POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IN SHELTER DOGS
Dogs who experience stressful and traumatic events can carry psychological trauma. Walk through any dog shelter and one can experience firsthand the most common behavioral problems associated with PTSD. Shaking, cowering, shying away from people and excessive barking are among the few behavior changes that these dogs experience.
It is so important to remember that these are not permanent problems and that these dogs will benefit from a normal schedule, tons of love and exercise and good nutrition, once adopted. The aggressive dog that is snarling and barking has most likely experienced abuse and these behaviors can be changed. These dogs can be adopted with the help of an animal behaviorist, trainer and hands on veterinarian.
Although at times it may seem intimidating, these dogs like people are feeling stressed, confused and unloved. Dogs and humans display similar symptoms after life changing events and creating a routine, safe environment with tons of interactive play can reduce stress levels. Veterinarians can also go as far as giving your newly adopted dog some anti- anxiety medications or an anti-depressants. This combined with the work of an understanding trainer or behaviorist will help your dog desensitize from situations that they find stressful.
For many shelter dogs that have PTSD, the recovery process is fast. Be patient with all dogs showing symptoms of PTSD and by giving them lots of positive reinforcement, they will once again regain their confidence and ability to be themselves. Remember to always have your veterinarian examine them in case it is a medical condition and not PTSD, that is causing similar symptoms.
Always keep in mind when adopting, that stressful behaviors that you are seeing at the shelters, are not the same behaviors that your dog will display in a few months time, after he has settled into his new home. My favorite has always been lots of stimulating dog walks, visits to the dogs parks and dog beaches and nutritious healthy foods combined with love and understanding. Even when your newly adopted dog snarls at you, keep in mind that his new environment and new behaviors that he is going to be exposed to with training, will restore his confidence. Supplementing with fish oils or Omega 3,6 and 9’s has been shown to help with depression and PTSD.
Finally adding in some toy shopping for your new canine is always a fun experience for the whole family and will keep him stimulated during the times that he may display signs of boredom or stress.
Give all shelter dogs a second chance and paw it forward! Please adopt.