Separation Anxiety is Not Solved by Confinement

Question:
My dog is so anxious in his crate.

Dr. Nichol:
Crates have become popular for keeping dogs out of trouble but confinement may lead to problems. Members of any species whose natural choices are restricted can become frantic. If your dog isn’t coping we’ll he’ll need an alternative.

Folks with new puppies are often counseled to “crate train.” It makes sense for a dog to learn to relax in a small space for travel. Like their feral cousins, domestic dogs are denning creatures who rely on a snug refuge for security and safety. When they’re in their “dog cave” it should be their choice whether to exit and enter. Your dog’s crate isn’t his problem; it’s the latch on the door that traps him.

If your dog thrashes and trashes your house it will be important to understand why. He could be highly territorial or maybe he has friends over for beer pong tournaments. Or he may be suffering the overwhelming panic of separation anxiety. You can gather a lot of information about your pupster’s emotional state during your absences by leaving his crate door open and aiming a video camera (your smart phone will work) at your exit door prior to departing. A 20 minute video may show a dog who pants, paces, fixates on the door or window, or scratches to escape.

Anyone whose dog barks, slobbers, house soils, or demolishes their stuff is welcome to post a video on my Facebook page (facebook.com/drjeffnichol). Of course, your dog may have privacy issues. I get it. Blur his face if you must and change his name. But, really, dogs embarrass themselves and their people all the time. They just want to feel better.

There is much that can be done to help dogs like yours. The Calmer Canine is a non-pharmaceutical device that reduces anxiety by applying a pulsed electromagnetic field to the amygdala – the brain’s fear center.
Check it out at calmerk9.com. Veterinary medicine is also armed with well-researched behavior modification methods and safe medications. We’ll do whatever it takes. Until then I advise playtime at doggy daycare instead of crating at home.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.