Vet tech's dog destroys house - case solved!

Happy ending for the worst case of separation anxiety we've ever seen.

Bark Busters Tips 'n' Tails . Spring 2005

Rycki Hull is a vet tech at Portland Veterinary Service in Portland, Michigan. Nelson, a 3 1/2-year-old Husky-Malamute mix, is her first dog and she, like many other people, thought he was "normal." He barked and bothered neighbors, dug in the backyard, jumped over fences, and destroyed - oh, did he destroy. Rycki now knows that Nelson was not "normal" and that he suffered from one of the worst cases of separation anxiety we at Bark Busters have seen.

Examples of Nelson's destructive habits included eating Rycki's couch, jumping through screen doors and windows, tearing down the curtains and rods, and eating anything left out, including decorative plants. He would jump up on the counters and eat any food, and typically make off with Rycki's dinner if she wasn' looking. Nothing was off limits as far as Nelson was concerned, especially when Rycki went to work. Sometimes a friend would go to her house to check on the dog and call Rycki to let her know the bad news. "I would simply burst into tears when I heard about the destruction. He was ruining my house," said Rycki. She finally resorted to putting him in a 4'x3' wire cage, but he would ram the door until the latch popped. She decided to leave him at her parent's house, which had an outside fenced run. Here he dug his way out and ran through the neighborhood.

As a last resort, Rycki built a "gorilla" cage that was reputed to be indestructible. It was made of 2x4s and cattle fence, large hinges, and "lots of screws," according to Rycki. It was bolted to the floor and the block wall. When Rycki came home from work, she typically found Nelson drenched in drool and large piles of wood chips from the day's chewing. Plus, he would destroy anything he could reach from inside the cage. Finally, he chewed through the door and broke out. "I would come home and he would be so wound up all I could do was let him outside. I could tell he had been a maniac all day."

Most people would have returned their dog to the humane society at this point; Rycki considered it, but she was attached to Nelson. "He's my companion. I couldn't picture life without him," mentioned Rycki. At one point she resorted to sedatives, something she had not wanted to do. She tried Clomicalm, but that didn't work at any dosage. She went to a stronger sedative, Aceproma-zine, but that made Nelson so drowsy he could hardly stand up. Yet upon returning home from work, Rycki found the destruction continued. The medicine had no effect.

Finally, through a mutual friend, she heard about Bark Busters. Her friend mentioned that Bark Busters can deal with any problem and provides a lifetime guarantee. Rycki had already spent $160 for obedience training, which had no effect on the behavior problems. She was also facing bills of $2,000 for her house repairs, plus her parents' area rug. She couldn't pass up the idea of a lifetime guarantee.

Kendra Tycocki, the Bark Busters behavioral therapist who worked with Nelson and Rycki, says it was the worst case of separation anxiety she had ever seen. "You cannot imagine the destruction," said Kendra. "It is inconceivable to think that a dog could do so much damage." Kendra first educated Rycki on why Nelson was having so much anxiety, showing her that his problem stemmed primarily from lack of leadership. "Nelson thought he was the pack leader. When his pack left him during the day, he became extremely stressed. That's what caused the destruction. When I showed Rycki how to become dominant, things started to change. Nelson realized he didn't need to be the protector while Rycki was gone."

While some improvements were made in the first few days, it was obvious to Kendra and Rycki that this was a highly unusual case that would take unusual measures to completely remedy. Since the highest form of dominance in the canine world is ignoring the other animal, Kendra had Rycki ignore Nelson for almost six weeks. Rycki could not look at Nelson even once during this period and could not respond to any of his requests - no petting, playing - nothing. "I hated to do it. I love my dog. But I knew it was his last chance," said Rycki. "Finally he gave in and decided he didn't need to look ont for me anymore. I was now the pack leader and I started to let him have the house for the day, little by little. I was very scared," says Rycki.

It is now several months later and when asked how things are going, Rycki replied, "AWESOME! He's a totally different dog. He's calm, he walks at my side even off leash, I can leave him all day without any worry. It's magic! I come home now and he stretches and comes over to me calmly to say 'hi,' whereas before he would jump up, bark, and act like a crazy man. Sometimes I come home and he's in his bed. Before I couldn't give him a bed because he would eat it. Plus, there was no way he would sleep while I was gone. My friends can't believe it, and the vets where I work are in awe. Nelson sits when I ask him, waits for me to go outside or through doorways, doesn't bolt up the stairs and knock me down. I can now see the tremendous potential he has - he's so intelligent. My home's not being wrecked, and the tears have finally stopped. This has changed my life."

When asked about the relationship she has with Kendra, Rycki is overjoyed. "Kendra was so patient. I believed in Bark Busters training, and she believed in me. I worked very hard, but so did Kendra. The guarantee is awesome ! To think I can call her anytime if I have a problem, and she'll come over to help me, at no cost. Thank you, thank you!"