Dear Labby: Is Crate Training Cruel?

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Dear Labby_oldDear Labby,
I was watching a funny video I saw on Facebook last week of an energetic boxer breaking out of their crate. I think the owner that posted it thought it was funny and I admit I laughed a little – he was so determined to breakout. But the comments from others on the FB post were what surprised me. Now I know it’s FB and folks tend to be judgmental and closed-minded in the support of their point of view, but the angry comments received from pro-crating people and the anti-crating people really took me by surprise. What are your thoughts about crating your dog?
Concerned Owner


Dear Concerned,
I saw that video and chuckled a little as it reminded me of a foster dog we had once who chewed his way out of a brand new canvas covered crate.

First, I will say that we tend to ignore those types of FB arguments. Folks who take up battles like that tend to be overly strident in their point of view, and unlikely to listen to an opposing view or ever consider changing their minds.

Our opinion is that crates can be a useful tool in introducing a new dog or puppy to a household. We’ve used them for years, particularly with our rescues and fosters. It gives them a safe place where they can be secure and comfortable until they are acclimated to their new home and can be trusted to be left alone. I don’t like the idea of using them as punishment or because the dog can’t be trusted alone in the house. If your dog destroys your house, furniture, shoes, whatever, that signals a bored and frustrated pet who needs more exercise – both physical and mental.

There are many reasons a crate can be a lifesaver:

  • Helpful in potty training a puppy as they truly are reluctant to go where they sleep, so they may hold it until they are out of the crate.
  • If you have multiple dogs who don’t get along, then a crate is an invaluable tool to keep everyone safe.
  • If you have a fearful dog (like our Maggie) a crate provides a safe haven for them. Maggie goes in the open crate daily for a comfortable nap.
  • An enclosed crate can help calm an anxious dog. When we first adopted Jack, his anxiety was through the roof. We put him in a crate, covered it with a sheet and literally within minutes his panting slowed, his racing heartbeat calmed and he was able to relax.

Some reasons not to use a crate:

  • If you are away from home all day at work, confining a dog to a crate for 8-10 hours can build frustration and anxiety and that leads to bad behavior.
  • Containing a dog in a closed crate limits their effectiveness as a deterrent to burglars.
  • If a catastrophe strikes, fire, or other household emergency they would not be able to escape.

It’s important to realize that not every dog will take to a crate. Both Jack and Maggie freely go in and out of their crate (the door is left open). They like it, but at first Maggie did not, so I never forced her. Eventually she saw Jack napping in there and she just tried it on her own – it’s one of her favorite spots now. You don’t want the crate to be a negative experience.
maggie in jacks crate

I’m all for giving your dog free rein of the house. I recognize that it can be just too much stimulation for some dogs. Confining them to a doggy-proofed room may be a better alternative for dogs too fearful of crates or if you are going to regularly be away for 6 hours or more.
As far as the battle on FB – as with many issues, there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone is doing what they think is best for their dog, their family and their personal needs. If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine, no one is making you change your ways – but you don’t necessarily have to share your disapproval in a angry, judgmental FB rant either. If you can’t be civil, be quiet.

Additional Readings:
To Crate or Not To Crate?
The Benefits of Crate Training
The “Con” Side of Crate Training


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  1. We have several crates around the house for our dogs. They were never crate trained, but we found that having a crate allows them to get away from the other dogs when they need a break or would like to enjoy a chew in peace.

    Most of the time, the crates are ignored, but when they need them, it’s nice that they’re available.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Finest Fetch Training Treats and a Reactive DogMy Profile

  2. My mom doesn’t like crates, but they have become a necessity with our sports, and Bailie was crate trained when she arrived. We now have two up all the time at home, and I love to use mine for quiet time. We also have two travel crates that can easily fold up and be taken with us for hotels, and sports events. If you never force a dog to use one, and it is only seen as a nice place to be, they are great. How to teach your human to not mind them is something I’m still trying to figure out!
    Emma recently posted…Lip Fold Dermatitis – What Are Your Options?My Profile

  3. We thought we will not need a crate and gave up after Easy didn’t like it… but now we can’t use a crate on shows, instead of being safe in a crate in the car I have 80 lbs on my lap and the great idea with using a jogger for Easy that we can enter places where dogs aren’t welcome bursted like a bubble too :o( so I think to train your dog that you can use a crate when you need it is always a win.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog THANKFUL THURSDAYMy Profile

  4. I never used one with my dogs until I had a 5 week old puppy. It was very helpful to know that when I went grocery shopping she would be safe – not to mention that she did potty again until I got home to take her out.

  5. Both our dogs are crate trained and they don’t mind them at all. They travel together in a big crate in our SUV for road trips. I think it’s important for them to enjoy their crate. I’ve only been on Facebook a year but there are some very opinionated people on there. I avoid the drama. LOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Companion Soy Candles Make ScentsMy Profile

  6. Crates are a tool. Like any tool they can be used properly or improperly. When used properly they are an invaluable resource to keep your dog safe and healthy. Like most facebook arguments, this one quickly degenerates into sound and fury.

  7. My Daisy did not have to go in a crate but Cocoa has to have a crate. She gets into everything and it could be dangerous. Even if we think we have puppy proofed she seems to find something!! We do not like to have her in it for a super long time or for more than 2 days in a row but it is a safety thing for sure. And she does not fight it or anything. She goes in and gets her treats.
    Julie recently posted…March MadnessMy Profile

  8. I hear the “why would you want to cage your pet” argument a lot, and I understand where they’re coming from. It does seem “unnatural.” But I have to say after I crate trained my dog Carter there was no looking back; when done properly it’s a life saver.

    You don’t have to worry about what they’re getting into while you’re at work.

    And as far as the Boxer video goes it also serves as a great reminder why dogs shouldn’t wear their collars (or if they do use break away ones) when left in the crate.
    Jen recently posted…The 5 Types of Dog Articles I’m Tired of SeeingMy Profile

  9. Crate training Jedi was one of the best things we’ve ever done. He loves his crate and will often lay in it throughout the day with the door wide open. We started crate training him because I wanted to show him. I knew that I would need a crate to keep him safe ringside or when inside a hotel. Good thing, because sometimes he gets car sick. Fortunately he does better when traveling inside his crate.

    Living in Florida, we always have hurricanes on our minds. It’s nice to know that if we have to make an emergency evacuation Jedi won’t be bothered having to stay in his crate inside a shelter.

  10. Not cruel at all. What would be cruel is if I let Gman have free rain all the time and him getting a foreign body or something from all he eats/shreds/destroys ect. He is much safer in his crate.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Can You Litter Box Train Your Puppy(s)?My Profile

  11. First, I totally agree with your comment re FB ‘if you can’t be civil, be quiet’. Kylie LOVES her crate – it’s her house / cave. We almost never close the door – the only time we do is when we have a someone responding to a service call – and we’re home anyway. Kylie sleeps in her crate during the night and naps in it during the day. It’s helpful to place a blanket or something similar on the top of the crate – gives it more of a cave feel. Thank you for the Dear Labby post – interesting question and informative response.

  12. I absolutely and totally agree with your comment about “if can’t be civil, be quiet”. Never understand why would folks feel the need to lash out their disapproval in angry tone on FB. We crate trained our two Labs from puppy age and like you, we leave the door open (actually removed the door) and they love to nap and chew their chew bones/toys in it; it is their favorite hang out spot (two Labs in one big crate).

  13. Pawsome blog post SlimDoggy!
    You have covered all the good dog reasons for using a crate & all the wrong reasons, well done!
    As for humans arguing on FB, we don’t engage for the same reasons you stated above.
    CEO Olivia
    CEO Olivia recently posted…Our Purple Day Tribute to Canine Epi-WarriorsMy Profile

  14. Sam won’t use any of the 3 dog houses; I can’t imagine him considering use of a crate. For him, a crate means being on the sofa while the humans are on the floor. 😉

  15. We agree. Crate training with Luke was wonderful for us when he was younger, and it helped so much with house training. As he got older we confined him to a smaller room when we were gone, with his crate open in it, and gave him more freedom. Once he outgrew the crate, he had free run of the house. Like any tool, it has to be used properly in order to work.
    Jan K recently posted…Saying Hello to New Fitness Routines and Goodbye to FitDog FridaysMy Profile

  16. Not a single person mentioned one of the most important factors to consider when thinking about crates. At some point in their (hopefully very long) lives, they will need to be confined for one reason or another. Can you imagine if they have to be hospitalized at the vet’s office and they’ve never been introduced to a crate?!? Whatever they are there for is one problem, but add panic on top and it’s a recipe for disaster. ALL dogs and cats need to be able to be comfortably confined in a crate for their own safety and possible medical treatment.

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