It is very unfortunate when dogs become abandoned from a previous home. Reasons
for abandonment can be anywhere from living arrangements that are conducive for a
dog, financial issues, or a job change.
Whatever the case, shelters can get overrun with dogs who are looking for a second
chance for a forever home. If you have rescued a dog, there is the possibility they might
experience separation anxiety because of previous abandonment.
If your dog has minor or severe anxiety, there are ways to help them overcome the
stressful time they are going through. Helping a dog become relaxed in their new
environment will take lots of patience, love, and understanding from the new parent or
Schedule keeping helps dogs to thrive so they can learn the new rules easier. Establish
a routine that works for you and your dog. When you first bring home your rescue, it is
recommended to take time off from work so you can build a new-found relationship.
Your constant presents during the first few weeks will certainly help them settle in more quickly.
The first few weeks after bringing your pet home could be the most difficult. Be prepared
for physical problems caused by stress. Bonding with your new dog doesn’t happen
overnight and it will take time to achieve.
For a rescue dealing with minor separation anxiety; do not make a big deal when you
are arriving home or departing. Even though it’s hard, and they are excited to see you,
ignore them for the first few minutes. Then pet them calmly as a reward.
Remember when you were younger and scared of something, you grabbed a stuffed
animal or a soft blanket to cuddle with that made you feel better? If you are leaving for
hours at a time, give your dog a piece of clothing you have worn recently, think of it as
acting like a security blanket for them.
A more severe case of separation anxiety can be harder to fix.
Teach them the basic sit, stay, and lay down commands. Be sure to use positive
reinforcement while training. After they have learned those commands, step up their
training a bit. Bring them to a sit, or lay down position, give the stay command, then
proceed to a different room. This type of training technique will help your dog learn it is
okay to remain calm in one place.
While you are training your dog, create a word or an action of a sort to use whenever
you are leaving the premises. The word or action lets them know you will be back later.
Research shows that music or background noise helps calm a dog while you are away.
The noise helps to distract them from the outside world such as people entering the
building if you live in an apartment complex, nearby construction sounds, and especially
the mailman arriving can cause distress to your dog.
So, what noises should you play in your home to help lower their heart rates while you
are away? Classical music has a soothing effect on dogs. After a few days, switch up
the music to a good soft rock station, and reggae is also a great genre to help reduce
Helping your rescue become relaxed in their new environment will take time. Some
dogs are easier than others when becoming accustomed to a new home. Remember to
start slow, and try not to over-stimulate them. Dogs can pick up on your mood, if you
remain calm and in control, they will sense that calmness.
If your rescue was used to being by themselves for a large amount of time, or even
living on the streets, look out for food aggression. Warning signs include growling and
showing teeth. A higher aggression dog will lunge or snap when approached.
Give your new dog their personal space when they seem too stressed out. If you have
children, make sure to have them respect the dog’s space as well. A cornered dog
could lash out as a defense mechanism.
Be patient if your rescue is having problems regarding potty training issues. Take them
outside in the morning and every two hours. Do not punish your dog if you catch them in
the middle of the act. Interrupt them by making a startling noise, but do not scare them.
Take them directly outside to their designated area and praise them with a treat as
positive reinforcement. Remember that it will take them a while to become accustomed
to new rules.
Watch out for escape attempts. Take special precautions when opening your door so
the dog is not able to squeeze through and escape. If you have a backyard fence, make
sure the barrier is high enough so the dog cannot jump over. Also, check for loose
boards that they’d be able to get through. Be sure to not leave them unattended in the
Give your dog toys to occupy themselves during the day so they are not bored. Take
long walks and play with them to burn off pent-up energy. Attend an obedience school,
or higher a personal trainer to help you build skills and form a bond with your new best
If you decide to use an over-the-counter calming aid, remember to consult your
veterinarian first. Your dog may be allergic to something you didn’t know about, which
could cause their stress level to rise.
Dogs of any breed can develop anxiety. However, not all rescues have separation
anxiety. According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
evidence shows there is no conclusive reasoning why dogs develop it. Show your dog
love through this difficult time in their lives, and be a confident pack leader for them.
Watch your dog’s body language. Relaxed ears, a wagging tail, and wet kisses display
signs that your rescue is now comfortable in their new home. Building a good friendship
takes time and patients, so above all, enjoy your new best friend, smile often, laugh a
lot, and create good memories together.