Will crate training help my puppy's separation anxiety?
According to the American Kennel Club, “separation anxiety is estimated to affect around 14 percent of dogs.” We love our dogs, but living with a dog that has separation anxiety can become a burden, preventing you from leaving your furry friend alone.
So, what are the solutions for separation anxiety? And can crate training your puppy with separation anxiety?
The short answer is - yes. As long as your puppy is trained early, you can prevent them from feeling anxious when you are apart. However, if your dog is an adult, crate training is unlikely to treat separation anxiety. Please read our blog on how to crate train your puppy.
Understanding, preventing and treating anxiety in dogs
Yep. Just like humans, dogs get anxiety too. And while it is an unpleasant emotion, it is totally normal and can be treated. Causes of anxiety in dogs include:
This form of anxiety is most common in dogs who have suffered abuse in the past. Loud noises, enclosed environments, the sound of cars, or general noise may affect a dog’s anxiety levels.
Probably the most common form of anxiety in dogs is separation anxiety, which is often shown in dogs urinating or defecating indoors or by destroying the garden or home.
Just like humans, when dogs get older, their cognitive ability declines. Loss of memory and confusion may cause your adult dog to feel anxious.
Symptoms of anxiety in dogs include, but are not limited to:
- Urinating or defecating indoors
- Destroying your home or garden
- Restlessness or pacing
- Excessive barking
- Hostile behavior (like biting)
Treating your dog’s anxiety
Speak to your veterinarian
If you’re concerned that your dog is suffering from anxiety, the first thing you need to do is speak to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can assess your dog and determine whether the cause of your dog’s behavior is anxiety, or perhaps another medical condition.
Work with a dog trainer
Find a dog trainer who has experience in retraining or counterconditioning your dog. Counterconditioning is a “technique employed in animal training and the treatment of phobias and similar conditions in humans, in which behavior incompatible with a habitual undesirable pattern is induced.” - Source.
Your veterinarian may recommend an anxiety medication as a solution to your dog’s anxiety. SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and antidepressants can be prescribed to dogs to reduce their anxiety and improve their mood.
It’s not easy to limit noises that may be out of your control (like fireworks in your neighborhood), but if you find yourself in a location where your dog is overstimulated you can try benzodiazepine - a psychoactive drug that assists with depression and anxiety. It is important to seek the help of a medical professional before giving your dog any medication.
Aromatherapy has the same effect on animals as it does on humans and is a natural alternative to anxiety medication or anti-depressants.
- Bergamot is great for soothing and reducing panic.
- Lavender is wonderful for reducing anxiety and creating calmness.
- Sweet Marjoram, Spikenard, Rose Damask is relaxing and grounding.
- Ylang Ylang helps with nervousness and also bladder control.
- Frankincense helps slow breathing and brings calm.
- Geranium Rose helps promote calm and balances moodiness.
Although there is no scientific evidence to support that anxiety in dogs can be reduced by CBD oil, many dog owners have claimed that they have seen a difference in their dogs after using it. Here is one example. It is important to seek professional advice from your veterinarian before trying any alternative methods to cure your dog’s anxiety.
And don’t worry. CBD oil won’t get your dog high or make them get the munchies. CBD oil, which is extracted from the cannabis or hemp plant, does not contain THC. THC is the compound that causes that ‘high’ feeling.
Let’s get back to how crate training can help your puppy’s separation anxiety.
Use your crate to make a safe place for your puppy
Just like humans, when dogs are anxious, they want a place where they can feel safe. Filling a crate with soft blankets, toys and snacks can create a positive environment where your puppy feels less anxious. Make the crate a nice place to be and he/she will feel less anxious when you leave them.
Use your crate to restrict movement
Now, this may sound awful, but when your dog is feeling stressed and is pacing around the garden or house as a result, that can often cause more anxiety. Restricting the space and forcing them to lay down and relax can calm their anxiety.
Spend time with them and leave for short periods of time
Initially, spend time near the crate with your pup while they snack, play or rest. But occasionally step out of the room for short periods of time. The goal is to have them feel no anxiety at all when you leave the room (or the house) for longer durations of time.
Make sure the surroundings are safe
Some dog owners put their dog crates in the pantry or in their walk-in wardrobes for extra protection from noise. This will help your pup feel extra safe.