Calming an Upset Dog
Answered by: Kerry Hackett
Question from: Loretta
Posted on: March 13, 2007

I would like to know what I could give my small 3 pound silky to help calm her down when she is put in her kennel? She is placed in her kennel at night and when I need to go out to run errands. She is 13 years old and she still has a problem with panting, shaking and scratching on the inside of the kennel. I don’t understand why she keeps doing it after several years of the kennel being used. I have tried Rescue Remedy as it was recommended to me by a pet store. That did not seem to work on her at all and then I asked a friend who used to work for a vet and she said try some herbs or chamomile tea. I’ve tried the tea and that too hasn’t seemed to do anything to help calm her down. I live in an apartment so I am very considerate of my neighbors. I need to find something to relax her especially at night and make the scratching stop. Since she is getting older I can’t leave her running around the apartment so that is why I had to get a kennel for her to be put in. Please advise me on what I could try that would work better than what I have.

Please see the postings on this website (www.richters.com) entitiled, "Calming Dogs", "Dog Anxiety" and "Old Dog and Anxiety". You don’t say but I’m assuming your dog has always been anxious when faced with a stay in her crate. There can be many reasons for this. A few thoughts: as your dog is now 13 and you have only used a crate for the last few years, I assume she has had years of being able to roam the house at will. Think of how that must feel from her point of view. Dogs are highly territorial animals so she may believe that your home also belongs to her; not only as her property, but hers to defend as well. In addition, she cannot be with you (also her property), when you are out of the house or in bed. Humans occupy an odd place in a dog’s life. On one hand, you belong to them and they want to protect their possessions/family. On the other, you are the "alpha" dog in the house who provides food and doles out punishment. I suspect your dog cannot understand why you are not letting her do her job and why in her eyes she is being punished. Shaking, scratching and panting are clues to the fact that she is in panic mode and possibly seeing her status in the crate as abandonment. Humans may view this behaviour as irritating whereas your dog may see it as a life and death situation.

So, what to do? First, read the postings listed above. They will all mention a good, homemade diet. This should help strengthen her nervous system and help her be more resistant to stress. Next, spend time with her and reassure her that she is loved and wanted in your life. You may also want to examine your reasons for crating her. What are the consequences of letting her roam free at night? It may be that there are other factors at play that could be dealt with separately, rather than resorting to a crate. Flower essences may also be of help; a number of which are mentioned in the postings listed above.

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