close up photo of brown short coated dog sitting on wooden floor

Photo by Mark Arron Smith on

So, this is the first topic to be discussed in the “Rescue Me-Know Me” Series and it seems to be a major issue for new rescues and adoptions, especially for pets coming from shelter situations.  Their new families do absolutely everything they can think of to help them with the fear and anxiety they have when left alone or not with their person or persons.  This behavior can either be destructive or just extremely stressful for the pet.  In every conversation the same pattern seems to emerge.  It’s very similar to a human “panic attack”.  It is not something they can control.  It’s not something they can change simply by their environment changing or being told or trained to.  It’s beyond their control in many cases.  Many times the pet is medicated which in some cases can make things worse for them and their environment.  

The destruction can be frustrating and oftentimes they get the brunt of the situation and may even end up back where they came from through no fault of their own and until the fear and panic is dealt with the pet can be moved around or may never find their forever home. 

Even if their new family is incredibly patient and kind and would do anything to help them, it’s the understanding that needs to happen.  Love, kindness and patience, although an enormous gift to them, doesn’t always answer our questions of why!

In speaking with many pets who have been adopted or rescued from shelters or bad situations, they already come in a panic simply from their environment.  So, first they are dealing with the trauma and panic of their situations, they also now have a new environment and the one and only thing that is grounding them is their new person or family.  It’s literally the only thing keeping them together and when that person or persons leaves, even for short periods of time, it causes a panic that they can’t control anymore than humans can control panic attacks.

And very much of interest is that many people say they have had their dogs all their lives since they were puppies and they still have this issue.  In that case, most of the time the issue is that they have brought that behavior in from their mother’s.  If the mother was in a panic situation or difficult situation during birth, they will often bring that in with them so that their families never really understand where this behavior comes from.  They know that nothing has ever happened to the pet to make them scared when alone in the entire time they have been together so there seems to be no reason for the Separation Anxiety.  But, that’s it.  It can come from Mom.

I can relate to their feelings.  I am terribly afraid of turbulence while flying and there is absolutely nothing that will calm me when it happens and, believe me, I have tried everything.  It’s a fear beyond my control.  They always try to relate the feelings of fear and anxiety they experience when left alone to the exact feelings we would have as humans experiencing a fear that can’t easily be controlled.

Ok, so what do we do?  That’s the questions that can change their lives forever.  Separation Anxiety can be dealt with through Communication.  Understanding how they feel and what exactly sets it off for them.  Just your understanding can be hugh for them.  But the most important thing is to deal with it before the frustration begins, temper flare and the situation becomes worse for them.  In speaking with them they will tell you what they need, how it feels and how to help them.  Now you may say, well if they can’t control this, then how do I help them?  Listen.  Understand.  Become a part of their team to overcome this and try to see the situation through the human form of panic attack which I believe will be very helpful.  So much of this is UNDERSTANDING.  Really knowing how they feel and what sets them off.  Also through Communication we can help them to switch the picture to see themselves being calm while alone.  

But this is the most important thing, understanding them through Communication.  Hearing their words and feelings and listening to whatever it is they may need to help them through this.  You can’t train what you don’t know.  So many times just being able to speak can change their situation dramatically.  Having an understanding with their humans is hugh to them and can change a situation on a dime.

We just need to ask and they will tell us what they need.  We just need to put their feelings in human perspective to walk in their paws as this happens to them.  

If you take nothing else away from this Blog, please let it sink it that it is not their fault.  They are not trying to be destructive or do bad things while you are gone.  They are not acting out.  They are not bad! They do not have “issues” and they are not stupid.  They are simply in a fear pattern that they have no control over!

Speaking with them is the answer! 



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