At the Lee County Humane Society, we are immensely grateful for our community’s support, including everyone who has fostered, adopted and donated during this uncertain time.

We are continuing our adoption special until further notice, with adoption fees of only $19 for altered animals and only $69 for unaltered animals. The opportunity for pets to find foster homes and forever homes has been one of the very few positive aspects of the tragic COVID-19 crisis.

Get involved with LCHS

The Summer of Second Chances campaign is underway, and every donation increases our ability to provide homeless animals with a second chance at a forever home.

With our fundraising events canceled due to COVID-19 prior to our busy season, we need donations now more than ever. To donate to our Summer of Second Chances campaign, please visit our website or view our social media posts.

We are also in need of fosters to help with caring for our animals and have seen an increase in intakes over the past week.

To become a foster with us, please visit our website to fill out an application and give us at least 48 hours to respond that we have approved your application. We are also accepting new volunteers.

If you’re interested in volunteering with us, please fill out the volunteer application on our website. We’re thankful for everybody who has opened their homes to animals in need and to those who have helped at the shelter by providing socialization and enrichment to our animals.

Separation anxiety

With many people scheduled to return to work soon, we thought that it would be a good time to share resources on separation anxiety, as the behavioral issues associated with separation anxiety can be very stressful for the dog and the family as a whole.

Increased time at home has enabled adopters to devote time to training their new pets and helping them acclimate to the new home environment. However, at this time, it may take more of a conscious effort to ensure that pets become more comfortable with being left alone.

I spoke with Savanna Hill, a staff member with experience working in the shelter, as well as with fostering and being both a dog and cat owner.

She said, “When you’re working and have a dog, they get used to finding ways to occupy their time. If you’re there constantly, and they rely on you being there constantly, they can become codependent rather than independent.” She explained that when the owner then leaves, behavior problems arise.

When asked how to ensure a smooth transition for people and their pets when regular workdays resume, Hill recommended “training them the correct way, giving the dogs time to themselves and socializing them with other animals and new people.”

Hill explained that issues that weren’t a big deal while staying at home might become more significant problems when returning to work. She pointed out that such behaviors can then lead the owner to “bring the dog back as a surrender to their local shelter.”

While humane societies work hard to provide the best quality of life in the shelter through playgroups and enrichment, the noise of other dogs barking, living in a kennel for much of the time and other aspects are all potentially stressful for them.

Preventing and managing separation anxiety

A dog experiencing separation anxiety may be well behaved when their owner is home, but they can forget this training in the panic that their people have left. They may then engage in such behaviors as urinating the house, tearing up furniture and breaking out of their crate due to the anxiety.

However, separation anxiety can be prevented and managed.

In an interview with Today, Best Friends Animal Society dog behavioral specialist Janelle Metiva explained that an abrupt change in the daily routine from being at home to going to work could trigger new or cause worsening separation anxiety.

“If the dog is used to that constant attention and suddenly it goes away, that huge, abrupt change could definitely cause them some big initial panic,” she told Today. “We have to do prep work now so that it’s not such an extreme transition.”

In The Best Friends Animal Society guide titled “Separation Anxiety in Dogs,” animal behavior consultant Sherry Woodard recommended taking short trips away from home to help pets become accustomed to being by themselves.

By gradually increasing the time spent away from home, pets can learn that your absence doesn’t mean that something is wrong.

It may also help to provide pets with something to do. A Kong filled with a tasty treat, such as peanut butter, can keep the dog busy and also be a source of positive reinforcement. Kongs can also be frozen so that the treat will last even longer.

If the dog is already experiencing separation anxiety, then it may be necessary to take an even more gradual approach.

Suggestions offered in the same Best Friends guide include following your leaving routine, such as putting on shoes, grabbing your keys and going to the door, but without actually leaving.

Another method for slowly desensitizing an animal to your absence is to go into a closet and shutting the door, or exiting through another door that you don’t usually leave through, and then coming back after a short time.

Best Friends Animal Society, the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States include excellent guides on a wide range of training topics and behavioral issues.

We hope that the above knowledge will be helpful to local pet owners, and we are thankful to have such a supportive community as we go through these uncertain times.

Column by Kelly Daniel, volunteer coordinator with the Lee County Humane Society.

Column by Kelly Daniel, volunteer coordinator with the Lee County Humane Society.

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