Locking Hearts, Not Jaws: Photographer’s Portraits Help Change Pit Bulls’ Reputation

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There are certainly dangerous “bullies” in the world, but photographer Doug Sonders doesn’t believe that pit bulls and other “aggressive” dog breeds should be named among them. After adopting a pit bull mix rescue named Emma from a local animal shelter, Sonders’ desire to advocate for these so-called “bully” breeds culminated in a portrait project called Not a Bully that serves to provide the public with positive exposure to these dogs.

In the following video, Sonders discusses his inspiring project and photographs a loving pit bull mix named Porter, who was rescued by his current guardian after being severely beaten by a real bully:

Like many of the dogs that Sonders has photographed for his Not a Bully campaign, Porter was viciously brutalized by humans but has displayed not one hint of resentment or violence since his rescue. In fact, Porter’s guardian, Julie Conway, describes him as “just a love” without a mean bone in his body and an “ambassador for the breed.”

“Porter is a really perfect example of what I’m trying to do with this portrait series because here’s an example of a dog that was found beaten, kicked, broken,” says Sonders. “Legislation is where it starts, and education. That’s the whole story. They’re not [bullies].

not a bully doug sonders cesar millan love my pitbull

a portrait from Sonders’ “Not a Bully” project

How to Relax a Dog During a Photo Shoot

To top it all of, Sonders is assisted during the photo shoot by Cesar Millan, a dog trainer who is widely known as a “dog whisperer” for his innate ability to understand dog behavior. Millan provides Sonders, Conway, and viewers alike with an expert tip on how to calm a dog during a portrait shoot. Rather than stroking a dog’s fur, Millan prescribes a deep tissue massage up and down middle region of the dog’s back.

“It’s best to do the deep tissue massage because that’s what relaxes the brain. If the brain is tense, he won’t stay there, but [the massage] forces the brain to relax,” Millan says as Porter enjoys the attention. “They’re locking hearts, not jaws.”

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2 Comments

  1. Danny says:

    It doesn’t change my mind about them.

  2. I unknowingly adopted a pit mix advertised as lab/boston terrier mix. I was a little intimidated at first because she was a jumper and was always staring at me. I was given hardly any info about her background. After settling in and getting to know each either I’m delighted to say she is the smartest most cuddly dog I have ever had. Still frightened of new things but growing her confidence more and more. And so friendly to others. She is responding incredibly well to basic obedience training. I look forward to her development and hope she can run off some of her energy with agility training. For now she is enjoying her head on my lap. And so am I. Thanks for this great video

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