Dogs may whine and bark in a crate if they are uncomfortable or if they are trying to tell you something. If your dog is whining and barking, it is important to take him or her out of the crate and give them some attention. If your dog is comfortable in the crate, it can be a good place for them to sleep.
One of the most common complaints from pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone, such as urinating, defecating, barking, howling, chewing, digging, or attempting to escape.Although these issues frequently indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog's issues are accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and displaying anxiety as his pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren't evidence that the dog isn't house trained or doesn't know which toys are his to chew on.Instead, they are symptoms of separation anxiety, which occurs when dogs become distressed due to separation from their guardians, or the people to whom they are attached.Escape attempts by dogs suffering from separation anxiety are frequently extreme, resulting in self-injury and household destruction, particularly near exit points such as windows and doors.
Some dogs with separation anxiety become agitated as their guardians prepare to leave, while others appear anxious or depressed before their guardians leave or when their guardians are not present.Some attempt to keep their guardians from leaving. Typically, when a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety alone, the dog will begin barking and displaying other distress behaviors within a short time—often within minutes.When the guardian returns home, the dog acts as if he hasn't seen his mother or father in years!
The goal of treating a dog with separation anxiety is to resolve the dog's underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by arranging things so that the dog experiences the situation that causes his anxiety, namely being alone, without feeling fear or anxiety.
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
The following are some of the symptoms of separation anxiety:
Urinating and Defecating
If a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his guardian, his house soiling is most likely not caused by separation anxiety.
Barking and Howling
When a dog is left alone or separated from his guardian, he may bark or howl; this type of barking or howling is persistent and does not appear to be triggered by anything other than being left alone.
Chewing, Digging and Destruction
When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects, which can result in self-injury such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws, and damaged nails.If a dog's chewing, digging, and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they usually do not occur in the presence of his guardian.
When a dog with separation anxiety is left alone or separated from his guardian, he may try to escape by digging and chewing through doors or windows, resulting in self-injury such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws, and damaged nails.When the dog's guardian is present, the dog's escape behavior does not occur.
When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs will walk or trot along a specific path in a fixed pattern, while others will walk back and forth in straight lines.Pacing behavior in a dog caused by separation anxiety usually does not occur when his guardian is present.
Some dogs defecate and then consume all or some of their excrement when left alone or separated from their guardians; if a dog eats excrement due to separation anxiety, he probably does not perform that behavior in the presence of his guardian.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
There is no conclusive evidence as to why dogs develop separation anxiety; however, because far more dogs adopted from shelters have this behavior problem than those kept by a single family since puppyhood, it is thought that the loss of an important person or group of people in a dog's life can lead to separation anxiety.Other, less dramatic changes can also precipitate the disorder; the following is a list of situations linked to the development of separation anxiety.
Change of Guardian or Family
Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter, or given to a new guardian or family can cause separation anxiety.
Change in Schedule
If a dog's guardian works from home and spends the entire day with his dog, but then gets a new job that requires him to leave his dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog may develop separation anxiety as a result of the change.
Change in Residence
Moving to a new home can result in the development of separation anxiety.
Change in Household Membership
Separation anxiety can develop when a resident family member is suddenly absent, whether due to death or moving away.
First, rule out any medical issues.
Incontinence Caused by Medical Problems
Some dogs' house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog "leaks" or voids his bladder. Dogs with incontinence problems frequently appear to be unaware that they've soiled their environment.Urinary incontinence in dogs can be caused by a variety of medical issues, including a urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter caused by old age, hormone-related problems after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing's disease, neurological problems, and genital abnormalities.Please consult your dog's veterinarian before attempting behavior modification for separation anxiety.
There are a number of medications that can cause frequent urination and house soiling; if your dog is on any medications, please consult with his veterinarian to see if they may be contributing to his house-soiling issues.
Other Behavior Issues to Consider
It can be difficult to tell whether a dog has separation anxiety or not because some common behavioral issues can cause similar symptoms.Before concluding that your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it is critical to rule out the following behavioral issues:
Submissive or Excitement Urination
Some dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact, or when reprimanded or punished, and these dogs tend to exhibit submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over, and exposing the belly.nbsp;
Incomplete House Training
A dog who urinates in the house on occasion may not be completely house trained; his house training may have been inconsistent, or it may have included punishment that made him fearful of eliminating while his owner is watching or nearby.
Some dogs urinate in the house to scent mark, which they do by urinating in small amounts on vertical surfaces.Most male and some female scent-marking dogs raise a leg to urinate.nbsp;
Many young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their guardians are present as well as when they are not. For more information on these issues, please see our articles on Destructive Chewing.
Dogs require mental stimulation, and some can be disruptive when left alone because they are bored and looking for something to do, even if they do not appear anxious.
Excessive Barking or Howling
Some dogs bark or howl in response to environmental triggers such as unfamiliar sights and sounds, and they usually vocalize both when their guardians are present and when they are not.Please see our articles Barking and Howling for more information on this type of issue.nbsp;
What Should You Do If Your Dog Is Separated Anxious?
Treatment for Mild Separation Anxiety
If your dog suffers from mild separation anxiety, counterconditioning may help to reduce or eliminate the problem. Counterconditioning is a treatment method that redirects an animal's fearful, anxious, or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one.It is accomplished by associating the sight or presence of a feared or disliked person, animal, place, object, or situation with something extremely pleasant, something the dog adores; over time, the dog learns that whatever he fears actually foretells good things for him.Counterconditioning for dogs with separation anxiety focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, such as delicious food. To develop this type of association, every time you leave the house, offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to complete.Try stuffing a KONG® with something really tasty, like low-fat cream cheese, spray cheese, or low-fat peanut butter, frozen banana and cottage cheese, or canned dog food and kibble; a KONG can even be frozen so that getting all the food out takes even more of your dog's time.nbsp;Remove these special toys as soon as you return home so that your dog only has access to them and the high-value foods inside when he's alone.You can give your dog all of his daily meals in special toys, such as a KONG or two stuffed with his breakfast and some tasty treats every morning before leaving for work.However, keep in mind that this method will only work for mild cases of separation anxiety because highly anxious dogs usually refuse to eat when their guardians are not present.
Separation Anxiety Treatment for Moderate to Severe
Moderate to severe cases of separation anxiety necessitate a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program, which begins with many short separations that do not cause anxiety and then gradually increases the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.
Please keep in mind that the following steps are a brief, general explanation of a desensitization and counterconditioning program.nbsp;
Fear must be avoided during desensitization and counterconditioning or the procedure will backfire and the dog will become even more fearful.Desensitization and counterconditioning require the guidance of a trained and experienced professional because treatment must progress and change in response to the pet's reactions, and these reactions can be difficult to read and interpret. For help designing and carrying out a desensitization and counterconditioning plan, consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB).If you are unable to locate a behaviorist, you can seek assistance from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), but make certain that the trainer is qualified to assist you. Determine whether she or he has education and experience in treating fear with desensitization and counterconditioning, as this level of expertise is not required for CPDT certification.To find one of these experts in your area, please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help.
Step One: Predeparture Cues
As previously stated, some dogs become anxious as their guardians prepare to leave, for example, when he notices his guardian applying makeup, putting on shoes and a coat, and then picking up a bag or car keys.(If your dog doesn't show signs of anxiety when you're getting ready to leave him alone, you can skip to step two below.) Guardians of dogs who become upset during predeparture rituals are unable to leave—even for a few seconds—without triggering their dogs' extreme anxiety. Your dog may see telltale cues that you're leaving (like putting on your coat or picking up your keys) and become so anxious about being left alone that he can't control himself and forgets
One approach to treating "predeparture anxiety" is to teach your dog that picking up your keys or putting on your coat doesn't always mean you're leaving, which you can do by exposing your dog to these cues in different orders several times a day—without leaving.For example, instead of leaving, put on your boots and coat and then watch TV, or pick up your keys and then sit down at the kitchen table for a while.This will reduce your dog's anxiety because these cues will not always lead to your departure, and thus your dog will not be as anxious when he sees them. Please keep in mind, however, that your dog has spent many years learning the significance of your departure cues, so in order for your dog to learn that the cues no longer predict your long absences, he must experience the fake cues many, many times a day for many weeks.You can proceed to the next step if your dog does not become anxious when he sees you getting ready to leave.
Step Two: Graduated Departures/Absences
If your dog is less anxious before you leave, you can probably skip the pre-departure treatment and begin with very short absences; the main rule is to plan your absences to be shorter than the time it takes your dog to become upset.To begin, teach your dog to perform out-of-sight stays by an inside door in the home, such as the bathroom, where he can sit or down and stay while you go to the other side of the bathroom door.(You can also seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer; see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, for a list of CPDTs in your area.) Gradually increase the amount of time you wait on the other side of the door, out of your dog's sight.As you practice the stay, you can also work on getting your dog used to pre-departure cues, such as asking your dog to stay.Then put on your coat, grab your purse, and go into the bathroom while your dog remains.
- Experiment with out-of-sight stay exercises at a bedroom door, then at an exit door; if you always leave through the front door, start with the back door.Because your dog has a history of playing the "stay game," he should not be anxious when you begin working with him at exit doors.
- At this point, you can begin to incorporate very short absences into your training, beginning with one to two second absences and gradually increasing the time you're out of your dog's sight.When you've trained up to five to ten second separations, incorporate counterconditioning by giving your dog a stuffed food toy just before you walk out the door; the food-stuffed toy also serves as a safety cue, informing the dog that this is a "safe" separation.
- During your sessions, make sure to wait a few minutes between absences, and after each short separation, make sure your dog is completely relaxed before leaving again.If you leave right away, while your dog is still excited about your return from the previous separation, he will be aroused when he experiences the next absence, which may make him less able to tolerate the next separation, making the problem worse rather than better.
- Remember to be calm and quiet when going out and coming in, as this will reduce the contrast between times when you're present and times when you're not.
- You must determine when your dog is able to tolerate an increase in separation length; because each dog reacts differently, there are no standard timelines.Deciding when to increase your dog's alone time can be difficult, and many pet parents make mistakes: they want treatment to progress quickly, so they expose their dogs to too long durations, which causes anxiety and worsens the problem.To avoid making this mistake, look for signs of stress in your dog, such as dilated pupils, panting, yawning, salivating, trembling, pacing, and exuberant greeting.If you detect stress, back up and reduce the length of your departures until your dog can relax again, then restart at that level and progress more slowly.
- Because most of your dog's anxious responses will occur within the first 40 minutes that he's alone, you'll need to spend a significant amount of time building up to 40-minute absences, which means that over weeks of conditioning, you'll only increase the duration of your departures by a few seconds each session, or every couple of sessions, depending on your dog's tolerance at each level.Once your dog can tolerate 40 minutes of separation from you, you can gradually increase absences (5-minute increments at first, then 15-minute increments later). Once your dog can tolerate 90 minutes alone without becoming upset or anxious, he can probably handle four to eight hours.(To be safe, leave him alone for four hours at first, gradually increasing to eight full hours over a few days.)
- If you can schedule several daily sessions on weekends and twice-daily sessions during the work week, usually before leaving for work and in the evenings, you can complete this treatment process in a matter of weeks.
A Required Part of Separation Anxiety Treatment
It is critical that during desensitization to any type of fear, your dog never experiences the full-blown version of whatever causes his anxiety or fear, but only a low-intensity version that does not frighten him.Otherwise, he will not learn to feel calm and comfortable in stressful situations, which means that during separation anxiety treatment, your dog cannot be left alone except during desensitization sessions.Fortunately, there are numerous other options:
- If at all possible, bring your dog to work with you.
- Arrange for a family member, friend, or dog sitter to come to your house and stay with your dog while you are away. (Most dogs who suffer from separation anxiety are fine as long as someone is with them.)That someone does not always have to be you.)
- Take your dog to a sitter's home or a doggy daycare facility.
- Many dogs with separation anxiety are fine when left in a car; however, you should only do so if the weather is mild.Dogs can suffer from heatstroke and die if left in cars in hot weather (70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)—even for a few minutes. DO NOT leave your dog in a car unless you are certain that the interior will not heat up.
In addition to your graduated absences exercises, all greetings (hellos and goodbyes) should be done calmly; when saying goodbye, simply pat your dog on the head, say goodbye, and leave.Similarly, when you get home, greet your dog and then ignore him until he's calm and relaxed; the length of time it takes for your dog to relax after you've returned home will depend on his level of anxiety and individual temperament.To reduce your dog's excitement level when you arrive home, ask him to perform some simple behaviors that he's already learned, such as sit, down, or shake.
Should I Crate or Should I Not Crate?
Crate training can be beneficial for some dogs if they learn that the crate is a safe place to go when left alone, but it can also be stressful and anxiety-inducing for other dogs.Monitor your dog's behavior during crate training and when he's left in the crate while you're at home to see if he shows signs of distress (heavy panting, excessive salivation, frantic escape attempts, persistent howling or barking), crate confinement isn't the best option for him.Instead of a crate, try confining your dog to one room with a baby gate.nbsp;
Make sure your dog has plenty of "jobs" to do.
Many behavior problems, especially those involving anxiety, require a lot of physical and mental stimulation; exercising your dog's mind and body can greatly enrich his life, reduce stress, and provide appropriate outlets for normal dog behaviors.Furthermore, a physically and mentally tired dog does not have much extra energy to expend when left alone. Try the following suggestions to keep your dog busy and happy:
- Give your dog at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (such as running or swimming) every day, and try to exercise him right before you leave him alone.This may assist him in relaxing and resting while you are away.
- Play interactive games with your dog, such as fetch and tug-of-war.
- Take your dog for daily walks and outings, taking different routes and visiting new places as often as possible to expose him to new smells and sights.
- Allow your dog to play off-leash with other dogs if he enjoys it.
- Provide food puzzle toys on a regular basis; you can feed your dog's meals in these toys or stuff them with peanut butter, cheese, or yogurt.Give your dog a variety of appealing edible and inedible chew items to encourage chewing and licking, which has been shown to have a calming effect on dogs.Make sure to give them to your dog whenever you leave him alone.
- When you leave, make your dog "hunt" his meals by hiding small piles of his kibble around your house or yard; most dogs enjoy this game!
- Enroll in a reward-based training class to increase your dog's mental activity and strengthen your bond. Contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer for group or private classes that can teach you and your dog new skills and games to play together.After you and your dog have learned a few new skills, you can mentally tire your dog out by practicing them right before you leave your dog home alone. To find a CPDT in your area, please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help.
- Participate in dog sports like agility, freestyle (dancing with your dog), or flyball.
Medications Might Help
Before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem, always consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
Medication can be extremely beneficial, especially in severe cases of separation anxiety; some dogs are so distressed by any separation from their pet parents that treatment cannot be implemented without the assistance of medication.Anti-anxiety medication can help a dog tolerate some level of isolation without becoming anxious, as well as accelerate treatment progress.
On rare occasions, a dog with mild separation anxiety may benefit from drug therapy alone, without accompanying behavior modification. With the help of the drug, the dog becomes accustomed to being left alone and retains this new conditioning after he is gradually weaned off the medication.Most dogs, however, require a combination of medication and behavior modification.
If you want to investigate this possibility, speak with your veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist, or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who can collaborate with your vet; please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, for a list of these professionals in your area.
Is it normal for a dog to whine while in its crate?
Dogs will whine in their crate for a variety of reasons, including boredom, loneliness, fear, anxiety, or the need to be let out; all of these reactions are perfectly normal, and it is your responsibility as an owner to make your pup feel at ease and get used to their new crate.All of these reactions are perfectly normal, and it is your job as an owner to make your pup feel comfortable and get used to their new crate.
Do you ignore your dog's crate barking?
*The most effective and humane method of training your dog is POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.Ignore the barking and then reward your dog with treats and/or verbal praise when it stops, teaching him that he will only be rewarded if he does not bark.Ignore the barking and then reward your dog with treats and/or verbal praise once barking stops. This teaches him that he will only be rewarded when he doesn't bark.
How long should a dog be allowed to bark in a crate?
ANSWER: If we don't notice any other issues (see above FAQ), we'll let our puppy bark for 10-15 minutes, and most puppies will calm down and stop barking within this time frame.If we notice that it's just attention barking, we'll extend this a little longer.10-15 minutes. Most puppies will calm down and stop barking within this time frame. We'll extend this a bit longer if we notice that it's just attention barking.