Wilma's story, written by her owner Kay:
Wilma came to live with us when she was 8 weeks old, she was one of nine puppies and had been raised in a home environment with lots of socialising with people, children, her parents and littermates. In that environment she was very docile, snoozy and cuddly. However from the time we arrived home she behaved quite differently. Our household is very quiet and calm, I had puppyproofed the house and garden and she loved all her toys, crate and playpen. However she spent most of her waking hours racing around rushing at people, tearing up her beds and toys and very rarely laying down.
When we tried to play with her she would chase her toy or play tug for a few seconds but then move on to something else. Every sound and movement got her attention, she was always on ‘red alert and ready for action’. I kept everything as calm as I could at home and only ever spoke to her in a calm, quiet, even voice. She seemed to like our company but would not come to us to be patted or cuddled. When she did sit close she would let us pat or stroke her a few times and then jump away and run off .
I took her to Puppy School and then on to Dog School. I persevered for months but she was unable to curb her excitement at seeing the other dogs & people, even though the class was very small and she saw the same people and dogs each time. She would spend the class up on her back legs lunging and straining on the lead. All she wanted to do was get to the dogs and people so she could play and be patted. Fortunately she has never behaved aggressively, she just became overexcited and overreacted. Once she became overexcited it was as though I wasn’t there, she didn’t listen or respond and was not interested in treats or favourite toys, even the staff at the Dog School would only gain her attention momentarily.
At home she gradually settled and would be quite lovely while only myself and her were there, however as soon as anyone else arrived she would just go beserk, barking, jumping, rushing around jumping at them, slipping on the floor, crashing into walls and would pay absolutely no attention to anything she was asked to do. Leaving her outside didn’t help, she would bark constantly and throw herself at the back door. I came to dread having any visitors come to the house. I followed all the advice given by the Dog School and practiced everything suggested by them but Wilma would just forget everything she had learnt.
When we went for walks she would pull on the lead and want to make contact with every person and dog we saw. Life with Wilma was exhausting and frustrating. No one but me ever experienced the lovely dog that she could be. All along I had felt that her behaviour was not that of a ‘normal’ puppy but as I had not raised a puppy before I thought that it may have been my own inexperience. I was very baffled by her and she didn’t behave like any of the other puppies at Dog School. Fortunately the Dog School recommended that I contact Adelaide Veterinary Behaviour Services and arrange for a behavioural consultation.
In late March 2011 Wilma was assessed ‘at home’ and as a result she was prescribed medication and a behaviour modification program. We also made some changes to her home environment to minimise the ‘triggers’ that set her off and therefore enable her to live in a calm atmosphere and be able to learn how she is to respond and behave. The change in her has been amazing. Within the first week of taking the medication we could see a difference and after six weeks she was even more settled and responsive. She started to actively seek attention, would sit close and snuggle against my leg. She was happy to be where I was and just play with her toys, amble around the garden and seemed to enjoy our many but short training sessions. I have consistently spent a lot of time with her every day practicing each step of the behaviour program. She has responded very well to having a routine and very clear requests of how she is to behave in certain situations. She has made huge progress and now knows what to do when family members arrive home and visitors come to our house. We are still working hard and she is improving all the time. She is enjoying going for walks now and has settled back into attending dog school.
I practice with Wilma every day and we have lots of fun too, playing outside with her favourite toys, playing inside with her, going for rides in the car and giving her many snuggles, pats, praise and treats (which she now looks for and expects). She loves all her special places around the house that I hide toys and treats in and enjoys snoozing on one of her many cosy rugs. Instead of jumping up and running around every time someone moves, even just to put a cup on the coffee table she now plays with her toys and snoozes under the coffee table. I love Wilma so much and it has been a huge relief to discover that her behaviour was not a training issue but a medical anxiety disorder that could be treated. I focus on the positive progress that Wilma has made and will keep helping her to become the best dog that she can be.