everybody — the girls, Michelle, the president — to play, all of them together, the pack leader role.''
Associated Press producer David Mellendy in Washington contributed to this report.
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