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Recognizing the Pit Bull Breed
by Mia Carter -

American Staffordshire Terriers are Often Confused with Other Breeds

Pit Bull bias is largely attributed to misidentification of dog breeds. Some experts say up to 75% of dogs identified as pit bulls are actually other breeds of dogs! Click here to read Mia Carter's article.

The Economy May be Hurting Your Pets
by Holly - Woman Tribune

USA Today has reported that animal shelters are experiencing an increase in pet intakes. As we’ve seen throughout the past handful of months, home foreclosures are affecting middle-class Americans everywhere. In addition to home foreclosures, money in general has been dwindling for average families which could have a negative effect on your pets.

Many families are finding that their income is hardly covering basic necessities, leaving more and more pets unable to be given the care that they need and deserve. It is very heartbreaking to have to give up a pet, especially a pet that has been such a beloved part of your family and even more heartbreaking is the fact that animal shelters can only have so many pets and as more animals are being given up, animal shelters are becoming overcrowded and pets, again, are not given the care and especially the attention that they need.

It is important that we, as middle-class Americans take precautions in order to ward off our homes being foreclosed or finding ourselves even deeper in debt than we are already. There are also a set of precautions a family must take in order to ensure that your pet is given the care that they need and also to ensure that you are not faced with having to give your pet up. We know that the cost of living is increasing while our salaries are diminishing and anyone who has pets knows that the cost of pet ownership can also become a bit harder on our budgets as jobs are lost and salaries are cut. Just as we look for frugal living tips, it is possible and sometimes necessary to cut costs when it comes to taking care of our pets.

While I especially know how compelling pet toys can be, especially considering every time I’m at the store I find myself in the pet aisle looking at toys and knick-knacks that I am positive my cat will be delighted over, your pet can be just as happy with less expensive toys and even homemade toys. Veterinarian bills are prone to stack up over the years and fast if you have a cat or dog that roams freely outside. Keep your pets safe by keeping them on a leash while walking outside so they are less prone to accidents. You can also consult your veterinarian and tell them that you are on a low budget, that way if your pet needs medication, they can prescribe a medication that will work for your pet that also costs less. Just like humans have health insurance so if we do become ill and have to go to the hospital, we know that we don’t have to foot the entire bill ourselves, it is also beneficial to look into pet health insurance to minimize costs in cases of unexpected illness or injury.

These are just starting points, of course. You can also cut pet costs by buying cheaper pet food and other supplies and I am sure that there are cheaper options available for just about anything that you find yourself purchasing for you pet, such as treats. In the economy we are living in now, it is important to cut back when we can and to also ensure that our families, pets included, are getting what they need.

Celebrity Dog Trainer Answers Examiner Question
by Michelle Critchell, DC Dogs Examiner

Dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell, of the Animal Planet show, “It’s Me or the Dog,” answered a question from the D.C. Dogs Examiner during a Washington Post online discussion.

Stilwell helps counsel families on their pet problems and her work reaches audiences in over 30 countries. She is also the author of It’s me or the dog; How to have the Perfect Pet.

Question from D.C. Dogs Examiner:

Dear Victoria,
Love your show! Do you think it is a bad idea to let dogs sleep on the "family" bed? My husband and I have two small dogs and often let them sleep on the bed. One can get "growly," though when we try to move her. Thanks!

Victoria Stilwell: Thanks -- glad you like the show!

I'm completely fine with dogs sleeping on beds as long as all the humans who are supposed to sleep there are OK with it and, more importantly, the dog doesn't display any unwanted behaviors or resistance when you try to remove him. Almost every time you see me dealing with a bed-related issue on the show, the owners have allowed the behavior continue so long that problems have developed which need to be sorted out.

Sounds like your dog is starting to get a little protective of the bed, so in your case, I'd suggest addressing the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. Be sure to get a positive-reinforcement trainer in your area to come help you, as aggression issues can be very complex and need to be dealt with appropriately.

"It's Me or the Dog" airs Saturdays at 9pm e/p on the Animal Planet.

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Basic Instinct
By Richard Thompson - Boston Globe

Pulling a scooter over concrete works fine for these sled dogs

Four months after adopting Captain, a black-and-white Siberian husky, Will Swan has no plans to mush his canine companion in Alaska's annual Iditarod dogsled race.

That doesn't mean Swan is out in the cold. Instead of going for the legendary 1,150-mile trail, known for stretching through dense forests and across frozen rivers and mountain ranges, the 25-year-old Belmont resident spends his weekend afternoons practicing the urban equivalent: shouting commands at his three- or four-dog team while being pulled on a kick scooter that he steers along the sidewalk near Peters Park in the South End.

"It's so great for them, because they're such a high-energy breed," Swan said earlier this month after Captain and another pair of Siberians had led him around the block. "This is great for getting the energy out, which makes them a lot less destructive around the house."

For traditional sled dog breeds like huskies and malamutes, it's a line of work that's usually done with basket sleds amid wintry weather, rather than alloy rims and continuous concrete. Since starting the weekly Boston Snow Dogs gatherings nearly three years ago, Tania Nieves of Dorchester has been encouraging like-minded folks to tap into that natural sled-dog instinct.

The familiar reaction shared by passersby and first-time visitors: "They're amazed to see that the dogs can actually pull," Nieves, 33, said with a laugh.

Each dog is strapped into a harness, which is connected with a line to the scooter. In order to get going, someone generally rides a bicycle in front of the pack to set the direction while the person on the scooter gains control and begins setting the pace.

"It's difficult, because this is not the ideal setting," said Nieves, who has been making rounds with her black-and-white Siberians, 4-year-old Tala and 7-year-old Tunda, for the past two years at places like Revere Beach and Franklin Park. "So it's a lot of trial-and-error. There have been times when Tala just sits down and she'll look at me and she doesn't want to run, but you can't force them. We don't have any whips, and they're really doing the job for you."

Diego Yanez, an 18-year-old Boston University freshman, has been making the meets periodically over the last year, but experienced an opposite reaction from his 2-year-old Siberian, Enzo, when he decided to mush the dog for the first time on a recent Sunday afternoon.

"He was too strong," Yanez said after returning from the 15-minute ride. "He was leading too much and there was already a leader. I think he was just too excited to come here."

Slipping the dogs into harnesses and connecting the lines to the scooter, which has a grip brake for the front wheel and a foot brake that slows down a pair in the back, lets the rider keep a better pace with the dogs while maintaining more stability, the riders say.

"It puts pressure on both rear tires, which doesn't give you a full stop, but that's where you have to have control of your dogs," said Tania's brother, Nesto Nieves, 30.

As with sled-dog racing, one of the most important aspects of training the dogs is making sure they can understand and respond to commands.

"A lot of dogs are just pulling-dogs," Swan said. "You put them in the back and they'll just go, but you need somebody in the front that you can tell what to do."

Tania Nieves counts more than 130 members in the group, mostly generated by word-of-mouth and through the Internet. The dog owners exchange tips and advise one another on caring for the dogs. When the owners are comfortable, Nieves usually has an extra harness ready for the dog to try its first run.

That was all it took for Tom Fleck, 26, to trade in his longboard after taking a spill while being pulled by his two Siberians early last year.

His $350 scooter features 20-inch chrome bicycle wheels, front and rear disc brakes, and, he says, added peace of mind.

"You can take it right off road, which helps," said Fleck, who lives in Hingham. "With a skateboard, you can only stick to pavement, and if you ever hit a rock, you'd be all done."

For more information about the Boston Snow Dogs, go to

PET CORNER: Dogs, Cats Need Special Attention
By Laverne Hughey, Humane Society of Harrison County - Marshall News Messenger

At the end of last week, the temperature had dropped dramatically. Looks like winter has set in and now all pet guardians need to be sure the outdoor dogs and cats are well provided for. They need to make an honest assessment as to whether the dogs or cats have a safe, dry and warm place to seek protection from the low temperatures and wind or rain.

Some of the dogs that have a bad situation are the ones that are forced to live at the end of a chain, usually a short chain which restricts movement. Many of the dogs are chained in the middle of a yard, no dog house at all, and if there is one, it is probably sitting flat on the ground, which means water will be accumulated in the little house. Combine that possibility with freezing temperatures and howling wind, resulting in a terrible situation for the dog. The house should be placed on bricks to keep it off the ground to be sure no water will get in.

It is impossible for a dog to stay warm in its house with a bare floor. At the very least, several towels, blankets or bath mats can be placed on the floor so the dog, or perhaps a cat, can sink into them and generate enough body heat to stay warm.

If a dog or cat is not allowed inside the family home, staying warm and comfortable with its family, please provide a dog house that does not leak in rainy weather, and is constructed in a way which also protects from the bold, biting wind. Many pet guardians purchase the igloo type hard plastic dog houses, but the opening is so large, it is almost like having a house with only three sides for the dogs. There are clear plastic covers for the doors which the guardian may want to consider to keep wind and rain out.

A year or so ago, someone telephoned to tell me about a dog that was safe inside a fenced yard, but it was bitterly cold and heavy rains were in the forecast. The Marshall Animal Shelter employees were already aware of the situation as they, too, had received a phone call. Perhaps the dog was a digger or a fence jumper as he was chained. On one occasion, the caller had driven by and noticed the dog chained, standing in the middle of the small fenced yard with the rain pouring down on him.

Apparently, the dog house provided was so small and the opening was so large there was no way the animal could stay dry and be warm, so he chose to stand in the rain. A shelter employee had gone out to check the situation. The family was not at home and a note was left at the door explaining the problem. The very next day, the caller reported a brand new dog house which met the needs of the dog was in the yard and the dog was in it! Sometimes there is a happy ending.

Another important thing to remember, during very cold weather, dogs or cats that must stay outside the home will require extra food and fresh water. When the temperatures drop, animals require additional food to help them stay warm. If the dog has a habit of turning the water bowl over, just dig a hole the size of the water container and place it there. The dog will not be able to turn it over.

Most everyone knows that cats often curl up on a warm vehicle engine, trying to stay warm. Therefore, always bang on the car or truck hood to alert a cat that may be there to move on. We don't want to be responsible for mangling an innocent animal.

Anyone who cannot figure out a way to keep a dog or cat safe, warm and dry, and well fed during horrible weather, by all means telephone the Humane Society of Harrison County office at 903-938-7297, or the Marshall Animal Shelter at 903-935-4530 and tell them the problem; perhaps one of them can provide an answer that will be helpful.

Help Needed to Pay for Injured Dog’s Care
By Sandra Eckstein - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ciji Holloway of Atlanta was on her way to pick up her daughter Dec. 26 when a car, fleeing police, slammed head on into her vehicle.

Despite both Holloway and her 7-pound Yorkshire terrier mix, Quarter, being belted in, both were thrown around inside the car, causing major injuries. Holloway had a broken ankle and hand and a severe head laceration. Quarter had a badly broken back leg and pelvic injuries. Holloway was transported to a local hospital, and Quarter was rushed to the Banfield veterinary hospital in Midtown, where Dr. Renee Freshwater was on duty.

“She was brought in bleeding and in shock,” Freshwater said. “She was in pretty bad shape.”

And unfortunately, Holloway was not able to tell Freshwater what she wanted done with her dog. Over the next two days, Freshwater cared for the canine, even taking her home at night, waiting to hear from family members whether they would pay for the dog’s care or wanted her put down. But with no word, Freshwater made the decision on her own.

“If I was in a car wreck, I wouldn’t want someone making life or death decisions for my pet when I had no input,” Freshwater said.

Because she doesn’t do orthopedic surgery, Freshwater contacted Georgia Veterinary Specialists and asked for its help. The specialty hospital agreed to cut its fees in half, and on Dec. 30, Quarter had surgery. Ultimately, they couldn’t save the leg, but they were able to save Quarter’s life.

Freshwater took her home a few days later, along with a bill for $1,700.

“We put it on a 90-day, same as cash charge, but now we’re trying to figure out how to pay for it,” Freshwater said.

Holloway, 25, said she feels bad that she can’t cover the cost, but with her injuries she can’t work.

“I can’t even go home because my home has stairs, so I’m staying at my mother’s house,” Holloway said.

A local rescue group, the Society of Humane Friends of Georgia, is collecting donations for Quarter’s care. Holloway said she’s thankful to everyone, especially Freshwater, who was keeping Quarter until her stitches came out.

“She’s part of the family. She goes everywhere with me,” Holloway said. “I’m looking forward to getting her home.”

Donations for Quarter’s care can be mailed to: The Society of Humane Friends, P.O. Box 146, Lawrenceville, GA 30043. They also can be made through Paypal to Please note donations are for Quarter.

Send a kitty for Valentine’s Day. For a $10 donation, Good Mews, a no-kill cat shelter in Marietta, will send a personalized photo card of one of its adoptable cats, along with a note explaining that you’ve made a donation on behalf of your Valentine. Go to to order or call 770-499-2287.

Donate a kiss. If Chihuahuas are more your speed, join the Smooch-a-Thon for Chihuahua Rescue of Georgia. The group is hoping to sell 1,000 virtual Chihuahua smooches by Feb. 14 to support the homeless dogs in their program. Every smooch is $1, and the dogs in the program are competing to see which can get the most smooches.


Know of pet news, events or stories? Tell Sandra Eckstein at or call 404-526-7260. For more pet news, go to

The Cat Cafe and More
by Cindy Pevner, Baltimore Pet Care Examiner

The first cat café opened its doors in Tokyo in 1994. Business is booming in 2009; a dozen new cafes opened in 2008.

After you take your shoes off and wash your hands, a customer can play with the cats and kittens while having a drink. There are a few rules posted in English and Japanese: no flash photos, no pulling tails, and no waking sleeping kitties.

Customers can play Nintendo Wii, surf the Internet, or enjoy a play session with one of the kitties. Alcohol is served, in addition to coffee, tea, juice and sodas.

One of the café’s owners opened his café with a goal in mind. He wants the public to be aware of stray cats in Tokyo. Reportedly there are 240,000 cats euthanized each year. Business is good for the moment, but he’s concerned about what will happen to the cats when the cafes aren’t popular anymore.

Jennifer Aniston absolutely loves her dogs. They give her unconditional love that goes beyond the typical man – woman relationship.

Jennifer has two dogs; Norman a thirteen year old Welsh Corgi-terrier mix and Dolly a 21/2 year old white German Sheppard.

She explained, “Men come and go, but there is no relationship like the one you have with a dog. They don’t live as long as they should and you have to say goodbye way too soon. It’s just so sad."

"Their love is unconditional and I love that.”

Why We Love Bad Dogs They Might Be Rowdy, Rambunctious or Love to Chew, but They Steal Our Hearts Anyway
By COURTNEY McCANN - Press of Atlantic City

"In a dog's life, some plaster would fall, some cushions would open, some rugs would shred. Like any relationship, this one had its costs. They were costs we came to accept and balance against the joy and amusement and protection and companionship he gave us." - Excerpt from "Marley & Me," by John Grogan

Each morning Monica Shaud wakes up with a feeling of impending doom. Feet on the cold floor, eyes barely open, Shaud stumbles off - but not to shower or to make the morning coffee. Her day begins with a more unorthodox ritual - a room-by-room search of her Millville home to see what trouble Rusty has gotten into overnight.

Rusty is a 1 1/2-year-old Labrador mix with bright brown eyes, perky furry ears and a bad habit for getting in trouble.

His chewing knows no bounds, ranging from newspapers to human feet. His other favorite pasttimes include eating shoes, trying to goad the other household pets into playing via incessant barking and breaking down the baby gates designed to confine his mischief to one room.

But despite it all, Shaud find herself melting with one look at Rusty's face.

"I can't get mad at him," Shaud admitted. "He's just has this cute little face, like a little kid."

It's a rare pet-lover who can resist a bad dog. Just look at the popularity of John Grogan's book (and now hit film) "Marley & Me," an ode to the author's mischievous yellow Labrador retriever whom he dubbed "The World's Worst Dog." Like Grogan, many dog owners view their pets' bad behavior as a badge of honor, a source of funny stories to tell their friends.

"It's not so much that people love dogs who have bad behavior, as we love dogs in spite of bad behavior," said Kathryn Meyer, president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. "It's amazing what people will tolerate because they love their pets."

That's what happened with Rusty, who was brought into the Cumberland County SPCA as a stray in November. Shaud agreed to foster Rusty while he was recovering from necessary hip surgery. And the two fell in love, a love that went beyond the bounds of furniture chewing and paper eating.

"I guess the best way to describe him is as a big bull in a china shop," Shaud said. "He's extremely pleasant, and couldn't be aggressive if he wanted to be. He just doesn't like to get bored."

Dog owners often view these misbehaviors as character flaws that only serve to make their pets more human. It's not that they're bad dogs, they just have a personality.

Take Manny, for instance. On warm afternoons, the 120-pound Irish setter can be found hanging over the picket fence in his Marmora backyard, Marmaduke-style, waiting for students at the nearby Upper Township elementary school to come over and say hello before getting on the bus to go home.

Sounds ferocious right?

One look in Manny's warm brown eyes can melt the heart. But, according to his owner, Jack McDonough, this gentle giant's tendency to go berserk around horses has made him persona non grata at petting zoos and town fairs.

During a trip to Lancaster, Pa., three years ago, McDonough found himself with a crazed canine on his hands when they came across a bevy of horse-drawn carts.

"The horses were screaming. The people in the cart were screaming," McDonough recalled. "I thought 'Oh my god, I'm going to get sued.' He looked like something out of 'Psycho.'"

Then there's Cloe, a 3-year-old Dalmatian-pointer mix who has an obsession with socks, making laundry day interesting.

"She finds places to hide them everywhere," said Cloe's owner, Michele Eagan, of Ocean City. "Every time I think I have all the socks, she's taken some."

Driving is an adventure, with Cloe hopping back and forth from to front to back seats, rendering the windows eternally fogged with nose and paw prints. At night, though she is supposed to sleep at the foot of the bed, Cloe inevitably finds her way under the covers with her head on the pillows.

"She thinks she's a real person, she really does," Eagan said. "It's just part of who she is."

But pet experts warn that indulging in these "human-like" imperfections can lead to a lifetime of bad dog behavior that's won't always be so amusing.

"It's funny when the dog rips up paper," said Sarah Wilson, an animal behaviorist and expert for the upcoming PBS "Nature" special "Why We Love Cats and Dogs." "But then it becomes a call to me when the dog eats their wallet."

Wilson advises owners to get their dogs into obedience classes to quell bad behavior, and to reinforce behavior rules at home.

"My rule is never allow the dog to do something you don't allow a person to do," Wilson said. "If a person came across the room and tackled you, you wouldn't laugh."

As for Rusty, Shaud continues to work on his behavior with obedience training and offering rawhide bones and toys as chewable alternative to couches. But she fears his unruly behavior will keep him from being adopted, so much so that she is leaning toward making him a permanent member of her household.

"I don't know if anyone else would put up with this stuff," Shaud said. "Hopefully it's something that he'll grow out of."

Especially the chewing.

E-mail Courtney McCann:

With a Little Prep, Hiking with Dogs Can be Peachy
Grand Junction Sentinel

One of our Norwegian Elkhounds, Peach, took us for a hike the other day. Our destination was the south rim of the Colorado River on property owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and managed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife as the Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area.

The area is much larger than it appears on a map. That’s because a long stretch of the wildlife area parallels the south bank of the Colorado River from Horsethief Canyon to the new City of Fruita Open Space Park (formerly known as Snooks Bottom), a distance of about 2.5 miles.

It’s a fabulous place to walk the dog.

To reach this area from Grand Junction, take Interstate 70 (or old U.S. Highway 6 & 50) west to Fruita (Colorado Highway 340/Exit 19 off the interstate). Travel south across the river for 1.3 miles to Kings View Estates Subdivision. Turn right (west) and go through the subdivision. When the pavement ends, veer to the left around the gravel pit and past Fruita’s Open Space Park, then follow the signs to Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area. It will be on the north, or right side of the road. Property on the left, or south side of the road lies within the McInnis Canyons Conservation Area once you pass Devils Canyon. Prior to Devils Canyon, property on the south side of the road is private and well marked as such.

The Horsethief Canyon SWA property was acquired and developed to replace wildlife habitat lost as a result of construction of the Grand Valley Unit of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Project.

The purpose of the Grand Valley Unit was to reduce the estimated 580,000 tons per year of salt added to the Colorado River as a result of irrigation system seepage and agricultural practices in the valley.

But I wasn’t thinking of salt, I was thinking of dogs. I’ve had a couple healthy conversations with people in town over dogs on skiing trails, dogs on hiking trails, dogs hiking around our neighborhood, dogs at the vets. You know. Dogs.

One of the most stimulating conversations was with Sarah Shaw, a board member of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council and wife of Kenton Shaw, one of the greatest trail groomers in the world. Two weeks ago, I penned a story about dogs on the Dog Loop at County Line Cross Country Ski Area. Sarah had previously written a great piece on dogs and dog etiquette for the Nordic Council, and I stole as much of it as I could, because it was good. (I gave her full credit, but I messed up her name and I’m really sorry. Apparently, I have a habit of that!)

In her article, Sarah suggested providing a hearty breakfast for your four-legged friend, at least an hour before exercise. (Longer-bodied dogs should eat two hours before exercise. Like horses, they may bloat, which is very dangerous).

She had a number of other common sense suggestions and advised talking to your own vet about taking your pet on an extended exercise run.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Brian Wiseman at Amigo Animal Clinic, said, “Taking care of your dog outdoors really is common sense stuff. Sometimes, though, people have a tendency to go too far and don’t pay attention to the dog’s condition as they go.”

Dr. Wiseman said most of the problems he’s seen occur during the summer months because of the heat and hot rocks around here, but one issue remains the same, summer or winter: “For every mile you go, they’ll go three.”

That means if you ski or hike seven or eight miles, your pet will go 21 to 24 miles. Think about that: Let’s say your 10-year old dog goes 24 miles on your outing, while you go eight. In dog years, that’s like taking Granny on a death march!

Sarah related that she’d been on at least six dog rescues on Grand Mesa in the past couple of winters, mostly due to people going too far with their dogs, or dogs getting injured on the trail. You’re on skis or snowshoes, but your dog is post-holing through the snow. Who knows what lies below that could cut a paw or tear a ligament?

Sometimes, too, there are just too many dogs on the trail. And too many dogs have a tendency to fight. If you run into one of those Michael Vick lovefests, call Mesa County Animal Control, get a license plate number of the vehicles those animals traveled in, and Animal Control can deal with it.

If you take your pets outdoors, take care of them, pick up after them, and don’t let them roam. Remember, they’ll go three miles to each one of yours, even if you keep them on a long leash.

Living With Our Furry Friends ... Without Sneezing, Itching or Tears!
By MEGGIE DAVIS - PublicOpinionOnline

Since publicly promising his two daughters that a new puppy would be accompanying them to the White House, President-elect Obama's quest for the perfect pooch has garnered quite a bit of attention.

But the president's home won't be stomping grounds for your typical golden retriever or beagle. The Obamas are searching for a "hypoallergenic" dog, due to the fact that his 10-year-old daughter, Malia, suffers from pet allergies.

Obama's daughter is not alone. An estimated 10 percent of the U.S. population may be allergic to animals, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Among them is Marcella Sheffler of St. Thomas, who has suffered from pet allergies "forever."

"As a child I had a German shepherd and I wasn't able to deal with that," she said.

Sheffler's symptoms are more severe than the average runny nose or sneezing episode.

"My ears start to itch inside, my throat swells. I start to get asthmatic," she explained.

After she married, her family owned a German short-haired pointer. Since the dog was kept outside, Sheffler said she avoided most of her symptoms so long as she didn't pet the animal.

But her relationship with man's best friend changed a few years ago after a relative presented her with a dilemma.

Sheffler's aunt had been informed she would no longer be able to keep her bichon frise, Tucker, in her apartment building. Since Sheffler's allergies had never been aggravated while visiting her aunt,she offered to take the dog in. Now three years later, her life with Tucker is still allergy symptom-free, she said.

"This type of dog is really good company," said Sheffler.

Root of the problem

A common misconception is that the pup's fur is the root of pet allergies, but experts say the issue has little to do with the length or amount of hair on the pet.

It's actually dog dander, or skin particles, that causes the sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes and runny noses, according to Jennifer Vanderau, director of communications at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

"When they lose hair, they lose those particles," she explained. "And it gets on everything -- in your bed, on your couch and on your clothes."

While dog hair itself is not considered to be a very significant allergen, it can collect pollen, dust and mold and spread them throughout your home.

And although there is some debate over the use of the term "hypoallergenic" and whether any dog really fits the bill, most experts do agree that certain breeds are less likely than others to cause an allergic reaction in people.

"Any dog that sheds is likely to produce allergies," said Fran Calverase, vice president of Chambersburg Kennel Club.

Breeds like collies, German shepherds, greyhounds and whippets tend to shed a lot, he said, whereas "a bichon frise or poodle or Lhasa apso or shih tzu -- they don't shed so they don't produce the allergies."

Although "designer dogs" such as Labradoodles have gained popularity in recent years, Calverase warns against such mixed breeds as pets for allergy sufferers.

"It's unpredictable; you don't know what you'll get when you cross breeds," he explained. "Are they going to be more like the lab or more like the poodle?"

"No dog is completely non-allergenic. It depends on the person and the dog," he said.

Breathe easier

To further reduce pesky pet allergies, Calverase offers the following advice: He suggests regular bathing and grooming with a brush or comb to get rid of loose fur. Allergy sufferers should consider wearing a painter's mask while performing these tasks, he said. Calverase also suggests using air purifiers and furnace filters to reduce allergens in the home.

For some animal lovers, allergy symptoms are worth the companionship their furry friend provides.

"I've talked to a lot of people who just stock up on Benadryl," Vanderau said. "They're like, 'I love my cat, I love my golden retriever,' so they just deal with it."

Put the tissues away!

According to the American Kennel Club, these breeds may allow to you breathe easier:

- Bedlington terrier -- A smaller dog with a thick coat that requires weekly combing. Affectionate, alert and calmer than many other terriers.

- Bichon frise -- A small, sturdy dog with long white hair that curls loosely. Requires daily brushing. Sweet-tempered, merry and eager to please.

- Chinese crested -- A small, fragile dog that comes in two varieties: hairless and powder puff. Affectionate and playful.

- Irish water spaniel -- A large dog, the tallest of the spaniels. Fun loving and amiable with a poodle-like coat.

- Kerry blue terrier -- A medium dog with a gentle, sociable temperament. Their wavy blue/gray coats require a good amount of grooming.

- Maltese -- A popular toy dog with a long, straight, white coat. Affectionate and alert, they require daily brushing.

- Poodle -- Comes in toy, miniature and standard varieties. One of the most intelligent and trainable breeds. Their curly coats need brushed daily.

- Portuguese water dog -- A medium dog with a curly coat. Obedient and spirited temperament. Needs to be brushed twice weekly.

- Schnauzer -- Comes in three varieties: miniature, standard, giant. Their wiry coat requires some dedication to grooming.

- Soft-coated wheaten terrier -- A cheerful, lively medium-sized dog. Their wavy, wheat-colored coats need to be brushed three or four times a week.

First dog?

The search for the next presidential pooch has been narrowed down to two: The first family will pick either a Portuguese water dog or a Labradoodle, and one of the breeds already has a big name supporter barking its praises.

In a written statement, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy announced his support of the Portuguese water dog. The senator himself owns three of the pooches -- Sunny, Splash and Captains Courageous, or Cappy for short.

"A Portuguese water dog is the perfect choice for first dog," the statement read. "The Obama girls -- and their parents -- will love a Portuguese water dog. They're loyal, smart, loving and they became a real part of the family. And they definitely do not shed."

"I am proud to endorse the Portuguese water dog as the next First Dog of the United States," Kennedy's statement reads. "They have a can-do and hopeful spirit. They are smart. They are resilient. They are determined. They are optimistic. And they are tireless. Sounds like a perfect fit for the Obama Family and the Obama Administration."

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