"It happened to me. All of my experience, all of my knowledge, none of it mattered. None of it protected me or enabled me to stop that attack."
Photo shows two dogs on the trainer's team at that time during a training day.
DogsBite.org - A highly experienced dog trainer recently joined our Thank You letter campaign. The person shared as many details as possible. "In training circles, you just do not say negative things about bully breeds anymore," the person wrote. "If you do you are attacked, ostracized, labeled a failure or 'dog racist' … Terms like 'animal abuser' or 'cruel force training' get tossed at you."1 We deeply thank the trainer for writing in and sharing this powerful story with our readers.
Dear DogsBite.org,"In my professional opinion, no other kind of dog is less predictable, less reliable, or more dangerous than these dogs are. Their owners’ irrational blind love for them just adds to the danger."
I am a retired dog trainer. I spent 26 years working with hundreds of dogs including more than 12 years spent managing a 300+ dog sled dog kennel that for 3 years housed 75 pit bulls that I handled every day, exercised, fed, and cared for while their owner, a breeder and kennel operator, was rebuilding her property that burnt to the ground during a wildfire. To say I have experience with this type of dog would be an understatement. I also ran teams of 22 sled dogs into the wildernesses of Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, Utah and Oregon. These are extremely powerful, high prey drive dogs. I could command them, was confident and sure of myself around every kind of dog with no exceptions. I feared no dog, understood them, respected them and was confident working with them all.2
That changed forever on a cool spring morning in 2013 when I was walking my small yorkie mix, a trained service dog for me. I was less than 30 yards from my home walking the grounds of the complex I lived in. It was a little after 10:00 am on a Saturday. My dog was on his leash and I had picked up a can someone had dropped and was throwing it in the trash when a neighbor opened their door and a 7 year old pit bull mix exploded through it and went after my small dog. I knew it’s intent, saw it latch onto my dog and I fell on it. More than 20 years of experience handling dogs at my disposal made absolutely NO DIFFERENCE. I know how to disable a dog; I know how to restrain one. I had stopped dog fights before, some involving more than 10 dogs in a mass of snarling biting fury and emerged with cuts and bruises. Not that day, that day for several minutes I screamed and fought with the pit bull mix. The man with her did not own her, he was just watching her for a friend, a "military" family who had her listed as a "lab mix" to get her onto the military bases where they lived.
The "military" man looking after her just watched while the dog tried 3 times to kill my dog. Each time I stopped her and she turned on me, attacking me, driving me back then going after my dog again, who after the first attack was not moving anymore, but was screaming in terror and agony. I am haunted by every second of the attack, every second I could not stop it and was powerless to protect my beloved pet and myself. Finally the "military" man stepped in, drug the dog back into the apartment and locked it up before coming back outside. I was lying over the top of my dog, covering him with my body and terrified the monster that had attacked us would break out again. I recall the man giving me the number of the dog's owner, asking me not to be mad, and leaving me bleeding and sobbing over my crying pet.
You talk about victim blaming -- my own sister attacked me. She came to get me, driving my dog and me first to the emergency vet and then to the hospital. She told me to fill out a dog attack form that the emergency vet gave us and was encouraging me to go after the owner and apartment complex until she found out the family was "military." They had been out of town visiting sick family and were in the apartment waiting for orders to process that would have them PCS out of the state.3 My sister's husband is also "military" (the same branch). She is so proud of being "military" it’s sometimes overwhelming. When she found out it was a "military" family that owned the dog she demanded I drop everything. She told me my tears were stupid and unreasonable and that I was irrational and too emotional about what had happened. Me, a dog trainer, was having nightmares. I was also afraid to step out my door."These dogs give little to no warning before attacking. These dogs can be 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 years old, and never a fly harmed or a growl made in all those years. Pit bulls are wonderful, until the moment they are not."
I was not allowed to say a single negative thing to the family. I was treated like, well, like it was all my fault, like I was wrong to show animal control the bites on my hands and legs, wrong to let them take pictures of my dog, and wrong to ask the family to pay his vet bills. From that day on she treated me like I was a criminal, a stupid, foolish, wrong and bad person because the family did get into trouble. They had not told the apartment about the dog, had hidden the breed from the "military" and if I didn’t shut up I would ruin their happiness. That I could not sleep, had massive PTSD attacks that crippled me if a door opened suddenly and could not work at my job training dogs because I was not "me" anymore didn’t matter. Saving that dog and it’s family mattered more to her than me and my dog.
My relationship with my sister became cold, I can’t trust her. She went out and got a purebred pit bull puppy -- even living on a military base KNOWING the rules --- to show her support of pit bulls, so she could have one of these poor misunderstood dogs. She has lived on base with her pit bull and two other dogs for 3 years, hiding the pit bull whenever maintenance came by. When a friend had something "bad" happen with her pit bull after it turned a year old and reported her, my sister hid the dog, lied to the base personnel and got away with it. In all of my years of handling these dogs I never feared them, but I do now, not because of the dogs really, they are what they are, but the people who love them. They don’t care about anyone or anything but those dogs. They will throw their own family and friends under a bus to protect these dogs. It’s like some bizarre sickness overcomes them and rational realistic thought, compassion -- anything human -- just vaporizes in them.
In my years as a trainer, I have seen a substantial number of these dogs attack other animals and their owners excuse it. I’ve seen owners covered in bandages excuse their dogs for the attacks that caused their injuries. I have seen good people, owners who loved their pit bulls and afraid of what they were dealing with, but so desperate that their dog not be what so many of them are, become blind to the warnings that their dog is careening toward a disaster.4 Some of the dogs I've seen were just not "wired" right either, they were wrong in the head, so obsessed with killing things. Their loving owners would come in with scars or fresh injuries, their eyes bright with tears begging me to help them and not wanting to hear from another trainer that they just needed to put the dog down. You cannot train away instinct; you cannot train away genetics. You cannot love it away either.
As a highly experienced dog trainer, who also studied behavior, rehabilitation, and nutrition in dogs for decades, I feel this type of dog is a threat to safety wherever it lives. The owners cannot be relied on to know their dogs or handle or manage them and keep others safe. These dogs give little to no warning before attacking. These dogs can be 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 years old, and never a fly harmed or a growl made in all those years. Pit bulls are wonderful, until the moment they are not.
Nobody, not a professional, not an expert in the breed, not an owner, NOBODY, can look at a pit bull and tell which one will grow up to be okay, and which one will not. It is impossible to "raise them right." I’ve seen dogs raised every kind of right way. Then it turns and mauls someone or something. I have seen the other side too, dogs covered in fighting scars, missing chunks of their bodies, safer and easier to handle than a baby mouse and well behaved around other dogs. In my professional opinion, no other kind of dog is less predictable, less reliable, or more dangerous than these dogs are. Their owners’ irrational blind love for them just adds to the danger.
Every shelter worker who labels one a "lab mix" instead of a pit bull because they want it to be adopted throws their community under the bus. Every owner who lies about what their dog is to get them into a rental, places everyone who lives around them in front of a racing train. Every rescue that tries to "rehab" one that shows clear aggression, a clear willingness to cause injury to ANY living thing, is irresponsible, evil, and adding to the problem, adding to the truth that nobody can trust these dogs too. Absolutely nobody can trust anyone who owns one or loves this breed type and nothing said by anyone who loves them can be taken as truth. The lies seem to go with the dogs -- they are coated in lies, pain, fear and suffering."There is no need in today's society to keep these deadly creatures around. They were born for violence and death. We don’t need that, and we do not need them, truthfully, we never did."
It is my personal wish that the breed would vanish from this world and make it a better place. There are over 400 kinds of dogs, distinct breeds in this world, all but a handful are mostly safe to live with and be around. There is no need in today's society to keep these deadly creatures around. They were born for violence and death. We don’t need that, and we do not need them, truthfully, we never did. There isn’t anything they do that another type of dog could not do better, except kill and ruin lives.
Thank you for your website, for the truth it bares, for the courage it took to put it there. Even as tough as I am, I can't stand up to the hurricane of insanity around these dogs. Thank you for your time, your research and candid honesty. You're an inspiration. Reading your site gave me the courage to write this all down, the first time I have ever done so. As a dog trainer I had to take tremendous criticism whenever I refused to handle these dogs. Their owners are the cruelest nastiest people I have ever encountered. Especially when someone tells them their dogs are not angels and they should expect nothing but what they are getting after they come begging a trainer for help so their dog can play at dog parks or stop trying to kill cats or children. I understand how irrationally hateful the lovers of these dogs can be, and how hard, as a victim of the breed, life is after you have been attacked by one. I raise my lighter to your story, to your website, and if you ever need a seasoned canine training and behavior expert’s input, please contact me.- Retired Professional Dog Trainer of 25+ Years
2When we asked if there were bad experiences with the pit bulls during the 3-year period, the trainer explained that these were working dogs, weight pull and more, not your common pet pit bulls. The person wrote that just over a dozen "had situations come up that in spite of being handled by well seasoned pros and housed in a kennel designed for extremely powerful, high energy, high prey drive NOT PET huskies of several kinds, in addition to dozens of other breed types we worked with over the years, even under those circumstances the pit bulls found ways to get loose." All of these dogs were put down because of aggression toward dogs at the facility or other animals, the trainer wrote, "one for trying to kill our horses and then a neighbor's cattle, all in one day. We spent 7 hours trying to catch the dog before we finally got hold of the owner and got permission to shoot it."
3Permanent Change of Station (PCS).
4In a follow up email, the retired trainer added, "I think that's what scares me most about pit bulls and their owners and supporters, the rescuers of that type of dog. This terrible blindness, the refusal to admit what is happening right in front of them, to push away reality so hard they are falling back and not doing anything to fix what has happened with the dogs. Some are so determined that the dogs are not the problem that they cause more maulings, set the dogs up in situations where they are just doomed to fail, where any kind of dog could fail not just a pit-type."
06/24/15: Anchorage Attack: The Mechanics of a "Classic" Unprovoked Pit Bull Attack
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07/02/14: Dr. David A. Billmire, MD: "There is no need for Pit Bulls" - Cincinnati Children's
06/20/11: Founder Colleen Lynn Reflects Upon Four Year Anniversary of Her Attack
07/27/09: The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs by Alexandra Semyonova
05/05/09: Alexandra Semyonova: Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog