Dog Separation Anxiety in Shelter Dogs

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Dog separation anxiety is also referred to as home alone syndrome or canine separation anxiety, and is one of the most common behavioral problems to affect shelter dogs (and their owners).
Adopting a shelter dog is a wonderful way to gain a new, loyal family member and change the life of a special animal.
However, many shelter dogs suffer from separation anxiety either simply because of their personality or because of abandonment issues and will need extra loving care and plenty of patience.
Dogs are social creatures, close-knit pack animals who rely on that pack for guidance, companionship, food, and shelter.
Being alone is not a natural state for dogs, who do not differentiate between canine and human pack members, which is why separation anxiety so often affects our furry friends, particularly those who have been abandoned or left alone in a shelter.
The signs of separation anxiety in shelter dogs include: - Destructive behavior such as digging, chewing, scratching, urinating or defecating in the house, despite being house trained.
- The dog exhibits the destructive behavior when left alone, regardless of the length of time.
- The dog follows you from room to room, never letting you out of their sight.
- The dog has spent time in a shelter or kennel, or was a stray.
- The dog displays frantic, exuberant behavior upon your return home.
- The dog reacts with depression or signs of anxiety when you prepare to leave.
- The dog dislikes being outside alone.
The best way to make the transition from a shelter to your home as easy as possible on your new best friend, is to have patience.
Dogs are considerably more relaxed, and responsive to learning and following commands when they are in a secure, non-threatening environment.
The following tips will help to ease the transition and eliminate dog separation anxiety.
- Practice departures and arrivals: Keep all of your departures and arrivals as low-key as possible.
Although it may be rather difficult at first, it's important to completely ignore your dog for the first few minutes after arriving at home.
Once a few minutes have passed, calmly and nonchalantly pet your dog keeping your voice low at all times.
- Offer comfort: When leaving the house, leave your pooch with an article of your clothing that you've worn recently.
Your scent will offer comfort and a sense of familiarity.
- Establish a routine: All dogs, not just those who have lived in a shelter, are happier and more well-adjusted if their owners have established a daily routine.
- Establish safety cues: Say the exact same thing to your dog every time you leave the house, just a short sentence that you'll use every time you leave, such as telling them to guard the house, or that you'll be right back.
- Teach your dog the sit/stay command: Teach your dog the sit/stay command, gradually having them sit and stay farther and farther away from the door with each session.
- Practice makes perfect: It's important to practice departures and arrivals, gradually building up the amount of time you are gone.
Begin by gathering your things as if you were leaving; keys, coat, purse, or whatever it is you normally do before leaving, and then sit back down.
Repeat this practice until your pooch no longer shows signs of distress.
- Never, ever muzzle, tether, or crate your shelter dog to deal with separation anxiety: While crating the pup may keep them from destroying your house, or howling while you're away, unless they are already crate-trained, doing so will only make the problem considerably worse by making them more anxious and afraid.
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