THE STORY OF 'ROCKY', A GERMAN
SHEPHERD/COLLIE X AND AMANDA JENKINS FROM BLACKPOOL (as told
by Amanda with comments from Dr David Sands)
'Rocky' is four years old now, Amanda bought '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 one afternoon, he destroyed
carpets, a three piece suite, scratched his way through doors
and generally reeked havoc.
(Hyperactivity, neurotic insecurity and Separation Related Disorder*).
*Exhibited by dogs that are distressed in the absence of a
keeper they have made a strong attachment to. Various behaviours
occur such as destructiveness (scratching and chewing), going
to the toilet (inappropriate urination and/or defecation), howling,
barking and whining. These behaviours reflect the emotional
state of the dog and are displayed to relieve the dog of its
distress. It is not dirtyness, vandalism and 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 all 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 set himself 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 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 the 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' (A Primary
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 (*Prozac 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. (*This decision is never
taken lightly - Rocky's condition was acute)
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.
The 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 etc, 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
taped 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 emits a foul
smell 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
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
Following Christmas 99, 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 the problem was due
to the upset in his routine over the holiday period. I sent
Amanda a "Husher" muzzle to try.
(A new Canadian product - an elasticated muzzle - to reduce
barking) The idea being, that whilst 'Rocky' could still drink
and eat, the resistance of the muzzle makes the jaw tired and
discourages barking. Amanda put the muzzle on him and 'Rocky'
went mad, rushing around the house with his foot stuck in the
strap, snorting and foaming at the mouth. 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
etc, 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
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 muzzle every time he's left (or bark!) and he
doesn't itch excessively. He has caused no damage to her house
in 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 showed 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 neurotic, sometimes full of fear and territorial
aggression. These dogs are hyperactive, introverted or extroverted.
It's the same with many dogs that originate from puppy farms,
commercial kennels and rescue. 'Rocky's' case is now 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.
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 advise from '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' would even win at Crufts.
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