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.
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. She 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:
- Loss of appetite,
- Lack of interest in anything,
- Weight loss,
- 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
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.
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