By Nicole Lyn Pesce
Bringing a dog into a new home can be a stressful experience, whether it’s your house or the White House.
So dog behavior expert Cesar Millan, aka the “Dog Whisperer” by fans of his long-running reality show on National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild, wasn’t too surprised to hear that President Joe Biden’s dog, Major, reportedly nipped an unidentified person at the White House . Major and Champ left the White House for a “previously planned” trip to Delaware soon afterward, although the First Dogs were back at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. before long.
And this week, the White House revealed that Major was involved in a second biting incident , nipping a National Park Service employee during a walk.
Millan tells MarketWatch that he immediately reached out to the White House, offering to lend his services after the first nipping incident.
“We are waiting and ready to help,” says Millan, whose new series “Cesar’s Way” will premiere on Nat Geo Wild in August. “What that incident says to me is that they were not in agreement on how to welcome Major into this new lifestyle.”
“In order for a dog to bite, he either feels the need to protect his territory, or he feels the need to protect his family — or when he’s afraid or he doesn’t trust, he can also bite,” Millan says.
Indeed, Biden offered similar such details following the first incident, revealing that Major had “turned a corner [and there were] people he doesn’t know at all, you know, and they move, and [he] moves to protect.” He added that Major is a “sweet dog.”
Major might also need clearer rules, boundaries and limitations, Millan said. And this is a doggy dilemma likely shared by the many Americans who adopted or fostered a pet as the pandemic allowed them to work or spend more time at home. Indeed, animal rescues have reported record numbers of adoptions and fosters over the past year. So it’s not too surprising that many people sided with Major, a 3-year-old German shepherd that the Bidens rescued a few years ago, when they learned about the altercation.
So how can the First Family — and families across the country — help their dogs settle into a new home?
Millan, 51, has more than 25 years of experience helping man and man’s best friend see eye-to-eye — or rather, nose-to-nose, as this is the way our canine companions actually view the world. He got his start rehabilitating aggressive dogs in California, but will be the first to tell you that the dogs themselves are not the problem.
“I train humans,” he says with a laugh. “My clients are Harvard graduates, but they can’t walk a Chihuahua.”
And the root of the disconnect between folks and their fur babies comes from a good place; people consider their dogs a part of our family, Millan says, so we start seeing them as people, and forget to see them as dogs. Indeed, Americans collectively dropped an estimated $99 billion on their pets in 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association , which is up from $95.7 billion the year before.
So dog owners often assume that their pups understand things beyond their comprehension — like, say, moving into the Executive Mansion and all of the stress that entails.
“It’s a new environment. It’s new people. And this particular place is a lot of stress.” Millan says. And while the president and first lady have accepted this stress and made the decision to move into the White House and its “routine for chaos” willingly, the dogs didn’t have a say in the matter any more than a toddler would.