Harrison Prather, whose company recently sold a $230,000 "protection dog" to a Scottsdale man, says, in his 36 years in the business, not one of his animals has bit a family member.
We spent some time chatting with the CEO and Founder and Harrison K-9 in South Carolina yesterday, following our somewhat snarky blog post on Monday about the pricey "pet" that was featured on the front page of the Sunday New York Times.
As we mentioned, spending that much money doesn't guarantee the dog won't bite a kid instead of a bad guy. But if Prather's to be believed, the safety record of the thousands of working dogs he's sold over the years is spotless.
The dogs, which cost an average of $42,000, are typically trained in Germany in the schutzhund tradition for three years before Prather's firm gets them.
"I've never had one complaint, not one," Prather responds when asked if his animals have ever bit the wrong person. "I figured if it was ever going to happen, it would have happened by now. The bottom line is, these dogs are safe with kids."
He has received some complaints, on the other hand, that his dogs aren't aggressive enough. That's simply because most dogs don't encounter many attackers, just as a purchased handgun may never see any action outside of the shooting range.
Primarily, the dogs provide a "physical and psychological deterrent that 99 percent of people would never challenge," he says.
Of course, a pit bull mix from the pound could do that, too, for about $60. And if you raise a puppy around your kids, our best guess is that mutt would be just as safe -- if not safer -- as a family pet than a dog that cost as much as a decent house.
Still, we wouldn't deny Prather the right to find a bunch of wealthy suckers who'd rather own a family pet that also serves as a major status symbol.
There's no denying that a lot of effort goes into these animals before they're sold.
While an untrained dog may or may not show aggression if someone breaks into the home, a "protection dog" supposedly will know what to do. Rather than deliver a bite and run, or scurry off after a "bop on the nose," these pricey pooches are much more likely to stay in the fight, Prather says.
He admits that a few vicious barks at an intruder by our hypothetical, cheapo mutt, followed up by the appearance of a homeowner with a handgun, is also effective protection. But "the average person doesn't have a firearm in the house, or if they do, the woman of the house isn't comfortable with it," Prather says. (Yes, his theory may even apply in Arizona, which actually has a surprisingly low gun-ownership rate, according to a recent survey.)
About 15 years ago, a dog he'd sold bit the estranged husband of a woman as he tried to enter a home through a window while armed with a knife.
Of course, none of this means a family dog is actually worth a five- or six-digit pricetag. Prather says the tidal wave of press coverage he's received since the Times story also resulted in at least one outraged caller to his firm.
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"I told him, 'Look, I'm sorry your'e out of work. It's not my fault," he says. "Forgive me for being successful."
A conservative Vietnam vet who says he's convinced that President Obama is a Muslim, Prather confesses that he didn't realize making the front page of the New York Times was such a big deal. He's received more than 100 media calls in recent days and got a call from ABC's Nightline while we were on the phone with him. Prather says he's now got four offers from TV network representatives who want him to sign an exclusive agreement for a TV series about the training company.