Crate training a puppy that has separation anxiety can be very difficult, for both you and your puppy. Remember, since you want your dog crate to be a safe and happy place for your puppy, you don’t want them to have their anxious feelings reinforced when they are in their crate. But on the other side of things, you want your puppy to be okay with you not always being around, especially if they’re in their crate. So what do you do?
Start slow. You want to place your dog in the crate for small intervals when you’re first starting out, and then gradually increase the time that your puppy spends in the crate. Starting out at 1 hour alone in the crate, without the puppy being able to see you, is going to cause your puppy to freak out and try and break out of the crate. Instead, start with having your puppy stay in the crate for 5 minutes with the door open. Reward the puppy with a treat afterwards. Do this a few times until it really sticks in your puppy’s head that staying in the crate until they are told to come out means they get a treat. Gradually increase the time until you get to around 15 minutes.
At this point, you can start the process over again, except this time, close the door on the crate. Always remember to give a treat at the end. Gradually increase the time until your puppy is comfortable being in the crate for 15 minutes with the door closed.
Next, start the process over again, with the door closed, but this time with you being out of line of site of the puppy, such as in another room of the house. This time, you’re going to stay away for a minimum of 5 minutes, but make sure not to go release your puppy until they stop whining. If you go to the crate and let them out when they’re whining, even if they’ve been in there for more than 5 minutes, it will reinforce the behavior that whining means they can be released from the crate.
Continue with this method until your puppy no longer freaks out when they are left alone in the crate without you there for extended periods of time! It takes A LOT of work, but in the end, it’s very much worth it!
You need to obedience train your puppy.
You need to teach your puppy that when you command it to do something, the puppy knows that everything is going to be okay because you have its best interests in mind, and that there will be a positive reinforcement at the conclusion of the actions. We recommend using the clicker training method when obedience training your puppy. Start by teaching your puppy that a click of the clicker means they get a treat. Do this in rapid fire succession 10-15 times, then take a short break. Then do it again, then a short break.
Now, tell your puppy to sit. It will have no idea what sit means and will just stare at you with a confused look. That is okay. The puppy will eventually just sit down on its own. Be patient and only repeat the command once every 1 minute. The second your puppy’s butt hits the ground, you click the clicker and give it a treat.
While seemingly unrelated to crate training, this really reinforces your alpha status with your puppy and that it’s in their best interest to listen to your commands. This will translate into your puppy feeling more comfortable when you tell it to go into its crate. It’s good to teach your puppy stay or down, as well, as these are commands that you can give to your puppy when they’re in the crate. Instead of having no idea what to do when they’re in there, which causes a ‘fight or flight’ response, your puppy will be controlled, as they know they are supposed to be laying down because of your command.
All of this takes a lot of practice, but is very much worth it! Crate training your puppy helps anxiety separation!
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