What’s the best way to crate train a dog with separation anxiety?

Crate training can be a useful tool for many dog owners. Some may want their dog in a crate when they’re sleeping or when they leave the home, while others may want to give the dog space all their own. Crate training is also helpful for dogs with separation anxiety since the crate can provide calm and protection. Dogs that do not like being alone may welcome the crate during moments of distress. Crate training takes time and patience. Relieving separation anxiety requires an owner’s full attention and dedication. Don’t miss our testing insights on the Furbo Dog Camera.

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is the fear of being alone. Dogs that have been abandoned, have moved to a new space or have undergone a sudden shift in lifestyle may develop separation anxiety. In particular, dogs that develop a strong bond with their owners may become anxious when alone. Especially if the owner has been home frequently only to have a new schedule in which they are often away. Separation anxiety may develop at any age among any breed. It can also be exacerbated by a lack of mental and physical stimulation, leading to a bored dog that may start to lash out.

How to identify separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is easy to identify and can manifest in a variety of ways. Most commonly, your dog barks excessively while you’re gone. They may also develop destructive behavior such as chewing furniture, rummaging for food or ripping up anything left out. They may also mark or relieve themselves when left alone. Some behavior may be noticeable before you leave. Dogs can associate certain sounds and actions, such as the handling of keys or putting on a coat, as signs they are about to be left alone. As a result, they may begin to pace, pant, drool, shake or even try to sneak out the door with you.

Crate training advantages

When afraid or anxious, a trained dog may retreat to its crate. If it becomes a place of refuge, dogs can be more comfortable when alone. It gives them security and confidence and offers you peace of mind while away. Many owners prefer to crate train a rescue dog since past trauma may be unknown and it’s likely they are in need of stability.

How to crate train

Crate training can take weeks or months and requires strict discipline and patience by the owner. The first step is to choose the right crate. Your dog should be able to comfortably stand up and turn around within the crate. Wire crates are most popular as they are durable and easy to set up and take down. Some have two doors for easier access, while others feature a bottom platform that can pull out for easy cleaning.

Initially, the crate should be a place your dog can safely explore without owners nearby. Fill it with a comfortable bed or blankets, especially ones that have a familiar smell to them. You may put in calming toys or clothes that have your scent on it to make the dog feel safe.

Spending time in the crate should be relaxing. If your dog does not initially explore the crate, a favorite toy or tasty treat might entice them. Let them enter and exit as they wish and keep your distance if they seem hesitant. Early on, their time in the crate needs to be rewarding and stimulating. A challenging puzzle or a treat-dispensing toy is useful to get them to make positive associations.

As they grow more comfortable, you can experiment with closing the door but keeping it unlocked, allowing your dog to push it open and leave if they wish. Over time, begin to lock the door, keeping them in for a few minutes. Slowly increase the time they stay in there as they grow more comfortable, building up to longer periods away.

Crate safety

There are some precautions to take when crate training your dog.

  • Dogs with severe separation anxiety may seek to break free, which can be dangerous.
  • They should never wear a collar or apparel within the crate as it may get caught.
  • They should have water if you’re going away for more than an hour. Some water bowls can affix to the side so they don’t step in it or knock it over.
  • Avoid leaving your dog in a crate for more than six to eight hours. Especially younger dogs that may not have full bladder control.
  • If your dog is anxious and prone to chewing while stressed, do not leave any toys within that they could destroy and ingest.

Additional solutions

Crate training is only one way to curb separation anxiety. Before leaving, your dog should enjoy both physical and mental exertion. Tiring them out with a walk and playtime, even something as simple as fetch, can help them settle and relax. Some dogs also benefit from having the sides and top of the crate covered to create a cozier, more protective space with less stimulation.

Some dogs may enjoy calming treats and supplements. Popular ingredients include hemp and chamomile to soothe the dog and help them sleep. Some dog owners may want to keep an eye on their dog while they’re away to better see how they are coping with being alone; a dog camera may be a worthy investment. Our tester found the Furbo Dog Camera‘s treat-tossing feature excellent for interacting with your pet while away. They also liked the recording feature, saying it made training out their puppy’s bad behaviors much easier. For serious anxiety, your vet may prescribe medication in conjunction with dedicated training.

Best treats for crate training for separation anxiety

Merrick Power Bites Salmon Treats

Delicious, high-value dog treats should only be for training. These nutritious chews feature salmon and potatoes. Use these only for crate training so your dog makes positive associations.

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