7 min read


Can Dogs Feel Abandoned?



7 min read


Can Dogs Feel Abandoned?


Dog’s have the capacity to feel much like their human companions who, in general, value their canine friends - offering them food, shelter and a forever place to call home. Too often in this world, it’s a different story for our doggy pals, who are abandoned by people who wouldn’t take the time to understand why their pooch barked a little too much or who were moving cities and a dog a didn’t factor in the change. 

Dogs are being discarded in areas where they have to try and survive, but thanks to the kind hearts of rescue organizations, "throw-away" pups are given a second chance. This testimony to mankind's cruelty can be a story that often ends well - so let's take a look at this issue and discover how dogs really feel when they are abandoned?


Signs A Dog Feels Abandoned

Once you get your new fur-baby home, there will be signs of their former life, as being abandoned opens up a well of emotion, and it might take a little while to get some pooches to trust. Imagine being left to wander the streets or navigate life in the Everglades, where other animals make their home. Deserted dogs face this dilemma every day and those that are rescued carry the scars.

If you have a big heart, patience and a desire to help one of these forgotten pet-kids, a shelter dog can be a loving friend. The most obvious signs a dog is not coping with its past abandonment become apparent when you have to leave the house. 

As you walk toward the door the quiet, Schnoodle ( Poodle/Schnauzer) you found at the shelter has suddenly changed. She is now whining and barking as you reach for your coat. When you pick up the car keys – Sharni goes into orbit and runs around in circles, panting and completely losing the plot. You stand there shocked as even though you were warned Sharni may have some behavior problems - you were not expecting this!

Sharni was found by rescuers in a very bad way, as she’d been dumped at the back of a park and had been attacked by another animal. She had appeared timid at the shelter, but the experienced staff were aware, her emotions may at some point come to the surface - and here it was. 

You were already running late for work, so you rang the boss and said you would be in soon. You then scooped this troubled pup up into your arms, trying to soothe her - and it seemed to work as Sharnie relaxed and you were able to leave the house. 

On returning home, the effect of Sharnie’s abandonment was troubling. She had chewed up the throw pillows on the couch and left scratches on the hardwood floors - plus there was an endless stream of paper from the bathroom and poops all over the floor. Your scared Schnoodle is nowhere to be seen but you eventually find her whimpering behind a chair. When you approach- she growls and runs away. 

You coax her out of her hiding place as she cutely tilts her head to one side. She is listening to you speak and slowly, this petrified, pup wags her tail. She jumps up and you tell her it going to be okay. Sharni has experienced separation anxiety - a classic syndrome in dogs who have been abandoned mercilessly.

Many dog owners know the joy and heartache of taking home a shelter dog. They don’t come gift-wrapped like a puppy from the pet store – instead, they arrive with a ton of baggage that needs plenty of unpacking. 

Body Language

Signs your dog is feeling the effects of being abandoned:<br/>

  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Panting
  • Howling
  • Wag Tail

Other Signs

Here are more signs your dog has abandonment issues:<br/>

  • Growling
  • Running Around In Circles
  • Hiding
  • Going To The Bathroom On The Floor
  • Chewing The Throw

The History of Abandoned Dogs


Analyzing the history of dogs being abandoned could easily go back to ancient times when wolves must surely have felt a sense of loss as primitive man invaded their territory. This was the beginning of integration between wolves and man, culminating in the various breeds of dogs we know and love.

The attachment of dogs to people is historic and as we've made them our constant companions - it’s likely they've evolved to feel a sense of comfort when we are around. Stray dogs often have a different approach - being more wary of humans, they don't get too close, but when a person starts feeding a homeless dog the connection can become strong. Slowly, the dog forms a bond they may have never previously known. 

Abandoned dogs were left to their own devices until 1824 when the SPCA was founded in Great Britain – followed by the ASPCA (formed in 1886) in the US. The 60’s and 70’s saw the advent of private animal shelters, as the world exploded with rescue organizations saving lost and mistreated pets. Some of the reasons dogs continue to be abandoned are the ongoing cost, behavior problems, lack of time, land-lord's rules about pets and loss of interest. 

When a dog is put out of the car and left on the side of the road, it goes through various stages of grief, wondering if their owner is coming back. What follows are feelings of despair and detachment as the dog that once had a home, tries to understand. You can easily compare this sad state of mind with the loss of a loved one when similar emotions are felt. Still, people continue to leave their dogs alone without a thought for their feelings and welfare. It’s also ironic that our abandoned, homeless people are adopting street dogs in a union of affection and shared experience.

You may have heard the heart-wrenching story of a Japanese Akita dog named Hachiko who was treated like a son by his owner, a professor at the Tokyo University.

Every morning it was a ritual for Hachiko to see his pet guardian off at the local train station and then return later to escort him home. One day, Hachiko was waiting but his owner never returned. He had suddenly died, an event Hachiko could not possibly comprehend. He went to live with a former family gardener, but every day, continued his pilgrimage to the station - morning and afternoon. People at the station called him Chuken-Hachiko - meaning Hachiko, the faithful dog, who never stopped hoping his owner would return. 

The bond between man and dog is enduring, a lesson for those who devalue the loyalty of our canine friends. 

The Science Behind Dog Abandonment


How dogs think and feel has become a platform for scientific research, with studies confirming our fur-buddies share with us feelings of pain, sorrow and even depression. They also understand human speech and its meaning, plus form deep, loving relationships with their pet moms and dads. 

Science proclaims that dogs are the most connected species to humans on a social level, so to truly understand how an abandoned canine feels, we need to dig into the minds of dogs. What we find is a brain structure similar to ours - capable of feeling a wide range of emotions. Our pupsters also have the same hormone - oxytocin - that stimulates feelings of love, but with the mental capabilities of a 2.5-year-old child. This could explain why dogs lie on the graves of lost guardians, as a child this age has limited awareness about the finality of death. 

Take a moment to consider how a dog measures the permanent parting of an owner, whether it is from dying or leaving!

Knowing your darling Dachshund has a heart that feels loss imagine how bewildered this little guy will feel if he goes for a ride in the car and then is dumped somewhere in the middle of the night. Perhaps if these cowardice owners were aware of how similar their unwanted pups are to humans -they might think twice before they commit such a heinous act.

Training for Once-Abandoned Dogs


We now know that abandoned dogs can harbor a lot of issues - including lack of trust and separation anxiety.

Counter-conditioning is a great way to turn things around as it replaces the source of anxiety with something the dog really likes.  Before leaving the house, fill a toy with your pooch's favorite treats so it’ll take Rover some time to get through his reward. Once you’re back home, take the toy away so he knows it’s only when you leave he gets this delicious treat! 

If Duke, your Bull Terrier, gets agitated every-time you are about to leave home, you might have to work with the triggers that set him off. During the day, get ready to go out but don’t leave the house right away. Instead, listen to some music so your dog sees that these actions do not always mean they will be alone. It won't happen overnight but seeing this hurt dog feel whole again will be your reward.

Once you see a positive change, take short trips away from the house, so Duke knows your coming home. Teaching him to sit or stay while you close the bedroom door helps your doggo feel less stressed and you can work up to the front door, giving him the stuffed toy before you go. The idea is to defuse your Terrier's fear that he’s about to be abandoned, so building slowly up to the regular number of hours you're will away can take a few or more weeks if properly done. 

Many dogs that have been abandoned have food aggression issues and some even tear up the house. Give your shelter pup time to get familiar with his surroundings, as this is a dog with real fear. If he shies away from you, don’t worry. In time, when he’s ready, he’ll make a friendly move. Your pooch needs time to feel safe again but right now, he’s a little stressed out.

The road to recovery for an abandoned pup can be a challenge for the new owner with plenty of twists and turns, but it’s a wonderful feeling to help a forgotten dog and a joy to see them happy again!

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Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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