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Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training


Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training
11 min read

If you’re searching for rescue dog separation anxiety training guide, then you’ve landed on the right page. I would like to take a moment to applaud you for actually taking this step to help your newly adopted dog.

Unfortunately, many people tend to surrender their dogs who have separation anxiety because they either don’t know how to deal with them or don’t have the time and resources to do so.

It is actually pretty heartbreaking. I mean, imagine getting abandoned by your family just because you have anxiety. It is just so cruel.

Many people seem to wonder if dogs end up having separation Anxiety because they were abandoned, or if they get abandoned due to having separation anxiety. It is like the “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma.

The answer of people who mostly rely on science differs from those who primarily rely on religion, so there isn’t a simple direct answer to that.

Similarly, it is challenging to pinpoint when and why separation anxiety has developed; nevertheless, we luckily have a rescue dog separation training guide. Here is how you can help a dog with separation anxiety.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training- Understanding Separation anxiety

Just like how humans can get diagnosed with a mental illness called Anxiety, dogs can also get diagnosed with this psychological disorder.

There are many different forms and types of Anxiety, but today, I am going to focus on separation anxiety that often develops in rescue dogs.

Separation anxiety occurs due to the dog having a dysfunctional attachment to a specific person, making them develop terrible anxiety attacks when the dog is separated from that person or even left alone.

As I said, there are many different types of separation anxiety, and one variation of that psychological disorder is isolation distress.

Isolation distress makes your dog feel absolutely terrified when they’re left alone without any human company around them.

In this type of separation anxiety, dogs suffering from it are usually okay and not anxious if their owner is staying with them.

dog separation anxiety training

However, this psychological disorder is a behavior problem that is very difficult and challenging for dog owners. People have jobs to go to, errands to run, and other things that they need to leave their houses for.

So those dogs with separation anxiety are definitely going to be left home alone for prolonged periods every day! When they are left home alone, these dogs will whine, bark, and howl nonstop.

Not only is that distressing for your four-legged best friend, but also your neighbors are going to get super frustrated with the constant, loud noises.

Not only are you going to go back home to listen to your angry neighbors complaining, and your dog is in such a bad mental state, but you’ll have to deal with the aftermath resulting from your dog’s anxiety and panic attacks.

When extremely distressed, a dog with separation anxiety might urinate and defecate inside the house, drool excessively, and might even partake in undesired behaviors like destructive chewing on their owners’ shoes.

It doesn’t matter if these dogs are house trained, and don’t ever go to the bathroom inside of the home or even avoid engaging in destructive behaviors.

When someone is mentally ill, and they’re experiencing a bad episode of whatever they’re suffering from, a switch is flipped on.

It is like all of the things that shape a person, from personality to characteristics, are locked away in the dungeon, while the mental illness has the majority of the control on that person’s body. The same thing happens in dogs with separation anxiety.

Yes, they’re trained, but that part of them become nothing but a blurred line, and everything you see is the result of separation anxiety, and not your precious four-legged best friend!

It truly saddens me the number of dogs who are struggling with separation anxiety get given up by their owner, their own families, to dog shelters just because the dogs’ owners don’t want or claim that they can’t deal with their dogs’ “Condition”!

What people often fail to realize that when dogs with health issues, especially dogs with separation anxiety, are surrendered to a shelter, is that this just worsens the dogs’ mental health state.

Not only are these dogs being separated forever from their friends/ owners, but any sort of daily routines are taken away from them as well. No more daily exercises, playtimes, or even cuddling with their owners.

This makes it even harder on those dogs. Actually, this is one of the top reasons why abandoned dogs who are supposed to be mentally healthy get separation anxiety once they’re surrendered to a dog shelter.

Unfortunately, history repeats itself, and these once surrendered now adopted dogs with separation anxiety often find themselves back at the shelter again!

If this happens a lot, shelters tend to euthanize the dogs. If only people took the time to do a bit of research and help their dogs instead of indirectly sending them to such a tragic ending!

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training – How to start helping your rescue dog who is struggling with separation anxiety?

Does anyone remember the reality tv show, Supernanny? In case you didn’t, this was a reality tv show where parents would submit a video to Supernanny.

dog separation anxiety training

By watching how the misbehaved kids acted throughout the day from that video recording, she would come up with a plan that should help both the parents and the kids.

Similarly, the best thing you could start with is to record your dog whenever you leave the house. Make sure to at least record the first thirty to sixty minutes after you leave the house.

You can do so by setting up a camera and hitting the record button before you leave the house. This way, you can have a visual demonstration of what’s going on.

Then, take that video recording to a behavior professional, who could be a veterinary behaviorist, a dog trainer who specializes in separation anxiety, or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.

Taking your dog with separation anxiety to a veterinarian is also an acceptable action.

Those professionals will be able to recognize the signs of separation anxiety by watching the video and offer you their advice and guidance. They might recommend putting your dog on medication.

Remember that mental illnesses rarely get cured via medication, but they are definitely capable of improving the symptoms and quality of life.

The drugs might help, but they won’t cure your dog’s Anxiety, so you’ll have to educate yourself on rescue dog separation anxiety training and implement it.

Dogs often get better with training techniques. The drugs, if prescribed by the doctor, could seriously help your dog feel a little less stressed when taking them.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training- Keep your dog under the threshold.

We mentioned previously that your dog’s exposure to what triggers their Anxiety should start small and grow slowly. During the time that you’re not desensitizing your dogs, you have to avoid triggering the worst level of their separation anxiety.

So if you can’t stay home from work for a couple of weeks, which I know isn’t even a viable option in most cases, then start looking for a daycare for dogs or consider hiring your four-legged best friend a babysitter.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training – Avoid emotional arrivals and departures.

I have talked about that in more detail in my How to Crate Train A Dog with Separation Anxiety blog post, so make sure to check that out.

To sum it up, don’t express too much enthusiasm upon arrival because that just translates to your dog differently than what it actually is.

You might be enthusiastic, cause you’re finally seeing your precious dog after a long day of work, but that is not what they see through their eyes.


To them, you are so happy upon returning because something terrible must have happened to you out there.

This makes them even more anxious when you leave cause they believe that you’re getting hurt in some way when you’re away.

Make your departures and arrivals very simple by only saying goodbye and hi in a very normal tone instead of an enthusiastic one.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training – Use essential oils to calm your dog.

Although this shouldn’t be used as the only method to help your dog, essential oils like lavender could help tone down your dog’s Anxiety.

dog separation anxiety training

I have gone through a lot of research papers that support lavender’s calming effect in both humans and dogs with Anxiety, so I think it is worth the shot to give it a try.

I have, of course, left all of the references to anything important I read regarding lavender oil at the end of this post, so feel free to research and learn more about their effects.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training- Patience is a virtue.

As with any other dog training post, here is your reminder to stay patient. Modifying your dog’s behavior for separation anxiety is going to take some time, but your four-legged best friend needs you to be there for them, just like how they’re always there for you.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training – Using counterconditioning and desensitization.

Counterconditioning and desensitization are two techniques that play such a massive role in the rescue dog separation anxiety training! But what are the principles behind them?

Let us start with counterconditioning. Psychologists developed this process where they change the response that is triggered by the same stimuli.

For example, if someone cries upon seeing rain and they undergo counterconditioning, then they’ll no longer cry when they see the rain again.

Thus, counterconditioning will help your dog react to your absence with less fear of the stimulus, like you leaving the house, which is the main reason why they stress out. This sounds great, but how does counterconditioning actually work?

dog separation anxiety training

Counterconditioning works via something that is known as desensitization!

Okay, but what is desensitization?

This is a psychological treatment technique that eliminates or at least dramatically reduces any sort of emotional responsiveness to a specific stimulus by getting repetitive exposure to that stimuli.

So, in this case, the stimulus is leaving the dog alone. However, there is a proper way to do this. If the counterconditioning and desensitization processes are not performed correctly, your dog’s Anxiety might actually worsen.

You can do this by leaving the house for one minute, then returning back again. Make sure to make all hellos and goodbyes very lowkey and casual. Don’t show any enthusiasm. Every day, add another minute.

You can try to prepare them a frozen Kong that is filled with peanut butter and their favorite treats that they only get when you leave the house.

This could potentially serve as a great distraction, and also switch their response to you leaving the house.

The kong might make them look forward to you leaving the house, eventually.

You could also take your dog on a run before you leave alone, this way they’re more likely to just sit down and rest while you’re away instead of biting your shoes.

You can also get a calming vest for your dog, which basically a vest that feels like your dog is getting hugged while they’re wearing it. You can spray it with a little bit of lavender oil, and put it on your dog before you leave the house.

dog separation anxiety training

If you’re interested in trying the calming vest for your dog, then it’s your lucky day. Our RELAX VEST™: Dog Anxiety-Calming Vest is currently on sale, so you can grab one here.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety Training- Lavender Oil References

DL, W. (2019). Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16978115 [Accessed 26 Jun. 2019]

E., F. (2015). The Use of Essential Oils as a Complementary Treatment for Anxiety. American Journal of Nursing Science, 4(2), p.1.

Graham, L., Wells, D. and Hepper, P. (2005). The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 91(1-2), pp.143-153.

Koulivand, P., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M. and Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, pp.1-10.

Cold, F., Health, E., Disease, H., Disease, L., Management, P., Conditions, S., Problems, S., Disorders, S., Checker, S., Interviews, E., Boards, M., Answers, Q., Guide, I., Doctor, F., A-Z, C., A-Z, S., Medications, M., Identifier, P., Interactions, C., Drugs, C., Pregnant, T., Management, D., Obesity, W., Recipes, F., Exercise, F., Beauty, H., Balance, H., Relationships, S., Care, O., Health, W., Health, M., Well, A., Sleep, H., Teens, H., Kids, F., Pregnant, G., Trimester, F., Trimester, S., Trimester, T., Baby, N., Health, C., Vaccines, C., Kids, R., Cats, H., Dogs, H., Brands, H., Weight?, C., Bones, C., Standard?, W., Know, W., Boards, M., Blogs, E. and Center, N. (2019). Lavender: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. [online] Webmd.com. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-838/lavender [Accessed 26 Jun. 2019].

That’s it for today’s post. If you have any questions about separation anxiety in dogs, then feel free to leave them in the comments down below. If you have any experience in dealing with rescue dogs with separation anxiety, then kindly share with your story in the comments as well.

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