Biden’s Dogs Repeatedly Biting Hand That Protects Him

"Dog bites man" isn't news. Unless it's the President's dog.

Commander waits by the Resolute Desk as President Joe Biden meets with staff in the Oval Office, Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

WaPo (“Bidens’ dog bites Secret Service officer in 11th known aggressive incident“):

The Biden family’s dog, Commander, bit a Secret Service officer at the White House on Monday — at least the 11th aggressive incident that has prompted questions about the German shepherd’s behavior and the safety of those who interact with him.

“Yesterday around 8 p.m., a Secret Service Uniformed Division police officer came in contact with a First Family pet and was bitten,” Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said Tuesday in a statement. “The officer was treated by medical personnel on complex.”

Commander, who came to the White House as a puppy in 2021, previously bit at least seven people between late 2022 and early 2023, according to records obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch. There are other known incidents in which the dog has run at people or barked aggressively.

Elizabeth Alexander, a spokeswoman for first lady Jill Biden, on Wednesday reiterated her statement from July that the Bidens are working to address the issue. She declined to specify what steps the family has taken.

“As we’ve noted before, the White House can be a stressful environment for family pets, and the First Family continues to work on ways to help Commander handle the often unpredictable nature of the White House grounds,” Alexander said in a statement. “The President and First Lady are incredibly grateful to the Secret Service and Executive Residence staff for all they do to keep them, their family, and the country safe.”

Back in March 2021, when another of Biden’s dogs returned to the White House after a “biting incident,” I argued for leniency, writing (in the comments section), “Unless the dog is seriously injuring people on a regular basis, we may just have to put up with it for the sake of [the President’s] mental health.” But eleven such incidents with one dog—and who knows how many total incidents, since there are three First Dogs—is rather much.

We’re well past the point where training would seem to help. It may well be that the dogs need to find a new home.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gavin says:

    Next on NatGeo Wild.. Cesar Millan: Better President, Better Dog

  2. Bill Jempty says:

    President George W Bush’s dog Bareney bit somebody on video. It was a reporter.

  3. Jen says:

    Eleven is definitely too much. I’m surprised that with the resources available these dogs aren’t better trained.

    I don’t think that Biden has three dogs–Champ died in 2021. Major (the rescue dog that was relocated to Delaware after *his* biting incidents) and Commander (current problem pup) are the two living dogs. Unless he got another that I missed.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    There is something about the situation and the people that causes the dog to see a threat. I hope that it is mistaken in perceiving that threat, but unfortunately we have more than adequate reason to question the motivations and competence of the Secret Service. There is a reason why Pence wouldn’t go with them during the Coup.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Jen: I missed the news that Champ died but I guess not surprising since he was 12 when the returned to the White House. But, regardless, there were three dogs contributing to the bite tally.

    @MarkedMan: I don’t think federal agents should be subjected to dog bites as a part of their daily duties. Nor do I think dogs decide which agents are trustworthy and signal their disapproval via biting.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I had this conversation at Balloon Juice yesterday so I’ll just copy paste what I said here:

    German Shepards are territorial, bred to protect property and family. My very good boy Hoss was on the laid back side of that instinct but he could be roused by the unexpected. During my post-divorce cohabitation with my sister Peggy, I also lived with her 2 GSs, Emma and Singer. They had me pegged as “family” but if a stranger came onto her property w/o introduction from her (or me) they wigged out quite ferociously.

    One time I met her and family for dinner at a restaurant and she left the dogs in her car. I went out to do something for them (water?) and when I stuck the key in the door there was terrifying moment where I thought they might come thru the glass and tear me apart. Then they recognized me and got all happy doggy.

    I don’t know SS policy on protection in the WH, but rotating new people in could be a problem. Even if an agent knows the dog, if he surprised him by abruptly entering a room or making a sudden move he could get nipped. Or as @Frankensteinbeck: ​noted, it might be something in their body language.

    They are great dogs, very loyal, very affectionate, and lovingly patient to a fault with children. It is impossible to know for sure what it is that is setting them off but if I was in a place like the WH, I don’t think I would have a German Shepard.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I’m not trying to oversell the “dogs protecting their person” thing, but Shepherds dogs have a reputation for biting when they perceive a threat. For example, as a family pet, if another kid is acting aggressively towards “their” kid can result in the dog intervening. Given what secret service agents do normally it strikes me that a dog might find the behavior agitating. My main takeaway is that rules such a dog out as a presidential pet, given that agents are with the president wherever he travels and they will continue to act the way they do.

    The comment about Secret Service agents having suspect loyalties was more general and I probably shouldn’t have brought it up here.

  8. Jen says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, regardless, there were three dogs contributing to the bite tally.

    I’m not certain this is correct–I believe that the two recent dogs, Commander and Major, were the ones with “bite records.” I could be wrong, but I believe that Champ’s only altercations were playing a bit rough with Biden.

    Temperament matters so much with German Shepherds. We’ve had two Shepherd mixes, with vastly different personalities. The first was a gentle giant–he looked intimidating but would probably have shown someone breaking into the house where the valuables were kept if they had treats. The second looks sweet, but appears to have the potential to tear someone limb from limb.

    If having dogs around the house is important to Biden, IMHO they need to rethink the breed type.

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Bill Jempty:

    Based on that video, that bite was entirely the reporter’s fault. You don’t just suddenly lunge at a strange dog and grab the back of their neck like that.

  10. MarkedMan says:


    I went out to do something for them (water?) and when I stuck the key in the door there was terrifying moment where I thought they might come thru the glass and tear me apart.

    I had the opposite experience with the Shepherd, named Mark, that lived next door during my kids childhood. Ten years we lived there and despite the fact that he was perfectly comfortable with me he would bark loudly and incessantly every time I came to the door… except if there was nobody home. More than once I went over to feed him, opened the door and found him lying mournfully in the living room. He would barely raise his head and acknowledge me, even when I petted him. His people were gone and so there was no point in anything.

    He never bit anyone and given a threatening situation he would interpose himself but not bark or attack. For instance, the big goofy dog down the street would get out and run wild around the neighborhood and sometimes spot the kids playing in the yard and make a beeline for them. Mark was not going to let that happen but instead of barking and bristling he would run out to meet the dog (they knew each other) run along side him, then press his shoulder against the other dog and steer him away. The goofy dog would make another attempt or two but finally run away to go bother someone else.

    That interposing behavior was low key but very normal for Mark. I don’t know if his family even realized he did it on a regular basis. Mark was as gentle as could be, but I wonder what would happen if one of his people were surrounded by semi-strangers who were relentlessly making sure they were between his person and everyone else, which might mean constantly getting in between Mark and his person.

  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    Others are more familiar with GS than I am, but what @OzarkHillbilly: describes is consistent with what I know. But regardless of breed disposition, offices are not the best environments of dogs, the level of stimulation is simply too high with too many different and often strange individuals coming and going. That stimulation results in the dog being stressed and while most breeds won’t react by biting, they are no less stressed by the experience.

  12. Mister Bluster says:

    When anyone tells me that their dog doesn’t bite my reply is always: “How does your dog eat its food?”

  13. just nutha says:

    @MarkedMan: And some owners specifically train their dogs to exacerbate that particular trait.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Mark sounds a lot like my Hoss.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: Whenever somebody asked my sister if her dogs bite, she always replied, “Not yet.”

  16. mattbernius says:

    Personal take: This has little to do with breed, breeding, or training. Breeds and breeding will influence dog behavior, but they are at most indicators of expected temperament (unless there is something really serious like inbreeding). Same thing with training. Everything could have been done perfectly like this and the outcomes would be the same.

    Ultimately every dog is an individual (much like people) and most dogs have a really difficult time (like most humans) in an environment as chaotic as the modern White House (to @Sleeping Dog’s point). Like most social animals, most dogs prefer having a job and a pretty static routine–that isn’t that environment.

    When it comes down to it dogs only have a limited number of communication skills (which include biting at varying levels of severity). And a lot of humans don’t understand a lot of the dogs’ more subtle communication signals (and often misinterpret things).

    The level of bomb-proof a dog needs to be to survive in the White House is honestly off the charts (and that shows why so many of recent President’s dogs have a bite history).

    * – FWIW, my understanding is that the pace of life at the White House has changed SIGNIFICANTLY over the past 50 years or so and that needs to be taken into account.

  17. Andy says:

    A dog’s behavior is ultimately the responsibility of the owners.

    Dogs biting people 11 times is a big problem – if my dogs bit people 11 times I’d, rightly, suffer some serious consequences and likely be forced to put the dogs down. But the President can’t be sued and Animal Control isn’t going to come knocking, so there are no consequences. That doesn’t mean there is no responsibility.

    Yes, the WH is unusual, but I don’t think that’s a valid excuse, especially when the Bidens decided to bring in a breed that is not optimized for that environment without proper training. Speaking of which, it also seems pretty clear there is a lack of proper training. German Shepherds can do very well in stressful situations with the right training, which is one reason why there are popular working dogs. The Bidens are certainly rich enough to either bring in a professional trainer, to work with the dogs at the WH, or send the dogs away for a time to get proper professional training. And given that dogs generally need a lot of attention and exercise, especially a more active dog like a GS, they can get a dog sitter too to keep them entertained and active given the Biden’s very busy schedules.

    I also think about what might happen if the Secret Service had to quickly react against a threat to the President, which would likely be interpreted by the dog as attacking the President. In that case, they might have to shoot the dog to do their jobs, a tragic result that would be the owners, not the dogs, fault.

  18. Moosebreath says:


    “Whenever somebody asked my sister if her dogs bite, she always replied, “Not yet.””

    I think that this video is the best way of answering the question.

  19. Kathy says:

    I think one of the first uses of a phrase like “tempest in a teapot,” goes back to Cicero in the 1st century BCE, when he complained about someone making a storm in a ladle.

  20. wr says:

    Send the shepherds back to Baltimore and bring some golden retrievers into the White House. Preferably big white fluffy ones.

  21. DK says:

    11 bites! It seems President and Dr. Mrs. Biden do not have time to properly train and socialize German Shepherds with their inordinately-hectic schedules + no kids around.

    Time to ship this bad goodboy off to Hunter or the grands and get a Lab or a Goldie (or opt for a cat, like the Clintons). Shepherds are protective, need lots of family time, and are relatively suspicious of strangers. It’s pretty clear the heavy foot traffic of the White House is stressing-out Commander; he deserves better.

    Thank goodness they didn’t get a pittie or a Doberman. Can you imagine the headlines? There would be blood.

  22. DK says:

    Was Champ a biter? If not, it may be because as Veep, the Bidens had more face time with him. President is a whole other level of hectic, and Shepherds need family time for proper socialization.

    This is a case of blame the adults, not the dog. Not a good look for the Bidens.

  23. Gustopher says:

    @DK: I don’t think Hunter would be a good dog owner — responsibility does not seem to be his strong suit.

    I also suspect that part of what Biden likes about German Shepards is that they are not big, dumb, goofy things bouncing off of everything. Perhaps a retired seeing eye dog would work well.

    And they do have a cat! I suspect that Willow is more of the First Lady’s pet though.

  24. mattbernius says:


    A dog’s behavior is ultimately the responsibility of the owners.

    !00% this. And unfortunately, these dogs are being set up for failure by the Bidens.

    Which is disappointing.

  25. DK says:


    I don’t think Hunter would be a good dog owner — responsibility does not seem to be his strong suit.

    You’d be surprised how good people in recovery can be with dogs. When working with the homeless, I was shocked at what protective and attentive dog owners they often were, compared to my filly-functioning peers who see dogs as accessories (granted, they unhoused folks I refer to usually had no other focus or responsibility).

  26. dazedandconfused says:

    If your dog is deciding who is a threat and who isn’t it’s usually because they are unsure who is in charge. The worst nippers are usually the toy dogs which have been coddled so much they might even be sure they are in charge. GSPs are bred as guard dogs and can do a lot of damage so it’s an intolerable condition to have in one.

    Dog trainers know they are really owner trainers. I’m sure the condition can be fixed in short order. I’d start with the SS agents on this one. Ten gets ya twenty the new guys are being told to fear the dog so they are probably locking eyeballs with it and giving all the wrong body language.

  27. Jay says:

    Have to say I’m on team dog here.

    Apparently the secret service is riddled with corrupt Trumpy morons. So perhaps the dogs know something we don’t. I’d be inclined to bite those oiks as well.