THE STORY OF 'ROCKY', A GERMAN
SHEPHERD/COLLIE X AND AMANDA JENKINS FROM BLACKPOOL (as told
by Amanda with comments from Dr David Sands)
Amanda bought (rescued) 'Rocky' from a pet shop at the age of 10 weeks where he was sitting on his own in a cage! Apparently 'Rocky' had been previously sold to another family who took him back and demanded a refund after two weeks because he was just too naughty!! At first Rocky was no problem. O-K, he was a little bit mischievous but because of his size he was limited to what damage he could do. 'Rocky' and Amanda soon became devoted to each other and very quickly were inseparable. 'Rocky' would even follow her to the bathroom. At about 6 months old his behaviour became problematic due to being big enough to cause considerable damage.
'Rocky' managed to completely wreck a double bed in an afternoon
He went on to destroy carpets, a three piece suite and scratched his way through doors
He would generally create havoc all around him
(Canine insecurity, Hyperactivity and Separation Related Disorder*).
*Exhibited by dogs that are stressed when ‘home-alone’ after they have formed an unhealthy attachment to an owner.
Various behaviours occur Destructiveness (scratching and chewing)
Indoor toilet accidents (inappropriate urination and/or defecation in the home) Howling, barking and whining
Pacing and repeated grooming (licking)
These behaviours reflect the emotional state of the dog and are displayed to relieve the dog of its distress.
It is not dirty, vandalism or antisocial behaviour as we know it.
'GIVE ME A PUPPY UNTIL HE IS SEVEN AND I WILL GIVE YOU
When 'Rocky' was 12 months old Amanda moved house. The new home was in a rural location and had a huge conservatory with a tiled floor. For the next twelve months or so Amanda had the perfect solution to 'Rocky's' problem behaviour. She removed all the furniture out of the conservatory and turned it into Rocky's playpen! Amanda did however, leave him in the car for 10 minutes whilst she nipped in a shop and on return 'Rocky' had; ripped down the roof-lining, dug a hole in the back seat, ripped up the carpet and chewed off the seat belts! Sometime later, 'Amanda's partner of five years left and Rocky seemed to become more anxious. However, Amanda found this behaviour manageable because he went in his "playpen" when she was out and was (she thought) fine when Amanda was with him.
In December 1998 Amanda moved to a new house to be nearer to her job. The new house didn't have a conservatory and Rocky had to be left in the house. She shut him out of her bedroom and the lounge in a bid to minimise the damage but it soon became apparent that this was far from satisfactory. 'Rocky' damaged carpets and doors in a bid to be free. He would swing on curtains until the rail gave way and they fell down! At roughly the same time, 'Rocky' developed a problem with his 'bottom' and it seemed to be causing him some pain. Previously he had been so disruptive in the vet's surgery that they had been desperate to provide a quick fix and get rid of Amanda and her dog. Due to the house move Amanda registered with a new vet at Layton, Bruce Crowther. At our first appointment Rocky, true to form, steamed in, knocking the table flying and all the instruments off the trolley. Bruce was clearly disturbed by this, but gave Rocky a thorough examination and identified a problem with his anal glands*.
(*Anal gland impaction or infection may be linked to territorial
Bruce emptied 'Rocky's' anal glands and told Amanda to bring him back if the problem recurred. Six weeks later, they were back in the surgery with the same problem, except this time, Amanda had come to a very painful decision. 'Rocky' and she would have to part company. Amanda, on the edge of despair, just couldn't allow him to continue wrecking her home. In addition to which he clearly was very distressed in himself. Amanda recalls sitting in the vets consulting room, crying her eyes out, explaining to the vet that Rocky meant the world to her, but that she couldn't carry on. 'Rocky' was, at that time, pacing around the room squeaking and chewing his feet. Bruce said he could see that her dog had a chronic anxiety problem in addition to his anal gland problem. Bruce said he would understand completely if Amanda decided to have Rocky put to sleep, but that she could try one last resort first. Bruce could refer 'Rocky' to an animal psychologist. Bruce explained that he wasn't qualified to deal with the problems and likened it to a human with severe mental health problems. Amanda jumped at the chance to help Rocky and gladly took up the offer of the referral. She remembered, Bruce telling her that whilst the animal psychologist had a good reputation but he wasn't God!
CALLING DR DAVID SANDS
Amanda went straight home that day and made the call, in tears again. She explained to me what the problems were. The following Tuesday, I travelled to Blackpool to see 'Rocky' and Amanda. There was a trail of devastation for me to see. Amanda recalled that I made it very clear that this was one of the worst cases I had seen and that, while I would do my best to help, it would take hard work and commitment on Amanda's part. Thankfully, Amanda followed my behavioural advice 'to the letter' (Therapy to make a dog more secure with its keeper and to desensitise it to keeper absence) and the results were astounding. Within a week Amanda reported that 'Rocky' was visibly less agitated and whilst he was still doing some damage it wasn't nearly as bad. I decided to put Rocky on ‘Clomicalm’ (*SSRI treatment for Separation related Disorder which must run alongside behavioural therapy) to help 'Rocky' to take on board the new training and within a month he was a different dog. (*Medication use suspended in all cases from early 2001 as we prefer to counter the condition rather than the signs. This decision taken at the time because of Rocky's acute condition)
It would have been easy to think that the job was done, 'mission accomplished'! But Amanda knew that 'Rocky' needed to continue with the training for the rest of his life if it was to be successful. Amanda was more than willing to do that, as she knew the alternative was having him put to sleep.
TThe next hurdle was Rocky's operation to remove his anal glands! Both Bruce (Vet) and Amanda were very keen that the operation shouldn't jeopardise the behaviour therapy. Amanda consulted me. I advised her with some confidence that this operation would be fine. The key to a successful treatment was to remain perfectly calm and relaxed in 'Rocky's' presence and not to show any signs of panic or concern for his condition I advised Amanda that if she remained calm so would 'Rocky', and so they did! Success! And what a relief it was. 'Rocky' even wore the lampshade collar without a worry in the world!
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH
Then, 'Rocky' started to itch excessively. Bruce went through all the usual things and treated him for allergies but nothing seemed to work. It was at this stage that Bruce (vet) decided Amanda needed to 'send for re-enforcements' and she called for me again! Amanda and I discussed 'Rocky's' itching at length and Amanda observed Rocky for some time. She video-filmed him for an afternoon to see just how bad his itch was when he was alone and amazingly 'Rocky didn't itch once!! With my prompting Amanda embarked on a course of behaviour treatment involving a Remote controlled scent-collar, which beeps first and then a second button sends out a burst of citronella when activated. Amanda started the treatment immediately and she did say that a faint hearted person would have given up! The activation of the collar caused a major attack of anxiety involving 'Rocky' running frantically around the room yelping. Amanda and I agreed that she should call 'Rocky' over and offer reassurance at this stage. She did this and indeed within 5-6 days 'Rocky' had significantly cut down on the itching. He did however then move onto other attention-seeking ploys, such as chewing his feet and repetitively licking them. Amanda used distraction to overcome this, by giving him a bone to lick, as it was clear that he gained some comfort from the licking motion.
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
Following Christmas 1999, Amanda returned to work, having spent quite a lot of time with 'Rocky' over the holiday period. She returned home one day to be met by a very angry neighbour, who informed her that Rocky had barked non-stop all day. Amanda rang me (once again!) and I explained that this was due to his routine being disturbed over the holiday period. I sent Amanda a ‘Husher’ muzzle to try.
(A Canadian product - an elasticated muzzle - to reduce barking) The idea being, that whilst 'Rocky' could drink and feed the resistance of the muzzle makes the jaw tired and discourages barking. When Amanda put the muzzle on him 'Rocky' went mad, rushing around the house with his foot stuck in the strap, snorting and foaming at the mouth. She explained that it was very distressing to watch, but as with previous things, Amanda let him see no emotion in her face. She left the muzzle on him for about 5 minutes then removed it, praised him and gave him a treat. She did this repeatedly over about two weeks, sometimes putting the muzzle on and taking him out for a walk to distract him. After two weeks 'Rocky' was quite happy to wear it and would happily lie down and go to sleep in it and play with his toys, without trying to remove it. At that stage Amanda left him wearing it whilst she was out. The secret was to not just put it on for the first time and go out for the day! But to take time to introduce him to the muzzle before leaving him with it.
In conclusion, Amanda and I both feel that Rocky will always have some "mental health" problems! He is now off the 'Clomicalm' and has been for over 6 months. 'Rocky' doesn't wear the ‘Husher’ every time he's left or barks and he doesn't itch excessively. There was no further damage in her house for 12 months.
Final comments from Amanda
"Due to the extensive work that both you and Bruce have
done with Rocky, I am now fortunate enough to be the proud owner
of the most lovely, obedient dog in the world!!!! However he
still has his little quirks! He will always try to dream up
new ways of getting attention but now, I know how to deal with
this behaviour to put a prompt stop to it. If necessary I call
you or if its medical Bruce! Some of the things he's done are:"
- Licking his feet
- Being Sick (Doggy form of Bulimia!)
- Coughing (as if choking)
- Yelping (as if he's been stung, but there is never anything
- Pawing at my hand or rubbing against my leg
- Licking me or nuzzling me with his nose
- Irritating the cat (so I will tell him to stop!)
"The most important thing is that Rocky is happier and
more secure in himself, he does like attention but he can manage
without it. He has become a lot more resourceful and dependent
on himself. Some of the treatments have been difficult to understand
and to keep up with because he seemed to be distressed, but
all along I've trusted David's judgement (not always without
arguing!) but the results speak for themselves, they've literally
saved his life."
Amanda Jenkins 14th April 2000
Amanda's dog presented the typical signs of behavioural problems for a puppy originating in a pet shop and especially one that had been re-homed (effectively the results of being returned). They are often nervous and full of fear leading to territorial and dog aggression. These dogs are hyperactive, introverted or extroverted. It's the same with many dogs that originate from puppy farms, commercial kennels and rescue. The case of Rocky is quite famous. It has been discussed with almost every client who has contacted the Animal Behavioural Clinic regarding a dog suffering from Separation-related Disorder. The success of the treatment for 'Rocky's' condition is down to Amanda's fabulous determination not to lose her 'friend' and companion. Success is now almost 100%.
As you can see from the photographs on this website, 'Rocky' is a 'fine looking' dog with a lovely keeper. We are very proud of both of them. The treatment and advice for 'Rocky' spanned more than a year. At one stage 'Rocky' needed two operations. The first to treat a granuloma on the leg and the other to treat an infected anal gland. Bruce could do neither until 'Rocky' has chilled out. Amanda did all the things asked of her and more. 'Rocky' had the operations and came through them well. The treatment worked. Lots of our special controlled walks and plays and some other secrets. Now with clicker and disc training 'Rocky' might even win at ‘Scruffs’.
No-one should have to consider euthanasia for a dog suffering
from psychological condition. It's not different from broken
leg. A broken psyche is not as easy to see!
Dr David Sands PhD August 2000