XL Bully dog owners in England take their dogs to muzzle training classes


Two weeks ago British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his plans to ban American XL Bully dogs in the UK. The move was in response to mounting incidents of bite attacks, and two fatalities this year. Since that video announcement, Sunak and his government haven’t laid out any specifics on what a ban would entail (guess he’s been busy tanking the UK’s energy net-zero drives), with BBC News reporting: “Downing Street said there had been ‘no final decision’ on what would happen to people who already owned XL bullies when they were banned or whether the dogs would be destroyed.” Oh no please, don’t soften the language on my account, BBC. Whether the dogs would be destroyed?!? No surprise, then, that many devoted XL Bully dog parents are starting muzzle training classes (for the dogs, not humans) and talking about the stigma that’s been increasing since Sunak started ban talks:

Maddie Bell-Ashe is a trainer and pro-muzzles: “I’ve always been a massive muzzle advocate,” she says. “If this ban does go through, the cost for owners – in a cost of living crisis – is going to be absolutely through the roof.” She says some owners are worried about the prospect of muzzling their dogs as they notice other people are already wary due to the size of their pets. “There’s a massive stigma attached to it; they’re already scared that people are going to think they’re aggressive and now if they’re having to muzzle their dog, they’re worried about that even further,” she says. “If they’re not muzzled and they get reported, or if they get stopped, the police come round and if your dog’s not used to being muzzled, it gets seized, they’ll take it to kennels and… it’s better to just keep them safe and not deal with the emotional trauma further down the line for both the dog and the owner.”

Maddie is also pro-XL bullies: She admits to being a big fan of the breed and regularly walks three XL bullies. “I love them… they’re just ridiculous, they just want love and they’re really willing to listen. They might take a little bit more work sometimes – but they walk nicely.” However, she added: “They do have bigger mouths and we can’t discount the damage that they have done. They can be incredibly soft and a lot of them are more scared of their own shadow than anything else. It’s the small minority who are bringing them up in regards to protection, but if a dog’s got the correct training and the correct owners, they won’t be causing those bites.”

Josie Shanahan has autism and mental health issues, her dog Mars helps her be out in the world: “He helps my anxiety, he helps ground my emotions and he helps me access the community. I didn’t have a life before I had him; I was a recluse; I couldn’t leave my house – he gave me a life.” Mars is trained to recognise issues before his owner does, including when her blood sugar levels drop or her heart rate increases due to anxiety. Asked about the ban, Ms Shanahan says she “understands, but I don’t completely agree. It’s a minority of the breed and their actions are now causing the majority of the breed to be judged – and I don’t think that’s fair.” She is concerned if a ban comes into place “Mars might not be able to do his job. He loves his job and he wouldn’t have the same life without it.”

Loretta Carson bonded with her dog Annie while battling cancer: “I’m here purely and simply to protect my dog,” says Loretta Carson. “I got cancer, so for five months I was at home,” she says. “I live on my own and she was just there 24/7 – so the bond we made in that time was wonderful.” … Asked about the potential new laws and ban, she says: “I just want to be a step ahead in making sure I make the right choices for her not to be taken away from me. Yes, there’s good and bad in everything and, yes, it’s upsetting, but I understand they have to do something. It’s not the dog, always, it’s the way they’re brought up. You’ve got to take responsibility [for] something that is that big and something had to be done. … And I want her to get used to it, nicely, and when it does happen it’s not going to be thrown on her, and make her feel sad. If we have to do that, it’s what we’ve got to do. Nobody’s taking her off me.”

Laura Molloy also wants to thoughtfully introduce her 15-month-old dog Bruce to muzzles: …With muzzle rules and a ban potentially looming, she “didn’t want to put my dog in the situation of having worn no muzzle – to having to wear a muzzle. He’s not a vicious or aggressive dog but I don’t want to scare him.” Ms Molloy says that during a visit to a vet, Bruce barked “because he was scared” and the vet “forced a muzzle on him… so now when a muzzle goes near him, he barks – not aggressively – but he’s scared again. Bruce is a family dog; he’s the most loving dog I’ve ever had. … It’s my choice to make sure my dog is trained and that’s why we’re here.” She says she will do “everything to keep him safe, and he will remain in my care, no matter what”.

[From BBC News]

OK, so this issue is very heated — I read all your comments when we first covered this story last week and know it evokes strong opinions — and obviously this article focused only on one side. So to respond to the focus of this article, I really felt for these dog parents, and I give them credit for being responsible pet owners and starting the muzzle training. They are respecting their duty to be in control of their dogs, and they’re also considering the needs of the dog and how to roll out the training so it’s effective (without being cruel). If there were a real possibility that my Girl could be taken from me (and f—ing “destroyed”), I cannot say I would be so composed.



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