AUGUST: SEPARATION ANXIETY & KENNEL TRAINING
Updated: Aug 13
Preventing Separation Anxiety through Kennel Training
Author: Rachel Christensen, at Paramount Dog Training in Atlanta
If you’re like many people during the days of COVID-19, you and your dog have not spent much time apart the past 5 months. You work from home now, you only leave for essentials, you have more time to walk them, and they never spend time alone or in their kennel anymore. What many people aren’t realizing is that this new way of living is going to result in separation and kennel anxiety whenever they do start working from the office again.
In order to prevent this from happening it is imperative that you schedule time every day for your dog to spend some time by themselves, even while you’re home. Time in the kennel is a great and easy way to make this happen. Kennels, when trained properly, offer dogs a relaxing place of their own to decompress. Here are a few tips on how to properly train your dog to relax in the kennel:
1. Feed them in the kennel.
You want positive associations to the kennel, so having their food come from in there is a very easy way to do that. If in the beginning they are too stressed to eat while they’re in there, take the food up after 10 minutes and try again the next meal. Dogs will not starve themselves, so if the only option you present them each meal is to eat in the kennel, then they will learn to eat in the kennel.
2. Have a special toy/treat for the kennel.
Again, it’s all about positive association. My go-to kennel treat is frozen peanut butter on an antler or bone — takes a long time to eat and is a very high reward. The key to this is that they NEVER get that treat anywhere else and can’t take it out of their kennel when you let them out.
3. Play music or have on the TV.
Silence for hours on end is deafening for anyone, including dogs. So make sure to leave on some kind of sound and/or visual stimulation when you leave them.
4. DO NOT LET THEM OUT IF THEY’RE BARKING OR WHINING.
If you open the door when your dog is barking or whining you are positively reinforcing that behavior and they will never learn to relax. In the beginning even if you can only get 5 seconds of quiet, that’s when you let them out. Otherwise you need to wait them out. Start out with small periods of time and slowly build the duration.
5. Practice door manners leaving the kennel.
Does your dog bust out of the kennel door as fast as they can when it opens? Do they think it’s the door keeping them in there or you? Getting the dog to understand you’re the one keeping them in there and not the door of the kennel can be one of the fastest ways to curb kennel anxiety for some dogs. They no longer feel trapped, but know you’re in charge of it so there’s nothing to stress about. When you open the kennel door, shut the door again in your dog's face if they try to leave before you’ve invited them out. Repeat this process until they stand back away from the door and look to you for guidance. Once they’re waiting patiently like this you can invite them out. As with all things in the world of dog training, consistency is key.