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Recent research shows that millions of dogs are left alone all day whilst their owners are at work. It therefore comes as no surprise to discover that 13% of all dogs in the USA suffer from some form of separation anxiety.

Anxiety is when, within a short time of you leaving the home, your dog starts to panic because you have left him on his own. This can lead to some very extreme behavior from your pet, such as scratching, chewing, digging near doors and windows, barking, whining, and howling, all in a desperate attempt to get their owner to come back.

Most dog trainers advise you to put your dog in a crate whilst you are away. Dogs are natural den animals. A crate can give your dog that extra security they crave whilst they wait for you to return.

But, how do you crate a dog with separation anxiety? Your dog is already panicking when you are not there. The last thing you want to do now is increase his anxiety by forcing him to stay in a cramp crate all day.

The trick to crating a dog with separation anxiety is not to force him into the crate. Instead, you want to make getting into a crate seem to your dog the most wonderful thing ever.

Your dogs’ crate training starts not in your home, but in the pet shop when you buy his crate. Make sure that the crate is large enough for your dog to stand up, and comfortably turn around in when he is inside.

If you are buying a crate for a puppy, choose one that is going to be big enough for him when he is fully grown. You’ll also need a way of partitioning the crate so you can make the living area smaller whilst he is at the puppy stage, and then gradually increase the size as he grows.

With the crate purchased, the next step is to install it in your home. Position the crate somewhere where your dog can see other family members. You want to encourage your dog to use the crate at various times like when he needs to rest, or wants some piece and quiet, not just when you are leaving him alone.

Also, try to put the crate on carpet rather than a hard floor that might scrape and frighten your dog as he moves around. In addition, if you are using a wire crate, cover the top and three sides to make his new den even more inviting.

Once the crate is in the right position and properly prepared, you are ready to introduce your dog to it. Put his lead on, walk him up to the crate and let him sniff around it. Feed him a few treats, and talk to him in a comforting tone whilst he is inspecting the crate.

When your dog is completely comfortable with sniffing the crate, take the lead off and put some treats just inside the crate door, such that he will have to put his head inside to get them. Repeat this exercise a number of times, gradually moving the treats further into the crate.

Gradually, your dog will move further and further into the crate. If he wants to leave, don’t stop him. Let him go, and then continue with his training a little later.

Eventually, your dog will be happy to walk into and out of the crate. It is now time to shut the crate door on him. Before you do this step, take your dog for a long walk so he is tired. Also, put two or three of his favourite toys in the crate so there is something there to distract him. Walk your dog into the crate, and close the door. If he panics and wants to get out, open the door again and let him go, then try the exercise again later.

All the time your dog is in the crate, talk to him reassuringly, and give him treats. Should he settle down and sleep in the crate, let him. Otherwise, let him out the crate after about 5 minutes.

Dog settle down and sleep in the crateLike before, repeat this exercise a number of times, increasing the amount of time your dog is in the crate. Do not leave him alone in the crate at this time. That lesson comes next.

When your dog is confident being in the crate for about half an hour, you can now try leaving him alone. Get him to go into the crate and then leave the room. Don’t make a fuss or go any further than outside the room. If your dog starts to show signs of distress, go back into the room. Otherwise leave him in the crate alone for about 5 minutes before going back into the room and letting him out.

Again, repeat this exercise a number of times, increasing the time he is alone by a few minutes each time. Once your dog is happy to stay in the crate for about half an hour without you in the room, you are ready to leave the house.

Take your dog for a long walk, put some toys in his crate for him to play with, and maybe a nice treat like a Kong filled with soft cheese that he can lick. Then put him in the crate, shut the door, and leave the house with as little fuss as possible.

Return home after no more than half an hour and release your dog from the crate. Make a big fuss of him, as he has been very brave.

You can now repeat this routine, gradually increasing the time you are away from home until your dog is used to being left alone for all the time that you are going to be away.

Crating a dog with separation anxiety doesn’t have to be any more difficult than crating any other dog. You just need to take your time, and introduce him to the crate very slowly.

How did you encourage your dog to enter the crate for the first time? Tweet, post, or pin this article on your favorite social media network and share with us your comments.