Do I Or Don’t I Crate My Dog – Is it Really Cruel to Use A Cage?

Dog in Crate

 

When is it ok To Crate or cage your Dog or is it never ok to cage your dog. This question has been put to me several times since my recent post about adoption of an adult dog, so I thought it time to write a blog post on this very subject “Do I Or Don’t I Crate My Dog?” That is the question.

Short Answer

Without appearing to sit on the fence. Yes and No. Sometimes it is, and often it is most definitely not ok to cage your dog. Let me show you!

I have researched quite a lot on this topic and with information gathered together with my own personal experience with previous pets (who unsurprisingly offered different outcomes) I thought you might like to see what the results are

When Do You Think It’s Ok To Crate Or Cage 

Research suggests it may provide security for the new Dog especially if it is a Puppy. Like a baby they appreciate the feeling of being snuggled, even more so if the new puppy no longer has his siblings or mother to offer comfort. Therefore, a cage, which is neither to large nor too small, may well offer comfort and security.

However, it is very easy to get this wrong and the dog to see it as a form of punishment or toilet training which it should NEVER be. Positive reinforcement, enabling the dog to see his Kennel, Crate or Cage as his safe haven In addition it will be his clean place.

A puppy will sleep many hours a day as he is growing, and just like a baby he needs to learn night time is sleep time (not play) and therefore a nighttime routine may indeed offer comfort, he will have his favourite bedding, possibly a toy and as in the case of Dolly, a ticking clock.

Why did I place a ticking clock underneath her mattress? I found out that it is like the heartbeat of the parent and or other dogs. Sleeping LabradorShe kept the ticking clock until she was around 6 months old, then one night the battery expired and she didn’t care,  I personally I would not like a ticking clock but in Dolly’s case it was perfect.

Bedtime was the same time each night, usually she had fallen asleep on the sofa, but at 8:30pm we took Dolly out to the toilet, took her back inside and encouraged her to enter her own cage. We covered her cage with a blanket as there was a lot of other activity in the house.

You will need to be sure covering your dog is a good idea, not all respond well to the cage being covered, some do not like any covering at all, some a little and others (like Dolly) total black out. She would neither bark nor wet once inside her bed.

In the early months we would wake her quite early (say around 6am) for toilet and feed breaks. Once out she would not go back into her crate until bedtime that evening.

With The Odd Exception, ….

One day, when Dolly was only around five months old, we had visitors who in turn had a toddler, this toddler liked picking Dolly up, poking her ears and trying to feed Dolly with her toy food. Dolly was not impressed and of her own volition went into her cage and turned her back on us. At this point we had to be very firm with the parents of the toddler that under no circumstances could she prod and poke Dolly whilst in her cage as she was by now quite grumpy.

Why Is it Not Ok

Like many dog owners I have strong views on caging animals and find the process of shutting your pet into a cage simply to avoid it messing, wetting or shredding your house and thus causing an inconvenience is not ok, not ever.

It is also never ok to try and toilet train your dog by simply shutting your dog in a cage as the options are limited. For example a puppy in their early months have very little bladder or bowl control, thus keeping them trapped in their cage until the owner deems it ok to take the puppy for a toilet break is doomed to failure. The puppy will know it is not to mess in and around its bed but sadly is unable to control his bladder, it will be very stressful for the puppy regardless of managing to contain his bladder.

What Can Happen 

If your new dog is an adult purchased from a rescue centre, where little is known of his history, then it is wise to be cautionary when and if introducing your new family member to a cage. He may never have seen a crate,  or indeed he may have been kept in a cage for many hours at a time. You will need to gauge your dogs behaviour very closely.

Perhaps if you could think of what you are asking of your dog and consider that if this were a Hamster then hamster would have a considerably larger cage and quite a lovely environment. If you have decided that a crate/cage is the route then be mindful of any behaviour and related issues which may come as a result of boredom. One issue we have witnessed is separation anxiety, in or out of the cage. (I will be writing a blog post about Separation Anxiety and will add a link to this post once written.)

In addition, boredom can cause some dogs to self harm, like chewing their own tail, constant licking, biting their cage/bedding/toys, this in turn sets up an habitual behaviour problem even when out of the cage.

Other potential side effects of keeping your dog caged for extended periods in a small and confined space are:

  • Depression,
  • Aggresion
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Lack of interest in anything,
  • Weight loss,
  • Barking
  • Howling
  • Wetting and or soiling their bed

 

How Do You Rectify and How To Use The Crate Safely

If your Adult dog shows any behaviour patterns as a result of being caged then it is obvious you will need to re-consider the crate as an option for another dog. If however your dog or Puppy has responded well (and many do) to using the crate for his own benefit, as in the case of nighttime security or Dolly when faced with a curious two-year old then it is safe to say the Crate/Cage is going to work well for you.

To give an example of what can happen when routine is mismanaged. Dolly is an adult dog and as such has been toilet trained for over 12 years. She is let out of her crate in the morning and off she trots to the back garden to do her business. Dolly has never soiled inside the house. But on this occasion Dolly’s cage had been packed for a house move which was due to take place over the following week, so her nighttime routine was not the same. As a result she just went to bed on her dog bed without the cage and without a blackout.

Dolly must have woken early hours of the morning, took herself off to the back door but it was not open so not knowing what to do she had a poo on the white furry rug… She obviously felt guilty and then hid when I came downstairs and it was not Dolly greeting me but a very awful smell. I could not in any way blame Dolly as this was all out of her usual routine. But is never the less a good example of how a Crate/Cage has been safely used for our dog for nearly 13 years.

This was the first and last time we ever put her to bed without her cage

Conclusion

As I have hopefully shown, there is a time and a place for caging your dog, your dog will lead, but if you feel at anytime it is not suitable or indeed if you think it is a retrospective move in terms of training, then simply cease. You have not done anything wrong and just because a friend or family member has successfully caged their dog for periods of time doesn’t mean you have failed, in fact the opposite is true. You have listened to your pets needs.

If your dog is happy to be crated then you will be able to appreciate some of the benefits of having a secure and safe environment and the question Do I Or Don’t I Crate My Dog is answered by your dog, gut feeling and observing your dog behaviours.

I will write a product review of crates and cages please click link to see review.

 

For now please feel free to comment and give us your thoughts, comments help others who may find they are still humming and hawing about crate or caging their dog

If you are reading to this point I would like to thank you for reading my post

Bye for now

Cordelia & Dolly

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10 Replies to “Do I Or Don’t I Crate My Dog – Is it Really Cruel to Use A Cage?”

  1. Hi Cordellia & Dolly

    I really enjoyed reading your article on whether or not to crate your dog.

    My experience is that I caged my dog when she was a puppy (German shepherd) and it definitely helped with toilet training and also she had a safe place to go to that was her space, however as she got older it became obvious that she did not like the cage and in fact she even managed to break out of it. After that we stopped using the cage and she is a great and well socialized dog. My advice would be that they are OK for puppies, but not to rely on them too much. Thanks, Andrew

    1. Hello Andrew, 

      Thank you for commenting on my website, I really appreciate you taking the time out to do so. 

      I feel like you there are times when its ok and times when its not ok. Someone I knew kept their dog in a cage the whole day they were at work. For me that is reprehensible and cruel. But I would like to think most pet owners are thoughtful, kind and loving towards their pet and if reading my blog then that would indicate a level of interest in the well being of their dog. 

      You made me chuckle when your German Shepherd broke out of her cage… dogs are tenacious little things are’nt they? One day we forgot to double lock the cage and with great effort Dolly managed to squeeze her way out of the bottom of the cage and make her way up to our bedroom at 2am (I was petrified when I heard this scratching sound on our door… ha ha) 

      Thank you again for your comments, other readers can get a lot of help and ideas from reading the comment sections.. 🙂 

  2. Interesting article. I also think that there is a time and place for crating your animal for example when moving them around. My cousin puts her dogs in a crate to sleep each night so they don’t set the alarm off. I thought it cruel at first, but at around eight each night, they both wander into their bed in the crate and fall asleep there, so they are obviously in a routine now. She then closes it and reopens to let them out for the day at six in the morning.

    Maybe for some animals, it is a security thing. I certainly don’t think that they should be in crates or cages in the day when they could be running around enjoying their freedom.

    1. Hello Michel, thank you so much for taking the time out to comment on my web site, without comments it holds little interest. Comments also help others considering options. None more so than this subject. 

      I guess like you it has shown me there is a time and a place. Dolly right now is lying on the sofa asleep, only ever going into her cage at night. It also helps her when there is a thunderstorm or similar loud noises. 

      It is really good to get feed back on this issue as many owners have strong views and this makes for good debate. 

      Thank you again 🙂 

  3. Thank you for sharing this helpful and interesting info, I do agree that it does seem wrong to keep a dog in a cage, it also seems quite strange that someone would want a dog in the first place and go to the trouble of choosing and buying a dog and then putting the dog in a cage, what is the point of that, however, I do agree with what you said about caging the dog if or when it serves to keep the dog safe, that does make sense, but  at any other time a pet dog should be part of the family and you wouldn’t keep any other family member in a cage so why should your dog be kept in one.  

    1. Russ I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my website. It is a subject which will elicit strong debate. Many pet owners hate the idea and cant imagine what in heavens name would promote an owner to cage their beloved pet. Where many others only see the benefit (on certain occasions) 

      I guess it is good to play devils advocate.. 🙂 

      Once again thank you for commenting 

  4. As a dog owner found this article to be totally absorbing, thought provoking and full of interesting and sensi8ble comments, personally I would never cage a dog  If we ever had a dog that could not be trusted around the great grandchildren, we would have to either put it in another room or outside until they had gone.

    It is certainly a difficult decision and I feel that you have covered just about every scenario

    1. Stuart, thank you so much for commenting on my blog. Like you mentioned it is always a thought provoking issue and the jury is out with many pet owners and many firmly in “No Never” camp. Such an interesting conundrum I felt I just had to write about it.. 

      Thanks again

  5. Hi Cordelia,

    Thanks for sharing, I mist dmit the only time I caged Arnie (Our German Sherpherd) was when was a pup. Mainly for the reasons you listed, to help him feel secure when he was going to bed. The only other scenario was when he was a very young pup and we needed to take him to the vets.

    Other than that we made sure that people didn’t manhandle him roughly so caging him round kids etc. wasn’t a necessity. I agree other than when they are young to keep them safe or having to transport, there is no need to be caging your dogs

    1. Thank you Nate for taking the time to comment on my website, without comments it is a fairly bland site. So thank you. 

      I think once Arnie became fully grown there was probably little chance of him ever being manhandled.. they are a fine and beautiful breed, they are also large and give a show of strength and serenity even when just sitting still, ooking alert,  they elicit deep respect.

       So I quite agree once a breed like a German Shepherd is fully trained and grown there will be little need to cage him. 

      It is quite a controversial subject and helpful when readers like you Nate can offer an experienced view and opinion. 

      Thanks again Cordelia

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