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Separation Success Story: Oscar

Separation anxiety in dogs is a common issue that affects not only the welfare of our pets but also their owners. If you’re new to Separation Anxiety, it is regarded as a very serious anxiety disorder that can manifest at any point in a dog's life in a multitude of ways such as excessive barking, destructive behaviour, and even self-harm. 

Here at Cwtches Dog we provide specialist tailored support and training to help both the dog and their owner on their journey to overcoming separation anxiety. Georgi is Cwtches Dog's head trainer, behaviourist and separation specialist, she works remotely across Zoom to support clients all over the globe at a time that works best for them. 

Meet Oscar

Oscar, a seven-year-old Chocolate Labrador, began showing signs of separation anxiety when his owner started a new job. 

Like many dogs, Oscar has been living the good life since early 2020 when the country went into its first lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the last three years, Oscar and his owner Joe, have been living harmoniously together whilst Joe worked from home. That all changed in the summer of 2023 when Joe took a new job in the city.

Despite Oscar having a positive history of being a happy-home-alone dog, as well as having a good structured routine with regular walks and plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment, Oscar couldn’t get to grips with the new routine change and his anxiety would manifest as destructive behaviour in the home damaging furniture in his attempt to self-soothe. Furthermore, the symptoms of Oscar’s anxiety became ever more evident when his owner received complaints from neighbours about Oscar’s excessive barking and whining when home alone. 

Under pressure to address and resolve his dog's nuisance behaviour as quickly as possible, Joe contacted Georgi to get them back on track.

What We Did…

After an initial deep-dive consultation remotely via Zoom where everything gets discussed; schedules, routines, exercise, enrichment, diet, clinical history and so on, Georgi wrote a tailored programme for the first couple of weeks. 

A lot goes into those starter weeks of every new training plan and this was no exception. Through Georgi’s expert knowledge it was highlighted that Oscar might also be struggling with physical pain and discomfort which could be the primary or secondary cause of his anxiety so a Dynamic Dog consultation was also undertaken. I'll tell you more about Dynamic Dog in another post I promise.

The Separation Anxiety Programme works by utilising a combination of desensitisation and counter-conditioning techniques, where Oscar was gradually exposed to increasingly longer periods of separation from his owner whilst managing his comfort levels ensuring he didn't go over threshold. Simultaneously, new behaviours were taught using positive reinforcement techniques to reward Oscar for calm behaviour during these times.

The Results

As Oscar’s training progressed and we started building time on the clock Joe also started seeing a significant improvement in Oscar’s overall behaviour. The destruction diminished, and the once-distressed dog started to become more comfortable and confident when left on his own. 

Additionally, the results of Oscar’s Dynamic Dog study revealed a couple of anomalies with his gait which upon investigation with the vet confirmed that he had a deteriorated cruciate ligament in the left hind which needed surgery within the next six months or so. As a result, Oscar was prescribed pain-relief by his veterinarian and Cwtches Dog made some adjustments to the separation anxiety programme to incorporate a new exercise and enrichment schedule. We continued building time on the clock and within 8 short weeks Oscar was back to being happy home alone. 

Upon completion of the programme, Joe was better equipped to meet and understand his dog's needs and successfully implement the continuation of training techniques on his own. Relations between the neighbours have improved as they no longer have reason to complain about any noise nuisance, and the bond between Oscar and Joe has grown stronger than ever. Oscar also had his surgery at the end of November and it is reported that he is doing well with a new found energy for walks.  

In Conclusion

The success of Oscar’s journey highlights the benefit of seeking professional help when dealing with separation anxiety and the impact that expertise can have on the well-being of both the dog and owner. By utilising evidence-based, positive training techniques, all whilst ensuring a compassionate and supportive approach tailored to both the dog's and their owner's needs we can help you overcome your dog's separation anxiety.

If you need help with your dog's separation anxiety, please get in touch. You can book in directly via the website for any of our services, and you can book in for a Discovery Call if you want to chat before you make a booking

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