Last Updated: 2/14/21
WOOF, the crating debate continues – to crate or not to crate your dog? Although this decision is ultimately up to YOU, the human dog pawrent, 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-traveling Yorkie). In my early life, I was confined to a crate regularly for a whopping 16-18+ hours daily. My daily crate time included my former human’s workday plus commute, which lasted anywhere from 8 to 10 hours AND his bedtime hours, which was another 8+ hours. Please keep in mind that the time frame does NOT capture the time he spent running errands, hitting the gym, or engaging in social activities.
Sure, I may get a little breather over the weekends, but there wasn’t a single day that I could escape the crate. Now that I live a crate-free, ultra-spoiled world-traveling life with my new and forever humans, I can’t imagine going back to being crated (even though I was lucky enough to have a crate-mate, the sweetest pit bull named Cleo). With that barked, being unjustly surrendered by my former human due to a newborn baby might have been the best thing that happened to me.
A real problem with crates is that they’re easily and frequently misused; 6 hours of crate time can quickly turn into 10+ hours regularly, and yet the line should be drawn at 8 hours TOPS a day for adult dogs (and only few hours for puppies depending on their age). Ultimately, dogs should NOT spend the majority of their lives inside a crate. Believe it or not, crating your dog is even ILLEGAL in Sweden and Finland unless it’s done for transportation or temporary purposes. Although the amount of crating time can vary from dog pawrent to dog pawrent, but I believe regular, long-term crating may still result in detrimental consequences even with good intentions and careful training.
*For simplicity, the gender of the word “dog” will be in the masculine form (“he” or “him”) throughout this post.
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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 iPhone to binge-watch on Netflix or catch up on your IG feed. 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 restricted. You’re denied the natural freedoms of relieving yourself, walking around, and stretching. Unless you have a crate-mate like I did, you’ll essentially be all by yourself inside a cage with your iPhone.
As I was crated since puppyhood, I certainly got used to crate life because I didn’t know anything else. Naturally, I grew emotionally attached to my cage. However, this doesn’t mean that I LIKED being confined. I mean – honestly, who does? Aside from limited space, I barely had access to fresh 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 – THERE ARE MORE EFFECTIVE WAYS TO POTTY-TRAIN
The #1 reason why crate training is so popular is because it is supposedly the easiest way for HUMANS to potty-train a dog. It is the dog’s natural instinct to relieve or eliminate himself away from the area where he sleeps and eats; 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. Does anyone see anything wrong with this concept?
Seriously, just think about this concept for a minute.
You’re locking up a beloved family member 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? Dogs love you so much that they’re willing to do anything for your satisfaction, including holding their waste until it is physiologically impossible. Certainly, there has to be more humane ways to potty-train a dog!
The most effective ways are to train your dog to relieve himself outdoors (on his routine walks and/or in 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 when it’s time for a walk, playtime, and food so all it takes is some positive reinforcement to train your dogs to pee outside the house on a schedule and use a pee pad when necessary. 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 do not wish to invest the time and effort into humane potty training; therefore, crate training is the easiest way out. It’s arguably the most convenient way to ensure your dog isn’t making a mess when you’re gone. However, convenient for you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for your dog.
Please consider these alternatives:
Train your dog to relieve himself during walks
Train your dog to relieve himself in the backyard using the doggy door (if you live in a house)
Train your dog to relieve himself on pee pads or “fake” lawns inside (if you live in an apartment)
Hire a dog walker to give your dog an opportunity for elimination, exercise, and socialization
Bottom line – crate training is NOT the only option. There are more humane ways to potty train your dog.
#3 Reason NOT to crate your dog – A “SAFE PLACE” OR “WOLF DEN” SHOULD NOT BE LOCKED (BY SOMEONE ELSE)
Another strong argument for crate training is that dogs naturally perceive crates as a “safe place.” Pro-crate folks assert 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 true “den animals,” the problem with this argument is that they shouldn’t be locked up in their dens – especially by someone else. Sure, it’s a wonderful idea to use a crate as a private bedroom for your dog as long as he has the freedom to enter and leave at will. That is what I would call a safe place.
#4 Reason NOT to crate your dog – THERE ARE “SAFER” PLACES
Any place may essentially feel safe when forced to spend the majority of your day. Confining your dog into a crate will make him feel emotionally attached to it over time (some even compare it to the Stockholm syndrome), but that doesn’t mean he can’t find a “safe” place elsewhere. If he were indisputably in a loving home and not subject to physical or emotional harassment (and physical clumsiness), he could feel safe in many places. He would feel even safer sleeping next to you at night if you allow him. While I do have a crate in my room, the door is always wide open. My humans notice 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 permit my humans to use).
#5 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. Locking up a dog is a dog parent’s 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 your dog 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 where he has the freedom and mobility he deserves without the capability of destruction. The dog-proof space should be significantly larger than a crate (think at least 3-4x) so that he does not feel too restricted; ideally, the larger, the better – he should be able to walk around, breathe effortlessly, and access clean drinking water. No matter how big your dog is, you can effectively dog-proof an area or your home. Upon your return home, please allow him to safely enjoy the run of the house.
#6 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT MAY CREATE PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES
Excessive, long-term crating may create psychological issues, which is one of the most compelling reasons NOT to crate your dog. It’s true – dogs DO feel emotions like humans; for instance, they can 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 this closet, you will feel isolated. Sure, you may get used to your area, but you will surely experience feelings of loneliness. Long-term loneliness could eventually lead to depression. If your dog keeps barking in the crate, you may be witnessing psychological distress in the making.
On a daily basis, I desperately waited for my former parent to return because my bladder is ready to burst 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 when I sense my new pawrents leaving. Of course, I’ve come a long way now and am doing much better than my early days of adoption.
#7 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT MAY CAUSE BEHAVIORAL ISSUES
Contrary to popular belief, crating doesn’t necessarily solve behavioral issues; instead, it may even CAUSE them. Aside from socialization, dogs need to be mentally stimulated. Being confined to a cage regularly eventually leads to boredom, regardless of how many toys and lasting chews are present. Again, think about yourself being locked up in a cage with your iPhone without the freedom to leave or eliminate yourself. 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 so many hours, I had A LOT of energy to release – both physically and mentally. I’d become frenetic, hyperactive, and impulsive with extremely short attention spans.
#8 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT MAY DETERIORATE PHYSICAL HEALTH
Aside from mental health risks, excessive and long-term crating may also crumble your dog’s physical health. Like humans, dogs who are usually restricted movement 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 in fixed positions long-term may even suffer from tense and sore muscles with the risk of developing muscle atrophy. But, most importantly, we all know that not exercising cardiovascular activity and lack of blood circulation could lead to detrimental health issues.
When I abandoned my crate life for good, I couldn’t believe that I could walk around indoors at will. I was so used to laying down, sitting, or sleeping on my side for hours on end – until I could escape the crate. Being in the same few positions the majority of the day everyday is NOT a quality life. Now, I can hop from my King bed in the bedroom to the couch in the living room to my human’s home office to the kitchen (if I smell something good) – whenever I want.
#9 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 could save a dog’s life in an earthquake, which could be true. However, the probability of a natural disaster doesn’t justify crating your dog PERIOD. Do you hide under the table every day in case of an earthquake? Do you wear a hazmat suit to protect yourself from a potential 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 just 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.
#10 Reason NOT to crate your dog – IT IS DEMEANING
The truth is that 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, stuck inside a cage. You don’t have to worry about your dog peeing in undesirable places, chewing up things around the house, or jumping on the expensive sofa. As a crated dog in my former life, I am barking out that regular crating IS, indeed, demeaning, whether for 3 hours or 10. 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. It’s always the disturbing human-superior, dog-inferior perception that perpetuates dog (and animal) abuse and cruelty in the world. Instead of training them to “hold it,” you should focus on training them where to pee and poop. Again, the better solution is to dog-proof a room and train your dog to pee/poop on a pee pad when you’re unable to take him out in time.
Crate Training vs. Carrier Training
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 a world-traveling Yorkie, 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 entirely 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 regular freedoms as soon as the travel day is over.
Now that you’ve taken a thorough sniff at my 10 reasons NOT to crate your dog, I hope you will seriously reconsider crate training your dog. However, if you are still adamant about crating your dog, please minimize the usage and allow as much freedom as possible, especially after potty training has ended. Again, no dog should spend the majority of his life in a cage – PERIOD. It’s pawsome to offer your dog a crate as his own private bedroom, but he should have the freedom to enter and exit as he pleases. Unless you live in Sweden and Finland where crating is illegal, to crate or not to crate your dog is up to YOU. Nonetheless, I sincerely hope you are convinced by all these reasons 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 your precious furbaby right because he deserves it!
Just because crating is a commonly accepted practice doesn’t mean it’s not outdated. I beg you to please think thoroughly about these reasons not to crate your dog. Humans, you can do better! If you have other reasons NOT to crate your dog, please share in the Comments section below OR shoot me a message. BARK AT ME.
Hope I was able to persuade you with these 10 reasons NOT to crate your dog! If you haven’t already done so, sniff out my 10 tips on how your can potty train your dog WITHOUT a crate. If you’re looking for more dog tips, head over to my Dog Tips section and be sure to read 16 Reasons Why Dogs Hate Your Child.
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob