Is it mean to crate my dog?
I recently read a couple of ads on craigslist that truly bothered me and I have to touch upon this subject. One owner has a dog that is chewing up the walls in their house the other is having housebreaking issues. Even though I generally will not read the responses from people trying to give advice on craigslist, I fell into the trap and started going through the answers the general public were giving. I was horrified to see what some people were saying and upon contacting the owners, I was more upset by the options they will take. In all the years of working with dogs, the crate has in most cases become that dog’s saving grace.
I have many clients who ask me if they really need a crate for their dog. I always tell them, if you have a dog, you need to own a crate. If you own 4 dogs, you need 4 crates! It is a natural instinct for your dog to enjoy a “den like” area. Most dogs feel secure and comfortable in their crates.
Too many people feel they are being mean by crating their dogs. They feel they are restricting their “exercise” and freedom. If you are walking your dog and providing adequate exercise a crate will not affect your dog.
A large number of people tell me they would hate to be crated and confined, and therefore their dog must be uncomfortable. Your dog is not a person, they cannot stop and rationalize that chewing your furniture, shoes or walls is wrong. They cannot stop and think that the outcome of eating a sock or clothing may be an expensive life threatening surgery to remove it. They follow their instinct!
There are many reasons why you should crate your dog. The first would be for housebreaking reasons. A dog usually will not soil where it sleeps. Those that do generally have a bigger issue going on then simple housebreaking problems. Using a crate for housebreaking is quicker and more effective then old ways of just waiting to watch your dog sniff your expensive carpet area. It gives them a set schedule to follow, your schedule. How many people do you know that have a dog that needs to go out every hour and they panic if they can’t get home to let them out? I know many, and the reason is the dog has the owner set to their schedule. The dog demands the owner to follow their lead. Tell me what is worse, coming home and becoming angry at your dog for something they have already forgotten or coming home happy because your house is the way you left it? To your dog, you coming home and greeting them happily means more then being confined with a really good chew toy.
The second reason is stated above. A dog that gets bored and has free range of the house while you are gone, will find something to keep himself busy. Usually it is very expensive to replace or remove from the dogs belly afterwards. Your dog does not know you spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on that beautiful sofa or dining room table. They see their surroundings differently. In the wild they chew on trees (table legs), rocks (nick naks), or dead bodies (garbage). This is normal for them. Then when you come home, they get scolded and punished sometimes harshly, for doing what they naturally do. In a crate, you can supply them with the appropriate toys to chew on. You can stop them from making their natural mistakes without breaking the trust they have for you.
Another reason why the crate is needed is dominance. If you have a dominant dog, it is imperative to keep him crated. A dominant dog will take the leader position if not controlled properly. To do this they must understand you are the leader, and you control everything in their lives. When a dominant dog becomes the leader, they show aggression towards strangers, dogs, even family members. Statistics show the majority of reported dog bites are from the family pet. Children are usually the victims, and the face is the target. A dog that shows aggression thinks it is the leader. Only the pack leader shows aggression, or says when aggression is allowed! If you have a dog who is displaying aggression, you need to get a crate and get some help.
Another reason for the crate is separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety will sometimes go through windows, doors or even walls to get out and find their pack members. They are so stressed by being left alone that they send themselves into a panic. I have seen a dog literally chew through the sheetrock at the front door so badly you could see the wood shingles. This is not healthy, and needs attention. It also needs management, which includes a crate for their safety.
I highly recommend plastic airline crates that have the wire strip on either side. Wire crates are OK for calm, quiet dogs that do not seemed phased by their surroundings. High energy, anxious dogs need more secure crates. If you try a wire crate with these dogs, you will most likely come home to a crate that looks like a truck hit it. We had rescued a Greyhound/Shepard mix all of 50 pounds who made a wire crate look like the Hulk broke out of it. She did great in plastic airline crate and went in it to feel secure even when not asked. Wire crates allow the dog to see everything, and with an anxious dog this creates more anxiety. Your best bet is to save money and automatically get a plastic airline crate. If you make it a calm and comfortable habit of crating your dog, everyone will be happier in the long run.
One of the people I spoke of in the beginning of this blog was debating leaving a muzzle on their dog while they were not home. This is a dangerous and possibly the laziest solution I have heard. Unfortunately thousands of dogs are surrendered to shelters and killed each year for housebreaking issues or destructive behavior. The majority of these owners think using a crate is mean……..