Who doesn’t love dogs? Sure, they could be rambunctious and can leave pee puddles surrounded by the scattered remains of a torn up napkin that you meant to take off the table when you went to the bathroom briefly. But they’re just so gosh darn cute that all is forgiven in the end.
Eventually, all dog owners hope that that type of behavior will subside in due time and may use tools, such as crates, to help their dog be less anxious and make aware of what sorts of behaviors are appropriate around the house. The big question then is: is it ethical to crate your dog? I think yes, you just have to know how to properly utilize it without damaging the dog’s mental or physical health.
The US Humane Society provides some insight on crating your dog properly. They emphasize that, “A crate is not a magical solution to common canine behavior. If used incorrectly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. And for some dogs, crates will not be an option.”
For example, crates should never be used as a form of punishment. On the contrary, in fact. Crates should be seen as a welcoming location for your dog to relax and possibly escape from stressors that may be surrounding them in your house, such as screaming children, chaotic energy, and other pets that are giving them a hard time.
Owners can help make their furry companion’s crate a safe place by making sure it’s big enough, there’s a comfortable bed, toys, and even treats that they can snack on. The Humane Society suggests that “putting your dog in a crate with an interactive toy when guests come over to avoid mishaps with food or jumping is more effective than waiting for misbehavior and then putting your dog away.” This way, your dog doesn’t see their crate as a negative space.
Raising a puppy isn’t easy work, and much like children, there are certain sacrifices to your normal, everyday life that you may need to alter in order to accommodate their needs. So, for crate training, it’s important that you don’t leave them in their crate for too long.
“You may have to change your schedule, hire a pet sitter or take your dog to a daycare facility to reduce the amount of time they spend in the crate each day,” per the Humane Society.
With that, it’s also very important to recognize that crates shouldn’t be used as a long term device for training your dog to be alone and behave. It should serve as the first step in training, eventually allowing your dog to graduate to various spots in the house, like the kitchen, living room, or hallway.
Even after using the crate as a tool, your dog may still gravitate towards it as a place for peace and sleep. So, it should be noted that when you’re home, crates should normally be used with the door open for the dog to roam in and out of at their leisure.
Dr. Jessica Pierce of Psychology Today says, “We should consider it a kindness to help all dogs learn to feel comfortable in a crate. The crate—with the door wide open—can be a safe place for a dog to go when he or she would like some time alone, needs refuge from screaming children, other pets, and so forth. Used in this way, the crate increases a dog’s autonomy because she can opt-out of social interactions with others in the household.”
Pierce also points out that the purpose of crate training should be for the benefit of the dogs rather than of their owners.
“Too often, though, crating is a practice that serves us rather than our dogs,” she said. “Crating allows us to go about our own lives without worrying about a dog peeing on our rug or chewing on our furniture. But this doesn’t necessarily serve our dogs. We should be mindful about our crating practices and make sure they are primarily serving the interests of our companions.”
Pierce has her opinions about crating dogs, comparing their desire of returning to the crate to that of ex-prisoners craving confinement back in prison as opposed to living in the real world. She presents certain studies that may exemplify behaviors differing from crate trained and non-crate trained dogs, but I think her suggestions to train them properly are a more effective proposal.
Her conclusion, I think, encompasses how all dog owners should view crate training.
“Shaping the way crates are marketed, sold, and described in training literature could help reduce and refine their use by dog guardians by shifting the narrative from the patently absurd “all responsible dog owners use a crate” to the more reasonable “this is a tool you might consider having around, but it should be used with extreme caution.”