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.

@tlcdogacademy Please find the post on our Facebook page for the resources on where to go for support with muzzle training. Muzzle training is important for all dogs, for a variety of reasons. Scavenging, vet visits, fear, reactivity, and sometimes just a feeling of safety for both handler and dog. Muzzles are not a bad thing. Muzzles are not a swear word. Muzzles protect a lot of dogs, and they're going to protect a lot more in the coming months. #dontbullymydog #endBSL #endBSLworldwide #endBSLuk #XLBully #bullyxl #bullylove #xlbullynation #deednotbreed #forcefree #forcefreedogtraining #muzzleuppup #muzzlemovement #muzzletraining #muzzleddogsaregooddogs #youapp #foryoupage #foryou #fyp ♬ original sound – TLC Dog Academy

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

30 Responses to “XL Bully dog owners in England take their dogs to muzzle training classes”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Kitten says:

    @ Kismet-Do you have a bully or are you just referring to your dog of a different breed being taken?

    I commented too much on the other post about this so I’ll just say that aggressive bully breeds are a human-created problem and it’s cruel AF to decide that the solution to a problem we created is to eradicate an entire breed of dog. I won’t discount the danger that is present among bullies with abusive owners but ultimately, I think compassion for the breed is how we approach this issue. I love the idea of muzzle-training and welcome any other form of training that will help these dogs and their owners and help the public feel more safe around them.

  2. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    Muzzles outside are a good solution. Better than an outright ban on the dogs. The one issue is that they don’t cover cross breeds with XL bullies (and people will take advantage of that), which the ban in practicality does.

  3. Jayne says:

    Anyone who wants to give me the side eye for wanting all pits to be destroyed can google Justin Gilstrap in Georgia. Kid in my neighborhood who was mauled by a pack of three. Make sure you look at the pictures his mom took after the attack and in the hospital, after they removed what was left of his ear and all the wound care on his head after he was scalped right down to the skull. Kid is damaged for life. Another woman was walking down her street and ended up having her leg amputated by one of these XL breeds. Her Yorkie was torn to pieces alive in front of her. No sympathy for these pit owners. They’re all cute and would never hurt a fly right up until they kill someone. You want one of these killers, fine. Keep them away from every one else. Off the streets. Away from my kids and away from my family, because if they snap you aren’t going to be able to stop them. We deserve to go about our lives without wondering if someone we love will be maimed or killed by your dog.

    • Agreed. Goldens and labs were bred to retrieve, chows were bred to guard, pugs were bred to do absolutely nothing except eat all day and pits were bred to fight and kill. Muzzles are not going to stop that. No one is saying to go out and kill pits, just please stop breeding them.

    • NG_76 says:

      I am with you 100%. I saw the video of a grown man being killed by 2 XL bullies a couple of weeks ago. It was horrifying they could not stop the dogs. As well as the pit that killed 2 children in its own home. These are dangerous animals full stop.

    • Naye In VA says:

      Yup. I dated a guy who had a bully that wouldn’t listen to him. It would growl at me very occasionally. He would yell the dog to leave and the dog wouldn’t until he got upset. He even admitted that he can’t really take the dog on walks in the daytime. That’s deal-breaker for me. If your dog has any sort of listening issue, it’s not a kid being stubborn and cute, they are highly dangerous and that means you can’t save my life if it decides to attack.
      A woman last year had both arms amputated after an attack and I think she died.
      It’s not fair to be walking in my neighborhood and suddenly barked and growled at and I have no idea how to respond. It sucks to be afraid to send my KIDS out to play for that same reason. I’ve had to buy my kids dog mace for the number of off leash dogs we get in this neighborhood. It sucks to live in fear of doing everyday activities

    • nisa says:

      I normally stay away from controversial topics but this hits home for me. I have a good friend and an acquaintance whose dogs were attacked by pits, one nearly lost his muzzle and one lost a leg. What I really don’t understand is the desire people have to own them. Yes, other dogs bite but three grown adults couldn’t prize the jaws off, it is what these dogs are bred for FFS (and yes, he was such a sweetheart, until he wasn’t, per the owner). There are SO MANY dogs in need of adoption, why these? What message are you trying to send by owning one? As Pink Flamingo said, the easiest solution is to stop breeding them which means we need to end demand. If that is because of bans as opposed to people using common sense, so be it.

  4. Julie says:

    In the province of Québec (French Canada), the government planned to ban the pitbull, but it was contested by many towns including Montréal (most important), groups and private citizens. It was demonstrated that smaller dogs bite way more than the larger ones but are not reported. It was also demonstrated that pitbull are not more dangerous than some other races. The government didn’t ban them, but implemented some rules. They also made an official list of races considered dangerous. Dog that bite human and cause severe injuries or death are euthanatized immediately. He must be vaccinated, with a chip and sterilized. Can’t be with a child under 10 unless there is an adult (18+) with him. Must be kept in a place where he can’t get out and must always wear a muzzle in public. Town have further authorities. Also negligent owners face criminal charges. That was implemented in 2020 and it work quite well.

    • Nanny to the Rescue says:

      Smaller dogs don’t make as much damage as big dogs, or breeds literally bred for fighting, even if they bite just as much or more. Nobody was ever torn apart by a chihuahua or a yorkie or a cocker spaniel. You will need a few stitches, not full reconstructive surgery. Not saying it’s alright that they bite, but this reasoning of “smaller dogs bite more” isn’t really solid.

  5. Grant says:

    I can understand that lack of composure over your dog being destroyed. I know this because my dog was destroyed by an unleashed bully breed who came out of nowhere after breaking free from its owner in a communal dog park. It isn’t a good feeling.

  6. Becca says:

    I can’t understand how anyone can justify the breeding of a dog that is known for mauling children. Plain and simple.

    • FancyPants says:

      Well according to everybody here on Wednesday, dogs intuitively know who is a bad person and those are the only people they bite, so live laugh lunge. [insert sarcasm emoji]

      • ama1977 says:

        Ugh, I’m glad I skipped that. People are so unreasonable about this issue. These dogs are NOT all “just giant loves” and “more scared of their shadow than anything.” They are large, strong, powerful animals who can be dangerous for any reason or no reason at all. All dogs are all predictable until they aren’t, and when these dogs are unpredictable, people get hurt and die.

  7. Surly Gale says:

    We had an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Dubz learnt to “get dressed for a party” very early on. The prejudice we faced was astounding. We’d be walking on an off-leash trail. Folks would say “that dog should be muzzled” and I say ok, whip out his muzzle, tell him he’s getting dressed up and he’d thrust his nose into the muzzle, tail wagging; when training, the only way to reach the treat was through the muzzle (this, to me, was the important step. Throwing a treat nearby, getting him excited, then putting on the muzzle as per the little video in this article is not, IMO, a good/fair training technique. The treat MUST be associated with the muzzle, the dog must thrust his muzzle into the muzzle willingly for long term effectiveness in muzzle training). He was happy and confident being muzzled. Got used to it in a safe, happy environment. The next 5 minutes someone would say “if you trained that dog properly, you would never need a muzzle” and I’d say great, call him over, and take off the muzzle. He was happy and confident not being muzzled. On one, one hour walk, I put on and took off that muzzle probably 7 times, and Dubz was cool every single time. I did find folks determination to insert themselves and be reactive exhausting, but hoped our compliance with their ‘complaint’ would lead to a better understanding of the breed and training). We have a pitty in our neighbourhood who is allowed to lead, strains at the leash, pulls the guardian around, and whenever I see them, I avoid. That’s the dog/guardian relationship to be afraid of. Not the one where the dog is walking happily and CALMLY alongside the guardian whilst on lead, or is attentive and engaged even when walking off leash. That said, I avoid every team where the dog is pulling the guardian around, whether the dog is little or big. That dog, in the leadership position, pulling their human around, is too excited. An excited dog is not a trustworthy dog. The excited dog is in instinct, not brain. Nose, eyes, then ears. So people yelling no, no, no or bending over their dog saying stop it are useless. One cannot make a correction from behind. It isn’t possible. When the dog is using one sense, the others shut down. To bring the dog back to brain and back to calm, one must reach the dog’s brain. Which means going through the nose to get to the eyes to reach the brain so the dog can ‘hear’. It is the only way to regain control of an excited, out of control canine. UNLESS (there are always exceptions) one knows how to regain control by going directly to the brain through proper leash positioning (behind the ears) so the nose is lifted, and the guardian or trainer controls both nose and sight. No talking, just calm, quiet confidence and leadership translates through the leash. Too many folks have a kind of verbal diarrhea which ultimately just teaches their dog to ignore them. Breed banning isn’t the answer, though I understand completely the thinking behind it. Hoping these thoughts are helpful and stepping off my soap box now. Damn this issue gets under my skin!! LOL at myself.

  8. A says:

    I don’t know that any argument about this topic is going to go anywhere. The people who are for the bans are basing their arguments on fear and the people who are against it do so out of love. Those are both so deeply personal and so strongly felt emotions I think they get in the way of whatever facts may say. I had an English bulldog that was too afraid and reactive to function around people and I have owned a pittie whose only goal in life was to be pet by as many people as possible. I would think stronger breeding standards and socialization requirements would go a long way to keeping people safe. Dogs can be terrifying and they can be wonderful.

    • Betsy says:

      The people who support the bans do not do so out of “fear” which makes us sound a little Henny Penny anxious and stupid. We support bans because we can read the statistics, because no other dog breed disembowels its victims, tears off arms, eats chunks of its victims, goes for the face and neck, mauls newborns for the crime of sneezing, attacks because of short sleeves… Any dog can bite, only those bred for blood sport do so for fun. As herding is to sheep dogs, violence is to bully breeds.

      • A says:

        This is precisely what I meant, thank you Betsy. I said it’s an emotional topic and you got defensive about that. I was not trying to attack you and I don’t really know why you’d deny that most people who support bans are afraid of bully breeds. You just listed a bunch of examples of things to be afraid of???? Those are scary things XL Bullies can do! Why pretend otherwise?

        But you’ve also made it impossible to have an actual argument. When we talk about a ban do we mean genetic breeds? Or lineages? Or phenotype? How to end breeding? How to deal with the dogs alive now? How to prevent future problems with other breeds? We can’t have those kinds of conversations because you’ve narrowed the entire problem down to mauling newborns. No one is pro-infant mauling, Betsy! To frame the problem as you reasonable people who are against arms being torn off vs people you disagree with is not helpful.

      • Betsy says:

        A, I haven’t made an actual argument impossible. It’s the reality of pit bulls. There is no other breed – or set of breeds counting all the Am Staffs, XL bullies, etc – that causes this kind of mayhem. No other dog routinely escapes their homes, eats through doors and drywall and chews up couches, mauls family cats with whom they live, kills owners who are having seizures or have lost consciousness, rips off children’s scalps, kills livestock…

        In a sense, if you’re still pro pit-bull no matter what the statistics and stories, you are in favor of these thing. There are several hundred dog breeds in the world, plus mutts. To insist on keeping this one narrow group of dogs that were bred for violence, every pit bull supporter is saying “my experiences and beliefs matter more than everyone else’s safety, children and pets.”

        And if we’re talking about actually saving animals: a disproportionate amount of money is spent on keeping aggressive, unwanted pit bulls alive at shelters, sometimes for *years,* while literally every other wanted and adoptable breed is pulled out of shelters and away from families that would adopt them by rescues. Pit bulls with bite histories are passed around the country by shelters, their names changed, their histories lied about. And when they do get adopted and they bite, again, shelters shame the families for returning them!

        I get that many people have pit bulls that they love and who are generally peaceful dogs. I also get that many people have pit bulls that they love who are basically loaded weapons with the safety off. And the former sometimes just “snap” and suddenly Shirley Passerby has her whole entire calf torn off and chunks eaten. It’s not a defensible breed and if my words startle you, I’m not doing it to startle. I’m doing it because it’s real.

      • La Dolce Vita says:

        @Betsy: So true!

        People who support attack dogs never come across as intelligent, educated, rational, articulate people. They always sound like they’ve something missing in their brain.

        Attack dogs such as pitbulls are a human-created abomination who were invented to battle a bull! So stupid to keep these animals in family homes in suburban areas.

  9. K.T says:

    There are so many breeds of dogs, why do we need those breeds like the XL that have the most dangerous bite… especially when there are many issues with people that won’t or can’t take care of them. Look at shelters as an example that in general people dump/lose/exchange pets constantly. I can’t help think of the similarities to the assault rifle gun debate, where safety and sense gets mixed with sentiment and romanticisation.

  10. Satish More says:

    10000% for this. I know I just mentioned this here a couple days ago, but my last dog was attacked and killed by an off leash pit bull right in front of me, in a public park.

    If it were up to me, an individual would have to get a license to own a pit bull, unlicensed owners/breeders would have to pay steep steep fines w/possible jail time, anyone with any history of animal cruelty would not be allowed to own a pit bull (or any animal for that matter) and all owners would be required to muzzle the dog in public (and I think the muzzle law should be imposed on any dog in public that has harmed a person or other dog because their owner did not have their dog under control.)
    Basically I would treat pit bull ownership like I would gun ownership
    But most of all, I would change the laws that consider pets to be mere property of no more value than a couch or a lawnmower. I would enact laws that recognize the value of pets as members of the family, and so judges could consider more than the pets monetary value in court.

  11. Hollyr says:

    It’s impossible to imagine your family dog can inflict harm on anybody, but dogs that are bred for their ability to guard and fight can be very dangerous. As soon these breeds of dog start to display signs of domination or aggression at home it’s probably too late to fix- their behaviour is unpredictable and you can’t stop it when they attack.

  12. Jessica says:

    I guess I have time today. I’m super glad I do not live around the (usually otherwise lovely) commenters because I’d end up fighting someone over my pibble. I get that some people have only had negative experiences, but just as many (if not more) have had purely positive ones. As with all dogs, training is crucial, and I’ve never had another pibble attack mine- he has been attacked by goldens, a jack Russel, and countless tiny dogs. The fear mongering gets really old because when it’s a pit bull, it’s called out specifically but any other breed it’s just “dog bite.” And for the people saying there are other dogs to rescue- my pibble IS a rescue. Should I have left him in the shelter? How is that better? We take him places we know he can handle, basically never off leash, and I cannot count the number of people who comment on how sweet he is. Without fail, after about 567 kisses, they will say something like “they’re such great dogs, it’s a shame they have such a bad reputation.” My pibble listens better than my labs ever did, and he’s super trainable. You’d think from the commentariat here that pibbles and other bully breeds are basically wild wolves who someone just slapped a leash on without thinking. I feel for the dog owners in the UK, what an awful situation.

    • Betsy says:

      Because for other breeds when they do bite, it usually is just a bite. No other breed destroys their victims like the pit bulls do. It’s not fear mongering, it’s acceptance of reality.

      • Jessica says:

        I disagree strongly. As I mentioned in my original comment, when it’s on the news, if it’s a pit, they specify pit, if it’s literally any other dog, it’s just a dog bite, which is fear mongering aka making people fear a specific breed because it’s the only one ever identified. Sure, a Frenchie probably isn’t going to cause hospitalization, but a golden will. Or a lab. Or a rottie. Or a Newfie. Pits aren’t the only large dogs, they’re not the only hunting dogs, and they’re not the only dogs that bite.

    • La Dolce Vita says:

      Stop infantilising an abomination invented to take down a bull by calling it a “pibble” or “sweet” or any other nonsense you people go on with.

  13. Bumblebee says:

    Before they blamed Bullies, they blamed Dobermans, before Dobermans, they blamed Rottweilers. What breed is next? There is always a ‘dangerous’ breed that is the scapegoat for all dog attacks.
    The real problem is people. Regulate dog breeding and dog ownership of ALL dogs. Controlling one type of dog will never solve the ‘dangerous’ dog problem.

    Oh, and aggressive little dogs, that attack, harass, aggravate, big dogs, cause big problems.

    • La Dolce Vita says:

      The real problem is people.
      It was people, after all, who invented these creatures. No domestic dog breed existed in nature. They are all man-made.
      The only dogs to exist in nature are wolves, dingos, foxes etc.
      Let the man-made artificial domestic dog breeds die out. Stop breeding them.