Cookie came into my life in November 2013. He was just a pup then, only seven months old. He came in to the rescue centre due to a relationship break up. He didn’t like kennel life at all, he got very stressed and anxious. Within a week I had taken him home on trial to see if we were compatible, I’d never had a dog before so it was a learning process. Being a Collie Cross German Shepherd (as far as we know!) means that Cookie is quite highly strung, and he suffers with anxiety and fear-based aggression.
We first noticed his behavioural problems when he suffered an injury to his paw and had to be on strict rest for six weeks. He didn’t cope well at all, he had so much pent up energy and started being destructive around the home when we left him by himself. He chewed up carpets and pillows, and he would scratch and bite the skirting boards.
He also developed an unhealthy habit of chasing shadows and you could see it was literally driving him mad, which was obviously upsetting to watch. After speaking to the vet and a behaviourist, I was told that his problems would probably ease off when his exercise regime was back to normal and that these behaviours were common signs of stress and anxiety.
Luckily he isn’t destructive anymore when we leave him; he is very calm and well behaved in the house. I enlisted the help of a behaviourist who has been brilliant and given me many helpful tips. After months of hard work this is finally starting to pay off, though we still have the odd bad day. He has quite a few dog friends he plays nicely with and he enjoys their company. As well as providing him with ample physical stimulation in the form of walking, we’ve also found that regular mental stimulation is important in keeping him happy and healthy. My partner likes teaching him tricks and playing games at home with him; we feel that this creates more of a bond and has improved his recall when out on walks. We always try and keep a general day-to-day routine, as dogs like routine and Cookie is no exception!
We feed him a good quality natural food with no added flavourings or colourings; just like children, dogs can become hyperactive and develop all sorts of problems if fed on low quality, cheap, processed food. It’s lovely to see the work I have put in improve both his contentment and behaviour, and makes me so glad I didn’t give up on him; he is such a sweet and loving boy. Too many people nowadays will give up too easily on an animal for various reasons. You wouldn’t give up on a child or a human, so what’s the difference? They all deserve a chance, and as humans I think we have a duty of care to look after them and be their voice because they can’t speak for themselves.
The number of companion animals we have currently in rescue centres and in foster is colossal. Breeding has gotten completely out of control, people need to take responsibility and get their animals neutered to prevent unwanted and accidental litters. In some places, stray unclaimed dogs will get put to sleep after seven days even if perfectly healthy, just because there is simply nowhere for them to go as all the re-homing centres are full. A lot of people don’t know this and would be shocked to hear it – there is a saying: ‘you buy – they die’ and it’s so true; for every animal bought, an unwanted one will lose its life. But we can all do something about this. Please consider supporting your local rescue, they always need finances and volunteers. Don’t ever breed from your animal, get them neutered and encourage other people to do the same. And if you are thinking about getting a pet, please adopt – don’t buy.
If you have a dog like Cookie that has developed behavioural problems, seek help from a recommended canine behaviourist. Often rescue centres will know of and recommend someone. Behaviourists will have the skills to be able to help deal with and hopefully treat the problem. Behavioural issues are mostly caused by environmental factors and are symptoms of some kind of stress, fear or anxiety, but you may also consider enlisting the advice of a vet as some behaviours may be caused by medical reasons.