Does your dog freak out when separated from you in the house?

fearful dogs May 07, 2024

Would you like to be able to put your dog in another room or a crate when you have visitors, but your dog doesn't tolerate being separated from you? This can make it really tough to have guests, if your dog doesn't do well with strangers.

So how can you train your dog to be comfortable and quiet when confined away from you? First, you'll need to carefully select your dog's confinement method and locationand then train carefully by gradually varying the difficulty factors listed below.  At each training step, your dog should be relaxed. If your dog is barking, crying, or pawing at the confinement area door, you've progressed too quickly. 

To begin this training, your dog has to be comfortable in some type of confinement area, even if they're only ok if you're very close by. If your dog is terrified of confinement, even when you're right next to them, then please work with a positive reinforcement trainer to identify options that might work better for you. And if your dog has been diagnosed with separation anxiety, please consult with your veterinary behaviorist and separation anxiety trainer before attempting any confinement training. 

Here are some ways to slowly introduce separation into your confinement training plan:

  • Distance from your dog: I recommend increasing distance from your confined dog very slowly, and staying in their line of sight for the first several training steps. In the video below, you can see that I moved from right next to the crate, to about 18 inches away from the crate, then later on, about 3 feet away, then 5 feet. Don't rush this.
  • How long away from your dog: As you move farther away from your dog's confinement space, stay away from very short periods of time at first. With Pancake, when I moved a couple of feet away, I tried out a 5 minute duration at that distance. But when I moved several feet away and out of sight for the first time, I stayed away for less than 10 seconds. 
  • Entertainment!  I like to give my dogs something to work on, like a food toy or a chew, if they are going to be confined away from me. The more difficult the scenario (like when you actually have visitors over), the better I want their entertainment options to be. 
  • Outside distractions: Train when it's quiet at home, to reach your separation goal. Then when it's time to have visitors for the first time, make everything else easier! You'll see in the video that while Pancake can be in his crate in another room when nothing is going on in the house, I moved him to be right next to me when we first tried confinement around a visitor.  

Looking for more help with your fearful dog? Check out the free resources here.