by J. Lee
To Crate or Not to Crate?
There are many opinions regarding the use crates for dogs.
- Some feel they provide safety.
- Some see crates as prisons.
Putting a dog in a crate to keep it safe is considered acceptable if the length of time is limited. Examples could be when a dog is being transported, when they are part of an adoption event, maybe a new puppy is being introduced in a household with another dog or dogs, during family dinnertime or for medical reasons as long as it can get out to relieve itself. If, for example, your dog has been treated for a condition such as Invertebral Disk Disease, a crate will be a necessary part of the recovery process.
Many dog owners feel the use of crates keeps puppies safe. They stop bad habits from forming. As their puppy grows up it is no longer used as a cage, but as an open den. They feel a dog finds safety and security in it. The crate becomes a dog bed at night with the door left open. Positive familiarity of a crate makes travel a welcomed event.
Petfinder -The Benefits of Crate Training: Crate Expectations – Training crates for dogs are too often deemed cruel. In fact, they are both training and safety devices and as such can benefit dog and owner alike. Crating on a humane schedule teaches puppies bladder and bowel control and limits teething to his/her own property. A dog crated in a car has a better chance of surviving an auto accident and little chance of causing one.
Putting a dog in a crate for extended periods of time deprives it from basic activities. It becomes a cage and a prison. The dog is unable to stretch out. It is banished from interaction with their human pack. As pack animals it is critical for a dog to be part of the family.
In Finland, national law prohibits the use of cages in confining pets for any other reason than “transportation, illness or other temporary and acceptable reason” and is strongly cultural disapproved of in Australia and Europe. One of the interesting rationalizations behind the claim that cages are perfectly natural because, in the case of dogs, their canine ancestors preferred confinement in close habitats like burrows. Well, wolves are still among us and the fact is that the only time they spend in subterranean dens is during the first 6 to 8 weeks of their lives (after which they abandon them) and for certain periods when wintering. And another key difference is that the den or burrow does not have a locked door preventing the animal from leaving it at will.
Wolves are migratory animals that over the course of a year, travel hundreds of miles. They are mobile. Your dog thrives on mobility – not imprisonment. They are also pack animals – and for a dog, you are supposed to be their “pack”. That doesn’t happen when you abandon your dog to a cage. So that rationalization is absurd on its face – not to mention, a self serving lie, that is commonly propagated by dog training quacks.
For any inhumane practice to grow in acceptance, there must be a cabal of propagandists to promote it. Such has been found in a plethora of abusive ‘trainers’ and callous ‘dog writers’ that have no actual grounding in animal behavior.
Alternately, some say, “well, my dog likes to retreat to the crate now and then to sleep.” We have no problem with that idea, provided the crate door is open and the dog can move in and out at will. Bottom line, if you would not be willing to be confined in a cage for hours on end – don’t traumatize your pet to such deplorable treatment.
Crates should NOT be used for punishment. In doing so the dog further learns to dislike the crate. It can become confused when they are sent to a crate when discipline is not an issue.
Many people do not consider the size of crate they need. To cut costs they choose a size way too small that their dog outgrows. It is not mentally or physically healthy for their dog to be cramped.
Crates can be left inside in drafty areas on cold days or areas with little air flow on hot days. They might be confined outside with no ability for the dog to find shade.
It is inhumane to force a dog into a crate especially when they show signs of fear and anxiety. Signs of fear include the flattened ears, the tail is down, tail tucked between the hind legs, yawning, cowering, trembling and raised hair on the back of the neck. Some dogs might vomit or defecate.
Dogs are pack animals. Isolation in a cage might not be the best option. Boredom becomes its existence when it is left alone with little comfort and no toys.
Why I Don’t Use a Crate When Training Dogs – The widespread practice of routinely caging a dog at night and then again during the day for periods totaling 16 to 18 hours (or more) is an extremely problematic practice that should not be condoned or encouraged because it probably underlies the development of many adjustment problems, including aggression.
Animal Rights Uncompromised: Crating Dogs and Puppies – Crating is a popular “convenience practice” that is often used on adult dogs. It deprives dogs of the opportunity to fulfill some of their most basic needs, such as the freedom to walk around, the opportunity to relieve themselves, and the ability to stretch out and relax. It also prevents them from interacting with their environment and learning how to behave in a human setting.
A dog left in a crate for long periods of time forces the dog to relieve itself without the ability to get away from the smell of their feces and ammonia odor from urination. Considering dogs sense of smell greater than ours it must be torture to them.
KPBS/NOVA Dogs’ Dazzling Sense of Smell: OLYMPIC SNIFFERS – Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude—it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute, scientists say.
In addition to the psychological torment and agony that confinement in cages – this internment yields acute health consequences. Of the proven adverse psychological effects, The Dodo, reports:
Researchers from the University of Bristol’s Anthrozoology Institute recently examined videotapes of 30 police-trained German shepherds as they spent time in their kennels after work. What they found was that the animals showed tell-tale signs of extreme stress and even temporary mental illness.
Hamish Denham, the study’s lead author, says that even the highly disciplined police dogs appeared to lose it when kept confined, exhibiting manic behaviors associated with failing mental health. The dogs were recorded repetitively jumping and bouncing off walls, pacing back and forth, spinning, and walking in circles around the perimeter of their pens.
The study notes that “some dogs may find isolation from humans particularly aversive, hence affecting their reactions both to being left in a kennel and to being taken to the veterinary surgeon.”
National Compass’ Editor in Chief adopted a dog that he later learned had been confined in a cage for long periods for the first six years of her life and he told me that his dog showed the signs of physical deterioration from serial confinement.
He witnessed the same effects of long-term caging that veterinarians warn about – poor muscle tone, deformed limbs, splayed feet, neurotic obsessive-compulsive self-grooming, paw chewing and nervous tics like repetitive movement behaviors.
- Think humane and limit crate time.
- Do not let your convenience become torture for your dog.
- Walk your dog before and after placing it in a crate.
- Make sure your dog relieved itself prior to limited crate time.
- Makes sure the space is adequate for turning around and stretching.
- Don’t leave a dog in a crate all day while you are at work. Leave you dog with a family member or friend.
- If no family or friends are available there are professional pet sitters and dog daycare services.
For more information and practical advice on the proper and humane use of these enclosures, check out this article at Your Dog Advisor.