Dog News

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

by Nancy Freedman-Smith

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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.