Mullen also trains dog owners to pay attention to their pets’ behavior so that they know what to do and more importantly, sometimes, what not to do.
She recently transitioned Teddy, a German Shepherd, to his new home at the U.S. Embassy in Poland to live with Ambassador Mark Brzezinski.
Teddy had been attacked by a group of off-leash dogs on a dog-friendly beach, resulting in some anxiety, and then again while running with the ambassador along the Potomac River two months later. Mullen helped ease Teddy’s anxiety, as well as build coping skills, particularly when Teddy was around other dogs and didn’t react with what seemed like aggressive behavior (barking, growling), but was, in fact, defensive because of the times he’d been attacked.
“For the two weeks before Teddy and I departed, the plan was simple — 90% calm (rest, relaxation exercises, lots of sniffing walks), 10% excitement (play, running, seeing foxes!). With my four dogs in my home, we probably achieved a 75/25 ratio, yet we headed to Warsaw in a relaxed state,” Mullen said. “Also, Ambassador Brzezinski was willing to unlearn some pervasive dog behavior myths and learn the latest science on canine cognition and behavior, and that made our endeavor a success.”
Mullen helped Teddy transition into the Chief of Mission Residence (CMR) in Warsaw, establishing a daily routine that included playing in Warsaw’s parks and acclimating him to meetings with the ambassador with new people. She devised a “jingle signal” placed near the stairs so that when a visitor was about to arrive, Teddy got a snack, preventing any startle response.
“Beth gave me the tools to build Teddy’s confidence and understand how the environment affects his behavior,” Brzezinski said. “An international move is a significant change for a person, and I understood Teddy’s first impression of the CMR and Warsaw needed to be positive.”
Mullen returned to the embassy in Poland last summer after Brzezinski’s mother Emilie, a sculptor and artist, died. Mullen spent time in Jupiter, Fla., to work with Emilie Brzezinski’s dog Daisy, also a German Shepherd, who was depressed and lethargic.
“ My mission was to make her happy again. ”
— Elizabeth Mullen
Learning things at an older age is possible with patience and deep understanding and respect for a dog’s needs and fears, Mika Brzezenski posted on Instagram about Mullen’s success with Daisy.
Both dogs are now thriving in their new home.
Mullen is a certified behavior consultant-knowledge assessed and certified professional dog trainer-knowledge assessed. She is on the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers board of directors. In September, Mullen was appointed to a new Animal Services Advisory Committee by the County Executive of Montgomery County, Md. She is a mentor for professional dog training students enrolled in the Victoria Stillwell Academy. Mullen lives near Bethesda, Md., with her husband and five dogs.