Case Studies – Dogs In Crisis

Below are details of how I handled three different scenarios with dogs in crisis…

Pain  |  Exercise  | Desensitisation

Case Study 1 – Pain?

Ronnie the springer spaniel started showing some fear-reactivity as an adolescent. He was mainly reactive towards his owners, where Ronnie’s moments of aggression were both intense as well as seemingly unpredictable and out of place. He was so reactive that he needed to be muzzled at the groomers and vets too and was terrified of anything to do with grooming.

At the very start we discussed whether Ronnie could be in pain and his owners started the process of getting a diagnosis through their vets.

Alongside this we worked together on a whole range of ways of helping Ronnie feel safer and more comfortable at home and out on walks. Despite lots of progress it wasn’t until a year later when, finally, we had a diagnosis that Ronnie finally got the pain relief he needed. His humans’ have worked tirelessly to desensitise him to all aspects of grooming, and he is now able to tolerate some aspects of it without fear and anxiety. Since being on pain relief he’s been able to rebuild a trusting relationship with his family and has been free of reactivity since.

Ronnie, the springer spaniel in the bath

Here he is in the bath with a big smile on his face ?

Case Study 2 – Exercise

The calming power of physical and mental exercise

Bella is a bright large collie cross recently re-homed and with fear-reactivity towards dogs. She started to learn agility for weekly exercise and mental challenge and rapidly made great progress. Bella got used to other dogs being around the paddock learning that these dogs were always in control and no threat. Her owners also noticed that she stopped being reactive on walks after an agility session as she was naturally both mentally and physically tired.

Bella, the collie cross undertaking the agility course
Bella, the collie cross undertaking the agility course

Case Study 3 – Desensitisation

Lily the cockerpoo had been through puppy classes and done really well with all her training. At home and on walks, though, her anxiety often got the better of her. On walks she was constantly vigilant and other dogs sent her into a frenzy of running in circles. At home she developed an almost complete inability to settle herself worrying about noises and any separation from her owners. She was sleep deprived and exhausted!  She also begun to suffer from extreme anxiety at the groomers. Unlike many dogs who act out their extreme anxiety, Lily turned hers inside and begun to seem like she may self-destruct with anxiety.

Her owners worked hard to protect her from her triggers by sticking to short easy walks away from other dogs, whilst building positive associations with her crate and her magic mat by using a wide range of enrichment, games, and training. Then they used a steady process of desensitisation to her two main triggers other dogs and grooming equipment, although there were several aspects to both. It was a slow and very supportive process but over time and with lots of squeezy cheese and treats, and her mat, she learned that she could, in fact, tolerate the presence of other dogs and grooming. She learned to relax enough to smell the ground on walks, rather than vigilantly scanning for threats. She also learned how to feel safe settle herself at home and to sleep soundly again at night.

Lily, the cockerpoo sitting on her dog mat