November 6th, 2008
10:37 PM ET
8 years ago

First Dog takes a bite at White House reporter

A happier Barney, with President Bush.

A happier Barney, with President Bush.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama's daughters have been promised a puppy for the White House - President Bush's dog, Barney, demonstrated his technique for dealing with the media Thursday...sinking his teeth into Reuters TV White House correspondent Jon Decker.

Call it a case of biting the hand that covers you.

First Dog Barney and his handler were out on the front lawn for a walk when Reuters' Decker and another reporter approached.

"He looked very nice and friendly," says Decker. "I bent down to pet him and he just snapped at me."

Decker holds up his right index finger, now sporting two band aids. The First Dog's teeth punctured the skin and Decker started bleeding, so he was sent to see presidential physician, Dr. Richard Tubb. Tubb gave Decker a two- to three-day supply of antibiotics, and told him to come back Friday for a tetanus booster.

"I don't know what he did, but apparently Barney didn't like it," says April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, who captured the entire incident on her Flip video camera.

Decker insists he didn't provoke Barney, and that in fact he's good with Scottish terriers. Decker's mother's dog, Fergus, came from the same New Jersey breeder.

"I don't know what set him off," says Decker. "Maybe it was the Republican debacle Tuesday night, the fact that soon he'll be replaced as America's first dog or that I happened to have bacon for breakfast."

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have promised to get their daughters, Malia and Sasha, a puppy when they move into the White House.

Sally McDonough, press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush, points out that Ryan commented the biting incident is very unlike Barney.

"I think it was his way of saying he is done with the paparazzi," says McDonough. "I've talked to Jon and he is being a good sport about it all and well, Barney is in the White House Dog House."

"He was just in a surly mood this morning," surmises Decker.

Adam Goldfarb, an 'Issues Specialist' on dangerous dogs and dog bites, had his own take on the matter after viewing the incriminating video.

'I think what happened is two things were going on– one is that nobody was picking up on the dog's stress. Watching the video, the dog's posture was very tense. Which is a sign that he was stressed out in the situation. The other thing the reporter did wrong was the way he approached Barney. He approached very quickly, and from above. His hand came downward from up high. And that can be very frightening for a dog, especially a small one."

Cox Newspaper White House correspondent and veteran Bush watcher Ken Herman shared the first of many jokes about the First Dog's attack on Decker. "You know what Barney calls a presidential press conference? A buffet."

Filed under: Extra • President Bush
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. Nick

    I'd be temperamental if I was leaving the White House after 8 years, as well.

    November 7, 2008 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  2. Susan

    he doesnot want to leave the White House.

    November 7, 2008 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  3. Arman

    Jon Decker is an idiot. The appropriate way to pet a dog is first, sit down to be at their level, second, put your hand out and let the dog approach you to smell, and third, NEVER EVER leap towards the dog and reach for its head the way this idiot did.

    I'm not a Bush fan but Barney's approval rating jumped on this one.

    November 7, 2008 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  4. mona

    its a republican dog what do you expect hehe

    November 7, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  5. Susan, NC via LA

    What a non-story. But I did see the video, and the guy reached down without letting the dog sniff him.

    November 7, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  6. Mary

    Absolutely hilarious! I hope someone gave Barney a scooby-snack afterwards! I also hope that Decker doesn't decide to be a jerk and sue or anything. Anyways, he should know better. You should never approach a dog and pet it without knowing it's temperment. Serves Decker right and WTG Barney!

    November 7, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  7. Ken in NC

    The economy resulted in a down grade of dog food for Barney and he has yet to make the adjustment. He is still upset about the diet change so he lashed out at the reporter in search of real meat again. LOL

    November 7, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  8. tlb

    That dog was clearly showing signs that he did not want to be bothered and the guy's hand came at him way too fast. This person clearly knows nothing about animal behavior or approaching animals.

    November 7, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  9. David Newport, OR

    was it wearing lipstick?

    November 7, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  10. J

    With comments like that, the reporter (Decker) deserves it!! Just kidding (NO, I'M NOT)

    November 7, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  11. Scott

    Well at least Barney is still a conservative republican.

    November 7, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  12. Jeff

    ""I don't know what set him off," says Decker. "Maybe it was the Republican debacle Tuesday night, the fact that soon he'll be replaced as America's first dog or that I happened to have bacon for breakfast.""
    ... or perhaps that you approached the dog in a poor way, and maybe should have thought ahead of a way that wouldn't have outright scared it?

    November 7, 2008 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  13. Harry, IL

    On the Job training for Obama has started. He wants to copy George W. Bush by bringing in a puppy.

    November 7, 2008 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  14. Lisa

    Like Father, Like Son!!

    November 7, 2008 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  15. SD,Michigan

    Barney's reaction was truly Republican: You media guys are nasty and in the tank for Obama, take this!...Barney is a meanie just like G-Dubya! He needs some time with the Dog Whisperer for sure! I demand it!

    November 7, 2008 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  16. Mike

    We have the largest two day post election stock selloff and CNN is concerned about a dog? Amazing.

    November 7, 2008 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  17. Jane Pluemke

    Good for Barney! As much as the press has savaged his master these last 8 years, the press is lucky he hasn't bitten every last one of them!

    November 7, 2008 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  18. Anon

    I guess Barney must have heard about the new puppy coming to town...

    November 7, 2008 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  19. kmsettn

    Jon Decker? The same guy who ridiculed Obama's bowling performance? Looks like Barney may stay in the White House, after all.

    November 7, 2008 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  20. Eric

    Now, if that was somebody's dog in the suburbs, wouldn't they get forced to put him down, or put up danger signs. I'm surprised this is laughed off just because it's Bush's dog. Seems like a double standard.

    November 7, 2008 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  21. Walt, Belton,TX

    Maybe it was just an honest reaction and let's bite this socialist kissing S.O.B. before he puts the knife in the back of an honest dog.

    November 7, 2008 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  22. DannyCali

    Look now only the dog bite but after Bush finish his term he going to bite your guy your guy must award about that.

    November 7, 2008 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  23. Matt

    too bad it wasn't a huge pitbull. I expect Obama will get his girls a real dog instead of another ankle-biter....

    November 7, 2008 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  24. MrManhattan

    I'd love to think that Barney is going to get more attention now that his
    'daddy" is through being President.

    Then again, I don't think Barney's Dad spent all that much time on that hobby.

    November 7, 2008 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  25. Kay

    The best thing about George W. Bush: he sure knows how to pick out an adorable dog!

    November 7, 2008 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
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