Dog Crates: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It is my humble opinion that the dog crate is the most awesome invention to hit the world of Dog Stuff since the tennis ball.
They’re a great tool for keeping mischievous canines out of trouble, and for traveling. Crates make the dreaded housetraining process so much faster and easier, since dogs don’t like to soil their sleeping area.
Dogs are den animals, naturally preferring to sleep in enclosed spaces (this isn’t true of all dogs, but generally speaking). If properly introduced to his crate, a dog will come to treat it as his bedroom, a safe retreat from the stress of life with those crazy two-legged members of his family. It is not uncommon for dogs to seek out their crate when they need a nap.
If you have a new dog or plan on getting one, your first step should be to get a crate. It will be one of the most valuable pieces of dog equipment you’ll ever buy. Seriously.
There are many design options as far as crates go – choose from wire, plastic, or, if you’ve got cash to spend, wood.
But, you know, too much of a good thing…
As a wise superhero once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” This applies to crate training. As crate training becomes more mainstream, more and more people are using crates.
And more and more people are misusing them.
People often rely on the crate too much. Dogs end up crated for eight + hours per day while their families are at work and school. Imagine being stuck inside a box that was just big enough for you to stand up, turn around, and lie down in from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. Now imagine doing this five days a week. You’d go crazy, too.
It just struck me, as I write this, that this must be what it feels like to work in a cubicle. Huh. If that’s you, my sympathies. Try this. But I digress.
Crates were not designed to contain dogs for very long periods of time. Dogs who are over-crated can become destructive, hyperactive, anxious, or even develop bladder infections from having to “hold it” all day.
How much is too much?
Puppies under four months of age can hold it in their crate for a maximum of three hours. But ideally, they should be let out every 1 – 2 hours. Puppies four to five months old, a maximum of four hours. If a puppy is crated too long, they may start having accidents in the crate.
No dog should be ever be crated more than five or six hours per day. If you need to be away longer than this, there are a few things you can do:
-Pick a room of your house, like the kitchen, and “dog-proof” it so that you can confine your dog here.
-Use an exercise pen instead of a dog crate. Add a bed in one corner and a “dog potty” in another.
-Hire someone to come and play with your dog or walk him during the day.
Hey, this isn’t a prison cell
Another common misuse of the dog crate is using it as punishment. An occasional time-out when your dog is playing too rough is OK, but your dog is supposed to associate the crate with good things, not bad things. Never angrily drag Fido into his crate, never yell at him or hit the crate when he’s in it.
This will only make your dog hate his crate. It certainly won’t be a place he wants to be.
Bottom line, your dog’s crate can be a great tool, as long as you don’t overuse it and don’t use it as punishment. Misuse of the crate can lead to all kinds of behavior problems.
Make the crate a comfortable place: Keep it in a spot that’s out of the way, but where he can still see the family’s activity. Put a bed and some chew toys inside, and your dog will learn to love his “room.”
By Katie Buvala