We asked a top dog trainer whether Biden’s dog needs to be removed from White House

Breanna Robinson
Wednesday 31 March 2021 18:48
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Biden(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

President Joe Biden’s rescue pup, Major Biden, has been involved in a second biting incident.

Major “nipped” someone while on a walk on Tuesday, and the First Lady’s spokesperson confirmed that the target ended up receiving medical attention out of an abundance of caution.

The nipping incident comes just a few weeks later after the dog injured someone else at the White House.

“Major is still adjusting to his new surroundings, and he nipped someone while on a walk,” said the spokesperson to CBS News.

Could Major Biden be removed from the White House? We spoke with Shelby Semel, a New York City-based canine behavior expert and trainer on the matter.

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Can a dog that’s as old as Major Biden who repeatedly bites are re-trained to stop, or will they always be a danger?

A dog of any age can be helped. However, the more often they practice the behavior, the more likely they are to repeat it. In general, there is always a danger as they are animals at the end of the day, and once there is a bite history, it is not to be ignored.

That does not mean there aren’t many ways to help train them, modify their behavior, and most importantly, use management.

I like to teach all dogs to accept a basket muzzle if they have any bite history. This way, if they are put into a situation that puts them over the threshold, which you ideally want to avoid, you have a backup for safety.

Is the White House atmosphere likely a factor that could be remedied by moving the dog elsewhere?

Most dogs would be best in their known environment with factors and stimuli they are already comfortable with.

In the White House, there is more of a need for management; having a safe place for Major to hang when he’s feeling unsure or new people are around would be key. If nobody is there to advocate for Major and keep an eye out for his stress signals, he shouldn’t be there. In fact, he may even be happier in his safe space away from the commotion. 

Are dogs who are in unfamiliar places with their owners more likely to be on defense mode?

I don’t have enough information to say what happened with Major in this specific incident. If the Bidens were around, he might have been protective as his breed is pre-dispositioned to this.

Or maybe they weren’t there and felt threatened by a strange new person making an unpredictable motion towards him. Dogs react differently from one another in new scenarios. Some cope better than others. Unfamiliar places or people can definitely put many dogs on edge. 

Check out Shelby Semel’s website for more information on dog training here.

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