It’s that time of year again. Teachers and students are back in school, while some pets are wondering what happened to their best buddy they played with all summer.
Unfortunately, this scenario can sometimes lead dogs to bark obsessively, chew incessantly, soil the house, and even carry out self-destructive behaviors. These are all signs that a dog is experiencing separation anxiety.
While most dogs will adjust without any issues when routines change in the fall, some pets may not adjust as well. Certain dogs are more prone to experience separation anxiety than others. According to Jacque Lynn Schultz, director of companion animal services at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), “The canines most likely to fall victim are second-hand dogs. Whether from a shelter, rescue group, or greyhound-track adoption program, dogs re-homed in adolescence, or older are at greater risk of suffering separation anxiety than puppies. This is probably because it is more difficult for these dogs to accept changes in their routine and environment. They cling to their new pack leader and panic when that leader leaves home to go about his or her daily business.” I want to emphasize that just because you have a rescue dog, it does NOT mean the dog will experience separation anxiety.
Before you lose any sleep, or your sanity over this issue, there are tricks to help deal with separation anxiety. Here are some tips to help your dog adjust more easily:
• Make sure your dog is vigorously exercised before you leave the house. This ensures your dog is at least physically exhausted.
• A few minutes before you depart, divert your dog’s attention with an interactive toy. One toy that seems to work well is a Kong toy. These types of toys can be filled with dry kibble and sealed with peanut butter and should take your dog 10-15 minutes to consume. Since the worst of a dog’s panic is typically during the first half-hour after departure, this will keep your dog occupied during this critical period and help him get past his usual frenzy.
• Try not to make a big deal when you come and go. Leave the house quietly and without your dog noticing if possible. When you return, don’t speak or pet your dog for the first 10-15 minutes. If you remain low-key in both circumstances, your dog is more likely to remain calm as well.
• Some dogs begin their anxious behavior the minute departure activities begin. If this is the case with your dog, try desensitizing him to your normal departure rituals by performing them without leaving. For example, grab your keys, but instead of heading for the door, sit down for a few minutes. Then grab your purse or wallet and don’t leave right away. You can also give your dog a treat while performing these tasks. Do this repeatedly until your dog is desensitized to your departure behavior.
What won’t help:
• Your first instinct may be to adopt another pet. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. Most separation anxiety is due to separation from the owner, not as a result of being left alone.
• Punishment is never an effective way to correct a problem behavior. In the case of separation anxiety, it may actually increase the negative behavior.
• Crating a dog with severe separation anxiety may cause him to become injured. Dogs in this state will still engage in their frenzied behaviors inside their crate and may even attempt to escape.
Most experts think separation anxiety is an issue of owners over-bonding with their dogs. To prevent this, try to encourage independence with your dog and don’t allow him to follow you everywhere you go. Make sure different members of the family are participating in dog duties. One person shouldn’t be the only one who dispenses the food, plays with the dog and takes him on walks every day; these activities should be shared.
There’s a product on the market that mimics the properties of the natural pheromone of a lactating female dog. A mother dog releases this pheromone to give her puppies a sense of well being. It’s called “dog appeasing pheromone,” or DAP. CAP comes in a collar form, a spray, and an electric diffuser that dispenses the pheromone (which we cannot detect). The theory is that your dog will feel that same reassurance he felt as a pup when he smells the pheromone. I can’t say I’ve ever tried this, but I have tried the feline pheromone with some success in shelter environments.
If your dog has severe separation anxiety, it is possible that the tips listed above may not work. In those circumstances, you might want to talk to your veterinarian about drug therapy. I have friends who had to resort to drugs and although giving medication isn’t fun, if it comes down to getting rid of the dog or putting him on medication, I’d choose the medication.
Record Breaking Adoptions at ASAP’s Cat Event
ASAP, the nonprofit organization that takes care of all of the cats at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, made history in our community on August 20-21, setting a record for cat and kitten adoptions in a single weekend! By the time ASAP closed its doors on Sunday afternoon, 74 cats and kittens had been adopted and would spend the night, not in a cage, but in a home with a loving family of their own.
ASAP’s decision to hold this free adoption weekend was based on successful events by other highly reputable animal welfare organizations, as well as research conducted by the ASPCA. The concerns around whether people would not value or properly care for an animal they obtained for free are unfounded, and the quality of adopters during ASAP’s weekend free event was as excellent as always. All adopters went through ASAP’s standard adoption screening and counseling process. The majority of the adopters told ASAP volunteers they were not motivated by the “free” aspect of the event — instead they said that they had already been thinking about getting a cat or kitten and the publicity around the event inspired them to come participate. Some adopters had previously adopted a cat from ASAP and felt a strong commitment to help yet another homeless feline in need of love. Other adopters were motivated the newspaper articles and radio interviews when they learned about the overcrowding in the shelters.
As a result of this weekend event, 74 cats and kittens are homeless no more. Many of ASAP’s longest feline residents, some having waited over a year for their special adopter to appear, finally found their forever family. In anticipation of the event, ASAP took a transfer of 10 cats from the Santa Maria shelter and all now have a home of their own because of the extraordinary weekend at ASAP. It is anticipated that the adoptions attributed to this event will continue to climb this coming week as many more potential adopters will be visiting ASAP in the hopes of finding their perfect feline companion.
ASAP is proud to have partnered with Santa Barbara County Animal Services for this landmark event. ASAP is located at 5473 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, call (805) 683-3368 or visit www.asapcats.org
CARE4Paws’ Wags n’ Whiskers Festival
On Sunday, August 28, CARE4Paws will host its third annual Wags n’ Whiskers Festival at Girsh Park in Goleta from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fun-filled event—Santa Barbara County’s largest adoption festival—features adoptable dogs, cats, and bunnies from 20-plus animal shelters, rescues, and animal welfare groups. The festival also showcases a range of local pet service providers, including Lemos, Dioji K9 Resort, OffLeash, Your Pals Pet Hospital and HydroPaws. Among the proud sponsors, count CARE Hospital, Montecito Bank & Trust, Chrissie’s Fund, Valley Pets, Who’s Walking Who Pet Sitting & Dog Waking Services and Monarch Pet Spas. Festival-goers enjoy a mix of activities, such as agility shows by Goleta Valley Dog Club, Flyball with the Supersonic, police and search-dog performances and great pet contests. They also learn about the latest in animal wellness from local veterinarians. CARE4Paws’s fun and educational Pawsitive Thinking Kids Corner invites children and parents to discover how to care for all living beings. Dogs can get styled by experts from Paul Mitchell and Petco’s Grooming Salon. Plus, visitors can raffle for many great prizes.
Last year’s event featured as many as 30 vendors and pet service providers and drew more than a thousand visitors. It inspired forever homes for as many as 35 cats and dogs.
The organizer, CARE4Paws (Community Awareness, Responsibility, Education), is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that promotes responsible pet ownership and animal welfare through early education and bilingual/bicultural community outreach, affordable spays and neuters, dog training intervention workshops, pit bull education and countywide adoption events — like Wags n’ Whiskers. What makes Wags n’ Whiskers unique is that it sheds light on the impressive work of the county’s animal shelters and rescues and lets the public meet a large number of adoptable pets outside the typical shelter environment. This year, CARE4Paws aims to significantly increase the number of adoptions, visitors and vendors and make it an even more successful gathering for our community’s animal lovers. For more information, visit www.care4paws.org
Adoptable Pet of the Week