Case Study: Separation Anxiety With Tilly

Tilly is a one-year-old neutered Staffordshire bull terrier mix who has recently been adopted from The Lost Dogs' Home, Melbourne.

Tilly had settled into her new home and appeared to be very content until her new owner started her full time position with her new job. Tilly is now showing signs of separation anxiety - chewing furniture, incessant barking and toileting in the apartment in her owner’s absence.

Apart from the free introductory to training that came with her adoption, Tilly’s owner has not pursued any other forms of training.

Tilly’s behaviour has become too much for her new owner handle, and if this is not resolved shortly she will either have to re-home Tilly or be forced out of her apartment.

Before I arrange a consultation, I ask for the owner to have Tilly checked by a vet beforehand to check that there are no medical reasons for her behaviours.

When I arrive for our first consultation I am met by a very excited Tilly, a little too excited! After asking numerous questions I find out that Tilly is only being walked every other day, and that’s on a lead for just half an hour, if that. Tilly's owner has been unable to let her off lead as she does not come back when called.

Other points of interest that I observe are that Tilly has access to the entire apartment, and she mostly sleeps with the owner in her bed, or on the sofa, which ever takes her fancy.

Tilly’s behaviour is the result of many factors:

  • She’s only young and has had no training

  • Tilly's very bright and is not getting the mental or physical stimulation that a dog of her age and breed needs

  • Tilly has no set boundaries around the home

  • Tilly has nothing to do whilst her owner is away

  • Tilly 's owner is expecting too much from her, being left alone for 8 hours a day in an apartment with a balcony is not acceptable

  • Tilly needs her own bed to sleep, where she feels safe. This needs to be a place that when asked, she goes to and stays

Tilly’s New Daily Routine:

8.00 am : A 40-minute morning walk or bike ride to drain excess energy. A frozen Kong toy filled with BARF/mince are to be given before leaving. No fussing, no talking, just leave.

12.30: Check on Tilly during lunch break, remember not to fuss her when entering the apartment, stay calm and ignore her until she calms down. When she is calm take her for a 15minute walk/toilet break. Practice her 'sit' and 'down', 'wait' and 'come' commands. Give Tilly another frozen Kong before quietly leaving.

4-5pm: No fussing on your return from work, wait until she is quiet before taking her for her final walk. Drain as much energy from her and work with her squeaky toys, lots of praise and treats when she does as she is asked. Practice basic commands.


Luckily, Tilly's separation anxiety is not an extreme case and on my return Tilly is a very different dog. She’s pleased to see me but is so much calmer, she gives me a sniff and a wag of her tail before lying back on her bed. I can see instantly that things are far better for the both of them. Tilly’s owner is so pleased with the progress they have both made. The schedule’s worked really well. Tilly can be left for five hours at a time and has embraced her new lifestyle.