Do you believe that your dogs really love their crates? Do you think that crate training is in the best interest of dogs? If so, SNIFF ME OUT!
ARF! Shortly after I shared my post on 10 Reasons Why You Should NOT Crate Your Dog, I received comments from dog parents proclaiming that their dogs really “love” their crates.” Don’t get me wrong – as I barked out in my previous post, I think crates CAN serve as private bedrooms for dogs AS LONG AS they are unlocked (so dogs are free to come and go as they please). And yes, I do have a crate of my own (when I’m back home and not traveling), but the door is always wide open. So let’s debunk common misconceptions I keep hearing about dogs “loving” their crates. Sniff them out below!
*For simplicity, the gender of the word “dog” will be in the masculine form (“he” or “him”) throughout this post.
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#1 Dog Crate MISCONCEPTION: “BUT My dog LOVES his crate. My dog runs back into his crate all the time, even when it’s unlocked.”
DEBUNKED: If your dog is refusing to leave his crate or constantly running back into his crate when unlocked, your dog is feeling insecure and uncomfortable in the environment outside of it. Most likely, you are not providing a safe and secure environment for your dog to relax beyond the crate. From obnoxious children to abusive training practices, a myriad of reasons can exist as to why dogs can’t relax outside of their crates. Such long-term confinement and isolation may have also caused your dog to feel insecure or unsafe outside of what he knows, esp. if he is spending the majority of his day inside a cage.
Imagine being consistently locked up in a cell every single day. When you are finally provided with an ounce of freedom, you either can’t wait to run off OR hesitate to leave. The hesitation stems from feelings of fear and anxiety of now having to navigate outside of the “unknown.” This behavior is commonly observed in confined dogs at shelters or the vet (in recovery). After being confined for an extended period, dogs can become so timid that they fear stepping outside of their cage for a potty break.
As a dog who was crated for 16-18+ hours daily in his former life (8-10 hours when my former dog parent was at work and another 8 hours at night), I no longer need a crate to feel safe. I still have a crate (that’s always wide open, unlocked) that I hardly go in anymore now that I have a King bed that I occasionally share with my humans. 🙂
#2 Dog Crate MISCONCEPTION: “You just need to train your dog to like his crate.”
DEBUNKED: WHAT, am I hearing this correctly? Dogs just need to be trained to like their crates? If dogs (or any animal) had a choice, they would not willingly want anyone to lock them up for even a minute. Training your dog to like his crate is the equivalent to getting your dog USED to be locked up. Getting used to something doesn’t necessarily mean that you like it. The truth is that dogs are loyal beings who will do anything to please their humans. So yes, you can “train” a dog to get used to his crate but does that mean he REALLY likes being locked up? My guess is NO.
#3 Dog Crate MISCONCEPTION: “Crate training is not cruel when it’s done right.”
DEBUNKED: Sure, you can follow all the steps on how to properly crate train your dog, e.g. introduce the crate slowly, use positive affiliation, limit the hours spent inside the crate, never use the crate as punishment, etc. However, following such “guidelines” does not discount the fact that you are still LOCKING UP your dog (even if it’s only for a “few hours” a day). Despite how “humanely” you view the process, you cannot deny the fact that crates are primarily used for YOUR benefit. You know exactly where your dog is. You can control exactly when he gets to eliminate himself. The fact that dogs have to “hold it” until it’s convenient for humans to take them outside is cruel.
Bear in mind that crate training is a concept created by humans to potty train dogs. Crate training “works” because dogs will NOT soil their beds. Hence, dog crates are created FOR human convenience, not for dogs. Ultimately, no difference exists between a cage and a crate.
In Finland and Sweden, crating your dog is even ILLEGAL unless it is done so for transportation or temporary reasons!
#4 Dog Crate MISCONCEPTION: “My dogs love their crates because they only affiliate positive things with their crates.”
DEBUNKED: WOOF, dogs DO love to eat and play. However, just because dogs getting things that they LOVE inside the crate doesn’t necessarily mean that they love the crate itself.
As a rescue dog, I didn’t grow up playing with balls. My new (forever) humans tried playing fetch with me in the beginning, but I seemed uninterested. They then did something magical; they started giving me treats every time I caught the ball. And, boy did that change my excitement for balls! But that doesn’t mean that I like the ball itself- I only liked eating those delicious treats affiliated with the ball. The same concept is easily applied to dog crate training. Just because they’re excited to go in the crate for that tasty bone or meal does NOT substantiate their love for crates. It simply means that they love their bones and food. An utter distinction exists here!
#5 Dog Crate MISCONCEPTION: “Dogs are den animals who love having a safe place. Plus my dog trainer recommends crate training so it must be right.”
DEBUNKED: Sure, dogs love having some private space that they call their own. And yes, we can call it a dog’s instinct descended from wolves. I mean I don’t like to be bothered whenever I nap or eat either. Nevertheless, there’s a clear difference between a “safe place” and a crate. I’ll bark this over and over again – a wolf den or dog’s “safe place” is NOT locked by someone else. I’ve never heard of a wolf who willingly gets locked up so he can nap or eat his food in the wild.
Just because crate training is a common practice in the world of dog training doesn’t mean that it’s NOT cruel or outdated. Dog parents should question seemingly wrong acts and not take everything at face value. For instance, the widespread dog training technique of positive reinforcement wasn’t always known. Up until the 1980s, dogs were commonly trained with shock therapy and negative reinforcement! 🙁 And, that’s after THOUSANDS of years of domestication. Simply put, commonly accepted or heavily promoted practices don’t always mean that they’re morally right. From shock collars to long-term tethering, humans have made many mistakes with dog training and care in the past (and sadly, many continue to make them – that’s why we must SPEAK UP whenever we see animal abuse). As our society continues to progress in animal rights and welfare, humans need to do better in recognizing abuse and cruelty to pave the way for changes. Despite the “benefits” from crate training, locking up an animal, a valued family member, is abhorrently wrong.
Now that I live a crate-free life, I love switching up sleeping spots throughout the day and evening. Occasionally (once a month or so), I go inside my crate to take a quick sniff, but I have the freedom to choose my “safe place” wherever I want. If you are truly good to your dog, he will easily find safe places around the house without the need for a crate.
#6 Dog Crate MISCONCEPTION: “Crate training teaches your dog responsibility – until he learns all the rules of the house.”
DEBUNKED: Pro-crate people also promote crates as an effective tool to foster a healthy relationship with a new family. They claim that dogs learn responsibility and house rules through crate training, e.g. where to eliminate, what areas to access, what not to chew on, etc.
GRR, I just don’t buy it! Essentially, you’re locking up your dog whenever you don’t want him to pee on the carpet or destroy the house. Locking up your dog is NOT an effective way to stop behavioral issues.
As dogs learn best through positive reinforcement, crates are NOT necessary for any type of dog behavioral training. There are indisputably more humane and effective ways to train your dog. Your dog will be so much happier and healthier too. Crate training is less about teaching your dog the house rules, but it’s more about how you can CONTROL him at your will, which may set up an unhealthy superior-inferior relationship that often sparks animal abuse.
Do dogs really love their crates? Sure, dogs can love their crates – as long as they’re free to walk in and out as they please. If dogs could talk, I can guarantee you that they do not wish to be locked up by someone else. PERIOD. Again, I’m not against the use of crates but I do not support caging or crating your dog. Always keep the door WIDE OPEN or simply dog-proof a room or area! And, make sure you leave a pee pad or artificial lawn for easy elimination. Your dog is your best friend and valued family member who will do anything to make you happy. Thus, why not treat them with the love, compassion, and freedom they deserve?
Of course, the decision is up to YOU whether you want to crate your dog. But here’s the question I want to leave you with:
Are you crating your dog for your dog’s sake or YOUR own convenience?
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Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob