Dog crates have been used by dog owners, breeders, trainers, groomers and veterinarians for a long time. But many pet owners hate the idea of using a crate fearing it to be unfair or harmful to their new dog friend. Are dog crates cruel? or kind?
Most pet owners see the crate as a jail cell. Human beings value their freedom and generally feel safe in open spaces. You assume your dog feels the same way and fear being mean or cruel to your friend. But you are not a DOG. Most dogs are happy to have a safe, secure, den-like environment where they can hide out from the stresses of the unpredictable world, especially when they are alone.
A crate has many advantages for you. In the puppy years, using a crate generally shortens the time it takes to train a puppy to be housebroken and limits the accidents to an area that can be relatively easily cleaned. In the young dog, the crate protects your house from destruction and protects the dog from ingesting problematic items or chewing electric cords. Crates keep your dog out from underfoot during hectic times like parties, meals, workmen, big projects or a visitor that is dog fearful. A traveling with a crate trained dog means his "home" comes with him, so he can feel safer in the car, hotel or home of a friend or relative.
A crate also has many advantages for your dog. They have their own room to retreat to when tired, ill, or stressed. The dog generally trains easier and has a better relationship with you because they are not concerned that on your return home you will be unhappy with him because of behavior expressed while you are away. While in a crate, they are generally still able to feel part of the group because they are not restricted to a basement or garage. They get to travel more, being taken on more trips and outings because they can be safely controlled in new environments. While you want to enjoy your pet and be pleased with his behavior there is almost nothing else your dog wants to do than please you. A crate helps make that relationship much easier to establish between the two of you.
BUT, don't abuse the crate! You got the dog and the crate to build a relationship! Puppies cannot be crated for hours on end, and should only be left for blocks of time that you know the puppy can successfully hold the urine or stool. Any grown dog left in a crate for the working day, MUST BE WELL EXERCISED, both before and after the work day with lots of personal attention and freedom in the morning and evening before and after work. The crate must be large enough that the dog can lie down, stand up and turn around in the crate. Remember, crating a dog for the majority of it's lifetime is little different than tying it to a tree outside. And underexercised dogs, whether using a crate or not, are destructive dogs.
Crate choices come down to collapsible wire mesh crates (variety of sizes available, lightweight, portable, good ventilation, allow the dog to still be part of the local action), plastic airline crates (cheap, lightweight, portable, more restrictive of vision so dog feels more hidden- good for the shy, anxious or fearful dog), or home built. The crate should be in a people area, so the dog can be confined without being banished. While the crate is not a beautiful piece of decor, it does help protect the areas that still are!
Remember, crates do not work for EVERY dog. If properly introduced with gentle leadership and positive conditioning, most dogs come to love their crate. But for frantic or miserable dogs, especially those that attempt to chew their way out, forcing them to use the crate is inhumane AND will be unsuccesful.
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