December 1, 2023

In 1907, The Washington Publish detailed the misbehavior of a headstrong resident of the White Home. “He is a superb fighter and craves hassle,” the newspaper wrote of Theodore Roosevelt’s “prized bull terrier,” Pete, who had bitten the leg of a Navy clerk and chased the French ambassador up a tree.

President Biden’s canine Commander has since joined the ranks of unruly presidential pets. A spokesman for the Secret Service mentioned on Tuesday that the canine, a 2-year-old German shepherd, had once again bitten an agent.

Commander had beforehand landed at least six bites that resulted in an individual requiring medical consideration, and Main, one other one of many Bidens’ German shepherds, was despatched away from the White Home after biting two people.

“The White Home could be a disturbing atmosphere for household pets,” mentioned Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for the primary woman, Jill Biden. She mentioned the Bidens sought to assist Commander deal with “the usually unpredictable nature of the White Home grounds.”

Stress and unpredictability are among the many main enemies of canine trainers who tackle aggression, a number of mentioned in interviews on Wednesday. Though the White Home could also be an particularly aggravating atmosphere for pets, trainers weighed in on how house owners each in and out of doors of the chief department will help canines preserve their cool.

Canines normally chunk to speak worry or discomfort, mentioned Jean Donaldson, founding father of the Academy for Canine Trainers and the creator of a number of books on canine habits.

To resolve conflicts, people have language: “We write letters to the editor, and we backstab, and we interact in workplace politics,” she mentioned. Canines could as a substitute resort to growls and bites to speak messages like “you’re a bit too shut” or “don’t contact my stuff.”

However these messages could be misplaced in translation between species. Canines usually don’t intend to harm anybody, she mentioned, however their bites can find yourself inflicting critical accidents or demise. And canines who show aggression, particularly in shelters, can be euthanized.

How canines react to individuals could rely partly upon how they have been handled as puppies, mentioned Kate LaSala, a canine coach who makes a speciality of worry and aggression. Canines who don’t meet and have optimistic interactions with a broad vary of individuals within the first 12 weeks of their lives “are usually the canines that develop as much as be a bit spooky or scared of strangers,” she mentioned.

Homeowners of these canines ought to change into accustomed to frequent triggers for biting, and decide which apply to their pets. Canines usually reply to sudden actions and new guests to their environments, particularly these in uniforms. It isn’t a coincidence that so many canines bark at mail carriers, she mentioned.

Some canine house owners use collars that constrict or shock a canine’s neck to attempt to forestall them from biting — which she doesn’t advocate. “These strategies make worry, anxiousness and aggression worse, not higher,” she mentioned.

Ms. Donaldson recommends beginning with short-term measures similar to leashes, muzzles and security gates to maintain these across the canine protected. Then, she would make an inventory of people that will encounter the canine repeatedly and instruct them to strategy the canine with some type of deal with — maybe a handful of roast hen.

Elizabeth Aldrich, a canine coach in Washington who makes a speciality of aggression, mentioned that house owners usually really feel disgrace when their canines chunk or snap at individuals. “The societal view on aggression is that it’s dangerous, and due to this fact the canine is unreliable and the house owners will need to have carried out one thing fallacious,” she mentioned. “And I don’t agree with that.”

Aggression has extra to do with whether or not the canine is being stored in an atmosphere that’s suitable with its tendencies, she mentioned. In response to Ms. Aldrich, who owns a German shepherd, the breed can require extra stimulation than others as a result of they have been bred to herd and shield livestock. “There’s an additional duty if you do personal a German shepherd or a working-breed canine,” she mentioned. (Some researchers, nonetheless, have argued {that a} canine’s breed bears little relationship to its habits.)

If a canine bites somebody, its proprietor ought to take instant steps to switch its atmosphere, mentioned Amy Pike, a veterinary behaviorist in Northern Virginia. The extra predictable and extra structured the state of affairs, the much less seemingly the canine is to chunk.

She advisable that individuals coming right into a canine’s orbit ought to throw a ball or hand out a deal with to speak friendliness. However she sees why that could be a problem for members of the Secret Service. “They’re there to do a job,” she mentioned. “They’re not there to play with Commander.”

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