Victoria Stilwell, Savior or Danger to the working dog world?

Yesterday was a day filled with entertainment at the expense of the famous or rather now “Infamous” Ms. Stilwell. As many of you might know Ms. Stilwell started shooting her new series “Guardians of the night” not to long ago in which she rides along with the an American Sheriff K9 team, going deeper into the dangerous world of K9 teams and their work than any before her ever have. Her words on the introduction video for the new series could not have been more true when she says “I thought I knew what it would be like, I was wrong…”

March 22nd, 2016 proved that fact to her, and the rest of the world in a way she most likely never imagined… It was the day that Ms. Stilwell got bit, went into a rant of anger, blamed the handler for it happening, and then posted about it on Facebook for the whole world to see as she shrugged of her own responsibility in the event.

Her post on Facebook read the following:

Ms. Stilwell's Facebook post.
Ms. Stilwell’s Facebook post.

It was within a matter of hours that she removed the post as the replies she received on them were clearly not to her liking. Ms. Stilwell had most likely hoped for some form of comfort from others, telling her how sorry they felt for her, when at this point all she received was scorn from the working dog community for something that all in the working dog community felt they had warned her about on more than one occasion. The problem with the internet is tho, once posted, it is there to haunt you forever…. People screenshotted Ms. Stilwell’s post and it started circulating on Facebook, and the internet at an extremely rapid rate doing damage to her credibility like nothing else could. Her true colors were slowly coming to see the light and anyone posting anything not to her liking on either her Facebook page, or Twitter account immediately got blocked and or banned. Mayhem erupted as it became clear that in fact the handler of the dog that bit Ms. Stilwell was not in error, as most had already expected, but Ms. Stilwell herself had managed to place herself in such a position for nothing more than “A good shot for TV” As I understand it the whole event took place inside of a Helo and the dog bit her on the leg as opposed to what he should have bitten, which is what I presume to be a decoy.

Several actual witness accounts attested to that fact on Facebook posts.

Witness account
Witness account
Witness account
Witness account

So what does this tell you about Ms. Stilwell? That she is a caring dog lover? That she is a good dog trainer? That she is knowledgeable about dogs, and or the working dog world? Or does it tell you that she placed herself in a position of danger simply for ratings on a TV show that she is filming? That she refuses to take responsibility for her own actions? That she is less than lacking in knowledge when it comes to working dogs, the working dog world, and reading working dogs as a whole?

When the first promotional video for “Guardians of the night” got posted back in January 2016 she made it clear that she wanted a firm footing inside the working dog world to spread her ideas of how dogs should be trained. Her own words on this subject are:

While training is a component to the project, including a healthy debate on how K9 training can move forward without the use of aversive training tools and methods, I want to emphasize that our bigger goal is to show the viewer the day in, day out lives of these guys and their dogs to show that it’s not all about the calls and the action. “


While claiming the bigger goal is to show the everyday lives of the teams involved in the show she still does manage to put out there that her other goal is to start changing the training regimes and ways of working dog handlers and trainers.

This, to me, is a dangerous development indeed. Why? Well that much proved itself already did it not? She dipped her toe into the working dog water and boy did it get wet, only not with water as she had hoped, but with her own blood…..

Who is this woman? Who made her gods gift to dogs? Well, of course she did that herself and if you go to youtube you can find the evidence of such as she proclaims to be “the god of dog training” Does this make her so tho? No it doesn’t! Ms. Stilwell insists on pushing her agenda on anyone and everyone owning a dog. Does she have license to do so? Nope, she doesn’t! Why do I say that? Simple. Any dog trainer that claims that they know it all, is not a dog trainer to begin with. Any dog trainer that claims that all dogs will adhere to the very same style of training is not a dog trainer but a fool. You suit your training to the dog in front of you. You do not push your personal human views on the dogs, but you relate to the dog in a dog respectful and dog worthy manner so that it understands you and wants to work for you, and more importantly, with you!

Ms. Stilwell is just such a person tho. Actrice with not much of a career to show for herself, dog-walker, former model…. Walking around on set in her leather and heels, picture perfect makeup as she plays dog trainer. Her only real claim to fame is having dogs put to sleep for her inability to be able to help the dogs as they should be helped. She can not adjust her mindset to what the dogs need, she expects the dogs to follow her mindset which is “I do not want to deal with aggression so it does not exist”

But aggression does exist in dogs! Some of it natural aggression, some of it built up by wrong handling of the dog, some of it trained into the dogs to do a job. Just because Ms. Stilwell refuses to acknowledge that aggression doesn’t mean it does not exist or that it will go away, or that the dogs in question are bad dogs that need to be put to sleep. It only means that Ms. Stilwell is completely lacking in knowledge of what a dog really is, how it should be treated and how that treatment should take place to begin with.

If we start following Ms. Stilwell’s ideas of how a dog should be, should be raised, should be treated, should be trained, we will soon have veterinarians working overtime due to the high numbers of euthanasia that now will become more a rule than exception for a dog with behavioral issues, or even a strong minded dog.

A dog does not naturally conform to the picture you have built up in your head of it. A dog is what a dog is. It has its quirks and you will have to deal with those. Just because you feel that a dog feels bad when you correct it doesn’t make it so! A dog is not a child, or a human being, and it does not relate or respond in the same way that we do. A dog is a reactionary creature that learns through action/reaction and action/consequence. Just as in the human world, the dog world has a whole range of characters and attitudes and none are the same or conform to the very same thing each and every time. A good dog trainer realizes that, works with that, uses it to his or her advantage and creates a happy and well balanced dog in the process. A good dog trainer looks at what the dog needs and not at what the handler wants. A good handler trains a dog with whatever tool they have available to him or her, be it a treat, a toy or a device of correction if needed. A good handler knows not to push his or her own views upon a dog only to discard the dog if it does not conform to their views. A good trainer knows that if the dog is showing strange and or unwanted behavior, the trainer should adjust his or her training to suit the dog in front of them. Not just toss cookies at it, say you love him, pat him on the head and blatantly ignore everything else….


So… did you answer the question yet? Is Ms. Stilwell a savior or a danger to the working dog world? I know what I think, and I know that after reading this you all know what I think…. As for the answer to that question tho… I will leave you all to decide for yourself what the answer is….

Authors note: I welcome a healthy and open discussion with Ms. Stilwell on the subject of working dogs, dogs, and training of dogs in general. I doubt it will ever come to pass but the invite is out there for her to accept.


Alice Mackenzie.


17 thoughts on “Victoria Stilwell, Savior or Danger to the working dog world?

  1. First of all, just because someone “claims” to be a witness to something, doesn’t make it so. There was actually a Periscope video being filmed as they were loading the helicopter, and the bite didn’t happen when the dog was loaded. The helicopter was off the ground quite a bit before it returned to the ground. The bite wasn’t sudden. As for the handler being innocent and experienced – how so? If he was such and experienced handler, he would have never allowed this to happen in the first place – or had better control of his animal. A lot of your assumptions are based on other’s opinions. On those that obviously have an agenda against her for no other reason but to act like THEY know it all. If you go to her website, and read what is there, you will see she does not think she is the “god of all training” – that video clip was from a reality show that was terribly edited from beginning to end, and some of those words were scripted. The one dog that was put down was done so by the instruction of the family’s vet – not Victoria. She wasn’t even there at the time. They called her after the dog had mauled the third child, and asked if she thought it was time, and she agreed. Of everything she claims, she’s never claimed to be a veterinarian, or in a position to make decisions about a dog’s life. Oh, and she was never a model by the way – again, you are relying on opinions from people that have their own agenda against her. I am not trying to force you, or anyone else to like her. The point I’m trying to make is that this blog is highly based on what someone else has said, that wasn’t even at the incident, nor does he even have half of his facts straight about Victoria herself. Another thing, just fyi, if you are so sure that the Mali is not a dog that can be trained positively, please check out Nando Brown’s YouTube videos. This man is an ex-marine and trains only using positive reinforcement – including on his own pure bred Mali. Here is the link – I’m not saying that she is completely innocent – what I’m saying is that she is not completely to blame. As I was not there – though I did see the Periscope – I am not going to let some random person on the internet direct my opinions. I saw what I saw on video, and I’m sure she has a copy – which, if it is necessary, I’m going to bet she will share. My last question – if the handler is as innocent as everyone is claiming – where are his statements? Why is it he hasn’t come out and defended himself? These posts are everywhere, and yet he hasn’t said a word.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. She posted such a hissy fit about the incident and took zero responsibility for the incident and threw the K9 handler under her bus. I have not seen any video of the incident, but I am sure she bears a great deal (that is, the vast majority) of responsibility for the bite. As much as I admire all K9 handlers, mistakes happen and I would also be surprised if the handler did not have some degree of responsibility (at least, the questionable judment of the handler…or more likely, his superiors…in even agreeing to participate in this ill-conceived and ill-fated program). However, in any event, her post just sounded childish to me.
    I’ve never been bitten badly enough to have drains, but I’ve had bites requiring sutures and bites that should have, but I said “Naw, just give me a band-aid”. When I have posted about bites, I have done so with a mixture of humor, humility, a small dose of embarrassment and a large dose of acceptance of responsibility. I have never blamed a handler, even when I easily and legitimately could have.
    I told her, before she took down the post, “You should have just given that dog a cookie and a pat on the head”. She is such a low-talent in the first place, but like so many others in so many fields who have mysteriously become celebrities, one common major flaw is when they start to buy into their own hype and that hype further distorts reality. Further, she is guilty of two other mortal sins in dog training. First, to anthropomorphize dogs…dogs are dogs, they are canine…they are not human. Second, she maintains that she has THE one and only method of training dogs and no such thing exists. Every dog breed is different and every dog within each breed is a different individual. Further, each individual dog lives in different environments, with different sets of humans (and that, the human factor in training dogs, is a can of worms within itself).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It tells me what a big “woose” she is. I have been bitten several times by dogs I’ve rescued and by my own dogs. It was NEVER the fault of the dog, but mine for getting myself where I should have known better. Do I like being bit? Heck no! Have I learned from each experience? Absolutely! I am NOT a trainer and don’t claim to be. I leave training up to the professionals that I TRUST. Despite what people believe, I still support Cesar Millan. He does know what he’s doing. Stillwell…………….well, not so much.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Is this what it’s all about? Because she does not condone physical punishment in dog training?

        It’s laughable that you say Cesar Millan knows what he’s doing. He was in the news again lately for exactly the opposite. And he certainly doesn’t “(look) at what the dog needs and not at what the handler wants”.

        I’m not supporting what Stilwell apparently did, by the way. It just gets tiresome when people use the old “toss cookies at it” line, showing a whole lot of ignorance.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I have done many photo shoots in arenas with dogs and horses. I’ve always had the common sense to keep myself in a safe position and not to be close enough to distract the animals. There are many people on face book who know that what I’ve said is true. Get in the way or distract the animal and it’s own fault if it goes wrong. I wish someone could show a video of the event.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m no too up on how police dogs are trained, I am and always have been fascinated by a dog’s incredable ability to communicate with us and empathise with us. I am a dog trainer, IMTD member and do not believe that you need to inflict punishment or pain on a dog to train it, no matter what you want it to do. One thing that has been bugging me for some time, after a few news stories of innocent people being bitten by police dogs, is how the dogs are taught to discriminate between friend or foe, if at all? Before anyone scoffs. I can smell my dog’s own body chemicals when he is stressed, excited, on the scent of a hot bitch with my clunky old monkey nose. Dogs can detect cancers and tiniest chemical changes in our bodies. The scent of someone in a state of agitation – a criminal on the run, would be very different between that of a person in a team exercise. How is this science applied in police dog training? We know now through scientific study and scans on dogs brain patterns that dogs are very adept too at reading our facial expressions and will empathise with our ewmotions – laughing, crying etc. A criminal faced with a dog is going to have an obviously different expression and manner than an innocent bystander. There are many well documented studies on dogs which have learned to discriminate between items and group objects, the Collie “Chaser” for example who knew not just the names of individual toys but could also distinguish between types of toys (*drawing from memory, the book is downstairs -Brian Hare, Genius of Dogs). How is this science applied in police dog training? If none of the above is woven in to police dog training, why not? Its new science, and science should surely be at the forefront of any training plans, especially when the subjects involved are so potentially damaging to human life, and in their course of work are highly likely to come in to contact with innocent bystanders.


      1. I am a k9 handler with an awesome GSD bomb…..After reading shimmeringsupestars post, I agree with you totally.”.so much to contradict

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The answer is: Police dogs are NOT trained to distinguish friend from foe… that’s why they bite innocent bystanders so often and why they require being on a leash at all times when in public (except when they are let off to chase and apprehend a criminal, then quickly put back on the leash before they bite anyone else).

      They train them to bite a sleeve, and then to “fight back” against the guy wearing the sleeve, and the decoy (guy wearing a sleeve) acts as much like a criminal (or how he thinks a criminal will act) so that the dog recognizes these “criminal” signals (usually running, waving arms, shouting, or brandishing a stick / gun) and hopefully applies it only to an actual criminal HOPEFULLY when the handler gives the command, and then they hope to god the dog will actually obey the out command and release the suspect before he gets mauled to death or disfigured.

      As they are quick to say “accidents happen all the time in this line of work” – of course they do, because what you’ve REALLY done is train your dog to attack people on a hair trigger. It’s basically a weaponized dog no more controllable than the vicious pit bulls used to protect crack dens.

      And yes I’ve been bitten by a retired police dog, and NO I wasn’t doing a damn thing to provoke it, just walking my dog along a public street (unless walking a dog on a leash constitutes a criminal act these days??)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I call BS! A trained PWD does not indiscriminately goes around biting innocent bystanders. They get bitten by either ignoring the warnings by the handlers to remove themselves from the area or they play stupid games in which they win stupid prizes. A PWD is not some unguided missile that goes around biting people when it is off leash… If this was so then a trained PWD would NEVER be able to go off leash, have free time, play, eat, sleep, enjoy a regular day with its handler. They do NOT get trained on a sleeve or to fight back…. Another blatantly ignorant statement Mss Cellany. They are trained as pup on a sleeve only to be transferred to the suit when they are old enough and some dogs never even see a sleeve to start with but go straight to the suit. The only sleeve training they will get after that is the hidden sleeve to try and recreate a civil scenario. The dogs also do not fight back, they are taught to stay IN THE FIGHT. BIG difference there. The next part of your post where you use HOPEFULLY is just to ridiculous for words. The dogs work through command and does not get released into a crowd as you are trying to imply here. A PWD gets released when the target is in sight and never NEVER into a crowd of people. Attack on a hair trigger? Really? Vicious Pit Bulls? You are seriously going to go there? When these dogs are not working they are happy go lucky dogs that are mostly integrated into the family and they DO NOT MAUL AT WILL UNCONTROLLABLY. For the last part of your reply…. You must have been doing something because even a PWD does NOT attack without reason. Your reply, it drips of ignorance and stupidity, a blatant lack of knowledge and a sense of fantasy that is beyond me. I am going to allow the reply to speak for itself for the total and utter non sense that it is….

        Liked by 1 person

  5. One thing that everyone is not saying. 1+1=2 not 4. Working dogs are just that, working. Dogs have their own laws, which show off humans always forget. When working keep your distance, and let me work. I am pretty sure that your moms taught you not to touch a hot stove. She (Victoria) forgot that, period. No if’s no an’s no but’s. The only people who should be allowed to film working dogs should be experienced handlers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s pretty simple here. I do not own a working dog and never have. I’m hoping my next dog will be a X Dutch Shepherd, we’ll see And I’ve been training and rehabbing dogs for 20+ years, some serious hombres / senoritas. I use all operant quadrants dependent on what’s in front of me but I’m always looking for the LEAST aversive approach to get the job done. I’ve been nailed twice and both times it was 100% MY fault, I set the dog up to fail. I didn’t read the situation properly. Nothing teaches you quicker to respect the dog and the situation in front of you!
    I own a registered PBT with off the scale drives. If I send / leave her in ‘place’ she will stay there until I release her, period. And that, like 99% of the other cool stuff I’ve taught her, was R+ trained. Victoria Stillwell needs to close the door to prevent her companion animal following her around the house. Dog trainer, I don’t think so.
    Don’t get me wrong I’m sorry she got bitten. But she’s created a sh*tstorm because she can’t read (high drive) dogs or her immediate environment properly. Basically she hasn’t got the experience but is very good at making herself look good (not in this case).


  7. And regards Cesar Milan. I like the man, always have, always will. Whatever you say about his training and I disagree with a lot of it as he is reactive rather than proactive (or that’s how a lot of dog whisperer stuff looks like to me). Bottom line, there’s a world of difference to me between Junior’s obvious learned helplessness and a working line dog ready and more than able to go to work.


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