First Dogs return to White House after ‘major’ training in Delaware

America’s newest and now-notorious First Dog Duo are back to Oval Office living after a brief stint back home in Delaware during which time Major worked with a trainer, according to President Biden. 

Earlier in the month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that First Dog Major had been involved in a (no pun apparently intended) “minor” bite incident; the victim was identified only as a White House staffer whose name has not been released.

Excitement about the first canines has been especially high because former President Trump had been the first president since the late nineteenth century to be without a canine companion. After the 2020 election was called for Biden, the incoming first dogs became overnight celebrities. Even before they moved into 1600, the dogs were appearing on book covers and being asked to host fundraising events, like Major’s ‘Indoguration’ fundraiser for the shelter where the Biden’s adopted him.

Major, 3, and the Biden’s other German Shepherd, Champ, 13, arrived in Washington a few days after Inauguration Day. They appeared to be settling in well and enjoying their new home until mid-March when the dogs found themselves in their first White House communications crisis. Ms. Psaki, ever the strategist, used the “pre-planned trip” line to explain the dogs’ absence to reporters. 

The same week of the incident, President Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that Major was being treated to sessions with a trainer during his stay in Delaware:

“The dog’s being trained now,” Mr. Biden told ABC News. Of the incident itself, Mr. Biden offered Major’s point of view, “You turn a corner, and there’s two people you don’t know at all,” Mr. Biden lamented. “And he moves to protect. But he’s a sweet dog. Eighty-five percent of the people there love him. He just — all he does is lick them and wag his tail.”

Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinary journalist who is double-board certified in Internal Medicine and has been a staff doctor at NYC’s preeminent Animal Medical Center for over three decades, wrote about the major news of the minor bite on a popular blog she writes for the hospital’s website:

“Those bitten by the First Dogs, Major and Barney,” Dr. Hohenhaus wrote, referring to Major and Scottish terrier Barney Bush who belonged to George W. Bush and was best known for biting a Reuters reporter, “broke a cardinal rule of interacting with strange dogs,” Dr. Hohenhaus continued. “They startled the dog and the dog responded by biting.”

Fair enough, though in Major’s case, the individual (in fact, two individuals if we go by President Biden’s account) who “startled” Major were apparently as surprised to encounter Major. 

“Just like people, not all dogs want to be touched by strangers. Always ask the owner or handler of the dog if you can pet the dog,” Dr. Hohenhaus says. She added:

“If the answer is yes, be sure the dog is aware of you and move slowly to pet the dog. Watch the dog’s body language and back away if the dog curls his lip, growls or indicates displeasure. Never take a toy, bone or food away from a dog [unless the dog is Nellie]. If you are a new dog owner, teach the “Leave It” command rather than pulling something out of your dog’s mouth. Finally, if you find yourself being attacked by a dog, don’t run, stay still and protect your face with your arms.”

One of the First Dogs was spotted on the White House balcony in a photo tweeted by Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason Monday night.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that the First Canines took their weekend at Camp David before returning to base at 1600.

TCR will have much more to chew on about dog bite trends in April…