Containment Phobia in Dogs

09 Jan Containment Phobia in Dogs

Containment phobia in dogs is the fear of being confined to one area and goes way beyond just not being good in a crate.  The size of that area differs from dog to dog but can be anything from a crate to a bedroom, to fenced-in backyard.  When the dog is faced with the realization that they cannot move freely, panic, destruction, and severe escape attempts will ensue and injuries to your dog and destruction to your home can follow.  Although the exact cause of containment phobia in dogs can be hard to pinpoint, there are some theories that it actually begins during the birthing process if/when there is difficulty moving through the birthing canal.

There is not a lot of accurate information out there about containment phobia in dogs (even finding an appropriate photo for this post was impossible) and it’s often confused with separation anxiety due to the containment phobia being sometimes triggered when the dog owner leaves the home.  Although one common trigger for containment phobia is being alone, I have also seen dogs that are fine with their owners leaving the home but then triggered by something else, such as a thunderstorm.

Here are some signs that a dog may have containment phobia:

      • Early and subtle signs and clues.  There are certain signs that can be witnessed at an early age that are clues to containment phobia before the obvious panic starts to appear.  Some signs include chronically jumping over a baby gate, jumping up on door knobs and opening doors when they want to come inside, quick and repetitive darting motion when waiting for the backdoor to open.  These signs don’t always mean containment phobia is around the corner but these signs are often common when looking back  on a full fledged containment phobia dog.
      • Destruction to your home focused near windows and doors.  I have seen dogs chew holes in doors, chew the door jams, even rip up the carpet near the door.  I have also seen many sets of destroyed window blinds and scratch marks on windowsills from where the dog has tried to escape out of the window.
      • Many successful escapes from a crate.  I have seen escape artist dogs bend bars from wire crates and squeeze themselves through the narrow space crated from some bent bars.  I have seen holes chewed in plastic crates and have seen dogs push their heads up to the crate door so hard that the door has bent allowing them to escape.
      • Several unsuccessful escape attempts from the crate.  These can be a little harder to spot due to the fact that the dog is still contained and hasn’t yet escaped.  However, multiple chew marks near the crate door, deep scrapes near the crate door or floor of the crate, and bite marks on the bars of the crate are all signs that your dog has been making some serious escape attempts.
      • Certain injuries to the dog.  Many dogs will break off some of their teeth biting crate bars or chewing their way through doors or windows.  It may also be common to see ripped paws or broken nails from digging up carpet or repeatedly scratching at the crate door.
      • Certain physical clues in your dog will be present.  As the containment phobia triggers the panic, you may see immediate panting, excessive drooling, dilated pupils and spinning.

Containment phobia is more difficult to deal with than separation anxiety due to the likelihood of intensifying with time.  Giving a dog with containment phobia more room and space is not always the answer.  For example, it may be logical to leave your dog in a larger space, such as a bathroom, if your dog is escaping the crate.  However, eventually the bathroom will no longer be large enough and the dog chews a hole in the door and escapes.  The next step would be to let your dog have free reign of the home but now the dog starts targeting the doors and window as escape points.  Next logical step may be to install a doggie door so they can travel freely in and out of the home.  Unfortunately many dogs will start to feel confined in that area and start to chew through the outdoor fencing, squeeze through the fence, or jump over it.  Eventually a dog requires acres and acres of room to freely travel and not feel confined.

Cases of containment phobia in dogs can have different and varying factors and fortunately, true containment phobia cases are few and far between.  If you suspect your dog has containment phobia, the best recommendation I can make is to contact a qualified trainer who has experiencing working with containment phobia and can help.  I can tell you that, in my opinion, it’s one of the most difficult dog issues to try to manage and correct.  You and your dog may be in for a long ride, but hang in there; there is hope!

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