Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety

Rescue Dog Separation AnxietyOnce you are your rescue dog's accepted Pack member (not necessarily accepted Pack leader), your dog may more readily feel Separation Anxiety upon your leaving than a non-rescue dog would normally feel.

Understandably: After feeling lonely if not left behind for some time, the dog finally found you or was found by you, grew attached, is now left alone again and so the dog must feel that (s)he may have been left behind again. Your dog can't know that this time it is different: You're simply off to work, or grocery shopping or whatever.

Be aware that Separation Anxiety has dog behavior, dog health, and dog care implications:

  • Dog behavior: For example, having a panic attack means your rescue dog may destroy house inventory without even wanting to! Thus scolding would be detrimental: your dog wants to behave well (if trained well) but a panic attack changes dog behavior as much as people behavior!
  • Dog health: For example, having a panic attack means your rescue dog feels enormously stressed, and if that's repetitive then the frequent stress will drastically impair your dog's health (at first the immune system and the integumentary system: more sick in general and skin issues in particular).
  • Dog care: For example, having panic attacks means that you will have to make your house extra dog-proof. Otherwise you would have to lock your dog away which never is a genuine solution - and here, it will worsen the Separation Anxiety!

So you see there is ample reason to avoid Separation Anxiety issues with your rescue dog from the outset. But what if this feeling of urgency comes too late and you are already facing a Separation Anxiety problem with your rescue dog?

With a rescue dog it is more important to steadily build up time of separation, progressively longer periods. Also, your dog will feel calmer (because less bored) when you provide his/her favorite SAFE toy before you leave. For this however you MUST first have checked your dog's play behavior with that toy and in general, because a dog with a panic attack (that's what Separation Anxiety is) might show his/her worst play behavior with his/her most favorite toy.

Similarly, even dogs that behave very well in the house while we are there, may become destructive when we are gone and they get a panic attack. It makes that a big difference, yes! Hence why Separation Anxiety has its own chapter in House Training Dogs To Behave Well, and why there is a long list of points to consider before you leave your dog alone for more than a few minutes - too much for a succinct "decision tree" like this here.

You may also want to take a look at our relevant dog care remedies here (scroll down to "Separation Anxiety / Relaxation").


Note that every key point raised above you can find more comprehensively explained in other places on this website. The menu is your friend. Here, links have been omitted only to keep this decision tree straightforward.

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PLEASE NOTE: Posting a fragment of your overall dog problem in the comments below is not going to help. Provide complete details if you really seek the right solution. Of course we have a page for that as well: Dog Problem Consultation.





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    Good evening, I just rescued a German Shepherd about a month ago. At first I did not have a crate or kennel and the very first day I left him alone for a couple of hours he unbolted the front door and left the house. He met me at the door that day and every time he gets outside. I placed him in the kitchen with a gate and he jumped over it or just just pushed it aside. Next I bought a metal crate and he immediately bent the bars and left the house. I have had 4 metal crates and one travel crate. He brakes and get out every single time. I placed him in my son's room and he of course gets out. I am at my wits end. I called a behaviorist and i have tried all (and still doing it) tricks and nothing. The vet prescribed him Prozac and it he is still doing it. And before I forget we go for a 3 to 4 mole walk at 4:30am every day. My 8 year old boy absolutely loves loves this dog who is so cute as he follows my boy everywhere. He was found as a stray so the rescue workers did not have any information but the first day I reached up to get something out of the counter and he flinched, cried, and ran away. So I am guessing he was abused and went through a lot. I do not want to give this dog back to the rescue because I believe he is a great dog with my son plus my nieces and nephews but I am at a lost I will not be able to keep if the complex starts to complain about him getting out. Sorry I forgot he also gets past all the child/dog proof locks. Just a super smart dog.. I will continue to read through your website but I am in desperate need of assistance.


      I understand you cannot know the rescue dog's age in this case, a rough guess or a photo is enough, because the age is relevant, yes. Indeed, all of this is relevant.

      That you sought to address a behavior problem with a medicament I find disturbing, don't you too?
      That the vet prescribed Prozac is outrageous, he clearly shouldn't have a practicing license!

      Address BEHAVIOR problems with BEHAVIOR changes. It works every time. Without any medicaments.
      German Shepherds are the breed that suffers most when left alone. Add to this that you have a RESCUE dog. Add to this that the dog is suffering a trauma from prior abuse.

      So I would suggest:
      1. Address the trauma.
      2. Then desensitize the dog from feeling anxious when left alone (desensitization is a dog training tool, and so is included in the Dog Training Toolkit).
      3. Then do full House Training, covered in House Training Dogs To Behave Well.
      4. Then slowly build up the amount of time the dog is left unattended for.

      Easy. In this order. And avoids locking the dog away, which makes the behavior problem worse.


    My fiance and I have a 3yr old rescue GSD. He's a great boy and has really really bad separation anxiety. At one point, it was getting better but now, we're back at square one. His old own abused him and had to have surgery on his paw because he was chained up and almost lost his leg. So at first he would chew at his leg/paw. Now since that's all healed up. He has moved to destroying everything in the house. He destroys shoes, the couch, couch pillows, anything he can get his mouth on. And we are pretty good about getting shoes and remotes and stuff like that out of the way. He's been getting into the trash and ripping it up when we leave, going into the dirty clothes and flinging them everywhere. Now, I leave him to go to class, since I'm still at school, and my fiance was away for 20 mins to go drop me off and he comes back and he has destroyed our shoes, they were under our coffee table which is like 5 inches so he had to shove his head under there and grab them. We discipline him for doing these things and he's gone to a trainer countless times. Nothing seems to be working at all. Its like everything he learned just goes out the window. We try giving him treats when we leave and come back so that he knows its a good thing and its okay. Please help. He's destroyed so many things and we do not know what to do anymore. We don't want to give him back but he is destroying everything now and our wallets can't take replacing and fixing the things he destroys. We've had him since July 2016. Like I said, he was bad for a while, then he got really good being separated from us, and now he's horrible, like we just got him.He doesn't get locked up. He used to be blocked in the hallway with a baby gate but he's since destroyed that. He is free to roam around the family room and kitchen, the bathroom and the bedrooms are locked up.

    I had a GSD when I was young and he was never this bad at all.

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