Do you want your favorite four-legged friend to have a calming, safe retreat to relax in? Do you need to contain your dog when you’re out to avoid damage to your property? If you answered yes to either of these questions, crate training may be the answer.

Although crate training can be tricky (even with small pups), it can be especially hard for those who already have ingrained separation anxiety.

Being crated can trigger feelings of anxiety, depression, restlessness, and agitation, and any responsible dog owner will (rightly) want to avoid making their pup feel this way.

The good news is that even if your dog is experiencing anxiety, it may still be possible to crate-train them.

While we’re not promising an easy ride, we’re here to share some of our top tips and tricks for making the process as easy as possible, for both you and your pup.

How To Crate Train A Dog With Separation Anxiety

How To Crate Train A Dog With Separation Anxiety?

Thankfully, with the right training, you can get your dog used to spending time in their crate – even if they have separation anxiety. Here are some of the most important things you should be doing to ensure successful training:

1. Give Your Dog a Routine

Giving your dog an established routine may make it easier to train them. Dogs need consistency from their owners, and creating your own routine can help.

This can include leaving and returning at the same times, walking your dog before they’re crated, spending 1-1 time with them before you leave, and feeding them at the same times each day.

2. Choose The Right Crate

Choosing the right crate is crucial. Ideally, your dog’s crate should be large enough for them to stand up comfortably and move around.

If they can’t move in a full circle in their crate, it’s too small. Ensure you have enough space to leave toys, blankets, water, and treats next to them to keep them occupied.

To reduce your dog’s anxiety, it may be worth leaving them with a few of your own items of clothing. Washed or unwashed items will offer your dog a trace of your scent, which may be reassuring in your absence.

3. Gentle Introductions

You’ll also need to introduce your dog to the crate gently. Make the crate a fun, exciting place to be – encourage them with plenty of treats, and don’t shut them in it straight away.

Give them time to sniff, explore, and play in their crate on their own terms. Once your dog is comfortable and has been positively reinforced, you can slowly start closing the crate.

This should be for a minute or two at a time, and they should be reinforced with a reward for doing it.

If your dog has separation anxiety, you will need to practice this step consistently – it could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get your dog comfortable enough to be left in their crate for longer than a few minutes.

Leaving them alone for too long too quickly could build negative associations with the crate, and heighten their anxiety.

Crate Training For Dogs With Separation Anxiety FAQ

What Is Crate Training?

When you crate train a dog, you’ll slowly introduce it to an indoor kennel or dog crate, aiming to make this space as familiar and as comfortable for your dog as possible.

With gradual, sensitive, and consistent exposure, most dogs will eventually enjoy spending time in their crates alone.

This gives you the freedom to leave your property without the fear of your dog damaging it, and it will give your dog a safe space to retreat to when they want to relax, enjoy some alone time, or avoid the hustle and bustle of having guests in your home.

With time, most dogs will learn to view the crate as their very own safe haven. With successful training, your dog will go to its crate voluntarily – and enjoy it!

Owners with new puppies are advised to start crate training as young as 8 weeks. Although it’s easier to train young puppies than older dogs, it’s still possible – even if your dog is experiencing some anxiety.

Can Dogs With Separation Anxiety Be Crate Trained?

In most cases, dogs with separation anxiety can be crate trained (see also ‘Do Dog Crates Cause Separation Anxiety?‘). The key word here is ‘trained’. Placing an anxious dog in a crate, without any previous training or exposure, is setting it up for failure.

Even with the appropriate training, some dogs may still be too anxious to use their crate. This type of avoidance is most common in rescue dogs or those who have had bad experiences with crates in the past.

Why Do Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?

Dogs are naturally curious and social animals. They’ve adapted to function at their best in groups, so being left alone for long periods is not in their nature. However, we all know that being with your dog 24/7 is not an option.

Whether you’re working, studying, or need to travel to places where it’s not appropriate to bring your pup, there will always be times when you need to leave your dog alone.

Dogs who have not been gradually exposed to time alone, especially when young, will often develop separation anxiety when they’re older.

It’s also more common in dogs that have been given to new families, surrendered to shelters, or abandoned. These traumatic experiences can trigger separation anxiety. Some of the most common symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs include:

  • Howling
  • Barking
  • ‘Whining’ or Crying
  • Destructive behavior (this includes chewing and scratching furniture, or any objects near exits such as doors and windows)
  • Urination or defecation in the home
  • Trembling
  • Excessive salivation
  • Intense excitement when you return
  • Lack of appetite
  • Repetitive behaviors such as circling, biting, or paw licking
  • Vomiting

Separation anxiety can look different in every dog, but these are some of the most common symptoms you should be looking for.

The Bottom Line

Successful crate training doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient – especially if you have an anxious dog.

Positive reinforcement, slow introductions, and plenty of love and care are the most effective ways to build a positive relationship between your dog and its crate.