You have brought your new Pit Bull home from the shelter and are ready to shower him with love. Everything is going to work out great, right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case, especially with rescue dogs. Pit Bulls and separation anxiety are sadly two things that go hand-in-hand.
Separation anxiety is a common reason many dogs end up at the shelter. Many well-intentioned dog owners are excited to bring their pup home, but are quickly ready to throw in the towel when their new pet begins to exhibit negative behaviors. The animal shelter environment is also an original cause to much of the stress and fear a pup may be facing. About 75% of municipal shelters euthanize pit bulls immediately upon intake. As you can imagine, an anxious Pit Bull labeled as a “bad dog” could quickly face a cruel fate upon being turned over to a local shelter. Dog experts hypothesize that past trauma connected to abandonment is a major cause of this anxiety. Abrupt changes in household routines can also cause this stress. No wonder rescues are most often afflicted.
The good news is, most cases of dog anxiety are curable and can be treated with the right solution or a combination of methods. Pit Bull Advocacy organizations that provide training packages upon adoption is ideal way to establish a bond and trust between man and dog. Read on for the top signs of dog separation anxiety and how to nip it in the bud.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Dogs are pack animals, and it is no surprise that they want to be with their humans 24/7. Many dogs begin to feel panic and stress when left alone, and this is manifested in a variety of ways.
It may be difficult to distinguish whether or not your pooch is suffering from anxiety or displaying mischievous behavior out of boredom. A good way to determine this is to install a pet camera or seek observation from a professional. Here are a few tell tale signs of separation anxiety:
- Chewing household objects such as furniture, carpet, walls, doors, clothing, shoes, etc.
- Inappropriate and excessive vocalization including: barking, howling, whining/crying
- Pacing or circling (common in dogs left alone in small, enclosed spaces or creates)
- Peeing or pooping in the house though housebroken
- Excessive panting, drooling, salivating
- Escaping crates, pens, or rooms
3 Ways to Treat Separation Anxiety
1. Progressive Desensitization
Implement this as soon as your Pit Bull comes home. Practice leaving him a designated area, tell them to stay, and walk out the door. Come back in immediately without rousing the dog’s attention (no “Hi, buddy!” or “Good boy!”). Continue this routine leaving the room for seconds at a time, not making a big deal out of your coming and going. Ultimately, the dog will normalize the behavior and no longer feel anxious when left alone. Gradually increase the length of time the dog is alone and how far away you are from your pet. Once the dog is comfortable with you away within the home, begin to step outside, then around the block, or driving away. Progressively normalizing the behavior of leaving the house will teach your pup that it is ok for the humans to leave, and that they will be back.
2. Physical and Mental Stimulation
A tired dog is a happy dog. Bored dogs are likely to become anxious as they have a lot of pent up energy. To reduce the likelihood of anxiety’s symptoms from developing, ensure your Pit Bull gets plenty of exercise before you leave them alone. Taking long walks or runs, playing fetch, working on training exercises, or even giving them a puzzle toy to work on, are great solutions.
3. Grow the Pack
Lastly, dogs are pack animals, and feel most comfortable with at least one companion. Your pet is less likely to feel stressed when the humans are gone if another dog becomes trusted pack member. Be cautious about the behavior and temperament of a new dog when adding to your pack. Be sure to consult a professional to reduce the likelihood of creating an even higher stress situation.
A variety of effective techniques can eradicate separation anxiety. Methods may take time and patience, but nothing beats the feeling of accomplishing a happy and stress-free environment for your furry friend. Kennel to Couch offers a unique Pit Bull Advocacy program that provides a “Pitty Package” upon adoption of one of their sponsored Pit Bulls. This package includes a free training assessment, training session, training equipment, and a free pet exam through Banfield Pet Hospitals. While an excellent training package can work wonders for adapting to a new home, for severe cases of anxiety, including self-mutilating behavior, consult your Veterinarian and a Canine Professional right away.