ARRRFF, escapaders! The debate continues – to crate or not to crate? Although this decision is ultimately up to YOU, the human dog parent, I am barking out my opinion as a dog who was crated regularly inside a garage for the first few years of his life before adoption (and eventual transformation as a world escapader). In my early life, I was confined to a crate on a daily basis – during the day when my former parent worked (8-10 hours) and again during sleeping hours (another 8+ hours). Now that I live a crate-free life, I can’t imagine going back to being crated even though I was lucky enough to have a crate-mate, a beautiful and sweet pit bull named Cleo. Of course, the amount of crating time can vary from dog parent to dog parent, but I believe regular crating results in detrimental consequences even with good intentions. Here are 10 reasons NOT to crate your dog:
#1 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT IS SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
As defined by Google, a cage is “a structure of bars or wires in which birds or other animals are confined.” Regardless of all the arguments for crating your dog, a crate is a cage. PERIOD. There is no difference.
Now, imagine being locked up inside a cage or “crate” yourself even if it’s only for a few hours each day. You may even have your smartphone for entertainment. However, you won’t have the option of using the toilet or leaving unless someone decides to let you out. Your freedom and movement are completely restricted. Sadly, you’re denied the natural freedoms of relieving yourself, walking around, and stretching.
As I was crated since puppyhood, I certainly got used to crate life because I didn’t know anything else. Consequently, I grew emotionally attached to my cage. However, this doesn’t mean that I LIKED being confined. Honestly, who does? Aside from limited space, I had no access to water or food. I could never get out of the cage myself so I would wait anxiously for hours until the door opens. Upon release, I could finally pee, poop, eat, drink, stretch, and walk. It felt like heaven each time!
#2 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT CREATES PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES
Dogs feel emotions just like humans; they experience happiness, sadness, pain, confusion, and grief. Dogs do NOT like isolation. They are social animals and thrive on interaction with humans and other dogs. Long-term isolation leads to a host of mental and emotional distress – think loneliness, depression, separation anxiety, and even withdrawal. What if your parents continuously confine you to a tiny closet or basement that restricts your freedom and mobility? No matter how “safe” you think you are inside the closet, you will feel isolated. Sure, you may get used to your “area,” but you will surely experience feelings of loneliness, and yet, that loneliness can eventually lead to depression.
On a daily basis, I desperately waited for my former parent to return because my bladder would feel like bursting by the end of the afternoon. Several hours went by. No one came. By the end of the 9th hour, I felt so miserable as I also became thirsty and hungry. The moment I heard a faint click of the garage door opener, I would stand up holding my front paws against the bars crying until he gave me the slightest attention. After my rescue, I came to my new family with psychological issues. Not only was I not used to human affection, but I also suffered from major separation anxiety. Constantly afraid of being left alone, I’d cry and even tremble at times when I sense that my parents are leaving.
#3 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT CAUSES BEHAVIORAL ISSUES
Contrary to popular belief, crating doesn’t solve behavioral issues; it actually directly CAUSES them. Aside from socialization, dogs need to be mentally stimulated. Being confined to a cage on a regular basis eventually leads to boredom, regardless of how many toys and lasting chews are present. In order to kill time, I’d start licking my paws repeatedly and excessively, which in reflection, could have easily led to self-inflicted injury in the long run. Crated dogs could also be more aggressive, hyperactive, and socially inept. It’s not rocket science – how would you react if you finally get your first taste of freedom after being locked up for hours? You’ll probably go nuts!
As soon as the door swings open, I’d dart out like a running bull. After being cooped up for hours, I had A LOT of energy to release – both physically and mentally. I became frenetic, hyperactive, and impulsive with extremely short attention spans.
#4 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT DETERIORATES PHYSICAL HEALTH
Aside from mental health deterioration, crating also crumbles your dog’s physical health. Like humans, dogs who are restricted movement on a regular basis inevitably force their bodies to remain in sedentary positions. Can you imagine sitting against the wall with your legs crossed for more than 2 hours? Your legs will likely become numb and you’ll start searching for other positions to make yourself more comfortable. Better yet, you’ll want to get up, stretch, and walk around. Dogs (and humans) who are forced to be in fixed positions will suffer from tense and sore muscles with the risk of developing muscle atrophy. And, most importantly, we all know that not exercising cardiovascular activity leads to detrimental health issues.
When I abandoned my crate life, I couldn’t believe that I could walk around at will without supervision. I was so used to laying down, sitting around, or sleeping on my back as those were the only feasible positions inside a crate. I am lucky that I didn’t suffer from muscle atrophy, but I experienced my share of sore muscles from repetitive positions throughout the day.
#5 Reason NOT to crate your dog – THERE ARE MORE EFFECTIVE WAYS TO POTTY-TRAIN
The #1 reason why crate training is so popular is because it is the EASIEST way for HUMANS to potty-train a dog. It is the dog’s natural instinct to relieve themselves away from the area where they sleep and eat; hence, crates have to be small enough where dogs would “hold it” as long as possible since they do not want to soil their beds. Dogs love you so much that they’re willing to do anything for your satisfaction, including holding their waste until it is physiologically impossible.
BUT seriously, just think about this concept for a minute.
You’re locking up a family member (who, again, loves you soooo much) because this is the most convenient way for YOU to control his bladder and bowel movement? You’re forcing him to “hold it” until it’s a convenient time for you to take him out? Certainly, there has to be more humane ways to potty-train a dog!
The most effective ways are to train him to relieve himself outdoors (either on his routine walks and/or the backyard via doggy door) and indoors on a pee pad. Remember, dogs are highly trainable and intelligent animals who thrive on routines. They know exactly when it’s time for their walks and naps so all it takes is some positive reinforcement to train your dogs to pee outside the house on a schedule or simply on a pee pad at their will. Hiring a dog walker is also a viable solution that provides your dog the opportunity to relieve himself and obtain exercise while you’re at work. The root of the problem is that dog parents don’t necessarily want to invest the time and effort into proper training; therefore, crate training is the easiest way out. It’s a convenient way to ensure your dog isn’t making a mess when you’re gone.
Train them to relieve during walks
Train them to relieve in the backyard using the doggy door (if you live in a house)
Train them to relieve on pee pads inside (if you live in an apartment)
Hire a dog walker to give them an opportunity for both elimination and exercise when you’re at work
#6 Reason NOT to crate your dog – A “SAFE PLACE” OR “WOLF DEN” SHOULD NOT BE LOCKED (BY SOMEONE ELSE)
Another argument for crating dogs is because they find crates to be a “safe place.” They say that dogs need crates like their wolf ancestors need a wolf den – a place to sleep, chew up their bones, and hide from predators in the wild (or perhaps from obnoxious children in modern day society). Whether or not dogs are truly “den animals,” the problem with this argument is that they shouldn’t be locked up in their “dens.” Sure, it’s a wonderful idea to use a crate as a private bedroom for your dog as long as he has the freedom enter and leave at will. That is what I would call a “safe place.”
#7 Reason NOT to crate your dog – THERE ARE “SAFER” PLACES
Essentially, any place can feel safe where you’re forced to spend the majority of your day. Confining your dog into a crate will make him feel emotionally attached to it overtime (some even compare it to the Stockholm syndrome), but that doesn’t mean he can’t find a “safe” place elsewhere. If he were truly in a good home and not subject to harassment, he could feel safe in many places. He would feel even safer sleeping next to you at night if you allowed it. While I do have a crate in my room, the door is always wide open. But I realize that I hardly even go into my crate as I have found much “safer” places around the house. Being entirely “crate-free,” I love gnawing my bones on the living room rug, the gigantic rocking chair in the loft, and of course, my KING bed (that I sometimes allow my parents to use).
#8 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT DOESN’T JUSTIFY “PROTECTION”
Protecting your dog from an emergency or accident does NOT justify regular crating. One may argue that a crate would save a dog’s life in an earthquake, which is true but the probability of a natural disaster doesn’t justify crating your dog period. Do you wear a helmet INSIDE a car or bus in case of a roadway accident? Do you wear a hazmat suit to protect yourself from a sudden airborne outbreak? Do you wear a life vest at all times in case of a flood? If the answer is no, then you should comprehend that emergencies simply do not make a valid argument to regularly crate your dog. On the other hand, crating your dog when you’re away may pose even more danger to him; being locked up, he loses the opportunity to escape in an event of a fire, flood, or break-in.
#9 Reason NOT to crate your dog – YOU CAN STOP YOUR DOG FROM DESTROYING THE HOUSE WITHOUT IT
Another popular reason for crating is to make sure a dog isn’t destructive without supervision. This is a dog parents’ quick and easy way of damage control. You abhor coming home to chewed up shoes, scratched up doors, and a week’s worth of garbage on the kitchen floor. However, crating isn’t the humane solution to the problem. Again, it can cause even more problems (see above for behavioral and psychological issues). Instead of confining him to a cage, the perfect and humane solution is to dog-proof a room or specific area so he has the freedom and mobility he deserves without the capability of destruction. The dog-proof space should be significantly larger than a crate so that he does not feel restricted; ideally, the larger, the better – he should be able to walk around, breathe effortlessly, and access clean drinking water.
#10 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT IS DEMEANING
Crating makes things convenient for YOU when you’re away. All in all, you don’t need to look after your dog because you know exactly where he is – well, trapped inside a cage. You don’t have to worry about your dog peeing in undesirable places or chewing up things around the house. As a crated dog in my former life, I am barking out that regular crating is simply demeaning, whether it’s for a few hours or 10 hours. How would you feel if you’re told when you could pee and poop? As the classic saying goes – if you gotta go, you GOTTA go! Crating denies a dog of the most basic right to relieve himself and creates an undeniable sense of superiority from human to dog.
Now, some of you may be asking – what is the difference between putting a dog in a crate vs. a carrier (for air travel), which is even smaller? Don’t both result in the restriction of mobility and freedom? As an international escapader, I can bark out two notable differences: 1) A carrier is REQUIRED by the airlines so you, as a dog parent, don’t have a choice (unless you have a legitimate assistance dog) whereas crate-training is truly up to your discretion, and 2) Carriers are solely used for the duration of a flight. Dogs who travel in carriers are not confined to them on a regular basis and can happily resume their daily freedoms as soon as the travel day is over.
It’s pawsome to offer your dog a crate as his own private bedroom, but he MUST have the freedom to enter and exit as he pleases. The decision is solely up to you, but I hope you would consider NOT to crate your dog, even for a few hours daily. Remember, your dog loves you sooooo much and will do anything to make you happy so please treat him right because he deserves it!
Hope you are convinced by all my reasons NOT to crate your dog! Need more healthy dog tips? Head over to my new Healthy Dog Tips section and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list below for new posts!
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob