Pets with Problems

Should I Crate my Dog

Having a dog in your life almost certainly means that, at some point, a conversation about whether or not to crate train will take place. Crates, when used in the right way are great! If a dog is properly crate trained the crate becomes his ‘safe den’. A place to snuggle down and get away from things – a cosy, comfy, refuge. For owners, crates are useful for confining the dog during travel, when there are young children around and when staying in strange environments. BUT for a dog who suffers from separation anxiety being confined in a crate when alone in the house can be absolutely terrifying!!!!!!

A CSAT’s Approach

Should I Crate My Dog
As a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, my time is dedicated to working with dogs who suffer from this condition. If you’d like to learn more about the basics of dog separation anxiety, you can refer to my page here or several of our previous blogs located here. A dog that has separation anxiety processes information differently from those that do not. Quite often these dogs are fine in a crate overnight or even during the day if someone is in the house – of course they have to be trained to accept this but most do. It is when they are confined in a crate when alone that trouble starts. Separation anxiety dogs are already in a state of panic when they are left alone but at least feel some small degree of comfort at being able to roam around or lie on their favourite sofa or bed. If they are confined to a small space such as a crate they now feel trapped on top of everything else and their panic rises. Imagine someone who is afraid of the ocean and confined spaces who is forced to go down in a submarine with no escape! This may sound a bit dramatic, but this is how serious if feels for a dog with separation anxiety. Dogs have been known to break teeth, cut their gums, rip out claws and even strangle themselves in their efforts to escape a crate.

It Might Not be Separation Anxiety

Keep in mind, that just because your dog does not like being locked in a crate does not necessarily mean that he has separation anxiety.. There are many reasons why dogs may be averse to crating. If your pup spent time in a rescue it is possible that they were confined frequently to a wire cage of sorts or were stuck in a crate for hours on their journey to this country. If you have a similar crate at home it is possible that your dog will associate the crate with a less than happy time before he met you. This negative association is more than enough for a dog to dislike crates but may not necessarily mean they have separation anxiety. Another reason why a dog does not like being crated is because he has not been properly crate trained. For some reason many people think that you can just put a puppy in a crate and expect him to like it – not so! Your dog has to be taught, over a period of several weeks, that the crate is the best place on the planet – this takes time, effort, patience and training.
Should I Crate My Dog

Work with the Right Trainer or Behaviourist

Trainers and behaviourists who are not CSATs or specialists in separation anxiety often recommend confinement as a way to change the behaviour of your dog. Remember, confinement does not always mean a crate. It could be your dog locked in a room, the use of a baby gate or even a pen. Generally speaking, confinement is usually recommended to reduce the impact of your dog getting into trouble, especially if he is destructive. A certified separation anxiety trainer will always tell you that a dog does best if he is allowed to roam free. I know that you may be worried about destruction but if the training is done correctly then destruction won’t occur because the dog is never allowed to go over ‘threshold’ or reach that panic point. There are times when a dog does need to be confined during separation anxiety training. This is usually the case with young puppies who may be destructive, not because they are frightened, but because they are puppies. If this is the case then the training has to begin with the confinement area first and slowly build up to being alone in the house – this means that it is just one more step to consider in the training.
Should I Crate My Dog

Separation anxiety training takes time

Another reason why we advise not to crate your dog when alone in the house is that separation training does not start with you leaving the house. Everything you do as part of your leaving routine is a trigger for anxiety that sets in as your dog becomes aware that you are about to leave. Teaching a dog to cope with being alone can be a lengthy process and adding another trigger makes the process even longer.Furthermore, if you confine your dog without first crate training him properly you run the risk of him developing a negative association with the crate which then means he will not want to use it at all at any time.

When we develop an individual protocol for your dog, our goal is to gradually desensitise them to various triggers. I almost always find that when dogs are not confined, gradually getting them to be calm when owners leave is a much more achievable task. We want to focus on removing stressors that may make a dog panic, and by allowing them to roam free in the house, they are gaining back a small sense of control otherwise lost when confined.

Crates are Not the Enemy!

To be clear, I am not against the use of crates. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Crates can serve as useful tools for training, safety, and transportation. In fact, many dogs love their crates, and willingly enter them several times a day simply to take a nap or relax. Crates when used properly can provide a feeling of safety for a dog, which is of course a great thing. In time, with the proper training and desensitisation, it is possible a dog with separation anxiety who loves his crate at other times, will start to use his crate when alone – but that must be his choice!
Contact Me For Help

If you are struggling, I cannot urge you enough to contact me for help. The expertise I can offer is priceless when helping your dog overcome his anxiety and knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel – your dog CAN be happy at home alone.

Please, contact me with any questions you have.  

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