The breeders of the Obamas' new household addition share some family history

By Carol Vinzant
April 16, 2009 10:10 AM
Larry Downing/Reuters/Landov

Art and Martha Stern, who bred the new White House dog, Bo, at their Amigo Portuguese Water Dog Kennels in Texas, are used to seeing their dogs in the news, since three of their pups are already in the hands of Sen. Ted Kennedy. “We’ll say ‘Oh, Kennedy’s on the news. Does he have the dogs with him?” Art Stern told PEOPLE Pets. “I guess we’ll get to see a lot of them now.”

It wasn’t Bo’s fault his first family didn t work out. Bo, who spent time with another family before heading to Washington, was originally acquired to give an older female some company, but he ended up giving her a headache – by trying to nurse on her. “Most of our puppies, when [they] are six or seven weeks of age, I let them out with the big dogs,” Stern says. “The big dogs usually educate them to the fact that not all big dogs are their mother. But apparently he didn t learn that.”

Bo comes from sturdy stock. His mom Penny is “kinda pushy,” Stern says. “She tries to run things, but we’ve got an older female that’s actually the alpha.” The Sterns give all their dogs a puppy test that rates degrees of social attraction, the ability to follow and sensitivity to touch. Bo scored mostly in the middle.

Bo has been a presidential dog-in-training for weeks. After Bo left his first home, he a top-secret trip to the White House for a summit with the Obamas in mid-March. Then he was whisked off for schooling by the Kennedy’s dog trainer.

He has a talented older brother. The Sterns tried to mate Bo’s mom and dad through artificial insemination, and a pup named Solo was born. Solo now competes in a sport called Water Work that mimics the challenges of fishing, which Porties were originally bred to do. Then Bo’s parents got together again and had Bo and his nine litter mates (including one owned by the Kennedys).

Bo will be big and lanky. Stern says that his other dogs that were neutered young – like Bo – have become especially tall. Which means he’ll be right at home with the First Family: The President is just over 6 feet tall, while Michelle Obama while Michelle Obama reaches 5’11”.

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