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Pets: Collie Wobbler; Psycho pets that drive us barking mad just need a firm hand.

WE love our pets to bits...most of the time. But sometimes a dog can give you the collie wobbles, a cat can become a cat-astrophe and even a budgie can end up bird-brained.

These are the psycho pets in our midst - loving animals who turn into crazy creatures for no apparent reason.

But there usually IS a logical explanation - and experts can often sort the problem out. The BBC1 show Barking Mad on Thursday features Zac the possessive collie who drove his owners up the wall - until an expert calmed him down.

NIGEL BLUNDELL looks at Zac's case history - and at the other three problem pets featured in the programme.

Meanwhile the BBC are seeking new cases to solve in a series later this year. And they are asking Sunday People readers to help out.IF you would like an expert to help solve your pet's behaviour problem, write to: Barking Mad, PO Box 299, Bristol BS99 7JN. Or phone: 08700 100 678 (national rates apply).


PROBLEM: Marnie the cat's vanishing act was a big worry for owners Sam and Fiona Trabelsi. He'd go missing for days and as their home in Bishopton, Bristol, is near a main road, nanny Fiona and taxi driver Sam worried his walk-abouts would kill him.

DIAGNOSIS: TV vet Mark Evans attached a transmitter to seven-year-old Marnie's collar, then followed him. He was going to his OLD HOME a mile away.

TREATMENT: Marnie still believed the old house was his home even after three years. So Mark laid down some rules: 1. Keep Marnie indoors for at least two months. 2. Place small amounts of dry catfood around to persuade him his new home is a better. 3. Play with him to occupy his mind. 4. Wipe an old tea towel across his forehead, which is covered with scent glands. Then wipe the towel on furniture to convince him that the new home is his territory.

RESULT: When first allowed out again, Marnie made a bolt for freedom. But only a few yards down the road, turned back.


PROBLEM: Zac the collie was so possessive that he refused to let his owner's husband get near her.

If Geoff Beynon got into bed, Zac tried to protect wife Trina by barking and snapping at him.

He also hated the phone ringing and chased Trina to get to it first. Eventually he stopped her from answering it altogether.

Even if she tried to open the window to look out, he bit her.

At all other times, the collie was a carefree, loving pet.

"I didn't want to have him put down," says hairdresser Trina, 53, of Westbury on Trym, Bristol.

"But he was going to bite someone badly one of those days."

DIAGNOSIS: Dog expert Mandy Blake was called in by the BBC and found Zac sitting on the furniture. Mandy asked Trina whether Zac slept on her bed.

"Occasionally," she said - then admitted it was at least five nights a week!

Mandy said: "This is a dog which has been over-promoted in the household. He is controlling everyone. He's grown far too big for his boots."

TREATMENT: Mandy urged: "Put him in his place. Just show who's in charge."

This meant that suddenly Zac was no longer top dog in the family.

Zac was given a three-week crash course. He was ordered off the furniture and praised whenever he stepped down on to the floor.

He was given plenty of exercise and put last in line after the humans to eat his supper.

RESULT: Case solved. Zac now even sleeps in the kitchen!


PROBLEM: Jade kept missing her horse shows - because she refused to get into a trailer. Just looking at the horsebox was enough to make her bolt.

Owner, Hayley Turner, 17, of Nailsea, near Bristol, said: "It took an hour just to get her feet on the ramp. Then she'd try to run off."

DIAGNOSIS: Vet Rachel Casey, who is an animal behaviour expert, said: "Horses were originally prairie animals used to wide open spaces so it's not unusual for them to suffer from a fear of confined spaces."

TREATMENT: Rachel first turned the horsebox around so that the sun shone into it making it less threatening.

Rachel then produced a special "training clicker" which she sounded every time Jade did something right. At the same time, Jade would be given a Polo mint. After a while, Jade associated the clicker with pleasure.

RESULT: It finally clicked! Jade got the message and walked into the box. A month later Jade was driven to her first show.


PROBLEM: Rosie was a rabbit with a warning notice above her hutch: "Caution - Killer rabbit!"

That's because the bunny, the pet of 10-year-old Lauren Jenkinson and her brother Thomas, bit back whenever anyone got near her.

Lauren, of Alveston, Derbyshire, said: "She was very aggressive and attacked anyone who tried to hold her. Thomas and I would love to cuddle her but couldn't."

DIAGNOSIS: TV vet Mark Evans took one look at Rosie's hutch and pronounced it too small.

He said: "It was like putting a child in a tiny bedroom with no toys."

Yet Rosie is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of pet rabbits in Britain lead miserable lives because their hutches are far too small for them.

Mark said: "It has such a devastating effect on the animals' health and welfare - and also on their relationships with the humans round them."

TREATMENT: It has nothing to do with animal psychology - just a bigger playground. Mark and the children found an ideal site in the corner of the garden and built a large, secure run out of wood and wire netting.

Rosie's hutch was placed inside so that she had somewhere warm to hide when she wanted to sleep.

At other times she was able to romp around the large, secure run.

For two weeks Lauren crept inside to stroke Rosie with a long-handled brush.

"Finally, she let me stroke her properly and even crawled on to my knee," said Lauren. "It was brilliant."

RESULT: Happy bunny!
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Blundell, Nigel
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 7, 1999
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