Does Crate Training Help Dogs With Separation Anxiety?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 27 March 2023

Does your dog suffer with separation anxiety?

If so, you may use a dog crate to keep your dog safe when you’re not at home.

Perhaps your dog has destructive tendencies when left to roam the home without owner supervision.

For this reason, you may be pondering whether a dog crate could be a useful tool.

In this article, we spoke to four experts within the dog world to find out whether crate training can help dogs with separation anxiety.

Ensure Crate Training Is Positive

Julie Burgess, Certified Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) at Senior Tail Waggers

Doberman sat in dog crate (Photo: Adobe)

Doberman sat in dog crate (Photo: Adobe)

Crates can be helpful because they: offer a calm, safe space for your dog; minimize potentially harmful things they can get into when you aren’t able to watch them; provide less space they need to be concerned with.

Here are some steps to follow to ensure your dog LOVES its crate: experiment with both plastic and wire, allow your dog to choose, ensure your dog can enter, turn around, and lie down. Your dog should be able to stand in the crate without hunching over.

Ensure crate training is positive for your dog, and use yummy treats, patience, and soft voice tones. You can add an article of clothing you’ve worn but haven’t washed inside the crate. Your scent can often soothe your dog and make crate training and separation anxiety worries easier to handle.

Crate training takes a lot of time and patience. Start with the door propped open and toss yummy treats inside. Once your dog willingly goes in, leave the door open and continue having it rain treats through the top or sides. Use a food toy such as a frozen Kong for your dog to enjoy in his crate. Avoid using the food toy ONLY for crate time so your dog doesn’t associate a food toy with being away from you. Never use the crate as punishment.

Often dogs with separation anxiety are worried about themselves, their owners, and the space around them. Some dogs benefit from reducing the size of their area and thus reducing their stress. Other dogs might feel trapped or closed in, and crates may heighten their anxiety. Experiment with your dog and determine if using a crate is helpful. You don’t want your dog to chew its way out of the crate and cause damage to itself, so take it very slowly.

Other crate training tips: Remain patient and remember crate training is a process. Practice for a few minutes several times a day. Never force your dog into the crate. Use cooked chicken, small pieces of cheese, or lunchmeat to entice your dog into the crate. Dogs with separation anxiety need even more motivation, so bring on the good stuff! * Consult a CPDT (Certified Professional Dog Trainer) if you need help.

Crate Training Doesn’t Address Root Of Separation Anxiety Issue

Megg Mars, Dog Trainer And Founder Of K9 Of Mine

Crate training is a good idea for a number of reasons – it can provide a safe and comfortable space for dogs, and allows you to secure and isolate them when needed. Many owners with dogs who experience separation anxiety may opt to use a crate to contain their dog when they are away.

This is because many dogs with separation anxiety resort to destructive behavior when left alone. But crate training and enclosing a dog in a crate does not address the root cause of separation anxiety, which is akin to a panic disorder.

Separation anxiety is a result of a dog’s fear of being alone. A crate can prevent property destruction, but it does not help the dog or make them feel better. There are some great crates for separation anxiety out there designed to contain dogs with separation anxiety.

An extra-tough crate is essential, because some dogs will frantically try to escape a crate when experiencing separation anxiety, and can get very hurt when they try to escape flimsy crates. I met one dog who lost one of their eyes trying to escape a wire crate! While these extra-tough crates are definitely a smart option for keeping your dog and belongings safe, your job doesn’t stop there.

Simply crating your dog to deal with separation anxiety, without pursuing any other options, is highly immoral, in my opinion. If you care at all for your dog, you need to also be actively trying to help them feel better about being left alone. The best strategy is to slowly desensitize your dog to being left alone by building up the duration over time. This can definitely be a lot of work, but it has proven very effective.

We have a separation anxiety training plan that can walk you through the process. You can also talk to your vet about anxiety medication, which can help increase your dog’s threshold when you need to be away for longer than the dog’s threshold would allow. Other calming aids like CBD or calming chews may be helpful as well, but the results can vary.

It’s Essential To Work With A Professional

Alex Schechter, DVM at Burrwood Veterinary

Crate training can play a role in reducing separation anxiety in dogs, but it’s important to understand that it’s not a cure-all solution. Separation anxiety is a complex behavioral issue that requires a multi-faceted approach for effective management. Crate training provides dogs with a secure and familiar environment when left alone. It may help reduce their anxiety and stress levels by providing a sense of safety and comfort. Additionally, by gradually acclimating a dog to being in the crate, they may view it as a positive and comfortable space rather than a source of fear and stress.

However, it’s important to remember that crate training should be introduced gradually and positively, with the dog’s comfort and well-being as the top priority. Forcing a dog into a crate or using the crate as a mode of punishment can worsen separation anxiety and create additional behavioral issues. In cases of severe separation anxiety, crate training may not be enough on its own.

It’s essential to work with a veterinarian or professional animal behaviorist to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses the underlying causes of the anxiety. This may involve behavior modification techniques, medication, and environmental enrichment to provide a safe and stress-free environment for the dog. As a whole, my suggestion is that while crate training can play a role in reducing separation anxiety in dogs, it’s not a standalone solution.

A comprehensive approach that takes into account the individual needs and behaviors of the dog is necessary for the effective management of separation anxiety.

Be Wary Of Quick-Fix Solutions

Tanya Lim, Co-Founder and Head Trainer at Family Pupz

Dog claws at crate (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dog claws at crate (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Crate training (or confinement training) is very commonly recommended as a way to address separation anxiety. And the reason for that is because dogs who suffer from separation anxiety may be prone to destructive behaviors and/or elimination issues, which makes crate training a tantalizing solution to help deal with both the underlying fear and anxiety, and the consequences of those emotions (the destructive behaviors), simultaneously.

That said, crating a dog was not meant to be used to treat separation anxiety on its own. In fact, crating a panicked dog can make the situation worse. This is because dogs who suffer from separation anxiety often suffer from confinement anxiety as well, so it is vital to assess whether a dog has any pre-existing fears of the crate, as a first step.

To make this assessment, you must introduce the dog to the crate, patiently create a positive association to it, and get them comfortable with being inside. Once you’ve done so, set up a camera in your home, leave the home, and see how your dog reacts via the video feed. If the dog is scratching at the crate, panting while inside of it, trying to escape, etc I would not recommend using it as a part of my training plan.

If, however, the dog is able to settle easily inside the crate, because they now view it as a place of refuge, rest and relaxation, only then would I recommend using it as part of a training plan for treating separation anxiety.

It’s important to remember that separation anxiety is *the equivalent of a full-blown panic attack*. As such, it’s super important that anything that you do to address this issue doesn’t introduce additional stress, fear, anxiety and panic (forcing the dog in the crate, keeping them in the crate even though it’s obvious they’re uncomfortable, etc.) to a dog’s life (as the dog is already suffering *TREMENDOUSLY*), no matter how much this issue may be negatively impacting your way of life.

Quick fix solutions are plentiful in our industry, so be wary of them. The only solution to successfully work through separation anxiety cases is to reduce/eliminate anything that can add additional stress, fear, anxiety and panic to a dog’s life, and to slowly convince them, through training, that their new parents, their new home, their new environment, and their new world, are *SAFE*.

Make It A Pleasant Environment

Dilber Hussain, DVM At The Malamute Mom

Crate training is an option that can help some dogs with separation anxiety, but it is not a guaranteed solution. It can be beneficial for dogs who respond positively to having their own space and feel secure in their crate.

However, not all dogs find comfort in the confinement of a crate, and if used incorrectly, it can make their anxiety worse. If you decide to use crate training to manage your dog’s separation anxiety, it is important to ensure that the crate is the appropriate size, always provides a comfortable resting spot, and gives your pup time outside of the crate to roam freely.

Additionally, you should gradually increase the amount of time they are left in the crate until they become more comfortable with being alone – don’t force or push them into it. If you are consistent and make sure the crate is a safe, pleasant environment for your dog, it can be an effective tool for managing separation anxiety.

You should also consider other strategies such as positive reinforcement training – where you reward your dog for good behavior – and providing them with plenty of exercise, toys, and mental stimulation throughout the day.

These strategies can help to reduce your pup’s stress levels, possibly making it easier for them to handle being alone in the crate. If you need more guidance, consult a professional trainer or behaviorist. They can provide tailored advice on how to use crate training to effectively manage your dog’s anxiety.

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