Many adopted pets settle right in to their new home without even turning around three times to lie down! But others need a little more time and help from us to get adjusted. Highly sensitive dogs and cats can be deeply affected by having been abandoned by their previous owner, and the stresses of living on the street or in a shelter. That kind of anxiety can manifest in some pretty bizarre behaviors! The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to help reassure your new pooch or feline, and get them on track to becoming your happy family pet. As animal shelter and rescue volunteers (and with our professional trainer Katya), we here at staff have a lot of first- and second-hand experience with helping newly adopted and fostered dogs and cats! We’ll be sharing some of our stories here, and what we’ve discovered works. We hope you’ll be inspired and possibly find some solutions if you’re struggling with a new pet’s adjustment. Nothing replaces the hand-on help and experience of a professional behaviorist, who can visit with you and your pet in your home and help you fast track a program to get you chugging off in the right direction. But sometimes you can’t get an appointment immediately, and are searching the internet for some ideas for things you can try right away to help… so that’s what these articles are here for! For this first article, let’s meet Dolly the dog and her adopter Tony.

Hi Jennifer,

I am kind of freaking out and wonder if you have any advice. Today while I was at school, Dolly managed to escape her metal crate. It is very sturdy, but apparently she is capable of bending the frame up. She didn’t tear anything up too bad, and the cat was contained, so mostly it is a positive story, but I am concerned about having an pet who is not yet trained and potentially destructive in the house without a way to contain her. I can see that when I leave for class for a few hours, I will have to be wondering for the foreseeable future whether or not she is doing serious damage.  Do you have any advice? She freaks out pretty bad when we aren’t here (we’ve been “leaving” and then going outside the window and looking in at her, and then returning when she appears agitated to try to get her accustomed to when we are gone). Just do you know, we’re all committed to the process. I would never give up over a few inconveniences!

Thanks Jennifer! I really appreciate it.


Hi Tony,

So sorry you are freaking out, but I hope it helps to hear that it is not unusual! Some shelter dogs have anxiety about being abandoned again. The good news is there is lots you can do to help her get used to your leaving, and this is a very fixable problem!
There are so many variables with each individual dog and home, without actually seeing Dolly in her home, I don’t think it is possible -or a good idea- to say “do X, Y then Z” without that in-home observation.

If you can afford it, I highly recommend hiring a professional behaviorist to come and work with you and Dolly. They will get to know her, watch her in your house, in the crate, outside your house, and will be able to give you a solid plan based on Dolly, you and your environment. In the meantime (or if you can’t afford a behaviorist) try our tips for reducing anxiety in our article and also check out the crate training article mentioned step 8. We’ve had some great feedback from people using those steps!

You might also try running a google search for: “help my dog escapes from his crate” and start reading!!! So many things you can try, I would read through as much as you can and see what fits your situation best, and this “do it yourself” method can be some (or a lot!) of trial and error depending on your dog, until you get it right.

Best wishes,

— One day later, Tony’s reply:

Dear Jennifer,

You know what? Things are much better. She is slowly getting used to the idea of our coming and going. Yesterday we went to the vet and she recommended a Dog Appeasement Pheromone (DAP) collar, which is a pheromone that nursing mother dogs produce to relax the babies. Is seems to be helping. We also got permission from a neighbor to use an enclosed space off both our laundry rooms during the day when we are gone. (Thank goodness for dog-friendly neighbors!) That way the crate can be reserved for sleeping and times in the house when we can’t have her leashed to our belts. 🙂 I was a little concerned being in the enclosed concrete space would remind her of the shelter, but she did great out there! The sun comes in in the afternoon, and it is even well-covered in the event of a little rain. Speaking or which, when the rain started last night at around 12:30, she did get a little vocal. I moved out onto the couch to sleep, and it calmed her right down. She is doing great-making a lot of progress very quickly! She is really going to be a terrific companion. Right now she’s dream-barking in her crate. 🙂

Thanks so much for your help!
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