Dear Labby: Is Crate Training Cruel?
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?
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.
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.