How to Crate Train a Dog with Separation Anxiety
Tips for Crate Training your Dog to Prepare for Travel
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, the best thing for them will be to create a space where they feel safe and happy when you leave the house. This way you can teach them to enjoy, or at the very least, tolerate being left alone.
If you are planning on traveling with your dog, crate training prior to travel is going to help make their trip as comfortable as possible, regardless of whether they suffer from separation anxiety. We always recommend organizing to have your crate delivered to your home and having the process started as soon as possible.
How to Crate Train your Dog
Dogs, by nature, like smaller spaces to feel safe and secure. A crate is intended to mimic a den-like environment and therefore be a ‘safe haven’ or ‘security blanket’ for your dog. By providing your dog with an area where it can ‘escape’ and know it won’t be bothered, it can readily seek out this area when it needs a bit of a break or time-out. Getting your dog used to its crate or “den” space prior to their big flight ensures they will have the most relaxed and comfortable journey possible.
1. Start with the Base
We suggest starting with just the base of the crate, place this in a central part of the household (living room, TV room, etc) – somewhere your pet likes to spend time. Make the crate inviting and comfortable for your dog by putting a favorite rug or towel in the bottom.
2. Entice with a Treat
From here, your dog’s curiosity should be spiked, leading them to go over and investigate. When your dog does go near the crate, reward them by throwing a food treat into the crate or near its entrance. Repeat this every time your dog goes near the crate. If your dog settles down inside the crate, reward this behavior either with your voice or with food rewards. You want your dog to view the crate as a wonderful place to be, full of goodies and fun. Another great tip is getting your dog used to a command such as “crate” or “bed” when they enter voluntarily.
3. Attach the Top Half of Crate
Once they seem to be adjusted to the base of the crate on its own, attached the top half of the crate and secure, leaving the door off for now. Repeat the above steps of rewarding your pet when they happily enter or investigate the crate, remembering to use those positive voice commands “crate” or “bed” when they do.
4. Give Meals in the Crate
Next, we suggest giving your dog its regular meals in the crate. Place the bowl inside and encourage your dog to enter. If your dog readily enters the crate at dinner time, start asking them to go in and then place the food inside the crate.
5. Introduce the Door
As your dog becomes more comfortable eating in the crate, you can introduce the door. Start by only closing the door as your dog eats its meal and make sure you open it before they finish. Over time your dog will adjust, then you can gradually leave the door closed for a few minutes longer after meals. Soon your dog will happily stay in its crate after a meal and maybe even take a nap break.
At first, being closed in the crate, your dog may whine, if so, try your best to ignore the behavior and reward your dog by letting them out and giving them a treat as soon as they quiet themselves. Keep repeating this and leaving your dog for a little longer each time.
6. Bedtime in the Crate
Once your dog is happy in the crate for about 10 – 15 minutes after finishing their meal, you can start to confine it to the crate for longer periods. At this stage, I recommend moving the crate to your dog’s sleeping space.
Make sure your dog has toys or a couple of treats with them to initially settle them into the new bedtime routine. With young puppies or older dogs, you may need to take them out for toilet breaks during the night. They will whine if they need a toilet break. Some dogs might whine at first to simply exit the crate and sleep elsewhere. I suggest taking the dog out as though they’re going to use the toilet, if they don’t go, returning them back to the crate to reinforce their new sleep space, all while using your chosen voice command.
Give them time to adjust
It can take a couple of weeks for them to adjust to their crate, but once adjusted, they will thoroughly enjoy their peaceful sleep space and will run to their crate when you use the voice command “crate” or “bed”, as you’ve now trained them to do.
We hope this information helps as you get your pet ready for their travels!