Behavior Patient Spotlight: Rex

Rex had always been frightened of loud noises, but when his phobia worsened and he refused to go on walks owner Karina knew it was time to get professional help.

“Rex is terrified of fireworks, and we went to a regional park not knowing there was a shooting range nearby,” said Karina. “The noise resembled fireworks and scared him to death, so he immediately ran to the car. A couple of weeks later, we were on a hike and heard a loud motorcycle go by. It frightened him so much that he wouldn’t carry his ball and started associating loud noises with me — he basically became afraid of me. This was when he started going into complete flight mode when hearing any sort of loud noise. He started hiding in the bathroom and his back hair would stand up anytime I wanted to take him outside, and he hated going on walks or hikes.”

Karina contacted the SF SPCA’s Behavior Specialty Clinic and made an appointment with Dr. Wailani Sung, one of only 89 board certified veterinary behaviorists in America.

“Since Rex would hide in the bathroom, I recommended that Karina turn her bathroom into a safe space for Rex,” explained Dr. Sung. “Inside this safe space, they started practicing training cues to teach Rex to re-focus his attention to Karina whenever he heard a noise that frightened him. I also prescribed medicine to help Rex relax so he could focus on his training.”

Each day Karina would practice with Rex, and his durations outside of his safe space slowly increased.

“After seven months of having Dr. Sung help with Rex, he no longer hides in the bathroom. We are back on hikes and he is swimming after his ball in the Bay again. Before, when he would go into flight mode, he now checks in with me for reassurance after hearing loud noises. We are currently working on desensitization, and I’m noticing improvements in him every day. When we’re around loud cars, I’ll have Rex carry anything from my sunglass case to a bag of rice, which redirects his focus and helps calm him down. Deciding to seek help from a veterinary behaviorist was the best decision we ever made, and I would highly recommend this service to anyone in need of help with their pet’s behavior. Dr. Sung is absolutely amazing and educated us on how to help Rex through this difficult time. After a lot of time and patience, Rex is his crazy self again!”

If your pet needs help, don’t hesitate to contact our Behavior Specialty Clinic.


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