How One Rescue Dog Went From Homeless Pet to Television Star

Celebrity dog trainer Joel Silverman rescued Duchess and helped her grow.
By: Diana Bocco
Joel Silverman and his rescue dog Duchess

You might not know it, but you’ve probably met Duchess before—right through your TV screen. Starting last summer, Duchess has been the unequivocal star of a Chase bank commercial.

Getting there, however, took some work.

Celebrity dog trainer Joel Silverman—who trained Dreyfuss from the TV series “Empty Nest” and hosted Animal Planet’s “Good Dog U” for ten years—is no stranger to the charms of dogs. But when he first met Duchess at the Nevada Humane Society, she struck a cord. “There was something about her that just told me she wanted to meet me,” Silverman says. “She also seemed very smart right from the start.”

Silverman wasn’t exactly looking for a dog at a time—he was at the shelter filming an episode for his TV series “What Color is Your Dog?” But, as he puts it, sometimes the dog finds you anyway.

Duchess’ Story

Duchess, likely a mix of Border Collie and Australian Shepherd, was returned to the shelter three times because of some serious behavioral issues. “We don’t know much about the previous owners,” Silverman says. “When I adopted her, she was about a year and a half, and I noticed that many of her issues were related to the fact no one had ever trained her on the leash.” As a professional dog trainer, Silverman was able to work very closely with Duchess and turn her into a true success story.

Duchess came out of her shelter experience without major fear or anxiety issues—which is not always the case with abandoned dogs. “She does, however, tend to get excited,” Silverman explains. “The main training in re-adjusting Duchess involved teaching her not to jump on people and not to lunge on the leash.”

From Homeless to TV Star

In October 2014, Silverman received a phone call from Chase bank for a potential spot in a commercial. Turns out Chase was looking for people who had become stars in their careers and they wanted Silverman to be part of the commercial—which also featured fencing champion Tim Morehouse and tennis superstar Serena Williams. At the time, Duchess and Silverman had been together for a year. “I immediately mentioned to them that I would love to include Duchess in the commercial, and they were very receptive,” Silverman adds.

Duchess the dog starring in a Chase commercial

Preparing for the commercial took some work. “Much of the animal action in the commercial included quite a bit of natural behaviors, so there was not a lot of pre-training,” Silverman says. “However, the action at the end of the commercial was something that I taught [Duchess] to do.” The result? An ad featuring a very happy Duchess approaching an ATM, taking the receipt and looking at the camera while holding it, a trick that Silverman says took about a week to master.

The commercial first aired in August 2015 and it’s still in rotation as part of Chase’s television advertising lineup.

What’s Next for Duchess?

When Silverman is in the United States, Duchess joins her pet parent on the road. “We do a show during which she gets the chance to show off to the crowd, and she loves it!” Silverman explains. Duchess is also a regular on live appearances and on video. “Duchess is a working dog, and that is what she was bred to do,” Silverman says. “Her job, which she loves, is to work with me on television shows and continue to learn.”

Images courtesy Joel Silverman