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Crating your Working Dog: Obedience, Structure, and Separation Anxiety

As dogs are denning animals, crate training can be a great way to help them feel safer and more secure in their environment. This practice is also thought to reduce canine stress levels, as it helps to recreate the feeling of being in a den-like their ancestors and they find a safe, quiet place to relax and hide from the world. But does crate training a puppy really reduce their stress?

The answer is yes! Crate training can help to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs by providing a safe, comfortable space for them to retreat to when they are feeling overwhelmed or scared. Crate training can also help to reduce destructive behaviors such as excessive barking or chewing and encourage your pup to stay quiet and relaxed. Additionally, crate training can help teach dogs impulse control and can be helpful in litter-training your dog as they have a natural instinct to keep their den clean and tidy.

In this article, I will discuss almost every basic thing you need to know about crating a dog and how it reduces stress. This is going to be a useful guide for dog owners who are looking for solutions to managing their canine’s stress levels.

What is Crate Training?

Crate training is the process of getting your dog used to its den or crate. A crate is essentially a confined space that your dog can call its own, and it should be big enough for them to stand up and turn around comfortably. The idea is to make the crate a safe haven for your pup – somewhere they can go when they need some alone time or feel overwhelmed.

Why should you Crate Train your Puppy?

Dogs are gifted with a lot of instinctive behaviors. One of those is denning. They are always in search of a place that can make them feel surrounded and safe. That’s why you always observe the dogs to be relaxing under the tables, chairs, boxes, or somewhere which can make them feel like their den to make them feel protected.

But by utilizing this instinct we can treat a dog’s anxiety, and stress and tame them to be a good pet, by helping them to treat their anxiety.

For more information about working dogs instinctive behaviors,  check out our articles on Traits and Behavior Problems for the different categories of working dogs.

How Crate Training Reduces Stress In Dogs?

  • In crate training, Dogs are kept inside a crate for a specific period of time. As dogs look for dens, that crate becomes their den and thus it makes them feel safe and secure for a particular moment of time. It is because dogs when exposed to violent and disturbing environments, tend to find a safe place for themselves. So if your dog is suffering through stress and anxiety, keep them inside a crate so that they can relax. Repeating this several times a day or whenever your dog experiences anxiety, can help him get rid of stress.
  • The time to crate your dog also matters. You will have to look for those triggers initiating anxiety in dogs. Well mostly when the guests come over and your dog gets nervous after seeing new people, you should be crating them to avoid any scene. This way the dog will learn to go and hide himself somewhere safe whenever he encounters such situations later. Thus he won’t be relying on you to always crate him.
  • In the same way, leaving your dog alone at home can trigger anxiety and stress in him. And here crate training comes in to save the day. Crating your dogs will allow them to be relaxed alone. As long as they get used to crating, they are also being trained to be alone and comfortable at the same time. So after crating for a couple of weeks, your dog will be at ease alone at home and eventually will not develop any anxiety or stress.
  • You can also use this method to release your dog’s stress towards other animals, particularly dogs. For instance, if your dog faces stress when introduced to other dogs, crate them and make them closer to other dogs. In this way, any type of fear and anxiety will start to fade away and your dog will feel more and more confident about socializing with other dogs. But remember, we are doing it for dogs going through stress so always keep an eye out if your dog gets more and more uncomfortable, and move them from that place immediately.
  • Another benefit is that when chewing and crating are combined with each other, It works like magic. As discussed in another blog, chewing is one of the ways to treat stress in dogs along crating, so introduce chew toys when kept in a crate. By that, your dog will be feeling relaxed, comfortable, and safe at the same time along with releasing all the stress through chewing toys. This way he will keep on biting something for hours, develop a habit to stay in one place for a long time, and will stop chewing household objects.
  • Last but not least, hygiene. When dogs label a place as their living site, they tend to keep it clean. They won’t pee or pass stool at that place. Hence crating will help you to release your stress as well, by not dealing with the mess everywhere around your dogs may make.

What is the Best Time To Put Your Dog In The Crate?

The best time to put your dog in the crate for reducing his stress is after a long walk, play session, or when you have to leave the home. Dogs usually feel left out and anxious when they are left alone at home, as they can’t understand why their owner has left them.

So providing them with someplace where they can take shelter, will help them to reduce the stress and anxiety they are facing.

The purpose of putting your pup in the crate should not be to punish them, but it should be used as a safe place for them.

Some of the situations when you can put your dog in the crate for reducing stress include:

When Your Dog is Home Alone

It’s always recommended to crate your pup when you leave the house. This helps them to relax and spend their time in a safe and secure place instead of making a mess out of everything around the house or worrying about anything.

When Your Dog is Unwell

When your dog is unwell, putting them in a crate can help them recover sooner and calm them down. It reduces the chances of any injuries due to their weakened condition as well.

To Break Up Play Time

If your pup gets too excited while playing, putting them in a crate will help them to relax and calm down. This will make the playtime more enjoyable for both of you.

After a Long Walk

Taking your pup on a long walk can be fun as well as tiring for them. Putting them in the crate after a long walk helps them to relax and recover from all the energy they have used during their walk.

When They Are Overly Stimulated

Putting your pup in a crate can provide them with the quiet and security they need if they get overstimulated by events like thunderstorms. This will keep them from running away and keeps them safe from any injury in case of panic.

When You Have Guests Over

If you have guests over and can’t pay attention to your pup, then putting them in a safe place is the best solution. This will ensure that your pup is safe and sound and also won’t make a mess or trouble the guests.

Before Bedtime

Crate training can help your pup establish a bedtime routine and it will make them accustomed to the crate being their sleeping place. It also helps to eliminate bad behaviors like restlessness, barking, or any other type of mischievous behavior during bedtime.

When You Travel

Traveling can be stressful for dogs. Crating your pup while traveling helps them feel safe and secure, and also keeps them from wandering off.

So, crate training can be used as an effective tool to reduce stress in dogs. It helps them recognize the safe and secure environment which will help them stay calm and relaxed. The key is to use it in a positive manner and not for punishing your pup. Do try out these strategies to see how it works for you!

When Your Dog is Home Alone

Traveling can be stressful for dogs. Crating your pup while traveling helps them feel safe and secure, and also keeps them from wandering off.

 

So, crate training can be used as an effective tool to reduce stress in dogs. It helps them recognize the safe and secure environment which will help them stay calm and relaxed. The key is to use it in a positive manner and not for punishing your pup. Do try out these strategies to see how it works for you!

Dog-Relaxed-in-Crate

At What Age Should We Crate Train Dogs?

Crating can be started anywhere near the age of 6 months and onward. And its impact and capacity decrease with time as your pup gets older. So for older dogs crating may end up creating more stress and anxiety than when you started.

How To Crate Train Your Pup?

  1. Let them explore the crate: Leave the door open and let the pup explore it on their own. This way they will become more familiar with their space and learn to accept it as a safe place for them to go when needed.
  2. Put treats in the crate: Place some of your pup’s favorite treats inside the crate so that they learn to associate the crate with something positive. The pup will gradually get used to going in and out of the crate without fear.
  3. Ignore them when they are in the crate: When you put your pup in the crate, it’s best to ignore them while they’re in there. This way, they won’t learn to associate crying or barking with getting what they want.
  4. Spend time near the crate: When your pup is in the crate, it’s important to spend time nearby them in order to provide comfort and security. This will help them feel more relaxed and at ease while they’re in their space.
  5. Don’t Engage with the pup when they are in the crate: While your pup is in the crate, it’s important that you don’t engage or interact with them as this will only reinforce their behavior. Let them learn to relax and adjust to their space on their own. If they are whining, this is normal, just ignore them and as soon as they settle, let them out and reward them for settling themselves down.
  6. Don’t Leave the pup in the crate for too long: It’s important to remember not to leave your pup in the crate for too long. Puppies need frequent potty breaks and should not be kept in their crate for too long as this can cause undue stress and anxiety.
  7. Reward them: When your pup comes out of the crate, reward them with treats or affection. This will help to reinforce positive behaviors and create a feeling of safety and security associated with the crate.

If, over a period of a few days, you notice that your pup is exhibiting anxiety or distress while in the crate, it’s important to look into other alternatives such as consulting with a vet or trying out different training strategies. With patience and consistency, crating can be an effective way to help your pup become more comfortable in their space.

What To Do When Dogs Reject Crate Training?

It is possible that your dog keeps on rejecting this method. In this condition, there is nothing to worry about. All you need is to keep yourself composed and dedicated to dog training, and try again in a week or two.

You should give emotional as well as verbal support to your dog. Like touching them where they feel comfortable along with soft verbal communication because we are talking about dealing with dogs going through stress, so we will have to take every step very cautiously.

After that, you will have to put the time into it. Like after putting your dog in a crate, you can sit right next to him to make him feel comfortable. This way he will develop a habit and after some time you will be able to leave him there all alone without any problem.

In the end, it’s all about making your dog used to it. You can find other ways as well to train him depending upon the likings and disliking’s of your dogs and use that as a tool to make things happen.

When Not To Crate Train Dogs?

There are certain instances when crate training your dog is not suitable. The most common situations when crate training should be avoided include the following:

  1. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety or is a rescue, then crate training may not be appropriate for them as it can increase their distress levels and make the situation worse.
  2. Puppies younger than six months old should not be crated for long periods of time, as they have not yet developed the necessary bladder control to stay in the crate for extended periods without having an accident.
  3. If your dog has a medical or behavioral condition such as severe aggression, then it is best to seek professional advice before crate training them as this could make their condition worse.
  4. If your dog is elderly or suffering from mobility issues, then crate training can be too restrictive for them and cause unnecessary discomfort.
  5. If you are not willing to commit the time and energy necessary for proper crate training, then it is best to avoid it altogether as this could lead to behavior problems in the future.

In general, if you are uncertain whether or not crate training is right for your dog, it’s best to consult a professional such as a veterinarian, behaviorist, or certified dog trainer who can provide guidance and advice tailored to your situation.

Final Thoughts on How Crate Training Reduces Stress in Dogs

Crate training is an amazing and useful technique that can help to train your pup in a safe and secure way. If done properly, it will help reduce stress and anxiety for your pet. It should be used with, caution, keeping in mind the age, breed, size, temperament, and behavior of your dog. With proper crate training, your pup can become a stress-free and well-behaved companion.

So, I strongly recommend crate training to all pet owners. It is indeed a great way to train your pet in the most efficient and effective manner. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

How does crate training help dogs?

When your dog is feeling stressed or low, the crate can become his den. Hence making him feel safe can make his anxiety symptoms go away.

Does crate training prevent separation anxiety?

Yes, it definitely does. By crating your dog, he will become used to staying alone. Hence over time staying alone will not be a problem for your dog anymore.

Do dogs get sad when you put them in a crate?

Yes, they can get sad if you keep this going on for a long time. They need some free space, as well as no animal, is born to stay inside any cage. So time in which you are keeping your dog in must be managed. If your puppy is whining in crate during training though, this is normal. You just need to sit near them and comfort them but do NOT reinforce this behavior by letting them out, this is like rewarding a tantrum from a child. Once they settle you can let them out and reward them for settling themselves down.

 

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal is a licensed veterinarian with more than 5 years of experience in veterinary medicine. After receiving his DVM degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, he worked as a
veterinarian in both government and private sectors. He has a deep passion for animal welfare and has been working for various animal welfare organizations since he was a student. Being President of Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan (AROP), he has been actively involved in animal rescue and welfare activities. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dogs and cats. 

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