Family Guard Dog Fetches $230,000 From Arizona Man; Highly Trained Canine Still "Unpredictable," Says Expert

In the "they-must-have-too-much-money" department, the New York Times reports that a debt-collection exec with homes in Arizona and Minnesota paid $230,000 for a family guard dog.

"Julia" spent three tough years of training in Germany and lived with the family of the training company's vice-president before moving in with bill collector John Johnson, the Times says. Now it's one of six German Shepherds that Johnson owns and shuttles between homes in a private jet.

"I've probably trained a thousand dogs, and she's the best I've ever seen," [said November Holley, vice president and head trainer of Harrison K-9 in South Carolina.] "The total package. Did absolutely everything you wanted, no questions asked. Good with kids, good with horses, good with cats. A perfect lady in the home."

Unless she decides to be a perfect bitch, instead.

Bringing a trained attack-animal into the home is "like playing Russian roulette," says Richard Polsky, a California animal-behavior specialist who testified as an expert witness in the infamous 2001 San Franciso dog-mauling case.


Although the dogs may be trained to distinguish between friend and foe, "it doesn't work that way all the time," Polsky says. "I think these dogs are very unpredictable."

A dog's behavior depends on the type of training it receives, but even allegedly high-level training is no guarantee a dog won't attack a family member, he says.

Polsky wasn't impressed by the dog's astronomical price, either.

"No dog is worth $230,000," he quips. "Whoever paid that much got royally ripped off."

We left a message for Harrison Prather, founder and CEO of the super-expensive dog-training firm, but he hasn't called us back yet.

We'll go ahead and assume that his dogs aren't genetically altered to grow thumbs and hold a handgun. Nor will Julia's farts smell sweeter when she gets old.

Sure, there's the brag factor. But for $230,000, Julia's still just a trained animal that may or may not bite the right person at the right time.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.