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Rehoming Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)

Behavior

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July 2016

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Common signs of separation anxiety/separation-related behavior (SA/SRB)—a common problem that can make it difficult to rehome dogs—include destructive behaviors, vocalization of various types, and inappropriate elimination.

This study investigated the use of written advice provided to owners for preventing SRB in newly rehomed dogs. Dog owners (n = 306) were randomly assigned to either a treatment (ie, written advice about reducing SA/SRB) or untreated control group (ie, written advice about general wellness only). After 12 weeks, efficacy was evaluated via an owner questionnaire. 

Of 306 participants, 176 follow-up questionnaires were suitable for data analysis. SRB was noted in 30% of dogs (38% from the control group, 22% from the treatment group). Younger dogs were more likely and spayed dogs were less likely to display signs of SA/SRB, particularly signs associated with destructive behaviors. Owner compliance varied with each recommendation; those requiring work or lifestyle changes had poor compliance. 

The authors concluded that written advice provided to owners appears effective in reducing SRB following rehoming. 

Commentary

This study found that simple owner handouts were effective in reducing development of SA/SRB. Despite potential drawbacks, the investment is minimal. Additionally, the advice can help set adopters up for successful relationships with their new dogs, even those that would not have developed SA/SRB. 

Many shelters only counsel adopters about SA/SRB if the dog has a history. This strategy may miss opportunities for education when rehoming stray dogs that, unknown to the shelter staff, have SRB. Given the potential for decreasing the number of dogs returned for problem behaviors, rehoming centers should consider implementing this low-cost strategy for all adopted dogs.—Erica Schumacher, DVM, Dane County Humane Society, Wisconsin

References

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