Edles Lehrer vom Haus Treehugger CGC

When I pictured my first dogs I saw solid, stable, capable, fearless dogs. Preferably a pair or Rottweilers, with stunning heads of course. I had been training for only a few years, but I was pretty good at it. I dreamed of beautiful militant dogs who asked how high when I told them to jump.

I never got my militant Rottweilers.
I'm not so sure I've ever had (or will have) any dog you could ever describe as "militant".

What I fell in love with was a fearful, anxiety ridden, socially incapable German Shepherd mix who just plain shut down when he couldn't deal with life. He ran from men, and shook violently in new places. If he was off leash, he just plain ran. I wanted him to learn new things, and all he wanted to do was hide in the corner and shake like a leaf. I loved him dearly, but we did not get along very well for the first few years.

At home, I would call him to me and he would run into his kennel for fear I was going to force him to do something - he didn't know what, and he didn't want to find out. His obedience was surprising great in a familiar place, but his previous training had not been a positive thing in his life.

I felt like all I was able to accomplish with him was to make us both miserable. Some days I thought I had made a terrible mistake adopting him. I didn't know if he could ever truly get "better" and I felt completely unqualified to help him. Technically, I was.

I decide to change all of his commands to German and started to focus on what he needed from me rather than what I wanted from him. I began to find the ability to let go of my unrealistic expectations. Slowly, he started to teach me and I started to figure out how to help him overcome his anxiety.

People who know my dog today simply don't believe me when I tell them the dog they are petting at one time would have run away from them peeing all over himself and shaking violently. His exceptionally sweet temperament and gentle manner never wavered and eventually he learned to be the same dog I saw at home out in the great big scary world.

Today, if you meet him at the dog park, he might walk up to you and stand just out of reach waiting patiently and politely for you to put out a hand and invite him closer. Put your face within licking range and you can bet you'll get a big kiss. It's ok if you're a stranger, Bailey has learned that strangers are pretty darn cool after all.

Bailey has taught me more than I could ever have imagined. He has weathered every storm to ever passed through my adult life, and has been the most faithful of companions. His paralyzing fear has faded almost completely away, and I am grateful every day to still have him with me. Every dog to enter my life after him will benefit from the lessons of my Edles Lehrer (noble teacher).

Thanks to Bailey, I now truly love working with shy/soft dogs. They force me to turn off the strong personality that comes naturally to me and soften myself to help them build confidence and work through their fears.  Seeing a dog transform from shaking leaf to beautiful butterfly is a gift in itself.