Client Testimonials

Bacco – a case of “separation anxiety

“Having had our village dog, Bacco, for 3 years with no problems, we were disturbed when he suddenly started breaking out of our ground floor patio area and we suspect that he had been badly frightened by a wild pig trying to break in (we live in the Sai Kung area). After that, the problems escalated, with Bacco breaking through all our efforts to keep him in. He became increasingly agitated and cut himself on the fence in his attempts to get out, as well as destroying pot plants and other things in the process.

Our attempts to secure him in the patio area were clearly not working and he was getting himself worked up to the point that he was hurting himself. He was also becoming increasingly anxious and agitated when daylight started to fade and night-time approached. It was very distressing to see him like this but it also had a major impact on our lives, as essentially he could not be left alone.

BaccoWe made contact with Cynthia and arranged a consultation, which was immediately useful in identifying the likely root causes of his problem of separation anxiety and also some other issues he had. The initial consultation also highlighted some of our behaviour/actions/reactions which probably made things worse.

Working from Cynthia’s detailed report, we now have Bacco on medication and a long-term training programme, both of which are already showing positive effects. Also, we have started a diary of progress and this has helped us to work with Cynthia to refine the initial programme to suit Bacco’s development, as well as our lifestyle.

We still have a long way to go with Bacco, but the main thing is that we now feel in control of the situation, rather than worrying about what we’ll find when we get home. We would have no hesitation in recommending Cynthia for any pet behaviour problems and we would also suggest working closely with her to develop solutions to suit you and your pet”.

Colin – Sai Kung

Joe – traumatised by moving home

“In April 2010 we were given Joe, a Miniature Pinscher, by his owners, who were having to move home to rented accommodation where dogs were not allowed. Joe was about three years old and had lived all his life with an older Labrador and Boxer. He also lived much of the time in the yard when the owners were out.

When we took him home to our apartment, he escaped the next morning and spent two and a half days lost in the neighbourhood. After he was found and returned to us, he was very traumatised by the complete change in his circumstances.

Without his dog companions and the family he had lived with, he was very nervous and fearful. He began trying to bite anyone who entered the home including my husband. We felt very sorry for Joe and wanted to keep him but knew we needed professional help.

joeFortunately I was put in touch with Dr Cynthia Smillie. She came to our apartment and spent four hours with all of us and Joe the first time we met her. She analysed Joe’s behaviour and our interaction with him. She gave us extensive advice explaining that Joe’s aggression was based on fear and anxiety. She gave us practical suggestions how to immediately contain the situation. She later sent us her detailed case notes and papers on training and behaviour modification. She also put us in touch with Ms. Rose Tang, a professional dog trainer.

Dr Smillie came several times to observe Joe and see his progress. We also sent her reports. She has always been available to answer our queries through e-mail or telephone and give us advice.

Today, a year later, Joe is a happy dog again. It has been hard work, but it has been worth it as Joe is firmly a part of our family. He enjoys his life as long as it does not have too many surprises. He can sit, lie down and do several tricks. He still does not feel comfortable with strangers, but we know how to deal with that.

Dr Smillie gave us hope in a situation which at times felt hopeless. All of us are extremely grateful to Dr Smillie for her expert advice when we were absolutely desperate for help. I strongly recommend her services to anyone who has a problem with a pet”.

Lady Patricia Mirrlees – Tai Po, Hong Kong

Juno & Pancakes – aggression between dogs in the same household

My husband and I were dealing with a truly disheartening situation: our two female dogs, Juno and Pancakes, were getting into fights that were so violent that both they and I were getting injured. Our veterinarian told us that we could be dealing with a very sad situation that would’ve literally broken my heart. One of them would most likely need to be re-homed, or the dogs were likely to wind up fighting to the death. My girls are truly my sunshine, and the mere thought of losing one of them to another family would bring me to tears. Needless to say, when I had the great fortune of hearing about Dr Smillie, I immediately picked up the phone.

junoWe had seen endless trainers who tried their best to mitigate the situation, but none were able to turn Juno and Pancakes behavior around 180 degrees. After spending four hours in our home carefully observing the girls, Dr Smillie was able to tell us more information about Juno and Pancakes than we ever thought possible. Many of the “tricks” we were using to stop them from fighting were actually making the situation worse, and thanks to Dr Smillie’s immediate observations, we were well on our way to stopping those. Additionally, her later report which went into detail about both Juno and Pancakes personalities gave even further explanation about how to help the stress and upset that Juno (in particular) was experiencing.

Amazingly, neither Juno nor Pancakes have gotten into a single fight since our visit from Dr Smillie! Our entire household is happier! The humans are no longer concerned that the girls will wind up getting into a brutal, blood-letting fight, and (much to our utter surprise) the dogs have become fast friends and spend endless time playing–not competing!

I’m not one to gush about things, but I will be straightforward in stating that Dr Smillie literally saved our household by making it possible to keep both Juno and Pancakes under one roof. As someone who works in the pet industry, has participated in charitable organizations with animals, and has spent a lifetime with dogs, I strongly recommend Dr Smillie to anyone who is dealing with domestic animals that display behavioural problems. Her insights are an asset to any pet owner, and I am indeed thankful that she is here in Hong Kong serving the needs of both our animals and humans”.

Lauren – Mid Levels

Shadow – phobia about going for a walk

“Shadow was rescued from the streets of Spain where I adopted him. He then came to live with me in London, and then Hong Kong.
When Shadow arrived at my house he was terrified as he had never lived in a house before and had not been well socialised with people. This slowly improved over time and Shadow gained more and more confidence so that when he arrived in Hong Kong he was still making good progress. However a few months ago, Shadow started showing small signs of being very nervous again and while he was nervous and shy inside the house, he became almost unmanageable outdoors on walks, constantly stopping and simply refusing to walk near busy roads and areas with a lot of people.
I pondered what I could do to try to calm Shadow’s nerves and this is where Dr Smillie came in.

shadowWhen Dr Smillie came to meet us, the first thing I noticed was that she really listened. She took the time to find out every detail about Shadow’s background and behaviour, took lots of notes and asked questions. Dr Smillie went on a walk with us to see Shadow’s behaviour for herself and showed me how to handle it.

Dr Smillie gave good, sound, solid advice and putting into practice her recommendations, I was amazed at the changes in my dog and he is now starting to enjoy his walks again.

I would recommend anyone having a problem with their dog, however small it may be, to contact Dr Smillie.

Given that Shadow has come from a deprived background, I am heartened by the improvement I have seen whilst recognising that this will be a long-term venture requiring patience, persistence and consistency”.

Kirlee – Discovery Bay

Jazz – a happier cat now with places to hide and to scratch!

cat“When I moved back from Australia, my cat “Jazz” was not comfortable with the new environment and kept scratching the furniture and urinating on my bed. It made me and my family very unhappy as they were frustrated with Jazz’s weird behaviour as well. Then I found Dr. Cynthia Smillie online, she helped me make it through! Gave me a full report after she researched, and offered me a number of tips and what items I needed to purchase. I’ve had cats live with me for 35 years and I didn’t even know those tips! Now my cat only scratches the pole and never urinates on my bed. Even my dad was fascinated with Cynthia’s work.
Thank you once again, Dr. Smillie!”

April – Mid Levels

Sandy – antisocial behaviour

“Sandy will be eight in September 2011 and she is a very healthy and beautiful girl. She is very sociable and gets very excited whenever I get home. She comes out to greet visitors and enjoys playing with her two little Jack Russell brothers.

But things were not always like this. There was a time when Sandy would just stay in her room and not come out to see or greet guests, and if she did it was only to see who they were and then quickly go back to her little corner, ignoring everyone. She didn’t even bother to greet me when I came home and I had never experienced her wagging her tail. She did not have any patience with the two Jack Russells and was happier to be left alone rather than play with them.

sandyBut what was worse was that she had a history of aggressive behaviour towards elderly people, resulting in injuries to them. I really feared the worst for her and did not know what I could do or how I could help save her.

I was then introduced to Dr Cynthia Smillie who spent time with us to try to understand Sandy’s behaviour. She went through her whole history, from the day she arrived at my doorstep from Australia in 2004 up until the situation in October 2010, when she had just attacked my elderly neighbour.

Dr. Smillie’s in-depth report on Sandy was detailed, and outlined ways to try to get Sandy to socialise more. However it was important to realise that Sandy would never become a “normal” dog as far as her behaviour towards elderly people was concerned and so we had to overcome and avoid compromising situations, rather than prescribe “cures” because that would not be realistically possible.

Dr. Smillie’s meticulous and detailed study of the situation and her recommended steps and methods have helped overcome many of Sandy’s behavioural problems. Today, I can confidently say that Sandy’s behaviour has improved tremendously, although with regard to elderly people we must always be vigilant.

Dr Smillie keeps abreast of Sandy’s situation with follow-up calls and I am very grateful to her that Sandy has now shown that she is happy to see me when I come home; happy to play with the two Jacks, happy to vie for attention and just happy to be part of the family – something I thought I would never see from her.

Peng Tan – Happy Valley

Murray – the attention seeking Corgi

We contacted Dr. Smillie after experiencing increasing problems with Murray’s, our 3 year old Corgi’s, behavior. Murray demonstrated a lot of attention-seeking barking, especially at times when my husband and I were having dinner, had guests over, or were focused on other things besides him. He also became upset and barked when we talked on the telephone. Murray clearly was very spoiled but we couldn’t just ignore the behavior as all of the training books suggested because we live in a Hong Kong apartment building with tight quarters and feared that the neighbors would complain about his loud and continuous barking.

murrayDr Smillie spent significant time at our first meeting getting to know Murray, my husband and I and learning about our history and relationships. She listened to our concerns and also what the realities were regarding how we could work to improve his behavior (ie, not being able to ignore the barking). During the second visit, she spent time outlining our behavior management plan and answering our questions. The methods she offered were practical and fit our lifestyle.

Over the past 6 months we have seen great improvements with Murray’s behavior. While he certainly has a long way to go, and we need to work hard to be consistent and persistent with his training, we feel we have the strategies and techniques available to us to continue to improve Murray’s behavior.

I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Smillie!”

Sarah Bauer – Sai Ying Pung

Yi – a happy and relaxed pussycat now!

I really felt that I should let you know what a difference the work we did with you has continued to make to Yi and our lives with him. I don’t think there’s a week that goes by that we don’t still comment on the difference or tell someone about how different he used to be.

One morning last week we opened the bedroom door and Yi actually came running and jumped onto the bed for a cuddle. He is such a different cat now. I never, ever try to pick him up but he actually demands attention and affection from us now and flops down in front of us for a stroke.

yiFortunately we have not had to take him to the vets in the last year but as he now comfortably sleeps in the cat carrier which we leave out all the time, I don’t think this would be a problem.

We’ve also noticed a difference when we have visitors to stay. He used to hide for the first couple of days that people were here, now within 10 minutes, he is all over their luggage with Tsing and doesn’t want to miss out. Most of our visitors are cat lovers and get to stroke him within a couple of days which is something we thought we’d never see.

He’s loves his Whiskas fish too and will do almost anything for that, including standing on my lap if I place it there!

Such simple things we did but having a better understanding of his needs and our reactions has made a huge and long term difference. It really came to light recently as I have started feeding street cats around SoHo. I see them look at me with fear in their eyes and back away and remember that’s how Yi used to be sometimes.

I thought it would be nice for you to know what a significant difference it has made and we’re very glad that we contacted you to help us.

Emma – Mid Levels