US President Joe Biden and the truth about cats and dogs

One study showed Democrats are more likely to favour cats over dogs

Politicians usually regard their pets as a positive reflection on their public image.

Evidence of a world leader’s love for an animal – or a baby, the two are fairly interchangeable – can boost popularity significantly by humanising its owner. Even Russian president Vladimir Putin is said to be well aware of the benefits of appearing in public with his favourite pooches, of which he has many.

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Of course, the opposite can also be true, as US president Joe Biden found out.

US President Joe Biden pets his new dog Commander at Christmas last year.US President Joe Biden pets his new dog Commander at Christmas last year.
US President Joe Biden pets his new dog Commander at Christmas last year.

News that his family dog, a two-year-old German Shepherd called Commander, has had to be removed from the White House after not just one – but 11 - biting incidents involving staff, must have come as something of a blow to the beleaguered president.

Mr Biden is already suffering from low approval ratings, which won’t have been helped by this week’s announcement that his government is to U-turn on his staunch anti-wall policy. They will add 20 miles of border barrier to the hundreds of miles of anti-immigrant structures already put in place by his right-wing predecessor Donald Trump.

Commander’s bad behaviour has previously been put down to the stresses and strains of living in the White House.

"As you all know, the White House complex … is unique and it is stressful for all of us," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in July. "So you can imagine what it's like for a family pet or family pets."

Indeed, this is not the Bidens’ first experience of aggressive dogs in the presidential residence. Commander’s companion, Major, was also involved in numerous biting incidents with Secret Service agents before being sent to live with family friends last year.

Of course, opting for German Shepherds as pets could have been a deliberate choice of reinvention on the part of Mr Biden, who on election, had an arguably docile, grandfatherly quality compared to Mr Trump – and in contrast to the younger, dynamic Democrat former president, Barack Obama.

If so, he would be following in the footsteps of other leaders who have opted to show off their personality through their animals.

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Mr Putin, whose dogs often tend towards the terrifying, such as Verny, an Alabai gifted by the president of Turkmenistan – a breed also known as the “wolf smasher” – has also favoured being photographed with other large, strong animals, including a polar bear and Siberian tigers.

Boris Johnson, on the other hand, opted for a rescue Jack Russell cross with messy blonde hair and an apparent tendency towards buffoonish mischief. Enough said.

Interestingly, according to one study by academics from York University in Toronto, Mr Biden is unusual as a Democrat, to favour dogs over cats – although he did bring one rescue cat, along with Commander and Major, when he moved into the White House.

"Based on a large sample, we found that greater conservatism predicts less liking for cats and a greater preference for dogs over cats,” said the authors of Pets and Politics: Do Liberals and Conservatives Differ in Their Preferences for Cats Versus Dogs?.

Perhaps if Mr Biden wants to keep his head down before next year’s presidential election, someone should get him a goldfish.



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