Belle… and the “good life”

I’d been pulling weeds in the yard and was hot and sweaty and just wanted to sit in the shade and enjoy the breeze with my dogs. I have a perfect spot – second story covered deck with a nice view and cool ocean breezes.

Belle did great. She was uninterested in birds, and other dogs barking. She sat with me and when a couple people walked out to get into a car below the deck, she watched but didn’t bark or growl or move. We’ve been out here for over an hour and now she’s sleeping!

Belle… and the roofer

The latest home repair project involves a crew of roofers.  It’s very loud work, tearing off the old coverings, banging nails and sawing wood.  I’ve been timing the potty breaks to before the crew arrives, during their lunch break and after they leave for the day.  However, one lunchtime potty break, Belle and I were walking to the back yard and six feet directly above Belle one of the workers began speaking in a very loud deep voice.  This startled Belle, but she didn’t bark, lunge, or drag me into the bushes.  Instead, she stopped and tried to see where the voice was coming from.  I said ‘let’s go’ and together we walked away from the workers and, after the potty break we walked back into the house without incident.

Clover… and the gaggle of girls

We had a gaggle of girls over for a sleepover on Sunday night. We mostly had Clover at daycare while the kids were over and then had her back in our bedroom when she was home. However we took the opportunity to do some people practice (all just OSR from the couch). This pic is from when only one extra girl was with us. She noticed another person was there and then laid down within about 5 min. The second time we brought Clover out was when we had 3 extra girls having breakfast. Clover came out and we did OSR before she went on her morning walk. The 5 girls total were very loud and squealy and she did great. Patiently waited to be taken on her walk.

Belle… and the work trip

I’m headed for to the airport and Belle is snugged-in at Shadowridge. Hand-off went well, probably the best she’s done. 4 other dogs in the lobby, she looked at them but we kept moving. She went right up to the tech and sniffed her, small tail wag…




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

Clover… and the blood draw

Clover did A+++++ at the vet today (round 2, the makeup appt). She allowed lots of touching, stethoscopes, and a BLOOD DRAW without an issue. The vet was going to let the blood draw slide if we needed to but they decided to try and Clover just ate her Vienna sausages the whole time. No growling or freezing throughout. Some pauses and side eye to see what they were doing but she did so awesome. The vet and tech were so impressed and pleased. She ended on a very positive note wagging and waiting for more snacks. And she sat really pretty on the scale. Such a star student.

Clover… and a new friend?

Clover had day care today and they said she’s been doing great lately. No growling. And one person said she even played the other day. Sounds like her confidence and outlook is staying with her through day care! Yay

Clover… and the “gift”

Clover did OMG amazing with guests over. Like, I think my friends were thinking I was being dramatic about Clover and her social anxieties. We had a couple curve balls and she was a total pro. Clover handled new people coming in the door great from her crate. My sister and friend also came with my niece (15, who Clover knows) and my friends 5 yr old. So it was more people and commotion upon entry than I planned but Clover didn’t bark or growl. She was laying in her crate and pretty calmly watching.  I left her in there until she seemed calm and everyone had settled. I had the kids take the 5 yr old out of the room and asked them to keep her distracted (well, that was the plan) before I brought Clover out, with the goal of having  just my sister and my one friend (who Clover has never met) in the main room. When ready I brought Clover out and did OSR in the living room with her (with my friend and sis over in the kitchen). We did that for a bit and Clover did awesome. No growling or barking. She definitely noticed my sister and seemed to want to say hi but we just did our thing in the living room for about 25 min. She was laying down and got blinky eyes and seemed very comfortable. At one point the 5 yr old ran into the room to bring her mom a flower and Clover didn’t startle or bark. She sat up and watched until Ellie (the 5 yr old) left and we went back to OSR. Then Ellie ran back in suddenly and ran up to me to give me a flower so she and Clover were very close. Clover again didn’t startle. Clover was going to sniff at her so I just said “stop” (because I wasn’t sure if she would tip into higher gear) and Ellie handed me the flower and ran off. And Clover and I went back to OSR. I was really surprised at how well she handled that unexpected situation with an unpredictable kid. She seemed more curious than nervous. A little more arousal but not orange. No freezing or staring. Then it was time to go back to the bedroom so I said let’s go and we started going that way. Clover was really trying to get to my sis and friend.  Since she was doing so great I made a game time decision to let her say hi. I walked my friend thru how to give her a piece of food for eye contact and said go say hi and Clover right away sat down in front of her and started taking food from her. She was sniffing my friends legs and gave her a couple licks. Nothing frantic. Then we ended on that good note and went back to the room. Later Brian needed to take her out for a walk and the only way out was to walk past the room full of people. My two other friends who Clover hadn’t met had arrived so there were maybe 6 of us in the room and she walked through no problem (both coming and going). She was definitely seeming like she wanted to go interact but I wanted her to have a positive night so with the full group we didn’t risk it, we just said “let’s go” and off she went. A huge success!! I was anticipating some barks so was surprised that she just sailed through so well.

It was great to see her have confidence in those moments when she’s been so anxious in the past. I was proud of both of us for sure but Clover seemed to be really happy with herself and that was good to see. Yay!

Clover… and the dog

Clover had a GREAT reaction to a dog today. We were on our usual nature walk and going back to the car where it’s easier to see dogs walking on the street (not close, but usually triggers a big reaction). There are also lots of people walking since the trail is right next to a middle school.  And the trash truck had arrived so it was a bit loud. Before we saw any dogs I noticed her go into hyper vigilance mode looking for dogs walking so we just stopped walking and did the OSR routine. Didn’t take long before she saw a dog and started to lunge forward growling but I just stayed put and when she felt the tension in the leash (not from me yanking, just from her own move forward) she stopped and looked at me so I said GG and gave her piece of food. From there, she was definitely looking for the dog and trying to watch it but she wasn’t lunging or growling. In fact she sat down and was settling herself and checking back w me and I would say GG and give her food. She was able to watch the dog walk by without the usual reaction, which is a first. So we did a big celebration about that. Today was the first time I’ve seen her check in with me like that with dogs and settle herself back down without going into her usual full reaction mode. Yay!!

Clover… and the second tech

Clover had a great happy visit yesterday. Theresa met us at the car so we did the same thing I did when you did that. Clover did great.  Inside, they introduced a second vet tech into the room because some care will likely require two so they wanted her to get used to more bodies in the room. Clover was able to walk through the lobby (past a kid who talked to her) and into the room with the second tech and no reaction. Her tail remained slightly tucked for most of the visit but she also ate treats from the new techs hand right away and allowed touch so we all considered that a big win. She gave a few tail wags toward the end. I’ve been doing the OSR with her in the garage (with door open and door closed) and it’s going well. I just need to record it.  And by “no reaction” I mean no growls. A little tentative but approached the second tech, was sniffing, starting eating from her hand right away. Good recovery when little startles happened.