When our grandson wanted a German Shepard puppy, we thought it would be an easy wish to grant and assumed that all you needed to do was potty train, teach some basic manners and the dog would know the rest.

When we picked Belle up at the airport, we found a terrified puppy who had traveled hundreds of miles in the belly of a dark, very loud plane. When we let her out of the crate, she flattened herself on the ground and was too frightened to move. It was a deeply traumatizing experience for her and was the wrong beginning in a series of wrong decisions.

Belle was potty trained quickly and seemed to be adjusting to a strange house, but she spent much of her time in a crate when people were too busy to watch her. When she did get out of the crate to play in the backyard, the kids were wary of her sharp puppy teeth, so playtime was short. Belle did have an outlet when she played with our Doodle and seemed happy, but as she grew, she displayed more mistrust of people and became very wary of visitors. When she nipped three family members, we contacted a trainer who promised fast results with an e-collar.

The trainer would work with Belle and our other dog, taking them to a park or the local hardware store, and after each session, we would receive videos showing our dogs sitting or in a ‘down-stay.’ It seemed easy. We watched videos and practiced, but we couldn’t duplicate the results. I thought I wasn’t using the controller correctly, so I asked the trainer to show me what I was doing wrong. In our living room, she had the dogs sit and then gave the ‘down’ command while pushing the button on the e-collar remote. Our Doodle responded by melting to the floor, but the German Shepard just stared at the trainer, who repeated the command, raising the collar’s intensity each time. Then, I realized I couldn’t duplicate the results because I wasn’t cranking up the shock collar. That was the end of the e-collar for us.

So now, we were sick with remorse and worry. We had mishandled her and mistreated her.
We could not relinquish her; rehoming her seemed like we would be passing a problem we had created off to someone else. We had hit bottom, and that is when we found Paula at Inspire Canine.

Paula explained that Belle needed to learn to trust humans and that we would need to go at Belle’s pace. This wasn’t about obedience. It was about undoing the behaviors that Belle had learned so she could cope with the stress and uncertainty of humans and her environment. We needed to make our actions and words predictable for Belle, like patterns she could learn and rely on.

Belle is a much different dog now, a happy dog. There is no ‘fast lane’ when unscrewing what you have screwed up. It takes patience and determination; Paula has expert levels in both.


~ Vickie Miller