CHICAGO (WLS) -- Bully dogs can sometimes get a bad rep, especially around children. But there's a new program underway in Chicago called "Don't Bully Me or My Bully," that's debunking that stereotype.
A first of its kind in the city of Chicago, this is a fun and rewarding program for the kids and the dogs. It teaches children responsibility and it shines a positive light on bull dogs. It's now underway in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
The children are on their way to becoming junior dog handlers. The junior dog handling program is the brainchild of Hakim Brimah, who along with others in the close-knit bull dog community, saw a way children could benefit from a connection with the breed.
"It teaches them discipline because you're dealing with a live animal, you have to take care of this animal, you have to train and feed this animal so it also brings responsibility into their life," said Brimah, of "Don't Bully Me or My Bully."
"They're very affectionate dogs, just a companion dog, I have four around my kids, my family each and every day, so I trust them," said Ernest Johnson, of "Don't Bully Me or My Bully."
Fifteen children between the ages of 6 and 16 are enrolled in this free program. Sponsors and donations cover the cost of everything, from the handlers who train the kids, to the space, equipment and dogs themselves!
Not only are the students learning how to handle and show the dogs, they're learning dog care, responsibility and what to do if a stranger approaches their dog.
"It's a challenge trying to get their attention, these kids are very intuitive, they ask a lot of questions, so you kind of have to be on your toes with them, but it's been a great experience," said Hannah Aba, a professional dog handler.
The students train for four weeks before presenting the bullies in their first show April 21.
"I think it will be fun, but you really have to focus, it's kind of like a competition, like where you have to focus more on the dog and how you stack the dog, greet the dog, feed the dog and everything like that," said Kaitlyn Webb, one of the dog handler trainees
"I think it's gonna be great, cuz I've never been in a dog show, but I'm not shy, so it's gonna be great!" said Mia Alvarad, a dog handler trainee.
"I hope to educate more people on Bully breeds and hopefully I can start my business - I don't have to start it now, but at a young age because I want to be a really young entrepreneur," said dog handler trainee Karly Moran-West.
"If I could change one of the kids' lives, that's a big accomplishment for me, I know what it's done for me, it's totally changed my life," said Brimah.
The skills these students learn as handlers will help in everyday life as well. After the show on the April 21, the program organizers hope to have the junior handlers take part in two or three more dog shows out of state - and perhaps out of the country, if they can get sponsorship.
To see the students Dog Show Competition: Tickets are now on sale on the event website. Purchase general admissions tickets now through April 14 and save $5, so instead of $20 at the door you pay $15. Visit thewindycityroundup.com for more information.
To become a sponsor visit this link.
Current sponsors include: Chicago Underground Bullies, Eminent Bully Kennels, Lou City Bullies, VBP, SSSerpents & Bullies, Toy Soldier Brand, Pawsitive Vibes Dog Training, Hard Time Bullies, Modelo Bullies, Maximum Bully & Solid Ground Bullyz.
Program brings kids and bully breed dogs together