Africa's Dog Whisperer's Dog Attacks 4 Year Old Girl at Mall

Warning: video is graphic and is disturbing.

I am both shocked and appalled at the following news story from South Africa.  An alleged  ”Service Dog” at a mall in South Africa attacked a 4 year old girl in the food court. The Rottweiler was in the company of James Lech,  South Africa’s self proclaimed ‘Dog Whisperer, Africa’s # 1 dog trainer and animal Shaman’, who deemed the Rotti in the clip 100 % cured of it’s previous issues. According to his web site, and info obtained online, James Lech claims 100% success rate in every case he ever worked with.


.That folks is NOT possible.  Even if a trainer was an animal miracle worker, 100% success does not compute when you add in the human equation, and human error, of which Mr Lech is guilty of in this clip. Buyer please beware of such claims.

Now those of you who know me know that I am a trainer of science. I do not prescribe to  dated behavior theories or new age techniques.  But my thoughts and ideas are neither here nor there in regards to this little girl who was simply out for lunch with her grandparents. At the bottom of this tragedy is a little girl who is in pain and is suffering, and she may fear dogs for the rest of her life.

And don’t even get me started on why this dog was being passed off, or trained as a service dog. That is an issue dear to my heart,  and one that makes my blood boil almost as much as the little girl’s pain. I do not know of  one legitimate service dog organization that would take a dog with a history of aggression and train it for service dog work. Do you?

Just does not  happen — because it shouldn’t happen.  Whether  Mr Lech  was over stepping the law and claiming the dog was a service dog, time will tell. I am interested to hear the answer to this question that is on everyone’s mind.

Regardless of what magic skills a person may or may not posses, what we see in this video is nothing short of negligence.  The dog is clearly agitated by the girl and is watching her, yet the dog’s handler does not pick up on this because he is not watching his dog.

Here are some facts.

There is no such thing as 100 % success rate when dealing with animals. Ask anybody. There could be underlying medical conditions that will affect your results. Bottom line, HUMANS are not perfect.  As you have clearly seen, even a self proclaimed dog whisperer can make a REALLY bad judgment call, by letting his guard down and not watching his dog. Also as trainers, or as shamans or whatever we want to call ourselves, there isn’t ever a chance to “proof” for every conceivable possible event that may occur.  My Collie Finney may be great at stay, but I never asked him to stay when a herd of water buffalo, or a parade of meat carrying donkeys was cruising by, so really who knows if he would.

The other issue that is coming up again and again in dog training forums is this. Was the dog really rehabilitated or was the dog’s aggression only suppressed? Was the dog’s warning (growl) taken away? Dogs who have their warnings taken away can become ticking time bombs. The underlying emotional issue at the root of any  dog issue needs to be  addressed.  Again, I was not there, have not met the Whisperer, or the dog, but this is a dog training 101. Sometimes  best intentions actually make a dog worse.

My intention in this post is not to bash.  My intention is to educate.

Dog training is not a mystery. Dog training is not a secret profession, it is based in behavior science.  I am curious to learn the  history of the Rotti in question.  If a dog has  done damage to a person or another dog, there is a  high probability that  a dog will do damage again.     If  a dog bit with force, the odds that when a dog bit again that it would  deliver another damaging bite is  quite high.   Behavior predicts behavior, or in other words, if you did it before  there is a good chance you will do it again.  It is thought that bite inhibition  - how hard  a dog uses it’s teeth  and jaw can only be taught in puppy hood.  It is our job as responsible adults to manage dogs with bite histories closely.  Canine rehabilitation, if that is what you are going to call it, still requires a high level of management.

When my own son was four years old, he got a nasty puncture under the eye from a friend’s dog. My son  reached for a bagel that fell under the dining room table.  It was a very humbling experience for me and I  learned everything I could about dog aggression for the next five years before I took on a case.  There is a lot to learn and a lot is at stake.  We were at the hospital for about 9 hours on IV antibiotics due to a medical condition and I can tell you, it changed the way I look at life and dogs and would NEVER EVER pronounce a dog who bit to the point of damage 100  % cured.  Any dog can bite. Simple as that.

Dog Trainer tip of the day.

In this video, it is clear to even a non dog professional,  that the dog is intently watching that little girl.  Be aware of where and what  your dog is looking at.  This is important whether you are having issues or not.  Don’t let your dogs obsess about anything.

That is common sense and there is no amount of whispering, energy or mumbo-jumbo needed.  And above all, when you take your dogs out in public, please — watch your dogs.







43 comments

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    July 21, 2011 9:14 amPosted 3 years ago
    susan kendrick

    well written, thank you

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 10:49 amPosted 3 years ago
    Jess @InStyleDog

    Yikes. That story is awful but this post is wonderful. Thanks for educating – it’s scary how quickly we can be fooled by people with a fancy title (that they’ve given themselves in some cases). It’s also scary how quickly something horrible can happen if we let our guards down for even just a minute.

    Thoughts & prayers to that little girl & her family!

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:39 amPosted 3 years ago
    Tahlia

    Omg… That poor kid. Clearly this guy doesn’t know his stuff. The dog just lunged.. Great, more bad news for a great dog breed.

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:41 amPosted 3 years ago
    Ramona

    So ein Idiot, der Hund hat lange genug gewarnt, dass gleich was passiert. Schuld idt nur der “Dog Whisperer” der vergessen hat auf seinen Hund zu achten.

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:41 amPosted 3 years ago
    Melissa

    I can’t believe he stood there!!! If, god forbid, my dog went after a kid, I would jump between the two of them without thinking about what would happen to me. I would jump between any dog attacking a kid. I’m just shocked he stood there! So aggrivating!

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      July 21, 2011 10:18 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Laurie W

      That would be my reaction too. It’s our responsibility to our dogs and to anyone, heaven forbid, they might attack or even harass. Something else that makes my blood boil is that this guy, instead of being a man and being honest about his negligence, is that he attempts to equivocate, and find some fanciful answer to explain what happened, when the evidence on the tape is so clear. Bad things happen, but it does make a big difference when people just ADMIT they made a mistake or a misjudgement rather than evade responsibility. Trying to find blame with this innocent child, who was behaving quite calmly and in no way provoking the dog, not even making eye contact with it – this Dog Shaman should be ashamed of himself.

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        January 23, 2012 2:03 amPosted 2 years ago
        Anonymous

        ah, dishonesty. My bet is, being what he is, he lied before he knew there WAS a tape!

        Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:43 amPosted 3 years ago
    Annick

    Animal shaman. Ppppttttthhh.

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:43 amPosted 3 years ago
    Mimi

    Looks like he was paying NO attention to the dog at all! Poor Girl!

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:44 amPosted 3 years ago
    Virginia

    wow, that dog had his eye on the little girl from the time she stood up from the neighboring table and watched her til she came back within bite range. The “whisperer” wasn’t watching his dog at all. Very scary. Wonder what it was that attracted the dog’s attention?

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:44 amPosted 3 years ago
    Machelle

    so does anyone know if the little girl is ok? and what about the fate of the dog?

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:44 amPosted 3 years ago
    Michelle

    and it wouldn’t let go….that was the scary part. wondering how the little girl is doin

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:45 amPosted 3 years ago
    Fran

    Wow. The dog was definitely intent on that little girl. Stupid handler.

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:46 amPosted 3 years ago
    Michelle

    oh and a caveat, that girl’s parents should have instilled in her not to get near any dog she doesn’t know. not blaming her…just a good safety lesson for kids

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:50 amPosted 3 years ago
    Katie

    I have no problem with dogs being in public places, but they have to be trained to be there. The young girl did nothing to instigate this attack. The GENTLEMAN who own these dogs needs to be held responsible. I have two dogs that I love to take out in public because the love all people. I have one that I would NEVER take out due to his disposition.

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      July 21, 2011 10:12 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Laurie W

      You sound like a person any dog would be lucky to have as an owner!

      Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:51 amPosted 3 years ago
    Judy

    hope the child was not bit to badly but don,t put the dog down shared.

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:51 amPosted 3 years ago
    Elisabeth

    poor poor little girl – and poor dog too

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:51 amPosted 3 years ago
    Brenda

    If that were my grandson, I would be pounding that dog in the head. I couldn’t tell if the dog grabbed her arm or her side. I hope she is ok :(

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:52 amPosted 3 years ago
    Erin

    Bad handler. Parents need to be aware of their kids too. Kids running free where folks are eating is never good. This is bad all around. Poor little girl :( Poor dog :( Both will pay for this :(

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:53 amPosted 3 years ago
    Tahlia

    Sad situation for both. The dog shouldn’t have been put with an idiot but in a secure home where he wouldn’t be failed.. What kind of ‘dog whisperer’ would have not seen this issue was going to happen?.

    Poor girl cause that must have been so painful and scary. Hope she isn’t traumatized.

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:54 amPosted 3 years ago
    Wendy

    omg thats horrible :( ((( that poor little girl!! :( ((

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 11:55 amPosted 3 years ago
    Isaac

    I hope there’s a follow-up so we know how they are

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:56 amPosted 3 years ago
    Irina

    bad handler+bad parents=ugly situation.

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:57 amPosted 3 years ago
    Brenda

    Agreed Tahlia. He should of sensed that the dog was no longer in a submissive state if he is such a wonderful handler. If the dog had a “shady” history, putting him in such a crowded atmosphere was a very bad idea. I wouldn’t subject my dogs to any of that.

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    July 21, 2011 11:58 amPosted 3 years ago
    Ruth

    Here’s what I see…the dog was clearly far too interested in and fixed on the little girl. When she stood up, he did as well and went into stalking mode as she moved. It’s clearly shown on the video. He was watching her with what appeared to me as clear intent and as she moved out of view, he didn’t settle down, he waited. When she returned and passed in front of him, he launched….this is, from what I’ve read, an unstable dog and while I do believe that rehabilitaion is possible with most dogs they should never be 100% trusted. This level of complacency from the owner/trainer should never have been reached, nor should the dog have been literally been set up to cause such a terrifying incident.

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    July 21, 2011 11:58 amPosted 3 years ago
    Vagirl

    Wow! I can’t believe that dog attacked without provocation.

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 11:58 amPosted 3 years ago
    Brenda

    It looked like grandma was at the table and maybe the little girl was going from her mom at the counter back to her grandma. How often does that happen? Of course my instincts would of honned in on the big black dog sitting a couple of feet away. However, they must of thought if the dog were safe enough to be brought in public….

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    July 21, 2011 12:01 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Diane

    Unbelievable.

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 12:11 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Maria

    Dog whisperer my ass. Poor little girl. Now her whole life she’ll be terrified of dogs, thanks to this jackass.

    Reply
  • July 21, 2011 12:24 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Leandra

    :0

    Reply
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    July 21, 2011 1:52 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Moxie Court Jester

    the fact that he wasn’t paying ANY attention to this dog is gross negligence. the fact that later in an interview he then tries to fix blame on the little girl is gross irresponsibility. the fact that he states THIS IS A SERVICE DOG is … is … MADDENING. >:(

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    July 21, 2011 4:07 pmPosted 3 years ago
    mmttw

    I have a 7 year old Chihuahua who is the most passive dog in the world. He gets along with all people, all dogs, every situation. He had some dental work done not long ago, and I had him with me so the other dogs wouldn’t bug him. He saw a little girl, and suddenly started growling at her. I had never heard him growl before in his life. I held him tight, and nothing happened, but it just goes to show you that ANY dog can act unpredictably. If after 7 years of he and I being inseperable, he was able to shock me. He hasn’t done anything like it since, but I am more cautious now than I was before.

    Reply
  • July 22, 2011 4:59 amPosted 3 years ago
    Nancy Freedman-Smith (Author)

    In the initial news story from S. Africa it does say that the little girl suffered puncture wounds, but will be ok. We are trying to find out how more information on how she is doing and will let you know just as soon as we do. Another thing came up when I was researching Mr Lech. He has a series on his blog called “Cooking for you and your dog”.that include gems like this one. http://thedogshamanblog.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/cooking-meals-to-share-with-your-dog-series-bean-and-pea-pesto-patties/ THE FOOD IN SMOTHERED IN ONIONS! Many other recipes call for whole onions and whole cloves of garlic. I predict more law suits coming his way. If you are giving your dogs onions and more than just a touch of garlic, STOP! Onions and garlic can cause haemolytic anemia which can cause blood vessels to burst. According to Mr Lech’s web site, his seminars have been canceled.

    Reply
    • July 22, 2011 8:00 amPosted 3 years ago
      jo

      Nancy, I have only one word for that: ARGH! And, on the positive side of things, at least the incident prompted him to cancel seminars so he can’t misinform people for a while…

      Reply
      • July 22, 2011 8:38 amPosted 3 years ago
        Nancy Freedman-Smith (Author)

        from his web site — here is how you get a dog to stop being aggressive when it is time to go in the crate “James’s Answer: Clearly you as the owner are not paying attention to energy that you are BEING / Projecting and that is the reaction of the dog. It’s not the tool, it’s not the technique, it’s purely the energy behind what you are bringing to the scenario.”
        AND
        James Lech on teaching “drop it” from his blog “Trying practicing some relaxation exercises like yoga, golf or Tai Chi before hand .
        He also touts a vegetarian diet for CATS with supplements. Uhm NO! Not possible. Cats are meat eaters.
        I see more law suits heading this guys way.

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          January 27, 2012 10:30 amPosted 2 years ago
          Ness

          Did you see the part on his blog about vegan diets? “… I can testify that the diet type does have amazing results and fitness super powers. Both on humans and canines that show amazing recovery on physical rehabilitation, accelerated weight loss and quick lean muscle building with clear definition.”

          Fitness super powers, indeed! What an idiot. I’ve never even met a healthy human that’s been vegan for a year or more, nevermind trying that with a CARNIVORE! Grrrr.

          No wonder the dog was hunting the girl: he was protein starved. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a leap, but I’m just sayin.

          Also noticeably missing from that blog of his: there is no apology, not even a mention of the incident with that poor girl.

          Reply
  • July 22, 2011 8:12 amPosted 3 years ago
    jo

    Nancy, you shouldn’t have posted that link – I’m having palpitations reading his blog – must stop…

    Wow…easy to see why he tried to turn the fault back to the child: he states in his “60 day puppy tips” that you should “teach children how to share Calm Assertive Energy” around dogs. I guess this poor little girl’s family hadn’t gotten that memo…

    Reply
    • July 22, 2011 8:39 amPosted 3 years ago
      Nancy Freedman-Smith (Author)

      OMD! I read that to.

      Reply
      • July 22, 2011 8:44 amPosted 3 years ago
        Nancy Freedman-Smith (Author)

        Trainers have been seeing Dog Whisperer fallout for years. People who took mis information and ran with it. Well, this guy ran really really really far with it and now it is all public. . I have taken many a service dog to the mall for training and they are at my side, or in a down stay. As soon as that dog stood, he should have been on it. So many wrongs here.

        Reply
  • July 22, 2011 8:49 amPosted 3 years ago
    Nancy Freedman-Smith (Author)

    I teach dog safety to kids and I don’t think that child did anything wrong. Total handler error. That girl had every right to go around the dinner table. Mr Whisper Dude should have put himself between the kid and the dog, or taken his” no way could that dog a service dog” and left.

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    January 27, 2012 8:08 amPosted 2 years ago
    Belinda

    Just came across this article now… I agree with all of the above. As a dog trainer myself, I have to ask how does one test that your rehabilitation methods have worked with 100% reliability. As has been stated it’s just not possible. In my opinion no “rehabilitated” dog should ever be used as a service dog. Unfortunately, there is no service dog authorising body in South Africa, which means that anyone can slap a home made jacket on the dog, walk them into a shopping centre and claim that the dog is a service dog. In my opinion, him having his dog with him was nothing more than an ego trip on his part. He is yet to explain what he requires a service dog for.

    There has since been another incident with guy… This time his dog mauled a child on a beach in Cape Town earlier on this month. The little girl required 4 hours of surgery. Again by all accounts, the attack was totally unprovoked. It’s not clear whether it is the same dog.

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    April 26, 2012 2:19 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Anonymous

    I feel bad for that poor little girl, but even worse for that dog..now because of a neglectful “trainer” this dog was more than likely put down. In all reality of the aspect the dog was probably under the impression that he was doing his job and that little girl walked up really fast and he just thought she was a threat. A great breed with a bad rap sheet now has more issues to worry about.

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