SEE our update in this story at President Obama Narrows it Down to 2 Dog Breeds

Will President-elect Obama

Pick a Schnauzer?

It appears affection - and an affinity for a pet - go a long way when times are tough.

"Pets have become more like family than an animal left in the dog house in the backyard," says Daisy Okas, assistant vice president of communications at the American Kennel Club (AKC). "Just as people are not going to skimp on their children, they are not going to cut back on their dog."

Humans are so devoted to their canine counterparts that despite the economic downturn, it seems pet owners aren't willing to cut back on canine-related expenditures.

In fact, spending on pet supplies and over-the-counter medicines is expected to reach $10.5 billion by the end of this year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers' Association. In 2007, spending reached about $9.9 billion.

"Animals provide a consistency to the ups and downs of our life, whether that's the downturn in the economy or job stress," says Shari Curran, director of Therapet Foundation, a Whitehouse, Texas-based not-for-profit that provides animal-assisted therapy.

"They don't care whether you won or lost a bunch of money in the stock market; they provide unconditional love and react the same way every time you come home."

Dogs are such an important part of many families that even President-elect Obama felt his daughters would need a furry friend when they move into the White House. They are likely to choose a hypo-allergenic breed like a Poodle or Miniature Schnauzer, given his daughter Malia's allergies.

But the breed the Obamas choose will also affect how they are perceived by the country. That's because owners typically identify with animals who have similar personality traits, quirks and physical activity levels, Okas says.

To identify which breeds bestow which qualities, we asked the AKC and ASPCA for insight. Their answers are based on scientific studies of breed behavior and the buying habits of pet owners.

Canine Characteristics
Owners of Golden Retrievers, for instance, tend to be social butterflies who prefer to be in group settings, while Chihuahua owners are often mischief-makers, taking after their high-energy canine.

"All toy breeds were bred to be companions," says Okas. "So Chihuahuas, along with Pomeranians and Maltese, may have a hard time being home alone all day."

Poodles, America's choice for the next presidential dog according to a survey conducted in August of more than 42,000 Americans by the AKC, tend to have owners who are detail-oriented and appreciate art and culture.

But the type of breed does not always tell the whole story.

Dr. Emily Weiss, Ph.D, certified applied animal behaviorist and senior director of shelter research and development at the ASPCA, advises those seeking a new member of the family "look at the individual dog and their personality and characteristics, not just the generalizations of the breed."

Since each individual dog has its own unique personality, regardless of its breed, it's essential you spend time with the pup in order to evaluate if its energy level, amount of training and disposition are a good fit.

Article written by Jeanine Poggi.

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