Continuing our series on crate training, this segment will answer some of the top questions we get when people are considering crate training their dogs or puppies. Our previous posts included why you should consider crate training and the three main steps for crate training your dog. Hopefully by now you know that crate trained dogs don’t view their crates as punishment, but as a refuge in a world that is constantly changing around them. You also know that crate training can be a slow process. That leads us to our first question:
How Long Will Crate Training Take?
The answer to this very common question is “It depends.” It depends on your dog’s age, temperament, personality, and any past experiences they may have had in a crate.
It is very important not to rush the process of crate training. Take your time and only proceed when your dog is comfortable with the last step in the training process. If you move too fast, your dog may become anxious or fearful of the crate. The purpose of your dog’s crate is to provide a safe, comfortable environment where your dog can retreat to if they are anxious, scared, or there is too much excitement in the house.
The crate should always be a safe, welcoming and enjoyable environment, which is why you should never use the crate as a tool for punishing bad behavior. Make sure to provide plenty of treats, praise, fun toys, and love while you are crate training. Your dog will learn to enjoy time in the crate and will begin to use it on his own, without you asking him to go to his crate.
The second most common question we hear has to do with whining. Many puppies have this issue in particular and it can be heart wrenching to listen to. Lets talk about some steps to try if your dog is whining while they are inside their crate.
What do I do if my dog is whining?
You never want to let your dog out of the crate when they are whining. This only serves as a “reward” and they’ve now learned that whining will get them out of the crate. Consider first that your puppy may be whining because he needs to go to the bathroom. Calmly take him straight outside to do his business and return him to the crate without any stops along the way.
The biggest tip I can give you is to ignore whining; don’t acknowledge it by talking to them. cooing at them, or reassuring them. Never yell at them to be quiet. After a few minutes, he should learn that whining isn’t going to get them what they want and he should quiet down. Once he quiets for a minute you can open the door to release him.
Many people who consider crate training are experiencing destruction in their home due to separation anxiety. If this is the case, you might think that this can be “cured” through crate training. Unfortunately that’s not entirely true. Crate training will only serve to reduce the amount of damage in your home.
Can I use crate training to treat separation anxiety?
Many pet parents want to start crating their adult dog because they are extremely destructive when they are home alone. Common complaints are inappropriate elimination, excess barking, destructive chewing, digging, or trying to escape the house. When these behaviors are accompanied by symptoms of anxiety (panting, drooling, nervous behavior before leaving the house), it is commonly referred to as “Separation Anxiety”. It can be classified as mild or severe, with many shades in-between.
Dogs who were always like this probably have some form of separation anxiety. Dogs who just begin to display this behavior may have experienced a change in their environment, like a baby in the home or moving to a new house. Dogs who begin to display this behavior without any changes in the home should be evaluated by a vet because there may be something bothering them internally or they have developed a disease that needs to be diagnosed or treated.
If you think your dog is displaying symptoms of separation anxiety, you should talk to your vet and a certified trainer. Crating a dog with severe separation anxiety may result in injury as he tries desperately to escape the crate. Separation anxiety is commonly treated by counter-conditioning. Some severe cases utilize anti-anxiety medications with training. Your vet and trainer will be able to provide a specific plan for how to treat your dog’s level of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety deserves its own series of posts as its one of the most common complaints that I hear from pet parents. Do you have any tips or ideas about how to counter condition your pet to your absence? Share them with us in the comments!