Separation Anxiety Support

For Shelters and Rescues

There are many small, low-to-no-cost things shelters and rescues can do to improve the welfare of dogs suffering from separation anxiety while in their care. We have created several free resources to help you help those dogs and are here to answer your questions.

Screening for Separation Anxiety at Intake

When you have a dog relinquished by a family that is showing signs of separation anxiety, it can be helpful to assess the dog in a systematic way so that the issues can be addressed clearly. It is extremely difficult to identify separation anxiety in a dog in a shelter or rescue without previous home history, which is why we recommend only screening for separation anxiety when a home history is available.

Bonus Tips:

Include a question asking about alone-time behavior in your general intake form.

Use a supplemental screening tool consistently or only when there are concerns about separation anxiety at the time of surrender.

We have created this free resource for you to download and use alongside your intake form consistently or only when the surrendering guardian suggests the dog may suffer from separation anxiety. Please note: This tool is intended to aid in the assessment of a dog’s comfort with alone time, not to assign a level of severity or potential for recovery.

Behavior Medication Considerations

The use of medication for dogs with separation anxiety in the shelter/rescue environment is very dependent on the organization. We recognize that not all organizations have access to behavior meds and that shelter medicine has its differences from the use of behavioral pharmacology within the dog’s permanent home. I am not a veterinarian, and I cannot advise on medication; however, the welfare of these dogs can be compromised due to the challenges of their condition. To maintain the highest quality of life for these dogs, behavior meds should be a consideration if available.

Bonus Tips:

If possible and available, begin conversations early about the use of behavior medications with the shelter/rescue veterinarian.

Consider forming relationships or partnering with veterinarians in the community for additional medication-related support.

Care Ideas While in the Shelter Environment

While separation anxiety training cannot be implemented in a shelter environment, please don’t underestimate the impact of reducing any scary alone time on improving the dog’s quality of life while in a shelter environment. Separation anxiety is a fear of alone time akin to a phobia, which means these dogs are panicking every time they are left alone, and stress and anxiety can take a toll both mentally and physically.

Bonus Tips:

When possible, have the dog accompany staff in the office or during meetings.

If an option, have the dog go home with staff for sleepovers or even a few hours.

Ask willing volunteers to dog-sit either in the shelter or in their home.

We are listening!

We’re constantly updating and expanding our resources to meet the ongoing needs of shelters and rescues caring for dogs with separation anxiety. Please help us learn how we can continue to best support you by completing this brief, 5-minute survey: Complete Our Survey!

Thank you!

My gratitude to you is infinite. I recognize the challenges that you face in your position and want you to know that we truly see your big hearts and tremendous efforts. Read our blog about how important our shelters and rescues are, and our commitment to them: See Them, Tell Them.

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