This is often referred to as a time of miracles or as a season of giving. On this Christmas Day, we’d like to share with you a story that has quite a bit of both; miracles and giving. The story is about a big, beautiful GSP named Niels. He was purchased as a puppy by a couple that loved him and thought he was an incredibly special dog (they were not wrong!). They spent time training him, giving him attention and exercise, and even briefly considered breeding him as they thought him to be the most beautiful and perfect representation of the breed.
Unfortunately for Niels, his owners split and he began to have difficulties with being over-protective of his “Dad” – to the point of lunging threateningly at certain people. This was a new behavior for Niels and not something most dog owners are equipped to deal with – especially owners of GSPs. It is also something most trainers really aren’t able to deal with, especially once the behavior has gone on for awhile, but this is where the miracles began happening for Niels.
California GSP Rescue saw the potential Niels had and believed he could be re-trained. We saw what an incredibly loving dog he was and how trustworthy he was with people he knew. We believed he could be managed with an experienced owner and the right home. And a very giving and loving foster family decided to take him in and try to figure out what makes him “tick”.
To be honest, this is uncharted territory for California GSP Rescue. GSP’s aren’t known for being protective like this. Yes, we often say our GSPs are protecting us as they bark ferociously at the doorbell ringing, but we know they will slobber our guests with kisses, or at the very least give them lots of attention. We are used to teaching our GSP’s manners, not to counter-surf, how to hunt, and a trick or two, but to teach them not to consider strangers as a threat is something we aren’t used to doing.
After some training and learning to “read” Niels, we felt he was ready for adoption to a family that was committed to him and his rehabilitation. They employed a trainer and tried things that they hoped would re-condition him to accept visitors and strangers as friends, but it didn’t work out, and poor Niels was back in our kennels.
Niels’ previous fosters, Andrea, Dan, and Paige, were anxious to help Niels again – but requested a different kind of training support than they’d had before. As much as they loved Niels and as much as he was gentle and sweet with their family, they knew the potential he had to harm a stranger, and they felt what they’d tried with him before wasn’t quite “enough”.
Thanks to the very generous giving of California GSP Rescue supporters, we had funds available to have Niels and his foster family see a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist. There are only 5 Certified Veterinary Behaviorists in Southern California – so you can imagine they are both difficult to get in to, and more expensive than your average trainer. However, after Niels’ first visit, we knew this was worth it. This was a new approach. This was Niels’ chance to have a “normal” life again and it would be worth every penny.
The sessions would be useless without the follow up training needed – and this is where Niels’ foster family come in. This is Niels’ miracle – an entire family, along with their extended family and friends, that understands the precautions to take and the training needed to “undo” what Niels had learned before. They are happy to put in the work in the hopes the right adopter will be found one day. They are happy to put in the time in exchange for sloppy kisses and snuggles. They are a very giving family – they and the California GSP Rescue are Niels’ miracle, today and every day.
On Christmas Day, and every day, we at California GSP Rescue are very grateful for the many people who give to the rescue so that we can help miracles happen.
Learn more about Niels here.