Why Did Barney Bite The Reporter?

10 11 2008

I guess the reporter that was bitten by President Bush’s Scottish Terrier, Barney, does not own a dog.   One of the things that I preach constantly is that a human should never reach over the head of a dog right away, in order to pet it.  We do not like that.  Once we lose sight of that hand, we do not know where it is going or what the person intends to do with it.  In the cases of some dogs, especially with strangers, their first reaction is to bite, and be sorry about it later.

I suspect that Barney was not actually sorry for biting the reporter as Brian Williams surmised in that clip, and the reason for his actions were efforts to protect his territory.  Some may argue that the territory is not Barney’s to protect, but that it belongs to all the American people.  That is not so in Barney’s world or any other dog’s world.

When a dog arrives in a new place, he looks and sniffs around for a few minutes and marks a couple of special spots.  He is thinking, “This is mine, and this is mine, and this is mine.”  Barney has lived in the White House now for almost eight years, and he has many special spots.  That makes the White House his place to protect.  See, dogs may not even have to spend one night in a place to claim it as theirs.  Once we pee there, it is marked as ours, and we protect it.

Now here is what the reporter needs to learn, and there is no one better to teach him than me.  So I have made a checklist for anyone that wants to be around dogs, even for just a visit.

  1. Keep your hands by your side when you first greet a dog.
  2. Don’t approach a dog that is cornered. Some dogs feel cornered when they are on a leash.  It should be noted that whomever was walking Barney had the leash on wrong, by the way.
  3. Always ask permission from the owner before approaching or petting a dog.  He will know vital information about the dog.
  4. Stay out of other people’s yards.  Until January 20th, that is still Barney’s yard.
  5. Avoid eye contact initially.
  6. Do not approach a dog straight on when you first meet him.  Imagine that there is a letter “C” on the ground and approach along that curve.
  7. Let the dog approach you, instead of approaching the dog yourself.
  8. Avoid any sudden movements.
  9. When you finally get to the dog, let him smell your hand first, and if you choose to pet him, start petting under his chin.  Do not go over his head.  Even though Barney lives at the White House and is a part of the first family, the rules are still the same.

One final note is to mention what breed of dog that Barney is.  He is a Scottish Terrier also know as a Scottie, but the most important thing to note is that one word, terrier.  All terrier breeds are feisty, and they react to situations quickly.  They are self-assured, intelligent and very determined.  Most of them are completely fearless.  Many years ago, Scotties competed in events where they went into a pit that contained rats, and they were to chase, kill, and maim all of the rats in the pit.  The dog that killed the most rats won.  Perhaps Barney was suffering a flashback in his genes.  Either way, the reporter was the one who did something wrong, because he did not do his homework.  The reporter may know Democrats and Republicans, but Barney is a member of a different party know as canine.

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3 responses

11 11 2008
Scottie owner

As a scottie owner, i agree. Its easy to see that he felt threatened at the situation, especially when he was approached from up. Just take a look to the stiff posture and his ears. Scotties do not give any warning noises – that was a friendly warning bite that clearly communicates “stay away”. Nastier Scotties would have done some real damage.

11 11 2008
Tri Scottie Owner

I agree totally with “Scottie Owner”. When I saw the incident on the news the night it happened, I told my husband, “The reporter might have asked the person walking the dog for permission to pet Barney, but he didn’t bother to ask Barney!” You ALWAYS let the dog have his say on whether he wants to be petted before approaching him!

2 02 2009
Aggression Parts 4, 5, & 6: Protective, Territorial, And Possessive Aggression « Ask Spike Online

[…] be noted that a dog that is territorially aggressive may not be possessively aggressive.  Take Barney, the former First Dog, for example.  Late last year, he bit a reporter from Reuters while he was on a walk on the […]

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