Posted by: Linda Trunell | April 27, 2014

To Pit Bull Advocates, Rescues and Shelter Groups

Pit Bulls (Staffordshire Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Bull Terriers, and mixes of these bully breeds) are considered dangerous dogs by much of the general public.  They have been bred and trained for dog fighting by despicable lowlife who are often also involved in gangs and drug dealing. Some local governments have Breed Specific Legislation outlawing “pit bulls” or any dog who looks like a “pit bull”.  (Please note, I do not agree with BSL.  I do believe in Dangerous Dog Laws which address the individual dog and the specific situation.)
My first encounter with a pit bill was not a good one.  When Max was only 7 months old he was attacked by a loose female pit while we were walking.  It was a horrible experience.  Thankfully, he recovered physically and had no long-term issues with other dogs.  I was not a fan of pit bulls when I started training dogs.

During the last three years, I have worked with about 20 pit bulls.  A few of them were puppies but most were adolescent or older dogs from shelters or rescues. I learned how good, loving, and playful they can be when they are in the right environment.


There are many pit bull advocates who are working to change the image of them as dangerous dogs.  The shelters are full of pits and pit mixes and there are many rescue groups dedicated to helping them.  I admire how much these people love the dogs and work tirelessly to find them good forever homes.
What troubles me is seeing these dogs at adoption events or in photos on Facebook pages wearing choke or prong collars.  Prong collars seem to be the most popular “training tool” with pit bulls.  When you are walking a dog on a prong collar, you are not helping the dog and you are telling the world that this dog cannot be controlled without force.
“There’s a sad irony in advocating for a maligned group, while simultaneously inflicting pain on them”. – Jean Donaldson
No dog needs to be trained with aversive methods – not even pit bulls. When force is used, a behavior may be suppressed but the long-term fallout could be even worse than the original behavior.  You want to help these dogs find and stay in good homes. When you give up the prong collar and use force free training, you will help these dogs become the best dog they can be.  You will be giving them a better chance to have the life every dog deserves.
The following is a handout available in pdf to print and share from


By: Beth Mattei-Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

There are many shelter and rescue groups that have not truly embraced dog training without force. They seem to believe, as many people do, the myth that positive training is great for a dog without issues or for small dogs. But feel that dogs who are aggressive or large and boisterous need harsher methods to “correct” the behavior and get them into a home. This is the farthest thing from the truth.

So why should shelters care if the problem appears to be resolved and the dog gets a home. Here are four reasons.

1. Their mission statement– Most, if not all, animal shelters and rescue group’s mission statements include promoting kindness to animals. Are they really promoting kindness to animals by advocating traditional training programs that rely on the use of methods that include force, pain, fear and intimidation? Shelters and rescue groups should strive to be the highest ground of humaneness and kindness. Training using force, pain, fear and intimidation is not an example of this highest ground especially when science tells us that organisms learn in multiple ways and not just through punishment.

2. Suppression of Behavior– While methods that involve corrections (leash, shock, kicking, hitting, rolling, etc) may suppress aggressive or fearful behavior; it is very likely that this behavior may resurface later and with more intensity. Or worse, the dog can experience behavior fallout attached to this type of training. For example, if a dog barks at other dogs on the leash, issuing a leash correction during walks when he sees a dog MIGHT stop the dog from barking and lunging at the end of the leash but the dog may bite when other dogs come too close. Why? The behavior (lunging and barking on the leash) has been suppressed so now the dog has to communicate to the other dog to get away in another way. How does he do it now that lunging and barking are no longer an option? This type of treatment can also feed his fear of other dogs (or turn a dog who just wants to play with other dogs into a dog who now experiences some anxiety when they see them) because every time the dog sees another dog, he feels the pain (or the uncomfortableness) of the leash correction so over time other dog equals pain (leash correction). It’s a band-aid over a gaping wound.

3. Do not remove a fly from your friend’s forehead with a hatchet. Positive reinforcement, light use of negative punishment, differential reinforcement protocols and/or desensitization and counterconditioning programs have high success rates. (Yes, there is more than one method in the force free training world.) These programs have been used with dogs for decades with great results. They have been used with very large and dangerous animals in zoos. Yes they work and there is proof. Plus there are many other less aversive methods to use if you don’t achieve the results that you want through those means or compliance with those methods are difficult for whatever reason.

4. What are we teaching our children? When this type of bullying is used to teach children that they have to be the boss of their dogs or have dominion over them by using force, these principles will spill over in other areas of their lives such as in interactions with their peers. This is not conducive to any definition of humane education.

If you are a shelter or rescue group who still uses positive punishment in their training program, look up a dog trainer/ behavior consultant who is a member of the Pet Professional Guild. I’m sure they would love to help and we can all work together to make a more humane world.

I also recommend this excellent post by Drayton Michaels The Connection Between Dog Training and Dog Advocacy Part 2 which has links to force-free training information.

Animal Farm Foundation is another resource with management and training information for shelters and rescues.

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,



  1. “They have been bred and trained for dog fighting by despicable lowlife who are often also involved in gangs and drug dealing.”

    If I can get my hands on them they would be called ‘nolife’. 😛

    I agree with you on the BSL. It’s the idiot owners who should have a law made for them – not the dogs.

    Shame! Poor Max! I can only imagine what you and he went through. Must have been a terrifying experience and I don’t blame you for not being a fan. Max is such a sweetheart and I am very glad he had no long-lasting effects.

    I am also glad that you learned at how good and loving they can be if raised in a loving and caring environment. Pitbulls are really amazing dogs. 🙂

    What a pity they are using prong collars on these beauties! Whoever invented that thing should be strung up and I would soooo love to use a prong on him/her!!!

    “No dog needs to be trained with aversive methods – not even pit bulls.”

    I totally agree with you there Linda and I wish more people would realise that.

    Great pdf article hon. Thanks for sharing! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Sonel! I love and share your passion for all dogs. 🙂 I hope that one day soon all of these aversive “training tools” and methods will be banned. I believe education is needed and I hope to help people to learn the truth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re very welcome hon and I hope that as well. There are so many people who do need more training than all these beautiful furries. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I listened to a radio talk show the other night most people are now of the opinion we should muzzle all dogs while in public and the row got extremely heated. The one caller who advocated for better training in handling for both owners and dogs wasn’t listened to at all. It is a frustrating topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is frustrating, Maria. It is difficult to get people to listen to the science when you are being drowned out by TV “reality” shows and decades of believing myths. Perhaps the most dangerous words in dog training are “This is the way we have always done it”.


      • I agree, particularly as every dog is different and needs positive reinforcement and gentle consistent training/work.
        Thanks for posting so many interesting informative posts. Look forward to your next one. Take care

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on How to Catch Big Bass and commented:
    for pit bull lovers everywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What’s the problem with prong collars other than their appearance?

    I was introduced to them as a way to keep large (strong) dogs from pulling too much during walks. Without one my pup pulls so much that he’ll start coughing from the pressure on his windpipe. With a prong collar on he walks much more gently and doesn’t hurt himself. He won’t pull and his walks are free of the pressure on his windpipe that I worry about. He’s not aggressive or fearful so that’s not the reason I’ve used it.

    If you have a better way to teach him to walk without pulling I’m open to suggestions or links. I’m always up for trying new things as I’d LOVE to be able to walk him safely without one. I don’t like the way it looks either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Crystal! Thank you for your question. The reason your pup doesn’t pull on the prong collar is because it hurts to do so. He is not learning to walk nicely on the leash – he is learning not to pull when he has a prong collar on. My favorite video on leash walking is by Kikopup I recommend a harness instead of a collar for walking (see my post Teaching your dog leash walking with positive reinforcement is effective, fun and humane. I am so happy to hear you are looking for a better way. Please keep me posted on your progress. 🙂


  5. Reblogged this on theeverydaydogtraining.

    Liked by 1 person


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