A natural at communicating with canines

Since he was a boy, Martin Bell has gone from reputed gundog trainer in England to family-oriented dog whisperer in Houston.

Houston, TX, Feb. 11, 2008 – Martin Bell found his calling early in life. He grew up with hunting dogs and word soon spread in his small town in England that he had an uncanny ability to connect with canines. He was recruited to coach the parish priest’s compulsive runaway to stay, and the local post office’s incessant barker to hush. By age 13, Bell was training dogs professionally.

Houston Dog Whisperer

Bell’s reputation has since followed him across the Atlantic to Texas, where he has been a dog whisperer in Houston since 1996 at the 20-acre Shelmar Kennels just outside of Old Town Katy. His canine connection has rubbed off on his wife Shelly who has also become a leading dog whisperer in Houston. Shelmar was a moniker derived from combining the couple’s first names.

Natural training instinct

Bell’s natural instinct coupled with decades of experience in working with dogs has made him a master trainer. His focus is not only to modify a dog’s behavior but also educate its family to maintain a healthy, synergetic relationship. He approaches his vocation with a Zen mindset.

Houston's dog whisperer

“Training a dog is not a race. It happens slowly one day at a time,” Bell said. “I have a real talent for teaching people how to maintain good balance in their lives in general, and specifically between family and dog. My real skill in this business is not dog training per se but communicating how to maintain the dog’s good behavior. I’m a kind ear but I don’t let owners get away with fairytales. I pull them short when I see that the issue is manmade.”

Shelmar Kennels is

The only dog obedience school in Houston to offer a homeschooling program, a compassionate boot camp for dogs. Analogous to providing foster care for troubled kids, the Bells adopt dogs into their own home for four to six weeks to inculcate discipline and socialize them to a family environment. The couple has 12 dogs of their own ranging from prize-winning trial dogs to animals rescued from being destroyed that serve as role models to the trainees. Bell has won seven of the eight trials he has entered this year and is grooming six of his young pups for trials.

“Control in dogs is like an elastic band; the longer it gets the thinner it gets until it snaps,” Bell said. “You can tie a knot in it but it will never be as strong again. Allowing a dog to roam wild will inevitably lead to unwanted behaviors and when the dog gets out of control he will be much harder to reel back into control. Not allowing the band to stretch tight in the first place is the best way to stop it from breaking.”

Besides obedience training and boarding, the Houston dog whisperer also provides surgery recovery, injury rehabilitation and physical conditioning programs. A one-acre lake at the Shelmar compound is utilized to conduct water therapy for dogs recovering from injury as well as fitness regimens for dogs training to get in shape.