View Full Version : Interview With Diane Jessup

05-15-2003, 03:38 PM
To those who aren't familiar with her, Diane Jessup is considered the premiere pit bull expert. She works with law enforcement agencies all over the world educating them about dog behavior.

Conducted by Mary Harwelik

Grip is your current dog. Please tell us about her, her titles, and her accomplishments as a service dog:

Grip is a spayed female. She is 7 years old now. Her mother was a schutzhund III, U-UD. She is a red nose red. She is a nice dog, a little nervy like most of her line, but still she has tried very hard for me, and has worked well in everything i have asked. She sleeps in my bed. She has worked in movies, worked for years in my dangerous dog safety workshops and as a service dog flying "up top" on planes, etc. She also has earned a few training titles, though she was a very, very difficult dog to train. She is, like all the red noses I have met, not terribly bright, and must have things repeated many, many times. She is also very, very "soft" and so must be handled with kid gloves. No harsh corrects needed. I have never met a red nose yet that needed tough corrections. What they lack in brains they make up in being very, very willing. She earned her schutzhund I and her "working Dog Superior" in weight pulling. She tried for her schutzhund II and did really well in obedience and protection but failed tracking. It was kinda funny. It had snowed (a rare thing here) and when I took her out of the truck she just went and sat on the judges feet and refused to move!) Smart dog that time, eh?

In my workshops Grip has had to travel extensively, doing bitework with groups that range anywhere from 20 to 600. She has been featured on tv news many times, and always handles herself well in public. She has made many friends for the breed despite her rather aloof manner. Grip was injured during a schutzhund trial. She fell onto the top of her head while trying to do a courage test (the decoy, very concerned about catching such a fast, high flying dog, tried too hard to "turn" and turned before she got there. Poor guy, he was trying very hard to be safe, but ended up really harming the dog!) Anyway, she has never been able to bite without discomfort since that day. When she tries she drools, clacks her jaws and otherwise shows discomfort while trying her hardest to continue. She loves her work.

Grip excelled the best at weight pull. Trained only with love and patience (no electric shock which is the newest and most loathsome fad in training) she pulled her heart out. She was only pulled one season, as she did not really enjoy it that much. Her first season she pulled well enough to put her in first place nationwide (by a wide margin) for the very competitive 35 to 60 pound IWPI class. She was unbeaten and usually won the "best percent pulled" award also. Then disaster struck. She was poisoned by rat poison by a careless co-worker who set some down in a dog filled room and left it. Grip, pig that she is, ate it. She was saved but it knocked her down, and she lost her conditioning. She was unable to work or do anything for over a month. She came back to finish the season, putting in some great, game pulls (over 2,000 pounds and she was pulling at 52 pounds) but ended up placing 2nd overall in the region. Oh well! I was impressed with her, as were all who saw her.

Grip was bred once (unfortunately to repay an agreement that allowed me to get her, otherwise I would not have!) And gave me 14 pups! What a disaster! I had an ultrasound performed on her twice and both times the vet said no more than 6 pups. That is what I was prepared for... 11 pups lived, I placed one with a friend here, one with a wonderful trainer up in Canada, and unfortunately gave two to grip's breeder. One of these was placed in a very bad home against my will, but she refuses to let me buy it back. The other, I suppose is still with her. This experience was so awful (sending 2 pups off to a bad life) that I will never breed a dog again, as finding good homes is nearly impossible. I ended up keeping the other pups (the whole litter) rather than risk placing anymore in bad homes. They are now 2 years old and all females spayed!!!

Grip is not the only Pit Bull you've worked/titled. Please tell us something about some of your other dogs:

Well, there was Dread, of course. And Brittania. Britt was a Colby dog, black brindle, an awesome personality and tough, tough dog. Not soft at all. Working with her was like working with a room-mate, not a dog. You asked her to do things. She was one of the gamest dogs I have ever seen. She did outstanding weight pull (she also, did not care for it though and was only pulled enough to win her title). She earned her schutzhund titles with very high protection scores. She loathed obedience though, and was gun shy, so was unable to go on. She was used a lot for decoy certification, and lost both k-9's by snapping them off on hard sleeves. She never cared - she just grinned like a hockey player and spit out the teeth. She was one tough dude and I miss her terribly.

I also trained her son, Bad (aka Theodore Robert) but he never went to trial. He did earn his weight pull titles. I also worked with and trialed grip's sister "Little Bit" who was later killed by another sister while living with grip's breeder. I worked with and trained for trial grip's brother, who later died before being trialed while tiving with his owner. I have also worked with several other dogs of all kinds of breeding, from Am Staffs to Patrick and Sorrell dogs. My current pup and only working prospect is a pup from Bert Sorrell's dogs. He is 7 months old now. His training is on hold until the book is done.

Have you worked any other breeds, and if so, why is the APBT your breed of choice?

I have worked with just about every breed. I have owned Dobes, Rotts, German Shepherds, Cane Corso, Malinois, everything! I have titled Dobes to schutzhund and CDX and FH titles. I really enjoy my Dobes, and in fact enjoy many dogs. I just love dogs. (OK, except Aussies and Cockers and Chows!) Pit Bulls appeal to me because basically I am a friendly person who doesn't really want a "guard dog" so to speak. I like to do bite work, but want a friendly dog. The Dobes are just too aggressive for that, and the Cane corso will eat anyone within reach. The Pit Bulls have worked very very well for me, as they are so self confident that they love and trust people unless something shows them they should do otherwise! They seem to have the same attitude toward people that I do, so I can relate. I am not as comfortable with the aggressive, suspicious, nervy dogs. No other breed could do what my Pits have done working with the public the way they do. Here they are in a huge room, the lights off during a slide show, walking about unattended among all these people, but then when called upon, doing bitework (very intense bite work) for over an hour straight on these same people. And I might add, the bite work they do is off-lead, and 20 feet from me, and the people are all novices, and the dogs are so professional, so kind and forgiving, that no one has ever been hurt in 10+ years of doing this. I have never owned any other breed that could be this stable. Besides Pit Bulls are just so much fun! I really enjoy watching them enjoy springpole and treadmill, and all their other games.

What is it about this breed that makes it so suitable for so many types of activities?

Their stability for sure. I know of no other breed I can trust so completely. Their professionalism.

Have you faced any special challenges in your work with this breed? Perhaps predjudice from peolpe who utilize the more traditional breeds?

There is prejudice, and sometimes it is deserved. For instance, when I first started going to weight pulls with my well mannered dogs, the weight pull people were really leery, and I couldn't blame them. These absolute idiots were showing up with out of control dogs, and letting them frighten people. These same people complain when people want to put in place breed specific laws, but fail to understand that why shouldn't other dog people sit back and fail to fight for us? I wouldn't either if I was them. No one likes to feel intimidated by some straining, snapping dog at a family outing. Luckily, my dogs generally had a really good effect, and people tried very hard to be supportive, still it was (and continues to be) sad that these types of people ruin it for us all. In schutzhund, there has always been a lot of prejudice, and not all of it coming just from anti-Pit Bull people. For instance, in the United SchH Clubs of America, Pit Bulls cannot be shown. You have to call them mixed breed or Am Staffs, and that is the direct result of the efforts of two or three "anti-Pit Bull" Am Staff people. Very discouraging. I have never run into what I would consider really bad prejudice, as my dogs never failed to impress people and win friends, and by and large, everyone has been supportive in the sport. There has only been one blatant example of prejudice against my dogs, and that was when I foolishly showed grip under a judge who I had "taken on" over her support of banning the breed from SchH altogether that happened a few years ago in DVG. That was pretty dumb on my part, and sure enough, she got me good! Oh well, probably made her feel better! I showed Dread in AKC obedience with an ILP, and that was interesting. I think people kind of want to support anyone out there trying to do good with these dogs, but boy, in the world of the AKC there is so, so much prejudice and misinformation about Pit Bulls. Mind boggling really. And no where more than with Am Staff breeders. My advice to anyone is to ignore any prejudice and let your dogs temperament and performance work its magic.

What is one thing you wish the general public would come to understand about this breed?

That is a good question. I think so much damage has been done by books which picture the Pit Bull as a snarling man-biter. This is not the true nature of this breed. They are not, nor were they ever intended to be, a guard dog. Obviously this breed can perform man-work, but it should be controlled prey drive, not defense. A defensive Pit Bull is a cur. Unfortunately for the breed, there have been a couple books put out that promote the pit bull as a savage guard dog, and now people think that is not only acceptable, but normal. Those of us who know real, true Pit Bulls, know nothing could be further from the truth. I wish everyone could see a "real" Pit Bull, and understand. I really wish those with nervy, growly, man-biters would put their dogs down! Or at the very least stop breeding them.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Final thoughts/comments?

The single greatest threat to our breed today is the continuing flood of puppies finding their way into irresponsible homes. Someone somewhere is breeding all these dogs! However no one, not even the boys with ads in the ADBA Gazette, etc, which advertise multiple litters available will take the blame. The breed is being banned all over Europe. Believe me, the owners responsible for the problems there did not get their dogs from "back yard breeders", they paid big bucks to import them from "big name dogmen". Everyone says the "dog fighters" are not the problem. I beg to differ!