Kennel Training & Separation Anxiety
One of the most common questions that Italian Greyhound Rescue Representatives and volunteers are asked is how to deal with separation anxiety and/or how to kennel train an IG. These subjects really can be a challenge especially with the Italian Greyhound breed who are constantly drawn to be with their owners. However, it is strongly encouraged that when owners are away from the house for either short or long periods of time that any Italian Greyhound should be kenneled, or confined to a small space. So many dogs of all breeds end up in shelters or with rescue organizations because they are not given the proper boundaries to follow or are given too much freedom, which allows them to cause trouble while their owners are away.
Dogs are naturally drawn to being in a den, or safe shelter they can call their own. So, owners need to use this to help train a dog to be comfortable in their kennel and make it a place they enjoy being, rather than a place they are sent when in trouble.
Some dogs prefer to have their own space, while others prefer being kenneled with a buddy. No matter if an Italian Greyhound is kenneled alone or with a friend, they must be able to stand up completely, turn around easily, and should be able to fully lay down with legs fully extended. When two dogs are in a kennel, they should be given enough space to accommodate both dogs with extra room to spare. When accounting for the room to stand up, remember to include space for blankets or pillows also.
Any dogs kenneled together must get along, and should not be kenneled together immediately upon adoption or purchase. Dogs have a pecking order which they will establish over time, and during the first few weeks of dogs being together the order will likely be established.
Things that can help kennel train a dog include:
- Comfortable Blankets - Include some warm blankets that prevent coldness from the floor below from radiating through. If a dog likes to burrow under blankets, include something they can lay upon, and another they can burrow inside easily.
- Kennel Warmers - There are solutions available in pet stores and online which help keep the kennel warm which are safe to put inside or beneath a plastic or metal kennel. WARNING: DO NOT USE A HEATING PAD INSIDE OR BELOW A KENNEL, THEY CAN EASILY OVERHEAT AND CAUSE A FIRE.
- Warm Blankets - Before putting Italian Greyhounds in their kennel, put their kennel blankets in the dryer for a couple of minutes to make them comfortably warm, but not hot. This makes a welcoming environment in the kennel, and incentive to go inside.
- Praise & Reward - Reward your dog with a lot of praise after they go in the kennel and you close the door. Use a happy voice to encourage the behavior in the future. Find a special treat, one that the dog really desires, but is only given when they go in the kennel.
- Don't Scold - If an owner is gone for over 3-4 hours, and there is an accident in the kennel, don't scold the dog. IGs have small bladders and often need to potty or poop a few times during the typical work day. So, don't expect them to hold it if you are late or didn't make it home for lunch. If a dog pees through the sides or door of the kennel, it is recommended to buy washable and reusable potty pads to put around the kennel which will absorb any accidents and save a lot of effort cleaning.
- Favorite Toys - Putting a favorite toy, or one that has a treat inside it will help keep the dog busy and feel comfort.
- Feeding Time - Having your IG eat in the kennel with the door shut helps associates the positive activity of eating with the kennel, and helps improve the dog's outlook of being kenneled too. This does not mean to leave food in the kennel when you leave, but providing feeding time in the kennel when you are at home (and an hour before you leave to give it all time to settle and for trip outside too).
- Extra Special Rewards - Giving an Italian Greyhound a special treat, one they only get when they go to the kennel can really help motivate them to do what you want. This should be a highly desirable treat, which is only given upon the dog going to the kennel. A small piece of roast beef works well, or even a smearing of peanut butter on the kennel wall will help keep them busy while you sneak away. (Just be sure to use a peanut butter that does not contain xylitol or other artificial sweeteners which can kill your dog even in small amounts.)
Trying a few of things should help your Italian Greyhound with kennel training, and hopefully will be enough to make them comfortable in the kennel while owners are not home.
Some dogs are so attached to people that they really become stressed when the owner leaves. When outside the kennel they may show destructive behaviors such as chewing up the garbage, furniture or carpeting even. When in the kennel, they may chew on their kennel, tear up blankets in to tiny pieces or bark and howl when people are not with them. Chewing on things may cause their teeth to wear down rapidly, cause gums to bleed, or cause abrasions or scabs to form on their noses where they have rubbed it raw.
Resolving separation anxiety isn't easy, especially when they are given comforts such as blankets and toys that are destroyed on a daily basis. It can be very frustrating but with some work it can be overcome. Some people find that keeping the dog confined in an area works better for their IG, where they don't have anything to chew up, and accidents are easily cleaned.
Refer to our list of kennel training tips for ideas on how to improve an IGs experience in the kennel. Second, work with the dog in putting them in the kennel, rewarding, then coming back after a short time and letting them out to see the time period will not be indefinite. Start with short periods of time, and slowly increase the time. This can't be learned in a day or two, it must be learned over a long period of time.
The ASPCA has a great article about Separation Anxiety, understanding it, and ideas to try in hopes to overcome it. In the most extreme cases of separation anxiety, a veterinarian may be consulted to recommend herbal or prescription medications to help calm the dog while away. Always follow a veterinarians recommendations for dosages, and do not exceed what is suggested in order to not jeopardize the dog's health.