Is Crate Training Cruel?

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Many dog owners choose to crate-train their pets.

But is confining your dog to a crate the right thing to do? Or is crate training cruel and tantamount to animal abuse?

Read this article to find out!

Reasons to Crate Train Your Dog

Golden Retriever in crate waiting for Adoption

Before we discuss the downsides of crate training a dog that might be perceived by some people as cruel, let’s look at what’s beneficial about crate training puppies and adult dogs.

Of course, crate training can only be a viable solution when carried out properly using positive reinforcement training techniques.

A Safe Space of Their Own

Dogs are naturally denning animals that enjoy having a space that’s theirs.

That place can be somewhere your dog can take refuge when he feels stressed or anxious or simply a spot where your pet can take a nap in peace.

Although you can achieve the same by providing your dog with a special bed in a designated area or setting up a puppy playpen, a crate is often the best way to create that den-like, secure place that dogs love.

Potty Training

Until very young puppies achieve full bladder control, the housetraining process is usually much easier when you use a crate.

Keeping your dog confined to his crate while you’re not there to keep an eye on him is the best way of preventing unwanted toilet accidents around your home. That saves you the stress and hassle of cleaning up a mess and means that your dog won’t feel distressed when he knows he’s done something wrong.

Prevents Undesirable Behavior

Unfortunately, many dogs and young puppies can be very destructive when left unsupervised.

Keeping your puppy or dog crated can help to prevent your furry friend from chewing up your stuff and destroying your home while you’re out.

One of my dogs was a serial chewer and regularly munched his way through anything made from wood. That included a very expensive chess set, skirting boards, a kitchen door, and my hairbrush handle!

The only way I could be sure that my furry fiend wouldn’t destroy my stuff was to confine him to his crate with a chew toy while I was out.

Keeps Your Dog Safe

Beagle inside the crate

Crating your dog can help to keep him safe from dangerous items and poisonous foods that he could get his paws on while you’re not around to watch him.

Many dog owners have arrived home to find that their dog has turned out the garbage and eaten something harmful or has gotten into their cleaning supplies.

Dogs explore their surroundings by using their mouths, and that can lead to trouble. Some human foods are highly dangerous to dogs, including chocolate and raisins, and it could mean an expensive trip to the vet if your dog ate something he shouldn’t.

Peace of Mind

Leaving a dog home alone can be a stressful experience for pet parents. So, if you know that your canine companion is safely sleeping in a comfortable crate with plenty of toys to keep him amused, you’ll be much more relaxed about leaving him.

Crating Makes Groomer, Vet, and Boarding Visits Much Easier

If you have to take your dog to the vet, groomer, or boarding kennel, having your pet crate-trained makes life much easier for you.

At the groomer, your dog will often spend time in a crate before and after he’s groomed. Vets often crate dogs after routine surgical procedures and certainly when a dog is an in-patient. All in all, a dog is much more likely to handle vet and groomer visits without getting stressed if he’s already crate-trained.

Keeps Your Dog Away From Guests in Your Home

Golden Retriever inside the crate

Although dogs are social animals that love to be the center of attention, not everyone is a dog-lover. Some guests visiting your home might not appreciate your pampered pooch’s attention when they come to visit you. That could include contractors, people with pet allergies or a fear of dogs, or even seniors with balance issues who might be knocked over by a boisterous pup.

A crate forms a secure barrier that allows your dog and your visitors to see each other without actually having physical contact.

Safe Travel

Traveling with your dog is ultimately much safer for your pet and your passengers if your pup is restrained in a suitable travel crate. In fact, if you’re flying, you must have your dog contained in a crate.

Many people like to take their dogs with them on vacation, and hotels and campgrounds often insist that dogs are confined to crates when left alone.

Calm Down!

Sometimes, dogs, especially puppies, can get overexcited, charging around your home, and having an attack of the “crazies!”

Although that’s quite amusing, a rampaging dog that’s out of control can be dangerous in your home, and accidents can happen. A crate can provide a place where your boisterous pup can switch off and calm down.

Downsides of Crate Training Dogs

sad puppy crying howling in shelter cage unhappy emotional moment adopt me concept space for

So, crate training can be beneficial to both dogs and their owners. So, why do some people think crating a dog is cruel?

Overreliance on Crates

Perhaps the biggest issue with crate training is that some people become overreliant on their dog’s crate and are tempted to leave their pet in the crate for too long.

That can lead to the dog’s crate becoming harmful and damaging for the dog rather than helpful. In fact, many dog owners don’t know how long to leave their dogs confined in a crate. In fact, in some countries, it’s actually illegal to shut a dog in a crate.

So, even if your dog is crate-trained, you should not resort to habitually using the crate to keep your dog “out of the way” for long periods of time. Ideally, a dog should not be shut in his crate for more than six hours at a stretch without at least one potty break.

If you think you’re likely to leave your dog alone for longer than that, try to arrange for someone to call around to your home and let your dog out or use a dog minding service.

Anxiety Issues

What Dog Breeds Are Most Prone To Separation Anxiety

Although some trainers maintain that dogs with separation anxiety can benefit from crate training, many people think that crating a dog can make those psychological issues worse.

Some dogs become extremely upset and anxious when left alone shut in a crate. That can lead to unwanted behaviors, such as self-harming, constant barking, or chewing the crate in an attempt to escape.

Crate training regression can often result from hurried or inappropriate crate training methods.

Incorrect Crate Size

If the crate is too small, the dog will feel cramped and uncomfortable. The dog should be able to comfortably stand up, sit and lie down, and turn around without bumping into the sides or roof of the crate.

So, always measure your puppy or adult dog carefully to ensure that the crate is the correct size. If your puppy outgrows his crate, you’ll need to upsize it for him.

Medical Issues

If your dog has medical issues that make it overwhelming for him to spend time confined to his crate, you could find that your crate training program is not working.

For example, a dog suffering from incontinence issues or bowel problems could become so distressed when confined to a crate that he has more accidents.

However, we must stress that problems of that nature are not especially common.

Incorrect Crate Assembly

If you buy a wire crate or one that requires assembly, do be sure to put the crate together correctly and securely.

An incorrectly assembled crate could easily collapse onto your dog, potentially injuring him. You want your dog to view his crate as a safe, secure, and comfortable place to be. Just one accident could leave your poor pup frightened and too scared to consider entering his crate again.

Poor Ventilation

two dogs in two separate crates

Some pet parents like to use covers or even blankets over their dog’s crate to create a more den-like, calming environment for their pet. However, that can be dangerous if you don’t do it correctly.

Poor or non-existent airflow through your dog’s crate can be lethal to your pet. So, you must ensure that the crate is put in a well-ventilated area and that the crate itself allows for adequate air circulation.

Never Use a Crate as Punishment

If you resort to using your dog’s crate to punish him for undesirable behavior or for a “time out,” you risk alienating your pet from using the crate altogether.

Always use positive reinforcement training methods when crate-training your dog. Punishment-based training strategies almost always have a negative effect on your dog and can result in serious psychological issues.

Dogs that have been punished repeatedly throughout their lives always display higher levels of stress, anxiety, and fear. The key to successful crate training is never to use your dog’s crate as a form of punishment.

Collar Danger

puppy in crate

Always remove your dog’s collar when he’s spending time alone in his crate. It’s very easy for a collar to become snagged on a crate with potentially tragic consequences.

If a dog gets caught by his collar, he will probably struggle violently and panic as he tries to get loose. That can lead to strangulation in extreme cases and other painful neck injuries.

Many dogs become extremely anxious and upset if they feel stuck or trapped. Sometimes, the dog’s struggles can cause the crate to collapse, terrifying the poor pup even more.

Again, although these instances are not especially common, we recommend that you remove your dog’s collar and harness when he’s confined to his crate.

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy our article on the pros and cons of crate training your dog? If you found the article interesting and thought-provoking, please share it.

It’s a dog’s natural instinct to choose a den-like space where they can spend some time chilling out or napping. Provided that you approach crate training your dog with patience, positive reinforcement methodology, and sympathy, crate training is not cruel.

In addition, keeping dogs in crates can help to prevent destructive behaviors, make potty training easier, and keep your dog safe while you’re not around.

Is your dog crate-trained? If you chose not to crate-train your pup, why not? Tell us what you think about crate training in the comments box below.

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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