Dog Separation anxiety is a psychological effect when an overly attached dog is away from its owner. Dog separation anxiety is seen in dogs dependent on family members and have poor socialization. Dog separation anxiety leads to destructive behavior such as pacing, barking, and destroying household items.

A dog crate for separation anxiety creates a safe and familiar environment for the dog to spend time while the owner is away. The dog’s anxiety in a crate reduces because the dog learns to be calmer and rest while the owner is away. The crate signals the owner is leaving the dog alone, and the dog knows it must stay inside and wait. Training for dog separation anxiety requires consistent time and effort using verbal and reward-based cues. A successful dog crate method helps manage separation anxiety and makes leaving the dog in a separate place easier. 

What is Separation Anxiety for Dogs?

Separation anxiety for dogs is the physiological and psychological effect of stress from being left alone that causes behavior changes. Separation anxiety results in excessive howling, barking, pacing, chewing, urinary and bowel incontinence, and salivating. Dogs with severe separation anxiety gnaw at hard objects, cages, and doors to deal with the stress of separation. The cause of dogs separation anxiety is inconclusive, however, dogs lacking socialization with other dogs as a puppy are likely to develop separation anxiety. 

Why is Crating Considered for Dogs with Separation Anxiety?

Crating is considered for dogs with separation anxiety to provide a safe place while the owner is away. The dog crate is a comfortable space to play with toys, sleep, and rest while the owner is away. The dog crate confines the dog to a limited area, keeping destructive behavior to a minimum. Crating allows psychological conditioning to form in the dog’s brain. The dog is trained to associate the crate with rest and alone time. 

How to Deal with Dog Separation Anxiety?

To deal with dog separation anxiety, the owner must countercondition the dog. Counterconditioning means changing an animal’s fearful or aggressive reaction into a reinforced, peaceful, and relaxed reaction instead. The training is done by associating the feared object, person, situation, or environment with something the dog likes. The dog associates its fears with good things. Give the dog its favorite treats, food, plushies, and stimulating toys to make time alone more tolerable. The owner removes the treats from the crate when they return, so the dog associates the crate with its favorite activities. 

Do Most Rescued Dogs Suffers from Separation Anxiety?

No, rescued dogs don’t suffer from separation anxiety in most cases. Rescued dogs are strays without owners and have spent most of their lives alone and fending for themselves. Rescue dogs commonly suffer from fear-induced anxiety, a behavior that is due to fearful and traumatic experiences. 

Rescued dogs that have been abandoned are likely to suffer separation anxiety. The traumatic separation from the owner and being left in an unfamiliar environment causes separation anxiety, and crating helps the dog learn new associations and behaviors when the new owner is away.

What are the Causes of Dog Separation Anxiety?

The causes of dog separation anxiety are listed below.

  • Changes in routine: Abrupt changes in daily activities affect a dog’s routine. Dogs thrive on familiarity with repetitive patterns. A dog is confused and stressed when the repetitive pattern changes suddenly, which manifests as bad behavior. Change a dog’s routine gradually and use repeated positive reinforcement and conditioning. Crating helps dogs adjust to a change in routine.
  • Past traumatic experiences: Dogs with strong bonds to their owners suffer extreme stress when separated. Traumatic separation from the owner triggers a feeling of abandonment in dogs. The occurrence of a traumatic event while the owner is away, such as when a house is robbed or an explosion, is able to trigger separation anxiety. The experience is labeled in their head as something they are to avoid therefore, they are reluctant to be left alone. Crating a dog with post-traumatic stress provides a calm place where the dog feels safe.
  • Lack of socialization: Lack of socialization with people and dogs makes dogs unable to function properly without their owner. Dogs must learn to be calm in different environments with other people. The dog is panicked when early socialization does not take place. 
  • Underlying medical issues. Urinary and bowel incontinence are common signs of separation anxiety in dogs. The dog is unable to control urination and defecation because of the increased stress of being away from its owners. Diseases such as urinary tract disorders, diabetes, endocrine diseases, and age-related weakened sphincter muscles are able to cause urinary and bowel incontinence. Neurological and systemic diseases are able to cause nervousness due to pain and inflammation. Rule out medical problems before confirming separation anxiety in dogs.  

How is Dog Separation Anxiety Diagnosed?

Dog Separation anxiety is diagnosed by a veterinarian using a series of tests to rule out physical, psychological, and physiological conditions that affect a dog’s behavior. The vet assesses the onset of behavior, environment, and history of events to diagnose separation anxiety. Medical exams are done to assess if the dog has signs of physical or physiological disease that affect their behavior. The diagnosis of dog separation anxiety is confirmed when the trigger of separation from the owner is the only time the symptoms appear. 

Do Dogs Get Over Separation Anxiety?

Yes, dogs get over separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is resolved once the dog learns not to fear being alone. Training, conditioning, and patience are required to help a dog overcome separation anxiety. Crating and counterconditioning are valuable tools that speed up the recovery. Separation anxiety resolves completely once the dog successfully establishes a safe space, such as a crate, when left alone.

How to do Crate Training to help with Dog Separation Anxiety?

To do crate training to help with Dog separation anxiety follow the steps below.

  1. Choose the right crate. A dog’s first impression of the crate is critical in crate training. Provide an adequately sized crate that allows ample space for the dog to move. Pick a crate that is sturdy and withstands damage from the initial training. Dogs with separation anxiety have tantrums when starting crate training. 
  2. Decorate the crate. Decorate the crate with stimulating activities, food, toys, and treats that the dog enjoys. Puzzle toys stimulate cognitive ability for the dog. Treats are provided as positive stimuli which the dog will associate with the crate as they spend more time inside.
  3. Start training gradually. Do not leave the dog inside the crate for hours upon end. Start slow with a few minutes, and progress to hours. Give words of praise and encouragement every time the dog is calm inside the crate when you you return. 
  4. Establish a cue. Train the dog to follow a command to get inside the crate. Examples include, “cage” or “inside”, and guiding the dog to the cage, and providing praise. Leave the house immediately and wait for a few minutes. Praise the dog for staying calm. The two events become conditioned behavior. 

What is the Importance of Exercise for Managing a Dog’s Separation Anxiety?

The importance of exercise for managing a dog’s separation anxiety is to use up energy and avoid boredom. An anxious dog’s energy is utilized as exercise energy to eliminate nervousness and panic. The result of the nervous energy used in exercise is a decreased likelihood of destructive behavior. Exercise gives the dog a natural boost in mood due to the release of happy hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. 

What are Treatments for Dog Separation Anxiety?

The treatments for dog separation anxiety are listed below.

  • Counterconditioning: Counterconditioning changes an animal’s fearful or aggressive reaction into a reinforced, peaceful, relaxed memory. The training is done by associating with the feared object, person, situation, environment, and something the dog likes. The dog associates its fears with good things by providing their favorite treats, food, plushies, and stimulating toys during alone time. 
  • Anxiolytic Medicine: Severe cases of separation anxiety lead to self-inflicted harm that becomes dangerous injuries. Veterinarians prescribe anxiety medications that help calm the dog down during episodes of separation anxiety. Drugs such as Clomipramine, Fluoxetine, and Gabapentin are prescription medications used to decrease anxiety in dogs. Dogs on anxiolytic medicine must have routine check-ups to adjust dosage and frequency and assess for side effects.  
  • Crate Training: Crate training forms an association of safety and familiarity within the crate. The training involves conditioning the dog with stimulating toys, food, and treats inside the crate whenever the owner is absent. Crate training makes the dog associate the crate with its favorite activities, making it less stressed when the owner is out. Crate training teaches the dog the owner is going out when they are let into the crate. 
  • Desensitization: Systematic desensitization gradually exposes the dog to mild versions of the feared stimulus. The dog is exposed to very short periods of the owner’s absence, and then the owner re-enters the room and praises the dog. The length of separation is increased gradually until it reaches a certain threshold. The goal is to allow the dog to gradually get used to not having its owner in the room and reassure the dog that it is okay. The dog stays calm for long periods without the owner when desensitization is completed. 

How can Dog Separation Anxiety be Prevented for Your Dogs?

Separation anxiety can be prevented for your dogs by training them to get used to your absence.  Do not encourage clingy behavior, and allow the dog to spend time alone. Leave the dog alone in a room to observe the reaction. A negative response must be corrected with counterconditioning alone time with positive stimuli. Dedicate a specific time for physical activity and exercise to use the dog’s stored energy. Walking, running, or playing fetch regularly gives the dog a healthy way to burn off their energy and triggers good hormones. Provide mental stimulation through cognitive puzzles, puzzle toys, and training regularly. 

Can CBD Oil Help Dogs with Separation Anxiety?

Yes, CBD Oil helps dogs with separation anxiety by promoting calmer behavior during anxiety-borne stress. CBD Oil for dogs interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors (ECS). The endocannabinoid system regulates and controls major bodily functions, including metabolism, stress, memory, pain control, and inflammatory and immune responses. CBD oil can help dogs because the ECS stimulation produces anxiolytic effects that significantly reduce signs of stress and fear in dogs.

How Much CBD Oil Should you Give to your Dogs with Separation Anxiety?

You should give your dogs with separation anxiety between 1 and 5 mg of CBD oil daily. CBD has an anxiolytic effect on dogs that lessen the effects of separation anxiety. The exact amount of CBD oil for dog separation anxiety depends on the weight and any underlying conditions. Start giving CBD at lower doses before gradually increasing. Consult a licensed veterinarian or use a CBD dosage calculator for clear guidance on CBD dosage.

Can you Consider Dog Peeing in Crate Separation Anxiety?

Yes, you can consider dog peeing in crate separation anxiety. Accidental soiling is a side effect of separation anxiety. Urinary incontinence is caused by physical and psychological diseases such as urinary tract disorders, diabetes, endocrine diseases, and age-related weakened sphincter muscles, too. Rule out medical conditions before diagnosing urinary incontinence due to separation anxiety. 

Can Crating Worsen Separation Anxiety in Some Dogs?

Yes, crating can worsen separation anxiety in some dogs. Abrupt crating of a dog for separation anxiety results in poor desensitization. Crate training too quickly is additional trauma for the dog. The crate becomes a source of fear for the dog instead of a calm and comfortable environment. Dog crate training starts with gradual intervals and intensities to ensure adequate time for the dog’s mental state to adjust. 

author avatar
Alysper Cormanes, DVM
Dr. Alysper M. Cormanes is a companion animal veterinarian with 2 years of small animal practice experience.