Separation anxiety case study – Obie (Doberman)

Obie is a 1 year old Doberman who has always had concerns about being home alone. This is Obie – isn’t she beautiful?

Initial assessment 26.4.22

I worked with Obie and her wonderful humans for 1 month, and in our initial assessment on 26th April 2022, Obie started whining and running up and down the hall 5 seconds after the front door closed, then at 12 seconds she escalated and started jumping up and the front door and doing multiple high pitched barks.  The initial assessment is a chance for me to get an idea of how long the dog can cope being alone for, what their threshold is (ie when they start to get worried) and how quickly their anxiety, and therefore behaviour, escalates.  I texted Obie’s owners to come back at 1 minute 17 seconds after the front door closed, and they came in at 1 minute 21 seconds. The video is below:-

The first week

In our first reassessment, after Obie had been on the programme for one week, she showed noticeable improvement.  Obie was lying on her bed in the hallway when her Mum went out for the final step, and if you notice she did do 1 lip lick at that point (lip licks are stress signs so are a really important behaviour to notice). Obie got off her bed 3 seconds after the front door closed and stood looking out of the front door. At 44 seconds she did a lip lick, and a 2nd, then at 58 seconds she did a lip lick again as well as shifting her weight. This was the point I texted Obie’s mum to come back in, because they were both signs she was starting to feel a bit “itchy”….starting to feel uncomfortable. We do not want to push it past this point so she escalates into anxiety.

The video is below. You will also see when the front door opens Obie does a shake off….this is a natural way dogs use to lower their heart rate and is a good sign that the dog has found whatever has preceded the shake off a bit stressful, so it is important to keep track of these behaviours:-

The second week

In our second weekly reassessment, Obie quite frankly knocked it out of the park! Obie trotted to the front door with them for the first 2 warm up steps, and then for the remaining 5 steps she remained sleeping in the living room, as per the photo below, for 24 MINUTES 40 SECONDS! At which point Obie’s dad had to come in for a work call anyway so we only ended it due to that, not because of anything she did!

Now, interestingly, this was the first session Obie had done where both her humans had been involved. Prior to this, her Dad had been away for work. This could have a bearing on how well she did, but it also could just be a good day – its why we always track so much data – anxiety loves information!

This is Obie for the entire 24 minutes 40 seconds…..

The third week

In week 3 we added in one of Obie’s pre-departure cues (ie the things that we all do, pick up or put on before leaving home that trigger anxiety in a separation anxiety dog), and in Obie’s case we added the keys in first.  I incorporated them slowly but they didn’t phase her much and we gradually incorporated them over the next week or so!

In our 3 week reassessment, Obie did great but wasn’t as chilled as the previous week….and the problem with when a dog does a great session early on, is that it can be hard for the owners as us humans expect things to travel in a linear manner. However, not only does learning not work in this way, separation anxiety never ever goes in a linear pattern. But we are looking for a general upward trend. And in this third week reassessment she coped very well with an absence of 10 minutes 25 seconds, and the behaviour she displayed was worlds apart from our first initial assessment!

Also, going back to data tracking and why its so important, it is vital to note here that there was more going on outside the house today. It is a very quiet area but there were more neighbours moving around and cars and vans coming and going, and Obie does tend to like to keep an eye on whats going on, and this can raise her arousal level. We did talk about window film on the front door glass to help keep her arousal lower.

The 4 week reassessment

In our 4 week reassessment Obie was so relaxed!! She coped beautifully with an absence of 14 minutes, and was lying down in the hallway for most of that (see video below). She got up when she heard neighbours moving around outside.

Moving forward

This is a graph to show how Obie did in the month of training:-

Happy customers!

Obie’s owners are so pleased with how Obie has progressed so far and this is what they had to say:-

“Angela was amazing to work with, she is so attentive, responsive and caring. Her attention to detail is amazing. She is ALWAYS on time and prepared. She guides you through step by step. When we first started working with Angela due to our dog Obie’s severe separation anxiety – Obie was alone for 4 seconds before she went into an extremely high state of anxiety. 4 weeks later she can last as long as 25 mins without escalating at all. I am currently in the middle of a session as I write this where we are desensitising her to us leaving in the car. She is not crying or reacting negatively or showing any signs of anxiety. It is truly amazing.  Angela is an absolute sweetheart and genuinely cares about her clients and their success. If you have any doubts about working with her, erase them. We finally have hope that we may get our lives back once again without traumatising our girl 🙂 thank you Angela!!”

Obie’s owners are now taking the protocol forward on their own with bi-monthly or monthly sessions with me on Zoom to assist. I have given them instructions on how to start incorporating the car into their sessions, slowly, as due to where they live they cannot go anywhere without using the car. They have a lot going on at the moment, including a house move in the next couple of months! I am really excited to hear about Obie’s progression!

Are you unable to leave your dog home alone? Are you feeling like a prisoner in your own home? Click on the link below and complete the form to book a FREE call with me to find out more!

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By Angela Doyle

I am a highly experienced and qualified reward based dog trainer and behaviour consultant based in Surrey, UK. I am a fully qualified CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer) and specialise in helping dogs overcome Separation Anxiety.

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