Leader of a superpower, led by a dog called Bo

David Usborne
Wednesday 06 October 2010 00:00
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Leaders of men they may be but when it comes to inspiring the loyalty of their canine constituents, presidents and prime ministers often fall short. And no one is more obviously impaired in the doggie-discipline department than Barack Obama, at least according to America's dog whisperer, Cesar Millan.

Mr Millan, who has built a strong following for his television series on taming even the fiercest of Fidos, has offered his own approval rating for President Obama and it is not impressive. When it comes to the relationship between the Prez and his dog, Bo, the title of Commander-in-Chief should be conferred upon the one with four legs not two.

This, apparently, is all to do with Mr Millan's belief that dogs should always follow their owners when they are on the lead and not the other way around. Bo, a Portuguese water dog, seemingly sees things differently. He is a puller.

"I've seen them day one, and definitely day one was not a good scene," Mr Millan, who is doing the rounds to sell a book, told an interviewer on CBS TV. "The dog, Bo, was in front of the President of the United States."

Mr Millan, who is a native of Mexico, is not unaware of the season – mid-term elections next month are likely to see Democrats driven out of Congress in droves – and took care to mention a Republican who fell short too. George W Bush was not on top of his dog either. "Sometimes he didn't want to get into the helicopter," he observed. (Barney, not George.)

Nor is this just an American thing. Parisian pooches, you might think, would have a better grasp of etiquette and discipline especially if the Elysée was once your very own kennel. Yet recall the embarrassment for Jacques Chirac, who surrendered the French presidency in 2007, when he was forced to admit last year that his cute Maltese terrier, Sumo, had bitten him. Apparently his anti-depressant pills weren't working so well.

Scholars of presidential pooch politics will not have forgotten the travails of Ronald Reagan when he introduced Lucky to the White House, a Bouvier de Flandres which grew to 80lbs. Lucky didn't just lead or even pull. He dragged. Old video footage captured one particularly unfortunate day when Reagan decided to take the dog and British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, on the White House lawn for a stroll. Or rather a gallop.

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