Commander, Biden's banished German shepherd, had at least 25 biting incidents in a year

Commander watching the events on the South Lawn prior to pardoning the 2022 National Thanksgiving Turkey.
Commander watching the events on the South Lawn prior to pardoning the 2022 National Thanksgiving Turkey.
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President Biden’s now-banished German shepherd Commander inflicted more damage with bite incidents than previously known.

Newly released records from the United States Secret Service to USA TODAY reveal the aggressive dog was involved in at least 25 biting incidents in less than a year.

This month, the Secret Service released 269 pages related to a Freedom of Information Act request that included email traffic with anecdotes of bites.

It included a table with the 23 incidents from October 2022 to July 2023. That doesn’t count two more incidents in September and October that finally prompted Commander’s removal.

The list showed bites to agents’ arms, hands, thighs, back, wrists, elbows, waist, chest and an agent’s ammunition magazine pouch. At least 11 of the incidents required medical attention.

Records show the dog bit White House staff, Secret Service agents and Navy staff.

In Graphics: Biter-in-chief? A timeline of Biden's dog Commander's biting incidents this year

In one case last summer, Commander bit an agent in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, south of the White House’s East Colonnade. It was captured on surveillance footage, which showed the dog racing at the agent and tackling him to the ground. He received a deep laceration that required stitches.

East Wing tours were suspended that June day while maintenance crews mopped up the puddles of blood near the Booksellers Room.

In October, White House staff decided to relocate the 2-year-old dog. Previously, the conservative group Judicial Watch had revealed a tally of 10 biting incidents.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi reiterated this week that the department “takes the safety and wellbeing of our employees extremely seriously.”

“The incidents involving Commander were treated as workplace injuries, with events documented in accordance with Secret Service and US Department of Homeland Security guidelines,” Guglielmi wrote in an email. “While Secret Service personnel neither handle nor care for the first family’s pets, we work continuously with all applicable entities in order to minimize any adverse impacts from family pets.”

Details on biting incidents

Commander’s bites over the year happened not only on the White House grounds but also on trips to Camp David, Nantucket and Rehoboth Beach.

In July, First Lady Jill Biden tried to call off the dog as it barked and bounded toward a special agent. He hit the agent in the left forearm and caused a deep open wound. The agent reported losing a significant amount of blood and received six stitches from the White House Medical team.

The agent’s boss emailed him that they jokingly considered a care package of “Advil, antibiotic cream, pepper spray, a muzzle and some dog biscuits for safety purposes,” but thanked him for staying on the job.

Commander watches as President Joe Biden boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on June 25, 2022.
Commander watches as President Joe Biden boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on June 25, 2022.

Agents expressed concern that Commander’s behavior continued to cause a risk of serious injury and traded tips on how to not get “tagged,” as they called it.

“Standing tall and yelling his name and ‘stop’ is your best bet to not get bit,” one agent wrote. “Once I yelled at him and faced him, he turned around and started sniffing a bush.”

Records show at least one of the bite victims filed a federal injury claim requesting worker’s compensation for time off.

Last June, a senior Secret Service agent with the Presidential Protection Division thanked staff members for their patience during the string of dog bites – and issued a warning.

“The recent dog bites have challenged us to adjust our operational tactics when Commander is present – please give lots of room (staying a terrain feature away if possible),” the supervisor wrote. He also suggested that doing so could run counter to their primary protection jobs: “We will continue to keep (redacted) in our sight but must be creative to ensure our own personal safety.”

Biden dog Major was also a biter

Before Commander went on his biting spree, the Bidens had another German shepherd named Major, who had his own track record of bad behavior.

Major, then 3, was shipped to live with family friends in 2021 after he bit two people in a month. A third Biden family dog, Champ, died that same year, at 13.

Representatives from the White House did not answer questions this week about the incidents, but said “the president and first lady care deeply about about the safety of those who work at the White House and those who protect them every day.”

“Despite additional dog training, leashing, working with veterinarians, and consulting with animal behaviorists, the White House environment simply proved too much for Commander,” Elizabeth Alexander, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Since the fall, he has lived with other family members.”

Nick Penzenstadler is a reporter on the USA TODAY investigations team. Contact him at or @npenzenstadler, or on Signal at (720) 507-5273.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Commander, Biden's German shepherd, involved in at least 25 bites