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Standard Poodle Learns to Play

October 8, 2009

I met Gabriella in the living room of her parents’ house. She was a beautiful, well-groomed apricot Standard Poodle. Her parents had spoken of her in my office because they were worried about her.

Gabriella could not act like a normal dog. She was rescued from a garage where she and her sister had spent the first year of their lives. Only a dog bed with food and water thrown in to them most days.

My clients adopted Gabriella when she was a year old and her sister had been taken from her weeks earlier.

They built Gabriella a doggie clubhouse in between the BMW and the Mercedes, complete with LL Bean dog beds and a blanket roof. A doggie door from the front hall of the house into the garage, and another to the outside gave her freedom to come and go as she pleased. They adopted a normal, happy black Standard Poodle puppy to keep her company.

Each night, Max snuggled into his dog basket in the master bedroom and Gabriella perched in hers, and they were tucked under their genuine shearling Woolrich blankets. Gabriella was as loved as a dog could be.

Yet Gabriella was still having trouble. She would sit in a corner and stare at the wall for hours. She didn’t know to come when she was called, even for food. She leaned on her Poodle brother Max, but would never join him to play.

I asked Gabriella to sit, and she could only look at me and jiggle her head and stand there. After a several- hour behavior consult, her parents decided medication was needed to help balance her brain chemistry.

Often, behavior modification through exercises and conditioning will provide permanent and lasting change. But a beginning is tough when you can’t even focus.

Two weeks after starting medication, I received a phone call.

“She’s like a new dog! She even picked up a ball and romped in the yard yesterday!”

Gabriella will never be normal. Dogs have a certain window for development up until 6 months old. If a dog does not experience people by 6 months, they never feel comfortable unless in the company of dogs. They are very much like children locked away who never learn to speak. If they do not do so by the age of about 6, it cannot happen.

But with a family that never gives up on her, Gabriella makes progress every day!

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