By Janet McAfee
Dogs offer us a ray of sunshine and joy during a time when we are devoid of most human contacts and usual activities. They help us weather the emotional storm while the pandemic’s dark clouds encompass our world. The number of rescue dogs being fostered and adopted during this time has reached record numbers. This is wonderful news for animals that otherwise might languish in public shelters, or in some cases be euthanized for a variety of reasons.
Some of these fostered and adopted animals are with people who ordinarily work full time and put off getting an animal because they are away from home so much. Some dogs that already lost one family may become nervous when left alone again, fearing they may be abandoned again. Most of these pups have the confidence to adapt quite easily when the stay-at-home order lifts and we return to work. There are some things you can do to help them adjust, and some solutions should your dog become overly stressed.
In a few cases, a dog may exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety which goes beyond a brief mournful whimper or sad look when you leave. Signs of separation anxiety include excessive barking or howling when you are gone, excessive salivating, drooling or panting. Some may even scratch on doors and windows. And in severe cases they may chew on pillows or furniture. Please know that the vast majority of dogs, rescue or otherwise, NEVER show these severe behaviors, they simply are happier when you arrive home.
Lillian Roberts, D.V.M, veterinarian at Country Club Animal Clinic advises, “We don’t know what it’s like for a dog when their whole world goes topsey turvy and suddenly you are gone from the home. They are pack animals, and instinctively want to be with people. Think about this from the dog’s point of view and teach them in advance to be without you. If there are two people in the household, have each spend time separately with the dog. In severe cases, I prescribe anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants for animals with the goal of weaning them off. In many cases, a dog trainer can help.”
Dog trainer Don Van Tassel offers some advice. “Social distancing is helpful. I’m not saying ignore you dog, but teach them independence. Having them play and use their chew toys in your presence will help your dog build independence. You might want to create a safe space for them when you are away such as a special room with a baby gate that allows the door to stay open. Doggie day care might be a great solution, while not for every dog, it provides a great way for them to enjoy the company of other canines. Getting them exercised helps (we need this too!).” A tired contented dog who had a brisk walk and playtime is more likely to be settled and calm when you leave.
While the quarantine continues, you can start desensitizing your dog to help him get used to the idea of being alone. Start out by simply opening and shutting the door without leaving until your dog seems comfortable. Next try leaving for brief times and gradually increase the time you are out of the house. Give him a special treat before you leave, like a bone or rubber Kong filled with peanut butter. You can also hide treats throughout the house for him to happily discover. Make sure he has special toys, a bed, blanket, and other items he loves nearby.
I recall one dog who lived with several adults who worked full time during the week. The dog’s separation anxiety disappeared the day they adopted a second dog. A new dog buddy provided the companionship he needed. You can always have a friend’s dog join yours when you both return to work.
Please know there is a great deal of “pet retention” assistance available. If you cannot afford professional training, there is a wealth of free advice online to help you solve pet behaviors.
You can contact dog trainer Don Van Tassel with Desert Living Dog Training at (760) 567-1182. Don also trains the animals at the Humane Society of the Coachella Valley.
Below is a partial list of shelters and private rescue organizations in the Inland Empire. If you are unable to adopt or foster right now, consider donating to one of the worthy private organizations that depend upon donations to pay for vet care, food and other expenses.
COACHELLA VALLEY ANIMAL CAMPUS – This large county shelter is now closed for adoptions. You can view the animals at all four county shelters at www.rcdas.org, and get the ID number of the animal(s) you want to meet. Email them with the animal’s ID number at firstname.lastname@example.org and call (760) 343-644. Located at 72050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms. (Public)
PALM SPRINGS ANIMAL SHELTER – The shelter is closed, but you can call for an appointment to adopt. They schedule appointments Wednesday through Monday, closed on Tuesday. View their animals online at www.psanimalsshelter.org, 4575 E. Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, (760) 416-5718. (Public)
ANIMAL SAMARITANS – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. View their animals at www.animalsamaritans.org. Email email@example.com to foster. Located at 72307 Ramon Rd, Thousand Palms, (760) 601-3918. (Private)
CALIFORNIA PAWS RESCUE – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 73650 Dinah Shore, Palm Desert. View their animals at www.californiapawsrescue.com, (760) 656-8833. (Private)
HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE COACHELLA VALLEY – The shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. View their animals at www.orphanpet.com. Located at 17825 N. Indian Canyon, North Palm Springs, (760) 329-0203. (Private)
KITTYLAND – The shelter is closed so call for an appointment to adopt. Located at 67600 18th Avenue, Desert Hot Springs. www.kittylandrescue.org, (760) 251-2700. (Private)
LOVING ALL ANIMALS – The shelter is closed, dogs in foster homes. Located at 83496 Avenue 51, Coachella, www.lovingallanimals.org, (760) 834-7000. (Private)
MORONGO BASIN HUMANE SOCIETY – Located at 4646 Sun View Rd, Joshua Tree, www.mbhumanesociety.com, call between 11am-4pm for updates(760) 366-3786 (Private)
CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO ANIMAL SHELTER – Shelter closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Hours for adoption 10am – 4pm Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sun/Mon. Google “City of San Bernardino Animal Shelter” for website to view animals and get ID number of the animal you want to meet. Located at 333 Chandler Place, San Bernardino, (909) 384-1304 or (909) 384-7272. (Public)
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER AT DEVORE – Shelter is closed but you can call for an appointment to adopt. Call (909) 386-9280 daily between 9am & 5pm. View animals at www.sbcounty.gov/acc and get the ID number of animal you want to meet. Located at 19777 Shelter Way, San Bernardino (Public).
DREAM TEAM ANGELS RESCUE – Foster based rescue located in Grand Terrace/San Bernardino area. Contact them through website www.DreamTeamangelsrescue.com, (360) 688-8884. (Private)