Personal and Family Protection Dogs with a "Switch"
Dutch Behaviorist Responds
UPDATE 11/19/14: Dutch animal behaviorist and author, Alexandra Semyonova responds to protection dogs with a "switch" after a 7-year old boy was killed by a protection trained rottweiler living at his family's home. She discusses why bringing an attack bred and trained dog into a home and hoping it will be a reliable family pet is a mistake. Enclosed below is Semyonova's short response. Semyonova also provided a long response that discusses many additional details.
Alexandra Semyonova (short response)
Perhaps the most important thing this case should force us to realize is that you can’t take an attack bred and trained dog into a home and hope that it will be a reliable family pet. Both the breeding and the training that go into these dogs prohibit this. The dogs are bred in the first place for heightened reactivity, poor impulse control, low bite threshold, and unwillingness to back down in a conflict. The training they’re then subjected to amplifies these traits. The dogs are taught to attack on command, but also to make the decision to attack independent of any handler command. In attacking, the dogs are taught to bite with all their jaw strength, to grip and hold on no matter what the target does, and to release only when so commanded by their handler. This doesn’t mean that titled dogs can be relied on to release at the first command. Even at level 3 (the highest level), the IPO rules allow the handler to repeat the command three times. Only if the dog ignores the command a third time does the dog fail the trial.
The idea that the dogs will limit their attack behavior to the training field isn’t realistic. They are being trained to exhibit this behavior anywhere they’re accompanying their handler. If someone buys the dog as a ‘personal protection’ dog for in the home, the home becomes one of the places where the dog is expected to show the attack behavior – but of course only if a burglar comes in. However, many of the cues these dogs learn as a sign that it’s time for an independent, non-commanded attack are human actions the dogs will frequently encounter in the home with welcome guests and family members. Dogs can’t read our minds. There’s no magical way for the dog to understand who is welcome, who is not, or that the attack chain must never be initiated even if a family member does give one of the cues (for example, a child running at the dog with a stick in the child’s raised hand, or one spouse shouting at the other in a marital argument). Unless each and every one of the home’s occupants and every guest who is ever invited in is an experienced dog trainer, who also knows exactly what actions will trigger the dog to attack, and who never makes a mistake or has a moment of not paying attention, there will always be the risk that the dog does what it was trained to do.
There is no such thing as a ‘switch’ that will turn this off. Yes, you can ‘switch’ your IPO trained dog from tracking to attacking and back again if you know how and have the skills to do so, but you can’t flip a switch and turn the training off altogether. The video Vohne Liche so proudly posted of Ozzy behaving normally with strangers demonstrates, in my opinion, that Vohne Liche must know this. First of all there’s the very fact that a short episode of normal interaction with a few selected strangers is presented as an achievement to be proud of. This implies to me that Vohne Liche knows there are often problems with these dogs in family and neighborhood situations. Secondly, there’s the clear nervousness of Ozzy’s handler during this short video, the constant praising of the Rottweiler in a soothing voice, which strongly suggests the handler knew (or at least feared) that this Rottweiler had a not completely predictable or controllable hair trigger.
Dogs that have been bred and trained to attack may have a function in certain contexts. Some of us would question whether it’s fair to exploit dogs this way at all, but that is a question for another time and place. What this case makes clear is that clear boundaries should be imposed on commercial traffic in these dogs. A trained protection dog can command a price up to $15,000 or more on the international market. It seems foolish to allow the people who exploit these dogs for commercial reasons to work on expanding their market regardless of whether there is a reasonable or urgent need, and regardless of how much danger that puts families in.
On a final note, the following. The Dutch government’s Council on Animal Affairs acknowledges that this trade is becoming a serious problem. On August 15, 2014, it published a policy development paper, advising the government to take measures to prevent both failed and retired police dogs from being transferred into private hands as family pets. How sad that any such policy will now be too late to save the life of an American child who fell victim to this trade.
The Long Response
Semyonova's long response explains many aspects to readers more deeply including, bite threshold and bite inhibition, IPO bite training and protection dogs with a "switch." It also discusses several of the Alpha Dogs episodes featuring Vohne Liche Kennels and their clumsy training techniques. The long response addresses breeding and the international "protection dog industry" and offers insights into the Dutch rottweiler and Netherlands, Semyonova's native country.
Meanwhile, Platinum K9 Protection and their owners, Jessie and Tiffany Smith, are carrying on with business. The entity's Facebook page touts many new 5-star reviews for "expert" training since their own protection dog killed Tiffany's son, Logan Meyer, four weeks ago. Tiffany later told police, "Ozzy was Logan's favorite dog." The two might instead do well to read what behaviorist Semyonova has to say first. If they do not, then any prospective customers certainly should.
11/01/14: Protection Rottweiler Euthanized
The rottweiler that attacked and killed a 7-year old boy in Dodge County last Friday has been euthanized. Police reports gained by FDLreporter.com through an open records request show that Ozzy attacked Logan Meyer when he took the dog outside to go to the bathroom. The reports indicate that the dog was 3.5-years old, however, the March 2014 video states that the dog was 3.5-years old then, so presumably the rottweiler was 4-years old when it killed Logan last week.
The Reporter points out that although early press releases by the Dodge County Sheriff's Office stated that the dog had severely "bitten" the boy, the police report refers to the incident as an "attack." This is an important difference in language.1 Officers also noted in the report that the boy had severe head and facial injuries. The boy's mother, Tiffany Smith, told investigators that Ozzy had been living with the family for 3-months and that the dog was trained in "personal property."
One can get much more specific than that. A December 6, 2013 post on the Vohne Liche Kennels Executive and Family Protection Facebook page -- the branch of Vohne Liche Kennels that Jessie Smith directed -- states: "If you have been searching for a Rottweiler for Personal Protection then your search is over...... Say Hello to Ozzy a three year old IPO2........ Yes thats a 2 and it's not a typo." We presume this means that Ozzy had received the Level 2 Schutzhund title, IPO 2.2
This video shows an unrelated rottweiler being evaluated on the IPO 2 Protection test.3 Additional examples from a variety of dog breeds include: IPO 2 Protection and Obedience test compilation 2013 (rottweiler), IPO 2 Champion Protection test 2012 (American bulldog) and IPO 2 Champion Protection test 2011 (cane corso). We have provided multiple video examples because some, if not all, of these Schutzhund trial videos may be removed or privatized by their "fearless" owners.
Smith told investigators she was in the kennel building preparing food dishes when Logan took Ozzy outside to go to the bathroom. She said Logan had been in the yard less than five minutes when Ozzy attacked him. Smith does not know what happened before the attack. "Ozzy was Logan's favorite dog and ... there had been no previous incidents or safety concerns regarding Ozzy with Logan or anyone else," Smith told investigators, according to the sheriff's report.
Vohne Liche Kennels has removed Jessie Smith's profile from their Personnel page on their corporate website. The Vohne Liche Kennels Executive and Family Protection Facebook page continues to stay online with Smith's contact information in the About section. There is also a VLK Executive and Family Protection Facebook page that appears to be abandoned. Lastly, in 2013, Vohne Liche Kennels announced the opening of their European kennel; it is located in Holland.
10/28/14: Watch the Video: Ozzy Meeting People
In the past 24-hours, news reports from Wisconsin media have surfaced stating that Ozzy, the "bite" trained rottweiler that fatally attacked a 7-year old boy, was being trained as a service dog. We have no other choice but to post the video removed by trainer Jessie Smith yesterday from his YouTube channel clearly indicating that Ozzy had done bite work. In other damning news, it appears that Ozzy was technically trained under the hood of megastar Vohne Liche Kennels.
If true, we are no longer talking about Smith's new business, Platinum K9 Protection, we are talking about a major industry leader in police dogs.
In a September 3 Facebook post from Vohne Liche Kennels Executive and Family Protection -- the branch of Vohne Liche Kennels that Jessie Smith directed -- it states, "****** are some more photos of Ozzy the beautiful Rottweiler. For those of you that were interested in the videos I posted last week, please take a minute to tell Ozzy goodbye as he has found his forever home and his delivery will be set up over the coming days." The post displays multiple photos of Ozzy.4
This type of post is exceedingly bad for business, considering what has happened since, which is likely why it was removed from the Vohne Liche Kennels Executive and Family Protection Facebook page. We found it in Google Cache on Monday. Trainer extraordinaire Jessie Smith has been on constant "clean up" duty removing damning photographs and videos of Ozzy since his "bite" trained rottweiler suddenly "switched" and attacked Logan's face and neck killing him.
"We received a call from the mother who stated that he was bitten by the dog and when we arrived on scene it was a horrific scene,” said Dodge County Sheriff Patricia Ninmann.
--- snip ---
[First responders] arrived on scene and he was in the pen wagging his tail being a nice dog -- allowed us to go up and pet him did not appear to be aggressive at all,” said Ninmann. - Fox 6 Now, October 27, 2014
Service Dog and Sheriff's Chaplain Decoys
We first noticed the "service dog" language from Fox 6 Now on Monday afternoon. We had thought it was a misunderstanding. We were wrong. Late Monday, WISN aired their segment propped up by the Dodge County Sheriff's Office Chaplain, who specifically stated: "I do know [the dog] was trained to be a service dog. He was not trained to be an attack dog or any of that stuff." The segment added that the dog also had a background in both military and police training.
Sounds a little confusing doesn't it? First off, Ozzy was indeed trained in bite and protection work -- aka attack dog training. The "Ozzy Meeting People" video clearly depicts this. Second, why is the chaplain of the Dodge County Sheriff's Office the spokesperson delivering this confusing message? From the get-go the Dodge County Sheriff's Department has placed a silencer on this fatal dog attack case or as the FDLreporter.com states, has erected "information roadblocks."
Protection and Attack Dogs as Service Dogs
Protection trained and bred dogs are poor service dog candidates (See paper by psychologist pertaining to PTSD: Disaster is not what a trauma victim needs). While the ADA does not explicitly forbid a person from doing protection training with their service dog, "it also does not protect their choice to do so, and businesses may legally exclude a protection trained dog from their premises even if it is also trained as a service dog, as a direct threat," according to Service Dog Central.
What we are talking about is a dog that has been trained by deliberately stimulating his prey drive to elicit aggressive behavior for guard or protection purposes. Some call it "attack training," others refer to it as "protection training." Such a dog is likely to do what it was selected and trained to do when he feels or perceives threat. The experience of threat is innate in all creatures. However, individuals with PTSD have a pervasive heightened arousal and exaggerated perception of threat. They also have problems with anger control and are more likely than others to become engaged in interpersonal conflicts. How will these emotions impact the protection dog? I believe it will increase the likelihood of aggression towards innocent people or other dogs. The use of protection dogs by individuals with PTSD places the general population at risk for harm.- Disaster is not what a trauma victim needs: Risks and negative consequences of protection dogs for individuals with post traumatic stress disorder by Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, PhD
October Surprise at the Sheriff's Office?
After the Dodge County Sheriff's Department placed a "silencer" on this case, we immediately looked at the most obvious public office to see if there was a cantankerous election race at hand. Indeed there is in Dodge County (You can read about the nastiness here). Sitting Dodge County Sheriff Pat Ninmann was appointed by Governor Scott Walker in 2013. She lost the primary election by a modest number of votes to Sgt. Dale Schmidt. Ninmann is now a write-in candidate.
The Monday news report by FDLreporter.com goes deeper into the political ramifications of a fatal dog mauling in this jurisdiction -- specifically involving a police and military K9 trainer from a celebrity kennel and a "bite" trained dog -- just before the November 4 election. Sheriff Ninmann is vilified for erecting "information roadblocks" to the media in this case, which she is dutifully guilty of doing. But would Schmidt have behaved differently as the sheriff, given the parties involved?
While Sgt. Dale Schmidt would not comment on the dog bite incident, the sheriff-elect said roadblocks with the media will be lifted when he officially takes office in January. Schmidt defeated Ninmann by a margin of 300 votes in the Republican primary election in August. However, Ninmann has launched a write-in campaign for Nov. 4.
"The employees here are aware of (Ninmann's withholding of information)," said Schmidt. "(Former Sheriff Todd Nehls) had a very good relationship in working with the media, and I plan to go back to doing some of the same things he did when he ran the sheriff's office." - A politician just days before an election
Social Protection Dogs with a Switch
At the end of the day, social protection dogs with a switch have their drawbacks don't they? This is why DogsBite.org continues to write about this case. It is misguided to believe that expert training in protection and bite work can produce a "switch" in certain dog breeds from a gentle babysitter of children to the instant attack of a stranger. In the business of "switching" aggression on and off at whim, a rottweiler is a terrible choice. In this area, breed is an excellent predictor of danger.
10/27/14: Mauling Victim Identified
The 7-year old boy who was mauled to death by a dog Friday has been identified. Logan Thomas Meyer was pronounced dead at the scene after a rottweiler owned by his family viciously attacked him, according to Sheriff Patricia Ninmann. Media outlets continue to stay mute about the overwhelmingly important background of the dog's owner. Meet Ozzy, the professionally "bite" trained rottweiler from Holland "being social and friendly," seven months before killing the child.
But you can't meet Ozzy can you? Jessie Smith removed this video from his YouTube channel just today. We made a copy last night just in case.
The March 2014 video talks about Ozzy possibly going to a doctor in Arizona that has three small children. This screenshot, however, taken on October 25 of the Platinum K9 Protection Facebook page, indicates that Ozzy was going to a military officer. All images of Ozzy were removed from the Platinum K9 Protection Facebook page sometime after the night of October 25. It was the only rottweiler in the group's photo album. Currently, Ozzy is apparently still being held in quarantine.
Video Transcript Excerpts: "Ozzy Meeting People"
Handler: Going inside the building to meet some people. Good boy. Good boy Oz.
[Approaches one man sitting at a desk, the man starts to pet him.]
Handler: Good boy. Good boy.
Handler: Come on, let's go meet some more people.
[Approaches different man who kneels down, the man starts to pet him.]
Man: How old?
Handler: He is 3-and-a-half. Here Oz!
Man: Where are you from? [Asks the man looking at the dog]
Handler: He's from Holland.
Man: Nice and heavy on the bite?
Handler: Yeah, he bites really nice ... [can't decipher language]5 ... Making a little short video of how social he is and just real friendly. There is a doctor in Arizona looking at him and he's got three small kids. He wants to make sure he is going to be a good fit for his family...
10/26/14: Trainer at Celebrity Kennel
In the wake of uncovering Platinum K9 Protection as the new owner of Country Kennels Bed & Biscuit business Saturday night, more bad news follows. To start, the motto of Platinum K9 Protection is, "Social Protection Dogs with a Switch." Go ahead and consider how unrealistic this goal is? According to the public Facebook pages of the owners of Platinum K9 Protection, the family arrived in Wisconsin with five dogs, presumably four malinois' and one rottweiler.
Jessie Smith, the owner and trainer of Platinum K9 Protection, was formerly the Director of Executive and Family Protection at Vohne Liche Kennels. The kennel gained national attention in 2013 for starring in Alpha Dogs, a National Geographic Wild television series (See: related March, 2013 USA Today article). Five months after the USA Today article, Vohne Liche Kennels was not featured so prominently in the news after 10 dogs died while being transported to El Paso.
Ten dogs arrived in El Paso already dead, according to Maj. Joe Buccino, a Fort Bliss spokesman. The Canine Center is on post.
Vohne Liche owner, Ken Licklider said the air conditioner in the vehicle carrying the dogs malfunctioned. He said the kennel driver is supposed to check on the dogs during the 22-hour drive. - December 2013, KVIA.com
Though not reported by KVIA until December, Jessie Smith posted a video to YouTube on August 23, 2013, which depicts Vohne Liche owner, Ken Licklider, commenting on the "horrible event in Texas." Licklider said that the dogs did not die on the road; they died at the hotel early in the morning. There were seven surviving dogs. "We are sickened over what happened, please understand," Licklider states. Both trainers that made the bad judgment call were fired.
Alpha Dogs was canceled at the end of its 2013 season, according to the Futon Critic website.
10/25/14: Critical New Information6
It was confirmed Saturday evening (in the video only) that the fatal dog attack occurred at Country Kennels Bed & Biscuit, a dog boarding facility, which is actually located in Iron Ridge. Neither family nor friends would speak to CBS 58 on camera. They did learn, however, that the family had just moved into the property with a kennel facility only a week or two ago. The family bought the home and kennel with plans of running the same type of business, according to neighbors.
Dodge County Sheriff's deputies still will not confirm the name of the deceased child or whether it was a family dog or name the breed of dog involved in the attack that killed a 7-year old boy. Lieutenant Brian Loos did say, "It was not just some dog that was running loose, I can confirm that, but I cannot confirm whether or not it was the family's dog." Dodge County Sheriff's investigators do not anticipate filing criminal charges. That is as far as the CBS 58 report went Saturday night.
Our own subsequent investigation showed that the arriving family renamed the business to, "Platinum K9 Protection, LLC."
State of Wisconsin business filings and a Facebook page chock full of images from Platinum K9 Protection, showing the same property address and kennel facility as Country Kennels Bed & Biscuit, was uncovered Saturday night by DogsBite.org and our vital researchers. The Facebook page shows the logo of the entity -- note the parents and child in the logo -- along with two K9 protection dogs, a malinois and rottweiler, the latter described as "all muscle" by one commenter.7
Seems pretty clear now why the Dodge County Sheriff's Department has been so tight lipped.8
10/24/14: Child Mauled to Death by Dog
Hustisford, WI - In a developing story, a 7-year old child was attacked and killed by a dog Friday evening. The Dodge County Sheriff's Office said the attack occurred in the Town of Hustisford. Sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call at about 5:20 pm reporting the boy was bleeding profusely. "Numerous first-responding agencies responded," Dodge County Sheriff's Office Lt. Brian Loos said. Despite the many emergency responders, they were unable to save the boy's life.
"Paramedics were trying for several hours to save the boy." - WISN.com
Loos said the dog was known to the family, but would not confirm if it was a family pet or the dog's breed. Few other details are being released at this time. The animal was seized and transported to the local humane society to be placed into quarantine. Loos said the boy's death is devastating to the emergency responders who worked so hard to save his life. "Children are always the worst ones for our first responders to deal with. It's very difficult for them to deal with this," he said.9
Responding agencies included: Dodge County Sheriff's Dept. and chaplain, Dodge County Medical Examiner, Neosho/Rubicon/Ashippun Police Depts., Hustisford Fire and First Responders, Hartford EMS, Lebanon EMS, Iron Ridge Fire Dept. and Woodland Fire Dept.
2010 Dog Bite Fatality
In 2010, 4-year old Taylor Becker of Hustisford (population 1,380) was mauled to death by a dog while visiting family friends in Hubbard Township (population 1,640), also located in Dodge County. The two towns are about 7-miles apart. The little girl's parents had been visiting the home of Steven and Stefanie Beauprey when the lethal attack occurred. The 5-year old dog had only been with the Beaupreys for 3 to 4 months before killing Taylor. The Beaupreys were breeding the dog.
2Level 3 is the highest. We really wanted to link readers to a basic, general web page about the three Schutzhund levels, but could not locate one that does not also promote a trainer or kennel. Even the Wikipedia page gave up.
3There are 3 phases that must be passed to gain the IPO 2 title. This technical document explains them in detail. Also, you can see the same unrelated rottweiler performing tests in IPO 2 Obedience and IPO 2 Tracking.
4The most recent post of Ozzy that we could locate was posted to the Platinum K9 Protection Facebook page on October 20. At that time, a commenter states: "He looks great. Looking forward to getting him with his new partner." We previously posted this image on our October 27 update. While we do not know the significance of the name "Ozzy," or even if there is one, we do know from the March 2013 USA Today article that it was Jack Osbourne, the son of heavy-metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne, that convinced Vohne Liche Kennels to do the reality TV show. Jack Osbourne was the show's executive producer.
5After learning more about this case in subsequent updates, this language is clear now. Smith states, "Yeah, he bites really nice, he is IPO 2."
6The original CBS 58 video, posted on 10/25, was removed and combined with a 10/27 update.
7Links with images appearing on a black background indicate that Platinum K9 Protection removed these images from their Facebook page sometime after 10:45pm October 25, 2014. These images have been replaced with screenshots taken by DogsBite.org prior to publishing this update at 10:45 pm on October 25.
8It is never "acceptable" when a trained K9 kills an innocent child.
9Fox6 News initially reported that the attack occurred at Country Kennels Bed and Biscuit then later removed this information.
05/04/14: Fatal Rottweiler Attacks - The Archival Record
07/26/13: Beyond the Interview: Essay of a Fatal Pit Bull Mauling
12/05/12: 2012 Dog Bite Fatality: Yadkin County Infant Mauled to Death by Family Dog
02/11/12: 2012 Dog Bite Fatality: 'Visiting' Child Killed by PTSD Service Dog in Kentucky
08/27/10: 2010 Dog Bite Fatality: Dog Kills Visiting 4-Year Old Girl in Dodge County