Biden Dog Not Banished After All

Major is a good boy who hardly ever bites anybody.

President Joe Biden pets the Biden family dog Champ in the Oval Office of the White House Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, prior to a bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members to discuss supply chains.
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

It turns out that the First Family’s dog Champ is a good boy and reports that he had been sent back to Delaware to protect visitors from his fangs are Fake News. The Associated Press has the scoop:

There is Major breaking news: President Joe Biden’s wayward pup is no longer in the doghouse.

Biden, in an interview that aired Wednesday, said that his dog Major, who had been involved in a biting incident at the White House, was “a sweet dog.” He explained the biting by saying that the dog had “turned a corner, there’s two people he doesn’t know at all, you know, and they move and moves to protect.”

Biden added that “85% of the people there love him.” Major, a 3-year-old rescue dog, and Champ, who is 12, were moved to the Bidens’ Delaware home after the incident, but the president said they would return to the White House.

The president said “the dog’s being trained now” in Delaware but disputed the idea that the pup was sent away after the incident. He said the dogs went to Wilmington because the first couple was going to be out of town.

“He was going home,” Biden said. “I didn’t banish him to home. Jill was going to be away for four days. I was going to be away for two, so we took him home.”

So, the fact that he bit someone is purely a coincidence. At any rate, I’m glad President Biden has his dogs back. It’s an incredibly stressful job and any outlet that allows him some normalcy is welcome.

Otherwise, I mostly find these stories amusing, in that they demonstrate the degree to which politics has been nationalized. While the founding theory of our country was that political power should reside locally because people will naturally pay more attention to things close to home, the modern media environment means Americans are more likely to know the name of the President’s dogs than of their city councilman or Congressman.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    As a dog lover myself, I was amused by Biden’s comment that “85% of the people there love him.”

    And the other fifteen percent?

    4
  2. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: Abolutely terrified!

    Honestly, though, while no one is above the law, I think we ought to give the President some leeway in his own house. Unless the dog is seriously injuring people on a regular basis, we may just have to put up with it for the sake of his mental health.

    5
  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: Not good enough. Dogs that snap at people need to be trained not to and the people who excuse it by saying “he likes most people” are just assholes. But it appears that the Bidens get that, so I hope they can successfully train the dog–who will get lonely if it has to live in Wilmington full time.

    1
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Now, if only they can get the humans trained too…

    5
  5. Jen says:

    Big changes are always stressful for dogs, and German Shepherds in particular are a protective breed.

    I’ve had two Shepherd mixes, both rescues. I’ve witnessed both of them snap at people (snap in air, neither one ever landed even a nip), and in both cases it was when they thought *I* was in danger (unknown people moving towards me at a fast pace).

    Training is exactly what is needed, and keep the non-dog lovers away from Major. Dogs can sense that.

    5
  6. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    Apparently it was a Secret Service agent whose hand Major nipped, so it might be hard to keep the dog separated from the president’s detail.

    As you point out, shepherds are very protective of their humans. We had a shep cross (as did you) when I was young. Wonderful dogs.

  7. Jen says:

    @CSK:

    Apparently it was a Secret Service agent whose hand Major nipped, so it might be hard to keep the dog separated from the president’s detail.

    Yeah, I saw that. However, if that particular agent has problems with dogs in general, they might need to rotate him/her off of anything in the residence. You can’t train a secret service agent to like dogs, and it’s difficult to train a dog to like a human that doesn’t like dogs. Sometimes the only way to set up the dog to succeed is to manage surroundings.

    Our dog is freaked out by small children. We do not want to risk a bite, so we keep her well away from any kids, and have let the families in the neighborhood know that children frighten her.

    She’s actually been better about this as she’s gotten older, but we’re still very cognizant of her surroundings. It’s up to US to keep her, and any children nearby, safe. That means keeping them separated.

    3
  8. KM says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    There’s another factor here too – the WH staff has gone 4 years without dealing with their boss’ pets on a daily basis. How many of them have developed habits like barging into rooms or being excessively noisy that you wouldn’t do in a house with dogs, let alone breeds like German Shepherds? SS and WH staff may have forgotten their dog etiquette on top of Major needing more training. There are things we do to peaceful co-exist with our canine friends that non-dog parents just don’t get; kinda like how if you don’t own a cat, you might be dumb enough to think all that purring and waggling means “pet me” (hint: it’s a trap)

    I’ve been curious since no details about “how” the “bite” came about or even it’s severity. Was the “bite” a nip or did it draw blood? Shepard bites are no joke so it get the feeling it wasn’t a true bite so much as a warning nip to back off. Was it on someone who was acting in a manner the dog found sketchy near it’s owner? Were they being excessively disruptive like running vacuums without checking to see where the dog was or rushing around with Important News for Biden and it looked to Major like his human was being attacked? Was someone riling the dog up intentionally or not and missed the cues that maybe they should back away and let everyone calm down? There’s so little context it’s hard to judge but it looks like a mix between inadvisable human actions and insufficient dog handling.

    3
  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @KM: Was the “bite” a nip or did it draw blood?

    I read somewhere, no blood.

    1
  10. MarkedMan says:

    I’m sure the President and his staff will reach an accommodation without Fox New’s help.

    That said, a general comment about pets. It is not unusual for them to get grumpier and snappish as they get older. Some people speculate that it is because they are in pain, or their failing hearing and eyesight causes them anxiety and confusion and a resultant inability to discern whether they or their people are in danger. 12 is old for a dog that size – a quick google resulted in 9-13 year lifespan. All pet owners should be realistic about the stage of life their pet is in, especially now that so many vets promote heroic life extending operations and procedures.

    1
  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    The president said “the dog’s being trained now”…

    A dry run for the FEMA re-education camps?

    Good to see the pooches back at the WH. While I’ll agree with no biting, I’d like to see one of them lift his leg on Moscow Mitch.

    4
  12. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan: I get what you are saying, but for the record, the nip was from Major (the 3 year old), not Champ (the 12 year old).

    1
  13. Joe says:

    @CSK:

    And the other fifteen percent?

    Cat lovers. F–k’em.

    8
  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Joe: A thumbs up just because you made me chuckle.

    2
  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: Ah, I had it the other way around. My bad.

    1
  16. just nutha says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:I´ve given up on the idea that humans can be trained at all.

    3
  17. Nightcrawler says:

    We have two GSD mixes, a GSD/lab mix, our senior, and a GSD/chow, who’s only about a year and a half old. We adopted her last summer.

    GSD’s and labs are both very “mouthy” breeds, so our senior was quite mouthy when she was young. She didn’t break the skin; she just liked to take hands into her mouth when she was excited. We trained her not to do this by shoving a toy in her mouth. Now, whenever she gets excited, she grabs a toy.

    The puppy, OTOH, isn’t mouthy at all, at least not to human hands. She loves to chew objects. As she matures, she’s getting better about recognizing what she should and shouldn’t chew, but anything we don’t want destroyed still needs to be kept out of her reach. =)

    She’ll even try to chew dumbbells. Once, she picked up a 3# weight and carried it downstairs! We make sure to keep the door to the home gym shut.

    1
  18. just nutha says:

    @Sleeping Dog: On this, you and I disagree. I have no objections to any dog, anywhere, biting McConnell. Then again, I´m just a touch misanthropic.

    5
  19. CSK says:

    @just nutha:
    “The more I see of men, the better I like my dog.”
    — attributed to Alphonse de Lamartine, Thomas Carlyle, Mark Twain, and various others

    7
  20. Gustopher says:

    We were told there would be a cat. I still want the cat.

    (I expect that the cat is planned post-Champ, so I’m not in a hurry. Champ is a good boy and I hope he lives a surprisingly long and healthy life)

    4
  21. dazedandconfused's border collie Oscar says:

    @just nutha:

    I´ve given up on the idea that humans can be trained at all.

    Beg to differ. In my experience humans are eminently trainable. I have personally developed three different methods of training humans to throw a tennis ball, and if you think my humans aren’t well-trained you’ve another think coming.

  22. mattbernius says:

    @Jen:
    Agreed on all counts. I also personally find German Shepards to be a little edgy to begin with. So that makes the transition even more difficult.

    1
  23. inhumans99 says:

    @CSK:

    If Biden is citing the 85% stat like folks do the other 85/15 stat (you know the one I am talking about, lol) then he is cheekily saying the other 15% also love him even if they are shy about saying it out loud.

  24. MarkedMan says:

    @inhumans99:

    the other 85/15 stat (you know the one I am talking about, lol)

    ?

    1
  25. inhumans99 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The stat about self love and I will just leave it at that. My attempt at humor fell flat, I was trying to be cute as I thought of the saying that 85% of men admit to having performed a certain act in surveys, and the quip that the other 15% are lying. Well aware that if you have to explain your attempt at humor the joke landed like a lead balloon.

    Back on track this thread had me think back on a heartbreaking situation over 12 years back with my Sister’s then boyfriend now husband’s German Shephard Ginger. My sister offered my parent’s home to take in his pet because he needed to move and the place would not accept pets, so I only got to know Ginger briefly but she was an older dog and so sweet. I swear that instead of trying to attack our pet rabbit that I would let run around our back yard a bit she would nuzzle the rabbit and probably annoyed the rabbit more than anything else (rabbit was probably confused that this giant creature kept trying to play with him).

    Not long after Ginger was in our care I was checking out her teeth (wanted to make sure things were not getting too nasty in her mouth) and started to notice a gum line that was basically yellow instead of red/pink and I just knew in the pit of my stomach that something was not right and made sure that my sister’s husband to be took her to the vet immediately and what came next practically knocked me on my butt.

    My sister said that he was actually thankful I discovered the yellowing of the gums before things got much worse for Ginger and the vet recommended the best thing (most merciful thing) would be too put Ginger to sleep. It hurts to think about that event to this very day but I was told that things were far enough that the best way to do no further harm to Ginger was to euthanize her.

    I do love that pets are back to being in the White House, it is a bummer that Trump was not a dog person, and heck….even America’s first cat would have been cool.

  26. CSK says:

    @inhumans99:
    Like MarkedMan, I didn’t get the significance of 85/15 till you explained it.

    As for Trump, he seems to have hated dogs. Calling someone a dog–particularly a woman–was one of his go-to insults. Yet another reason to loathe him.

  27. just nutha says:

    @inhumans99: I guess I´m just not of as generous a spirit as you. I can´t imagine inflicting any Trump on a poor dumb animal, or even a rich conversant one.

    1
  28. EddieInCA says:

    I have four dogs currently. One is a Shepherd mix. He’s an amazing protector, but sweet as anything. But he will constantly move himself between my and anyone he doesn’t know. He doesn’t nip, or attack in anyway, but he’s always on guard. He’s 110 pounds of menace as you look at him, so that’s enough to keep anyone from really approaching him. But he’s a lovebug.

    As a long time dog owner, I’ve had pitbulls (have one now), Rottweillers, Dobermans, Labs, Goldens. My favorite breed, by far are German Shepherds, Aussie Shepherds (have one now) and Rottweillers. They need training but they’re amazing companions.

    In the rescue world, we have a saying “There are no bad dogs. But there are way too many bad owners”.

    6
  29. EddieInCA says:

    @Gustopher:

    We were told there would be a cat. I still want the cat.

    Kevin Drum is beating that drum (no pun intended) almost every day.

    2
  30. CSK says:

    @EddieInCA:
    I had a neighbor who trained Rottweilers for the police department. I recall one pair: Saber and Sheena. When I encountered them on the street while Patrick was walking them, I’d say, “Hi, Saber; hi, Sheena,” and the two silly things would lie on their backs, wave their legs, and dangle their tongues out of the sides of their mouths as an inducement for me to give them belly rubs. Real sweethearts.

    4
  31. MarkedMan says:

    @EddieInCA:

    But he will constantly move himself between my and anyone he doesn’t know

    When my daughter was three she was absolutely terrified of dogs. Not sure why, as there was never and incident. We moved form a city neighborhood to a cul-de-sac with three house, each with a few acres of land, lawns, gardens, woods, all without fences. And the day we moved in we met Mark, the German Shepherd next door, who roamed freely outside whenever his kids were out. Didn’t hesitate to come up on our porch. My wife and I immediately recognized that he was a great dog, and fantastic with kids, but we were thinking it could go very badly. Our neighbors mentioned that Mark was very protective of the kids and would always get between them and another dog, not aggressive but just keeping the distance. So we told our daughter that Mark was the “Protector Dog” who would keep other dogs away. Fortunately, she grew to accept him and it turned out to be absolutely true. They had two kids and we had two kids and they would run around the yard or play in the sand in various groupings and he would inevitably position himself so he could keep them all in view at all times.

    1
  32. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Is it possible your daughter spotted something on tv that frightened her? Just a glimpse of something that might have struck you as perfectly innocuous.

  33. EddieInCA says:

    @MarkedMan:

    . They had two kids and we had two kids and they would run around the yard or play in the sand in various groupings and he would inevitably position himself so he could keep them all in view at all times.

    I’m a huge fan of dogs. All breeds. As an adult, I’ve never had less than two dogs, ever. Usually 3 or 4. Frankly, I like dogs more than people. And I mean that. It’s not hyperbole.

    I don’t trust people to whom dogs react negatively.
    I don’t trust people who don’t like dogs.
    I don’t like people who are mean to dogs.
    I get a visceral rage at people who mistreat dogs. To the point that I fantasize about doing horrible things to them with a hammer and screwdriver.

    I have issues.

    3
  34. CSK says:

    Any discussion of dogs reminds me of a George Carlin joke I always loved:
    “What do dogs do on their day off? They can’t lie around–that’s their job.”

  35. DeD says:

    So, the fact that he bit someone is purely a coincidence.

    Not really. Bites can be reduced to three basic types: Prey, Fight, or Survival. All we know is the dog “turned a corner” and two people were there. That doesn’t give us enough info to determine what would have engaged an aggressive drive and caused the dog to bite.

    For instance, if the dog turned the corner and the person startled and ran, that would likely have engaged the dog’s prey drive, causing him to chase. If the dog turned the corner and the person was right there and startled and kicked the dog, that would kick the dog into fight. It could also potentially engage survival drive if the dog perceived no way out of the situation. Also, if there was a toy or other object near the person the dog perceived as a possession, that would engage the dog’s guard drive.

    Then, there’s the obvious protection drive. If the dog perceived a threat to anyone part of his “pack,” he’ll definitely kick in to protection. All that to say there is nothing “purely a coincidence” when it comes to a bite. Something/somebody engaged an aggressive drive and got bit.

    1
  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @just nutha: Republicans disagree. 🙂

  37. Jax says:

    @EddieInCA: I am not a dog person. I prefer cats, chickens, and cows. Dogs love the shit out of me, though, even the “mean” ones. My late husband had a Rotty named Saber, he’d tear the face off anybody who looked at me sideways, and I called him Wiggle Butt.

    I miss him. It was my first experience with a big breed. I have Aussie’s now. They’re working dogs. They only come inside when the growly clouds are thundering. It cracks me up how these badass cow dogs will take down a 1200 pound bull, but pee on the floor when there’s a scary cloud!