My Service Dog, Jade

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Service Dog Training Class with a Pit Bull??

As I've said before, Jade and I are still attending service dog training classes every week, although we're almost done with the classes. Soon it will be field training only for some weeks before we achieve final certification. We are currently doing field work between classes, with a great field trainer, who really appreciates how quickly Jade is moving along.  
The last class we attended brought up a major issue for me.  Our trainer (no names will be used here) is currently fostering a pit bull, which she sometimes brings to class.  I don't like it, but I deal with it, because I trust that a professional trainer is going to be responsible as a dog owner.  She usually just has her pit bull tethered on the other side of the warehouse-looking training room, and it lays quietly under a table, while she conducts our class on the other side of the room.  I don't like it, as I said, being in the same room, but since it's such a big room, the pit is on the other side of the room away from us, is just lying down and usually sleeping, and because it's securely tethered, I deal with it.  However, during our last class session, the trainer was helping us to maintain our dog's attention completely while there are distractions going on all around us.  This might sound easy, but it's a very difficult task for dog and handler.  It needs to be practiced over and over again until both handler and dog achieve it.  It's something that is extremely necessary for service dog teams to achieve, as there will almost always be distractions when you and your dog are out in public. Your service dog NEEDS to learn NOT to be distracted and to keep its attention focused on the handler.  You can see why, no doubt.  So to practice it, the trainer and volunteers in the class provide a lot of distractions while me and Jade try to maintain total attention on one another.  Being a human, I do this MUCH better than my dog, but she's getting much better at it.  We've learned, through our training, that Jade keeps her attention on me much better when the distraction is human.  When there's another dog distraction, such as a dog walking by,  an off-leash dog, etc, she has difficulty maintaining her attention on me.  This makes a lot of sense for a dog.  Although, to be honest, it's rare that when we are out, we see many other dogs, as we are usually in a place where pet dogs are not allowed, and we really don't run into many other service dog teams.  It does happen though. Jade, having been attacked by a pit bull in the past, tends to become defensive if another dog gets too close to her, which in the service dog world can be troublesome.  So the trainer wanted to practice this exercise.  This, I understand completely and am very willing to participate. However, the trainer used her pit bull for this exercise.  She put it on a leash and attempted to walk it, which was impossible.  This pit bull, as many others, acted as though it had never been on a leash before.  It was pulling toward Jade, and staring her down, and the trainer seemed to have some serious difficulty holding that leash.  She's not a big woman.  Needless to say, had that leash broken, or had she slipped and fell letting go of that leash, the consequences would've been catastrophic! I couldn't really focus on the exercise, although Jade did great! She looked at the dog when I told her to, and then right back to me.  She focused on me and my cues and accepted her commands.  Impressive!!! I, on the other hand, was a sweaty mess! I should've said something immediately about how uncomfortable and frankly, how afraid, I was, but when I get that anxious and afraid, I tend to say nothing because if I do, it doesn't come out right.  I don't know if anybody can relate to that.  The exercise was soon over and I tried to relax again and finished out the class.  
As the days went by and I thought more and more about this experience and what COULD HAVE happened to me and/or my priceless service dog (and pet), I became more and more upset about this.  I asked some cherished friends advice on how to proceed and decided to talk to the trainer about how I feel. Being the chicken I am, I sent her an email instead of calling her, as I was not looking forward to her response. I pretty much associate any pit bull owner as a zealot nutter who will defend the breed at any cost.  As most of them will do.  I wrote the email, and waited.  About 30-45 minutes later, my phone rang.  It was her.  She said that she wanted to call and talk to me.  She wanted me to understand that this program is for me and my dog and that I should NEVER, EVER worry about offending her.  I have to say that I was very surprised at her response.  Pleasantly surprised.  She said, "Pit bulls are bully breed dogs and they're not like other dogs...their body language is very difficult for people and other dogs to read....a lot of people don't feel comfortable with pit bulls, you're not the only one." She said that she totally understood how I feel and would not ask me to be in that position if I am uncomfortable with it.  I am! She said that if I ever feel uncomfortable, I could tell her at any time and should never worry about offending her; even if I say it in an angry voice, she would understand and comply.  I was pleasantly surprised at her stating that pit bulls are NOT like any other dog, which is what almost EVERY single pit bull owner is trying to pass off as truth.  You can see that for yourself on some of the comments on the pit bull attacks I've posted on the "Service Dog Dangers" page.  See for yourself what the pit bull owners say about those dogs. I urge you to look into it.  I'm very pleased that my trainer, although she likes pit bulls, is a professional trainer, who understands that the program is for me and my dog, and not for the purpose of pushing her own agenda.  Thank you, trainer! 



  1. i don't have a service dog. but the issue of pit bulls and service dogs and the issue of pit bulls as service dogs is an important one and i am happy to see devoted enough to this topic the attention it deserves.

    my first encounter with a service pit was a memorable one. it happened about 2 years ago in a major grocery store chain. young male punk with droopy drawers and a pit bull lunging and growling at kids and adults walking by as he spoke to a store employee. he said NOTHING to his dog either with his voice or a leash correction. i stood and watched the whole thing wishing i had a video camera. the store employee also said or did nothing other than shift her weight away from the pit. afterwards i pulled her aside to complain. i informed her that she has every right to ask him to leave and not return after that display. i also told her that she has a duty to protect the other customers. turns out, she was an asst manager and stated they are too concerned about being sued. the pit nutters know this and are exploiting it.

    1. Thank you, Dawn. I'm sorry to hear about the encounter you had with a pit bull "service dog." That doesn't sound like a real service dog at all! There are a lot of people that fake their dogs' certification by simply purchasing a vest and throwing it on their dog. This is EXTREMELY upsetting to those of us with REAL service dogs that have put our blood, sweat and tears (not to mention money) into training our dogs to be REAL service dogs. It usually pretty easy to tell which service dogs are real, and that is simply by watching their behavior in public. This tells me that the dog you witnessed acting so inappropriately was simply a FRAUD! I find that many pit bull owners will do things like this to get around the laws, and to force their dogs onto the public to try to prove a point. It's really disgusting that anyone would FAKE being disabled and FAKE their dog being a service dog just to push their pit bull onto the public.

      This store owner/manager had EVERY RIGHT to remove that dog, whether it was a real service dog or not, which I'm sure it wasn't. Store managers/owners have rights too, and so does the general public! The ADA specifically states that a business owner/manager has every right to ask a handler to remove their dog if it becomes a nuisance or acts inappropriately and bothers customers. They really to become educated with the law in this area! No one in that store was safe, and you were right to complain. I'm glad you tried to educate the employee about his/her rights, but unfortunately it's true that businesses are afraid to get sued. They need to know that they have rights too!
      Thank you for reading and taking time to comment, Dawn.

  2. I hate to sound like a "zealot"... but a lot of breeds are not like other breeds. They are all different in their own ways. Pit Bulls are not naturally aggressive breeds and one of the only breeds of their kind not breed to attack humans. However... Like any other breed, they behave in how they are trained and treated. In a sense that they are not like other breeds... They have their own style, looks, and body language. They are also a terrier and are quite excitable and hyper. This is generally over looked in most terriers as they are small and just considered to be bouncing off the walls. When a APBT does it, it is accused of being aggressive. I am very experienced with APBT's and also own one as my service dog. She is a great joy to me and my family and relieves a lot of stress in me when it comes to my mobility. She does make me feel safer. Most people who fear them do so on unfair reasoning when they judge the entire breed for it. I could be against all breeds that ever bit me (which also included a Golden Retriever). I own 4 dogs, she is the only Pitty Pup... and I trust her with my life. My Shih Tzu will bite just about anyone who is not a member of my family, my weiner dog and my large breed mix of golden and white shepherd is also a joy. They all complete my family... but my APBT takes care of me. When in public, those who are scared of her and are upset that I have her, my response to them is that they are welcome to leave. She and I both have just as much right to be there as anyone, and she has never ones failed on be perfect behavior in public or at home with my husband and our children. She is actually everything a TRUE APBT is. I am sorry you both feel the way you do about Pit Bulls, they aren't going anywhere... so please give them a fair chance.

    1. Yes, Shadow, you do sound like a zealot. I know that you have rights, but SO DO WE!!! Pit bull owners always seem to overlook the fact that other people have rights too!
      I don't take it out on the whole breed that my service dog was attacked by one of your sweet, gentle, wiggly butts, but the fact is, that pit bulls attack and maul and kill people CONTINUOUSLY!!!! That's why the whole breed is to be called dangerous, unstable, unpredictable and disliked by many! There's a reason for it!
      I'm really tired of pit bull lovers coming to my blog to tell me how great their dog is, who cares!? Pit bulls kill a person in the US every 21 days, and maim a person every 5 days! Those are the FACTS, read em and weep.

      Yes, If I see you with your mauling machine "service dog" I will leave and go elsewhere. I won't take the chance of having my precious girl anywhere near a mauling machine. Eventually pit bulls will be banned as law-makers will finally take action and do something about all the killings and maulings they continue to perpetrate.

      And don't bother to respond because your comment won't be posted. But thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.