with clients on serious behavior issues can be quite
challenging and, at times, disheartening.
often are unable or unwilling to put in the time it
takes to modify a dog’s behavior. So it is
particularly satisfying to have clients who are willing
to do whatever it takes to resolve an issue. Such is the
case with Esther and Jesse and their dog Bella.
and Jesse are schnauzer fans, and they have had numerous
giant, standard and miniature schnauzers over the years.
When they adopted Bella, 3, a standard schnauzer, they
knew she had not been properly socialized. In fact, she
had spent her life in a rural kennel setting, with
little interaction with people.
immediately bonded with Esther, in a rather unhealthy
way. Frightened and insecure, she guarded Esther, and
growled at anyone who tried to get near her, including
husband Jesse. Esther enrolled Bella in one of our
classes for some socialization and manners, and Bella
did very well as long as no one paid her any direct
attention. But at home, Jesse was the enemy. Bella made
it clear that Jesse’s presence was upsetting, and the
stress level in the house continued to rise.
is kind and gentle, and it made little sense that Bella
was so frightened of him. When he entered the room,
Bella would often growl at him and slink away, or growl,
lunge and nip at him when he approached Esther. After
nearly two years of this, Jesse had had enough. The
final straw was the third bite — Jesse had become
genuinely afraid of Bella.
was either Bella goes, or Jesse goes," Esther
recalls. Their final attempt at fixing this issue was
scheduling a behavioral consultation.
getting a complete history, we devised a plan. I had
Esther withdraw from Bella as much as possible, avoiding
any interaction, and Jesse became a human slot machine
that spewed treats like crazy when he and Bella were in
the same space. In the beginning, Jesse didn’t look at
Bella or even speak to her; he just tossed cookies at
her frequently. He also took over feeding her and was
the only one available for affection and interaction;
any attempts to gain affection from Esther were ignored.
Thankfully, Jesse had never resorted to correcting or
punishing Bella when she growled or snapped; both he and
Esther knew from lots of experience that punishment
wouldn’t solve this problem.
one month, Bella was allowing Jesse to pet and hold her
— a huge accomplishment. After a few more months,
Bella began sleeping next to Jesse on the bed, freely
gave him "kisses," and genuinely enjoyed
spending time with him. The growling, nipping and
fearfulness faded away.
six months later, Jesse and Esther have a peaceful,
loving relationship with Bella. She is no longer afraid
of Jesse, but considers him to be the primary cuddler
and the giver of all things "yummy for her
tummy." Esther now feeds Bella, and Jesse is no
longer required to be the human slot machine, but is
always receptive to Bella’s overtures for interaction
these little successes that motivate us trainers to push
on, and continue to offer positive solutions to often
very challenging behaviors.
damaged dogs, extra kindness along with lots of
repetition of trust-building exercises can and do yield
great results. Kudos to Esther and Jesse for hanging in
there; Bella is now another cherished member of their