Is it mean to crate your dog?

 I recently read a couple of ads on craigslist that truly bothered me and I have to touch upon this subject.  One owner has a dog that is chewing up the walls in their house the other is having housebreaking issues.  Even though I generally will not read the responses from people trying to give advice on craigslist,  I fell into the trap and started going through the answers the general public were giving.  I was horrified to see what some people were saying and upon contacting the owners, I was more upset by the options they will take.  In all the years of working with dogs, the crate has in most cases become that dog’s saving grace.  

  I have many clients who ask me if they really need a crate for their dog.  I always tell them, if you have a dog, you need to own a crate.  If you own 4 dogs, you need 4 crates!  It is a natural instinct for your dog to enjoy a “den like” area.  Most dogs feel secure and comfortable in their crates. 

  Too many people feel they are being mean by crating their dogs.  They feel they are restricting their “exercise” and freedom.  If you are walking your dog and providing adequate exercise a crate will not affect your dog.

   A large number of people tell me they would hate to be crated and confined, and therefore their dog must be uncomfortable.  Your dog is not a person, they cannot stop and rationalize that chewing your furniture, shoes or walls is wrong.  They cannot stop and think that the outcome of eating a sock or clothing may be an expensive life threatening surgery to remove it.  They follow their instinct! 

  There are many reasons why you should crate your dog.  The first would be for housebreaking reasons.  A dog usually will not soil where it sleeps.  Those that do generally have a bigger issue going on then simple housebreaking problems.  Using a crate for housebreaking is quicker and more effective then old ways of just waiting to watch your dog sniff your expensive carpet area.  It gives them a set schedule to follow, your schedule.  How many people do you know that have a dog that needs to go out every hour and they panic if they can’t get home to let them out?  I know many, and the reason is the dog has the owner set to their schedule.  The dog demands the owner to follow their lead.  Tell me what is worse, coming home and becoming angry at your dog for something they have already forgotten or coming home happy because your house is the way you left it?  To your dog, you coming home and greeting them happily means more then being confined with a really good chew toy.

  The second reason is stated above.  A dog that gets bored and has free range of the house while you are gone, will find something to keep himself busy.  Usually it is very expensive to replace or remove from the dogs belly afterwards.  Your dog does not know you spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on that beautiful sofa or dining room table.  They see their surroundings differently.  In the wild they chew on trees (table legs), rocks (nick naks), or dead bodies (garbage).  This is normal for them.  Then when you come home, they get scolded and punished sometimes harshly, for doing what they naturally do.  In a crate, you can supply them with the appropriate toys to chew on.  You can stop them from making their natural mistakes without breaking the trust they have for you.

  Another reason why the crate is needed is dominance.  If you have a dominant dog, it is imperative to keep him crated.  A dominant dog will take the leader position if not controlled properly.  To do this they must understand you are the leader, and you control everything in their lives.  When a dominant dog becomes the leader, they show aggression towards strangers, dogs, even family members.  Statistics show the majority of reported dog bites are from the family pet.  Children are usually the victims, and the face is the target.  A dog that shows aggression thinks it is the leader.  Only the pack leader shows aggression, or says when aggression is allowed!  If you have a dog who is displaying aggression, you need to get a crate and get some help.

  Another reason for the crate is separation anxiety.  Dogs with separation anxiety will sometimes go through windows, doors or even walls to get out and find their pack members.  They are so stressed by being left alone that they send themselves into a panic.  I have seen a dog literally chew through the sheetrock at the front door so badly you could see the wood shingles.  This is not healthy, and needs attention.  It also needs management, which includes a crate for their safety. 

  I highly recommend plastic airline crates that have the wire strip on either side.  Wire crates are OK for calm, quiet dogs that do not seemed phased by their surroundings.  High energy, anxious dogs need more secure crates.  If you try a wire crate with these dogs, you will most likely come home to a crate that looks like a truck hit it.  We had rescued a Greyhound/Shepard mix all of 50 pounds who made a wire crate look like the Hulk broke out of it.  She did great in plastic airline crate and went in it to feel secure even when not asked.  Wire crates allow the dog to see everything, and with an anxious dog this creates more anxiety.  Your best bet is to save money and automatically get a plastic airline crate.  If you make it a calm and comfortable habit of crating your dog, everyone will be happier in the long run.


 One of the people I spoke of in the beginning of this blog was debating leaving a muzzle on their dog while they were not home.   This is a dangerous and possibly the laziest solution I have heard.  Unfortunately thousands of dogs are surrendered to shelters and killed each year for housebreaking issues or destructive behavior.  The majority of these owners think using a crate is mean……..




14 thoughts on “Is it mean to crate your dog?

  1. Amen to this! Our crate is invaluable with Abby. Our house would be a disaster without it. In addition to keeping her safe and our house in one piece, it gives her a place to go to wind down and rest when she gets a little too crazy…

  2. The crate has been a Godsend for “potty” training and keeping our Coco and our belongings safe while we work all day. I still am bothered a bit with crating and wish I worked closer to let her out at noon. Eventually I’ll start to leave her in the house for longer and longer periods of time. Right now, she’s still a puppy even though she’s 1 year old.

    1. Margaret
      I am glad to hear you are using a crate! Most dogs need to stay in a crate until they “mature” which varies depending on breed! Good job and thank you for your comment!

    2. Margaret-
      Thanks for your info, it’s encouraging to hear that you use a crate. I’m considering adopting a young/adult dog, but feel so guilty knowing that I will have to crate him/her from 7-4 since I can’t get home from work midday. Given that the dog will probably be older than a year, do you think that many hours is still doable if I do some long walks before+after work?

      1. Katya,
        I crate Coco from 7:30 till 5:00 and she’s fine. In the morning
        at 6:00 I let her out and she’s out of the crate until I leave for
        work. When I get home from work she gets more exercise,
        running around the yard, swimming, and taking walks. At night
        she’s happy to go in her crate. I have a Kong that I stuff with
        a treat for her to eat during the day. I also put a hard bone in
        there. Nothing that she can pull pieces off of and choke, like a
        rope or cloth toy.
        Has your dog ever been crated? I would start with a few hours,
        and work up, unless he/she is used to the crate. 7-4 is definitely
        OK! Thanks for writing!

  3. Another eye opening article. I’m one of those people who have always thought crating all day is mean. I have always hooked an X-pen onto my crate. However I realize that would take up too much room for most peoples taste. Your article helped me to accept that crating a dog, if you also have a set schedule where you walk and train or play with your dog, is not a cruel thing to the dog. I also didn’t know wire crates were less strong than the plastic ones. Great info!

    1. Cynthia,
      We have people tell us all the time how they feel mean to crate their dogs. They are usually contacting us for destructive behavior or aggression and are at the point of giving up on their dogs. For me it is more humane to crate them, then to get angry about the destruction or give them up. As you know, there are too many dogs that go through our shelter systems unsuccessfully. A crate can save their lives in most cases.
      In our 20 years we have had many “amazing houdinis” who have bent the wire crates and once they figure out they can escape it is more difficult to keep them contained 🙂

  4. I have had 4 Boxers, My Odie who almost 1 year old just passed his AKC Canine Good Citizen test. When I am around he dosen’t destroy anything never chewed wood or sofa’s etc. BUT—- When I am not home and I leave him upstairs while my husband gets ready for work( usually when he’s in the shower) Odie ate a pillow,another time destroyed a sofa upstairs and a quilt.( The last time 2 weeks ago I took him to the Vet for x-rays because he ingested a lot of fuzz from the pillow and was sick. ) Why was he left upstairs???? Because I felt bad he’s in his crate 3 days a week while I work. By the way— I have a pet sitter come in during the day ( too expensive for me , but I feel bad and I give up other things like buying lunch out) So—- Odie is crated when we are not home and out all the time we are home–even sleeps with us. I have another Boxer who is 4 and she is loose ( that’s also why I felt bad for Odie). But It is for his own saftey. He really dosen’t mind often when I come home I open the crate and he takes his good old time coming out. So I guess I need the attitude adjustment. If you love you dog, walk him, let him run if possible, lots of hard chew toys and never use your crate for punishment, they will be fine. Oh and lots of hugs & Kisses !!


  5. I strongly disagree with crating a dog from 7 till 4. I crate my dog (a weimaraner) and agree with all that Tara has written, however why don’t you people go to work in the morning, and see how uncomfortable you get if there are no toilet breaks for 9 hours. If you are limiting water intake to aid you in crating for that amount of time you are risking liver damage. If you work 9 hours a day and are unable to get home for an hour at lunch then you shouldn’t own a dog. You are selfish. You have the dog to fulfil your needs – not the dogs.

  6. Just wanted to add that I am not having go at those owners who have their parents/a dog walker pop in to check on the dog – just those that think 9 hours in a tiny space is acceptable. Then after 9 hours at work, I assume you will go to bed at 10/11pm? Home at 4, 6 hours of time with your dog, maybe a 1 hour walk, then you ignore the dog in favour of the internet.TV? then the dog goes back into its crate for the night. 18 hours a day in a crate is unacceptable. Different when you look at it like that isn’t it?

  7. I have a Jack Russell and she loves her crate. I put her in it when I have to leave the house and she willingly goes into it. She also sleeps in it and never complaines. She hasn’t made a mess in it yet. I would be lost without it. On occassion she will go into it herself and takes a nap. I do object to leaving your dog in the crate for long, long periods.

  8. My maltese mix dog just turned two on Feb. 12th and I decided it was time to train her to be out of her crate. I was going to try short periods, but then decided the worst thing that can happen is she has an accident in the kitchen (which is gated off from the rest of the house). So, I left her in the kitchen with her crate open and, outside of the crate, a new comfy bed I made her from an old pillow. She’s been sleeping overnight outside of her crate and I’m also leaving her in the kitchen while I’m at work. She has been such a good girl. She has toys to play with and so far, it’s working out great. Since she isn’t destructive anymore and not having accidents, I intend to leave her out of her crate. I have to be honest – she seems calmer and happier.

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