What should the Obama family look for in a new pet dog? – Part 19

President-Elect Barack Obama knows what he’s looking for in his search for The First Puppy. In a news conference, he explained the two key features he’s looking for in a new running mate. First, he wanted a dog that was allergy-friendly. (Actually, he wanted a “hypoallergenic dog,” which technically doesn’t exist, but more on that later.) Second, he wanted to adopt a shelter dog. Both offer plenty of challenges and rewards, and both present things you need to watch for.

Malia’s “optimal dog” – a poodle-golden retriever mix – is smart, good-tempered and energetic. That’s exactly what you’re looking for in a dog who’ll spend time with kids. Consider age as well. Adult dogs that have spent time with children require less attention than inexperienced puppies. Above all, you want a dog whose breed and age matches your lifestyle, so do some research.

Unfortunately for the Obamas, 100% hypoallergenic dogs don’t exist. All dogs produce something that might cause an allergic reaction, whether it’s in their hair, skin, or saliva. Obviously, there’s no such thing as a saliva-free or skin-free dog. But the most allergy-friendly dogs have shorter hair (or none) and don’t shed. Your best bet? Find someone who owns the breed you’re interested in and visit them. When you find a breed you want to bring home, invest in at least one HEPA-compliant air filter (especially for the bedroom), consider trading in carpets for solid flooring, and get ready for a lot of grooming.

If you do decide to adopt from a shelter, ask for a tour once you’ve narrowed down your choices. You’re looking for a clean facility, happy and healthy dogs, and references to a veterinarian or previous adoptees. They will also want things. A lot of questions and an initial check on your references or even your home is fairly routine, but steer clear of shelters offering demands that are too extreme. A good shelter just wants the same thing you do: A good home for the dog.

No matter what kind of dog you’re looking for, it’s important to do your homework and pay attention. That way, both you and your dog will be happy.

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