Crates: How we ruin our relationships with dogs.

Puppy Crate Training

When you get a new puppy, everyone starts out by learning about crate training. You might be apprehensive, but everyone insists their dog loves the crate. Obedience class sessions are not complete without the discussion on consistency and patience with puppy crate training. All methods boil down to "never let the puppy out of the crate when he/she is crying". You doubt this wisdom, because your heart is not made of stone, and when the pup starts out his pitiful song - you call the breeder, the trainer, or look for advice on internet, and it quiets your conscience. Everywhere you look, it advises you to ignore the lonely cries, and that is exactly what will help you to get a well behaved, healthy dog, and at the same time will keep your socks and furniture intact.

After a few sleepless nights, with a busy life, and a full time job, it is easy to get into a routine: as soon as the puppy becomes a handful - you put them in a crate, and voila, the house goes back to normal, the dinner is made without silly interruptions, and you remind yourself "the pup is learning his lesson, and is staying safe, everyone does it, dogs are den animals." Before you know it, every time you leave for work, every time the puppy becomes an inconvenience, you learned to lure or simply shove him into a crate, and it no longer takes much out of you to listen to those cries. Stick the kong filled with peanut butter inside, and your conscience is cleared just looking at the happy pup licking away the treat. Besides, the pup is growing by the day, and is smart enough to recognize, the whining doesn't work. Before you know it, you have achieved your goal - a safe, quiet dog in a crate.

Passing on the wisdom: the cycle.

And then it happens. Your neighbor gets a puppy, and you become the go-to expert. When your neighbor begins to question the fairness of crating the pup for hours on end, you insist your dog loves the crate, and that the key is to ignore the puppy while it's whining and to reward him, while he is quiet in his crate. If anyone even as much as implies the cruel reality of locking up a bundle of energy inside a small cage, your defensive side takes over. You know you LOVE your dog. I mean it. This is not an "I like my pet", this is one of the strongest emotional attachments in your life, your dog, your puppy, you LOVE him. How can anyone imply that you are unfair to him? What do they know? You've done your research, trainers, co-workers, veterinarians convinced you this is in the best interest of the pup! You are doing it for him! Right?

And so it goes on, you insist that it is only natural for the puppy to whine a little, but every dog learns its place, and learns to love the crate. And your friend nods and listens, and agrees to try, and soon enough another puppy is crate trained.

Is it so wrong?

No, I don't think that it is wrong to keep a 4 month old puppy-pirrhanah in a crate overnight. Who will watch her if she wakes up in the middle of the night? I think it is perfectly reasonable to crate your pup as you are taking a shower, or if need be, for 2-3 hours a day after a rigorous play or exercise. But we have come to an outrageous point where many households crates are used to house Boxers and Border Collies for 8 hours Monday through Friday, and then another 8 hours at night time. Working breed dogs, herding dogs, and every other breed in between, with a plethora of energy are isolated from the world, locked up and made to stare at four walls, and no one is understanding why these dogs are filled with anxiety, have no manners or patience.

What's missing in this picture?

Let's consider the alternatives.

What would a life of a puppy look like outside the crate? I hope you don't think I'm proposing leaving a two months old Rottweiler puppy unsupervised in an empty apartment, because I'm not. I also hope you don't think I'm recommending leaving a dog of any age, any breed outside unsupervised, because I'm not. What I'm advocating for is hard work on the part of the owner to provide higher quality of life for our dogs.

A pup should be watched at all times, tethered to their owner with a leash, or kept in the same room by the means of a door or a gate. Every time she decides to chew on chair, taste the socks or check out the trash, a quick correction and/or a distraction with an appropriate chew toy should be offered. A variety of toys and long-lasting treats should be available to keep an active mind of a clever animal busy and entertained. With just the right amount of walking and playing outside, and short daily training sessions, your pup will develop a habit of resting by your side with a chew toy. With consistency and patience, the pup will quickly learn the items that are off limit. Additionally, you and your pup should be in class to help you both develop the skills to interact with each other. What are your options during the workday? I don't know. What would you do with a baby? Certainly you would find a capable relative or arrange for daycare to resolve the problem. You would have to be just as creative when it comes to a new puppy. I'm not talking about spoiling a dog, I'm talking about being ready to take care of a live animal that deserves something better than 8 hours a day in a crate.

The reality is, the more time you spend together, the more time your pup is spending interacting with the world in a positive manner, the quicker good habits will develop. The more time your pup spend in the crate, the better he will become at sitting behind a locked door.


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Comments 8 comments

Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 years ago from US

By the title, I was prepared not to like or agree with this hub ... but I do. Totally. Good job! Voted up!


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Thought-provoking hub. Voted up and interesting. Let me preface this story by stating at the outset that I'm not a dog-training expert.

Several years ago, I befriended my neighbor's Border Collie mix. His name was Gurr, believe it or not. When he was old enough, I took Gurr for short walks around the neighborhood. When he was 11 months old, I started taking him for day-hikes in the Northern Sierra, which he enjoyed thoroughly. On hiking days, he got most of the physical and mental exercise that he needed.

Gurr became a more worldly dog. He learned that most hikers are friendly, and that Larry The Wimp, as he thought of me, does not need his protection from them! Gurr also learned that Alpine lakes are safe for swimming, but that swift-moving rivers and creeks are not necessarily safe. I also learned a lot about dog psychology.

After a hike, we humans would stop for dinner at a Chinese or Mexican restaurant on the way back. I'd find a shady place to park, and I'd leave Gurr in the back of the station wagon, while we ate.

I was surprised to learn that he never had a problem with this, and that he did not exhibit manic "I'm so glad that you're back" behavior when we returned.

Here's what was going through his mind. We've just spent a lot of time in this car. And it has a very strong human smell, especially Larry's. Therefore this car is a major human hangout. If Larry and his friends are gone for a couple of hours, I'll be absolutely certain that I'm not being abandoned.

On top of that, Larry has given me a job to do: Guard the car against any and all would-be canine or feline intruders. And having a BC heritage, I appreciate being entrusted with this very important job.

Physically, this was similar to being crated. Gurr did not have the freedom to wander around the parking lot while we were gone. And there was also the psychological element of a nice, cozy, defensible den.

Eventually Gurr became too much of a handful. And my neighbor's family found a good home for him, with a physically active, outdoorsy person.

If I'd adopted Gurr instead, keeping his inner BC demons satisfied would have been a full-time job for me. If I were a sheep rancher, it would have been a different story.

Anyway if I've understood correctly, you're basically saying that we humans sometimes overdo dog-crating. I agree. And ditto for being left alone in a backyard for 9 hours a day.

In a perfect world, we'd spend more time hanging out with our canine companions, and giving them more exercise and more affection.

I have a question. At what point do we say to a potential rescue dog: You'd be better off being put down, because we don't have the time to be ideal dog owners?


aznpanda206 profile image

aznpanda206 4 years ago from San Francisco

i totally upped this.

i think it's completely true. but it's so hard b/c doggy day care = alot of $$

i already spend alot of $$ on my own dog! so i will need to find other solutions...


Bukarella profile image

Bukarella 4 years ago Author

Thank you everyone for taking the time to read and to comment.

Larry, I don't have an easy answer to your question, but I the fact that we, as a culture, are so used to having the crate to do the job for us is "feeding" the rescues.

People don't know what to do with their dogs outside the crate, because they never actually worked through and learned how to deal with the normal issues with a pup. They never learned the skill to teach the pup not to bite the furniture, never learned what an effort it is to provide appropriate amount of exercise for a pup, and now that the dogs are grown up, the crate created nervous, misbehaved dogs that are more likely to be given up and consequently, put down. All I know is that responsible dog ownership means answering difficult questions such as, "Am I prepared to take care of an active, intelligent animal during the day? Am I financially stable enough to have a dog?"

If we learn to promote those questions as much as we promote crate training techniques, I am certain our dogs will be better off.


smilemegrj profile image

smilemegrj 4 years ago from North Dallas

I think people are getting animals which are not your typical family household pet. Like you mentioned, BC's and Boxers are supposed to spend all day working, and at the end of the day they relax. But not enough dogs are given jobs or thought provoking exercises. Sometimes mind games can wear out a dog faster than physical games. Of course equal amounts of both is better. Shaping games are so easy and fun too. I wish more people would do more research before getting certain sorts of dogs.


Choxy profile image

Choxy 4 years ago

I'm not an expert on crate training, but I have always left the crate open for my dog, Sophie, when she isn't in it. I wanted to let her feel like it was "her" space. I did use to keep her in the crate all night and when I was not at home when she was a puppy, but I never used it as punishment. Now, she is two years old and I never put her in the crate. But she does go in there by herself when she wants to take a nap. :- ) I don't think crate training her ruined our relationship - but I totally agree - people go overboard. Nice hub, I love reading different perspectives!


Bukarella profile image

Bukarella 4 years ago Author

Choxy, it's not the crates that I have an issue with, it's' how people use them is the problem. We have two crates in the house, one for our Rottie Ella, and one for the current Rottie foster. But unless there is a need for crate time (and there rarely is a NEED), we consider it to be our job to keep the dogs safe. Ella does use the crate for naps, occasionally, but too many people view a crate as an answer to all puppy problems, and the answer shouldn't be the crate, it should be the owner with a pup in class.


Choxy profile image

Choxy 4 years ago

Well said! :-)

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