Not your average Bear.

Not your average Bear.

This handsome guy is Bear. For the most part, Bear is your typical boxer-mix – energetic, playful, and loyal. But not long ago, and for some unknown reason, Bear developed an intense fear of men. So his mom called me, not only to give Bear a much-needed workout, but also to see if we could socialize him.

The first appointment was interesting, to say the least. As I approached the house, I could see Bear sniffing around the front lawn without a care in the world. As soon as he spotted me though, his ears went back and his tail tucked down. Apparently, this is his standard reaction to any man other than the client’s boyfriend. I was apprehensive at first, but it quickly became clear that Bear was not the aggressive type. Instead, he hid behind is mom, even as she moved around to introduce us.

I am not a dog trainer by any stretch of the imagination. But it doesn’t take Cesar Millan to tell this was a delicate situation. If we wanted Bear to trust me, we had to do it at his pace. So that first session we walked barely a block – with the client holding the leash, and Bear avoiding me at all costs.

We tried again a few days later. This time the three of us walked a few blocks, then we took the huge step of me taking the leash. Next, I tried walking Bear ahead of his mom. So far, so good. Eventually, I was able to run him on my own about 3 or 4 blocks, though Bear was still turning his head back him every few seconds. Nonetheless, that was our breakthrough. And we haven’t look back (literally and figuratively) since.

This morning, Bear and I had our fourth run together. He’s not completely over his anxiety – he still gets skittish if there’s a sudden noise or movement – but the progress he’s made is incredible. Once he gets into a groove on the run, he relaxes and goes back to being a happy-go-lucky dog.

But the biggest sign that we’re on the right track happened this morning. As I walked up to the house – just as I had done a few weeks ago – I see Bear sitting patiently in the lawn. This time though, he didn’t retreat behind his mom. Instead, he perked up a bit. He remained still, watching my every move. Then ever so slightly, his tail started to wag.