President Biden’s 2-year-old dog, Commander, has been removed from the White House after the German shepherd bit staffers and Secret Service officers, the White House said.
“The President and First Lady care deeply about the safety of those who work at the White House and those who protect them every day,” the first lady’s communications director, Elizabeth Alexander, said in a statement. “They remain grateful for the patience and support” of those involved, she said.
“Commander is not presently on the White House campus while next steps are evaluated,” Alexander added, without specifying where the dog was sent.
Commander’s removal follows a number of biting episodes since he was brought to the White House as a puppy in 2021, the most recent of which occurred last week, when the dog bit a Secret Service officer in what was reportedly the 11th known incidence of aggression. Last November, an agent was hospitalized after Commander, unprovoked, bit the person’s arm and thigh, according to emails and records obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch.
Alexander said last week that “the White House can be a stressful environment for family pets,” adding that the Biden family was working on “ways to help Commander handle the often unpredictable nature of the White House grounds.”
Commander, a gift from President Biden’s brother and sister-in-law, joined the first couple in the White House in December 2021 after they lost or rehomed two German shepherds that year: Major, then 3, was sent to live with friends of the Bidens after he bit two people in the space of a month. Champ, bought shortly after Biden became vice president in 2008, died aged 13.
Mark Tobin, a Delaware dog trainer who worked with the Bidens’ dogs, told The Washington Post in January 2021 that Major had a “high drive.”
German shepherds were first bred as a herding dog, according to the American Kennel Club, and have been used by the police and as guide dogs. They are known for their loyalty and are “gentle family pets,” the organization’s website says — though it adds that they may not always be the most welcoming to strangers.
“For every German shepherd that acts inappropriately, you’re going to find many, many more who do the right thing every single day in service to mankind,” Vicki Bemont, a dog trainer who serves on the German Shepherd Dog Club of America’s education committee, told The Post after Major’s biting incidents.
A 2014 literature review from the American Veterinary Medical Association found that German shepherds were among the breeds “highly represented in biting incidents” across a range of studies — but it suggested that there could be high variability based on breed subtypes and ownership.
President Biden has a penchant for larger dogs, telling reporters in 2008: “I’ve always had a big dog my whole life since I was a kid, big German shepherds, and Great Danes, and Labs, and golden retrievers.” He and first lady Jill Biden also have a cat named Willow.
Maura Judkis and John Wagner contributed to this report.