Rupert is a border collie, with adorable ears that stand up. He was 18 months old when Anne first saw his profile on the PetRescue website, listed with Animal Rescue Queensland. He was still a child – a very people-orientated and highly excitable child. He needed a calm, reassuring touch in his forever home, and Anne gave him exactly that. His transformation is truly amazing.
“In the last twenty years, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my life with five adopted dogs, two of which live with me now,” says Anne. “Each dog is an individual, who takes you on a unique journey. And with time and patience, they give you a deeply rewarding gift which someone else missed out on.”
Over time, Anne has discovered that her professional studies in early childhood education – observing and recording behaviour, psychology, and understanding the processes by which learning takes place – have proven very useful in rehabilitating rescue dogs.
“Like young children, dogs learn by association. Understanding this has been a great help. But the dogs have taught me the rest!” says Anne. “They’re intelligent and social animals who have unlimited potential to develop, if humans take the time to be consistent, persistent and patient – the same qualities required when we choose to be parents.
“Dogs and young children have simple but important needs, and when the reasons for certain behaviours are understood and managed with care, the outcomes are likely to be highly positive – resulting in a calmer, more responsive dog, and a calmer more responsive human.”
Anne knew when she decided to adopt Rupert that he was highly stimulated by sound and motion. And, once he’d been flown from Brisbane to his new forever home in Melbourne, and had time to settle in, she took Rupert to her local vet, who specialises in behaviour.
“He assessed Rupert as having 'high-end anxiety'. When fearful, his anxiety climbed quickly, in a similar way to young children when over-excited, and in this heightened state they really can't hear you. Rupert was prescribed a drug to slow his brain down, creating a window of opportunity for him to bond with me and learn new behaviours.”
Seeking advice from a Delta-accredited trainer, Anne has experimented with a harnesses and halti, and Rupert is clearly calmer when wearing it.
“I can turn him gently to face me if I see that something is worrying him, and reward him. I believe the halti also helps Rupert to feel closer to me, and me to him, when outside home base.
Rupert is now three and a half years old and, as his anxiety has diminished, more of his 'calm' personality has revealed itself. He is very eager to please, very affectionate, full of fun, and very funny. The vet describes him as 'a different dog'.
This multi-faceted training approach to his anxiety has delivered a very happy outcome for Anne and Rupert. And her advice to others who are dealing with an anxious pet is to seek assistance and expert advice, starting with the animal rescue organisation you adopted from and your local vet.
“Adopting a pet is a privilege,” says Anne. “It’s a mutually life-enhancing experience.”
You can help us keep saving pets too, by making a donation to our rehoming programs. It costs just $10 to match one of our rescue pets with their new family.