According to Salon writer Matthew Rozsa, abandoning dogs can leave them with lifelong emotional trauma, and even PTSD.
“When dogs and cats are abandoned,” Rozsa says, “they are left with a psychological trauma that can never fully heal”. And, the science is on Rozsa’s side. Recent discoveries in canine psychology have shown that their emotional lives are as nuanced as our own. Consider dogs with separation anxiety or insecure attachment styles. In the same way, abandonment can exacerbate or even create these conditions for humans, they can do it for dogs as well.
Dogs Can Experience Trauma Just Like Us
In fact, emotional distress can be contagious between dogs and parents. According to one September 2022 study, dogs can actually smell our stress. Rosza cites another study, this one from 2019, that says dogs and their parents experience synchronized cortisol levels (cortisol is the stress hormone) over the long term. In that study, researchers said, “Human personality traits…significantly affected dog hair cortisol concentrations. Hence, we suggest that dogs, to a great extent, mirror the stress level of their owners”.
Contrastingly, Rosza also says that positive connection is a vital component for any dog to have a fulfilling life. The article cites a 2015 Japanese study where researchers found that eye contact between puppies and humans increased oxytocin levels in both parties. Notably, this physiological reaction was absent in wolves.
The Solution Is Responsible Pet Parentship
It goes without saying that the hardships faced by abandoned dogs are many. As such, Rosza says the evident solution is for people to be more mindful. The key change that must occur,” Rosza says, “is for humans to think carefully before acquiring a pet”. Before adopting a dog, prospective parents should consider whether they’re ready to take responsibility for another living creature, one with real emotional needs, not just physical ones.