News of President Biden's dog having a rough adjustment to life in the White House came out last week, with the information that the dog bit someone inside the home, and did his outside business, well, inside. Only 3 Presidents (including Donald Trump) did not have a White House dog. So what's up? One vet gave us her opinion.
"It’s not surprising that the Bidens’ dogs are having a bit of trouble adjusting to life in the White House. In fact, it would be more surprising if the dogs weren’t bothered at all. Think about the experience from a human perspective first: if you would find it stressful to move to another state, to another home much different than what you were used to, with more strange people around than you’ve ever seen, it’s likely that a dog does too. Dogs, especially sensitive human-centric breeds like the German Shepherd, can also pick up on the emotions around them. Major may be responding to the whirlwind first few months the entire family has experienced since the inauguration. Stress and anxiety can cause a dog to react differently than it normally would in some situations, particularly when its stress threshold has been met.
For a dog to respond by nipping at someone they didn’t know, whose presence was surprising to them, is not an uncommon reaction in these cases. In a breed like the German Shepherd, which is prone to fear aggression, it’s even less unexpected. Protective aggression may also be a factor; Major likely feels as though he needs to protect his family from new people, particularly those he sees as being a potential threat (such as people who come upon him by surprise). Having come from a rescue background, Major may also have had some early life experiences that result in his resorting to fear-type behaviors with little provocation. Additionally, herding breeds like the German Shepherd tend to use their mouths while working, and nipping livestock during herding is fairly common.
Other types of ‘acting out’ (like the notorious White House pooping incident) may be attributable to stress as well. The dogs may also feel as though they are uncertain of their places in the household with all of the changes going on, and may miss spending more time with the Bidens. Over time, the dogs will likely get more used to their new situation, and will be less anxious and more capable of behaving with composure. In the meantime, positive reinforcement can be used to help them feel more comfortable. Providing treats when the dog is lying or sitting calmly, when meeting new people, and when responding to people in a calm manner will reward the dog for good behavior, making them more likely to repeat it in the future. Pheromone-based products (which come in sprays, collars, or even wall plugs) such as Adaptil can also help to ease some of a dog’s anxiety." - Jamie Freyer, DVM and expert at HonestPaws.com
One thing that may help promote calmness in your dog? CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient found in the hemp plant that also promotes a healthy immune system in your pooch.