Recently, George Gomez, Cesar’s Way Director of Video Production and longest-tenured employee besides Cesar, had to call “Cesar 911” himself for help with his Staffordshire pit bull mix Suzie, who had started to develop anti-social tendencies and show dog aggression.
When she also started to show aggression toward people, Cesar came to the rescue, and you can see the entire process in his new DVD, “Essentials of Dog Behavior: Socialization.” Here, we talked to George about how Suzie came into his life, how she started to misbehave, and how he learned to solve the problem.
* * *
So, tell us about yourself, and how you adopted Suzie.
I adopted Suzie about six years ago around 2009. I had been working with Cesar Millan for about three years and I had been holding out on getting a dog. My mother got a dog shortly after I was born and I had him until the age of nine.
I always knew at some point I would get another dog. When I started working with Cesar the idea of having a dog became more possible, but at no point did I actually tell myself that it was time.
What made you finally decide to adopt?
Three years into the job my girlfriend at the time received an email through a friend about a dog that was up for adoption at a local shelter. The email stated that if this dog was not adopted by the end of the week she was very likely to be put down due to overcrowding.
Originally, I thought the dog would be perfect for my mother. The email had a picture of a beautiful medium sized pit mix, and my girlfriend and I knew we had to go down to the shelter and see this dog. That day I ended up getting the dog for my mom.
A week later my mom told me that the dog was too much for her and that she was going to return the dog to the shelter unless I took care of her. At that moment, I became Suzie’s owner.
And when did you first notice a problem with her?
At first everything was great. Suzie showed no signs of aggression. She was a very social dog with humans as well as other dogs. The problems did not start until about a year after I had her.
I started to bring her to the office every day and started to notice that she would shy away from other dogs. When I took her to the park she would not want to mingle with other dogs. She would rather stay by my side or sniff the ground.
Eventually, she began to nip at other dogs that came near her. It was obvious to me that she did not want other dogs around her. So my time at the park became less frequent or when there were no other dogs around. When it was just the two of us she was the perfect dog.
Was she only aggressive toward other dogs, or did she have other issues?
Eventually, the aggression towards other dogs grew. What used to be aggression towards dogs that she didn’t really know eventually turned to dogs that she had met before.
Things started getting so bad that people stopped coming over with their dogs to see us because we didn’t know how she was going to react. Her growling turned into actual loud barking, and she almost bit a couple of dogs.
Why do you think this happened?
It was very obvious to me that she was clinging to me for dear life. She obviously felt that she needed to protect me. I had been working with Cesar long enough to know what was happening. I just did not know what to do about it. I felt stuck.
Any incidents that particularly stand out for you?
The point that got to me was when another person came to my office and she was aggressive towards them. She was beginning to show human aggression and that scared me. I can see that the problem was getting worse.
And how did you feel when this happened?
I was scared and angry. I pulled her away from the situation but I was really upset and confused about how to handle it. That’s when I asked Cesar for help. I had had enough!
Cesar worked with you on his recent Socialization DVD. Has it helped, and have you been able to follow through?
Working with Cesar really opened my eyes to what I was doing wrong and how I was allowing her to cling to me. I knew the clinging was bad and I also knew that my attempts at trying to get her not to do it were failing. I just did not know how to change what I was doing so she could give me the space I needed.
Working with Cesar not only gave me the knowledge I needed to claim my space, but also how to follow through. It was a great experience. Things have improved drastically to the point she has not shown any aggression since working with Cesar. I’m no longer stuck so she is not stuck either.
Was Suzie really being aggressive, or was it something else?
It is clear to me now that she was being protective and insecure at the same time. This created a situation where she felt completely confused about what to do. The result was to cling to me for dear life and fend off anything that came near because I refused to take the leadership role.
If you had to do it all over again, would you have still adopted Suzie?
Suzie was a godsend. I have a connection with her that is irreplaceable. She came into my life at the perfect time. And the auspicious way that our relationship came to be only proves to me how much this whole experience was meant to be. I would not change a thing.
Suzie is a Staffordshire bull terrier, which is one of the breeds considered to be “pit bulls,” and often banned. On a scale of one to ten, how “dangerous” would you consider her to be, and have you ever personally been afraid of her?
I have never been afraid of Suzie. She is truly the gentlest animal I have ever encountered. When I tell people about her past issues they just can’t believe that she had that in her. She is just a very sensitive animal that, with good leadership, can bring joy to anyone and everyone around her.
How well socialized is your dog? Tell us your story in the comments.