This past Saturday I posted a video to YouTube of Luna and Little Wyatt playing. When I woke up Sunday I was shocked to discover hundreds of vile, hateful comments on the video directed at my child and myself. I had no idea what was going on and where everyone was coming from. Luckily a fellow mastiff owner informed me that television host/dog trainer Victoria Stilwell had posted the video to her Facebook page with these comments:
“I am sure that these parents or caregivers love their child and their dog but this is exactly why more education is needed to teach parents what they should and should not allow their child to do around dogs, even ones they know well. The person taking the video has no idea that their dog is displaying all kinds of stress signals as the toddler interacts with it and in fact some of the comments on YT are saying how cute the video is. I have just shown it to few lawyer friends of mine. Their reaction? This is child endangerment pure and simple. The dog is showing amazing restraint and inhibition. Post your comments on the video so that the poster learns how stupid they’ve been. I will be checking the video throughout the day to see what people have said, but this is where we can help educate and save children from getting mauled or killed by dogs because of adult stupidity.”
This is a link to that post along with a screenshot I took in case the post is removed.
I went to her page and posted:
“I’d like to thank you for posting the video of my child and English Mastiff playing earlier today. Due to this I have been called a child abuser, a pet abuser, & an unfit parent. I have been told to have myself and my wife sterilized, that I should just go ahead and kill myself and my child, that I am a “stupid cunt”, that my child is a “little fucker”, “a little shit”, “a twat”, “a troll” and that I am having Child Protective Services called on me. This was just from the first 60 or so messages left on my youtube account out of 300 before I killed the comments. Why did I kill the comments? Because your followers crossed a line when they started talking about my two year old son. Couple things you should know about the video. The lip licking? That may have something to do with the massive amounts of peanut butter Luna had licked off his face and hands prior to recording. Wyatt didn’t eat his lunch so much as he smeared it on his face. This is why Wyatt kept getting in her face trying to get her to keep licking. Luna actively searches out Wyatt while he is playing on the floor and instigates this type of play. When she has had enough of the 2 year old she gets up and leaves. English Mastiffs are the most patient and gentle of any dog breed, you as a trainer should know that. I worry more about their tails knocking him down than I do them biting him. So thanks again for the heaps of abuse you sent my way. Next time email the owner of the video before you post and talk to them before sending in your followers to call them stupid. Thanks. Feel free to keep posting here what an idiot I am. Leave my kid out of it.”
During all of this her followers found my email, websites, address, and threatened to call child services on me. Many people came to my defense posting that what she did was wrong. That’s about the time I got the half-assed apology from her:
“Lots of comments, opinion and controversy about the now-removed video of a baby ‘playing’ with an incredibly restrained and amazingly docile Mastiff. First of all, it is really sad that so many people crossed the line in their comments to the owner, and I apologize for my role in not encouraging enough restraint amongst those who mobilized to spread the word about the dangers of not fully understanding or being able to read canine body language – especially when kids are around.
My intent was to try to shine a bright light on what I feel are incredibly dangerous choices made by dog-owning parents all over the world countless times each day, but unfortunately it devolved into something that included truly nasty online bullying, and for that I’m sorry.
The concerning thing demonstrated by a lot of those who were sidetracked by the personal attacks, however, is that there is such a worryingly widespread misunderstanding and level of ignorance about dog behavior, body language, calming and appease signals, deference behavior and more. Such ignorance is understandable, because I’ve dedicated my life and countless years to being able to study and better understand it and I can tell you it can be difficult, especially for those just beginning to understand the depth of that which they don’t truly understand. A lot of people commented saying that they saw nothing concerning or dangerous about the video, and that is a devastating reminder that there is still so much work to be done to educate the public about dog behavior and safe dog handling practices. Seemingly simple-to-understand things like tail wagging, licking peanut butter off faces, and rolling over to show tummies (to name just a few) sometimes mean something completely different, and tragically it’s usually too late once someone learns this info the hard way.
As a dog trainer who has dedicated my life to understanding and reading dog behavior and language as well as increasing education and awareness to reduce dog bites, I always caution that I prefer not to pronounce judgment on a case until I’ve had a chance to visit the environment, learn the history and meet the dog in person. But that doesn’t mean that I have to be somewhere to know that certain behaviors are unsafe in any environment, no matter how restrained and amazing a given dog may be.
I’ve just spent several days personally assessing and dealing with the aftermath of yet another child who has been mauled to death by a family dog, and when I see the potential for similar disaster mislabeled as ‘precious’ and ‘cute’, I just about go crazy. My primary goal in situations like this is to prevent horrible things from happening to kids exactly like the child in this video. I know this poster feels like he knows his dog’s limits, but he would just be the latest in a long line of people who said ‘but I never believed my dog could’ve done that.’ Trust me, dogs are still animals, and they all have the ability to do things we could never imagine.
Again, I’m sorry for the abuse dished out from those who read my post – that’s never acceptable. But no matter where you land on how this issue rolled out today, I beg you to reconsider the extent and depth of what you think you may know about your dog and canine behavior in general so that you don’t become another tragic statistic.”
Here is a link to the post.
Nowhere in her post does she apologize for her words. I decide to reply to her.
“The problem I have with you right now is the delivery of your message. You posted that you contacted lawyers who said I was guilty of child endangerment and that your followers should go and tell me how stupid I am. How did you think they were going to react? There are still people commenting on your post about a video that they have NOT seen due to me pulling it. Every day you hear about how children shouldn’t be bullied but you have done exactly that to me. I now have to worry about child protective services coming into my home and taking away my dogs and son. If you were so upset about my video you should have emailed me directly. I’m not that hard to find as your followers who have discovered where I live, my websites, and my email address can attest. I would like for you to think before you post something and cause this to happen to another person. Also how did you even find this video? It was set on link only/ not searchable as it was for just for my family and friends. I did post it to an English Mastiff forum, is that how? Would you like me to forward some of the comments I received today? Would you like to see words spoken about my son? If you are sincere in your apology to me then prove it. Remove your post.”
She did remove the post but as you can see from my earlier link it’s not really deleted. She banned me from her Facebook page and deleted all of my posts. I went to twitter and sent her a message. This is that exchange.
Her only response to my request for an apology about the words she used in her post was “Already did. But still haven’t heard you take responsibility for a misguided & dangerous (not cute) situation with dog & baby.
Sorry people went too far in comments, but you displayed poor judgment with your dog/baby in your home & by broadcasting it on YT.”
And just like on Facebook she has blocked me from posting to her Twitter account.
Notice that in all of her responses to me she says nothing about how the language she used instigated the entire ordeal.
I’m a 40 year old man and I can handle all the hate mail but what would have happened if it was an older brother or sister that uploaded the video? Can you imagine the damage that would have been done to them emotionally?
Finally I won’t be posting a copy of the video here as I see no need. The video isn’t the problem. The problem is that people don’t think about the fact there is another human on the other side of the screen when they make a comment on the internet.