One glance from Cocoa, a boxer mix, told Susan Jewell all she needed to know.
"He gave me that look that says, 'I'll chew you up,'" she says. "I had to decide at that moment who would win."
She put more on the line than risking a nip from the 45-pound dog. She hoped to save the life of an animal already responsible for biting his owner, an owner ready to euthanize the pet.
For Jewell, who runs Oak View Dog Training in Jewell Ridge, VA, the complaint was all too common. The dog ruled the home, knowing no boundaries and willing to back up the attitude with sharp teeth.
But Cocoa responded to sessions at Jewell's dog training kennel. "As far as I know, he is still with the family," she says.
Jewell, though, has no mysterious formula for taming a canine, offering instead common-sense lessons owners with enough interest and time can adopt. "So much of it is how a dog is raised, and all dogs can be trained," she says.
For six years, Jewell, 44, has worked full time to pass along the lessons, training dogs while also informing owners. A criminal justice major in college, she worked for several years as a paralegal but always maintained her interest in dogs.
Dog owners pay for her to take in their pets, who live at the kennel for sessions that usually require three weeks to complete. She also does community workshops on housebreaking and basic dog training.
"People come to me all the time who see their dogs as their little babies, but they're not. That's why people have the problems they have," Jewell says. "The dog doesn't have a normal train of thought about what his normal life should be, which is to play, get dirty, and get tired."