Are Dog Crates Cruel?

by Becky

May 20, 2021

Dog crates have become a popular tool in modern dog training, but they have a somewhat controversial reputation. Various people consider crates cruel and would never put their dog in them. Others swear by them as a humane training tool that offers the dog a safe place of their own to rest and relax in the house.

Dog crates can be cruel if dogs are confined to them for long periods. However, dog crates are helpful as a training tool if time spent in the crate is kept to a minimum. The dog should be provided with plenty of enrichment throughout the day, whether their owner is home or not.

Dog crates can be helpful while you're raising a young dog to be respectful of your home and the belongings you have in it, but they have the potential to be misused. Keep reading to learn more about how to use a crate cruelty-free and some advantages of introducing crate training to your dog's life.

Is It Cruel to Crate Dogs?

It is not inherently cruel to crate train dogs. The problem with crates is that some people end up leaving their dog in the crate for unreasonable amounts of time, such as eight or ten hours while they're working. No animal would enjoy spending eight hours in a small cage, and as a pack animal, dogs find being alone stressful.

On this flip side of this argument, it is also considered cruel to leave a puppy unsupervised for eight hours or more while you're at work without leaving the puppy in a place that has been puppy-proofed to prevent them from causing damage or hurting themselves. This is neglect on the level of leaving an unsupervised two-year-old alone in your house for eight hours.

Ideally, when using crates in training, owners can find a happy medium. Getting a puppy used to the crate for a few hours at a time to keep them from being underfoot when guests are over or when they can't be directly supervised in the house makes crates a great tool for dogs to understand their boundaries as they grow older.

Is it Cruel to Crate a Dog While You're Working?

There are several negative issues associated with putting a dog in a crate for long periods. Here are the common traps that many dog owners fall into when they begin using a crate with a puppy while they're at work:

  • They leave the dog in the crate all day. Dogs shouldn't spend eight or ten hours alone in a cage. If a dog must be left in a crate during the day while a person is at work, they should make arrangements to come home at lunch to exercise the dog and allow it to use the restroom, or they should pay a dog walker to do it for them. 
  • They don't provide a chance to use the restroom. A dog forced to stay in a crate all day has a greater chance of having a bathroom accident in their crate, especially if it's a younger dog with a developing bladder. It can negatively affect a dog's housetraining if they're allowed to soil their own beds regularly.
  • They don't provide any enrichment activities in the crate. Dogs are intelligent creatures that can become restless if left in a crate for long hours. Leaving them chews and treat puzzles can help provide environmental stimulation and relieve boredom or loneliness. These kinds of emotions drive dogs to negative behaviors like barking.
  • They use the crate as a punishment. The crate should be a place of rewards and comfort, not a place that the dog is banished to when it's been bad. You should always seek out to build out positive associations for your dog when it comes to the crate. It is cruel to cage your dog out of spite or anger when you're upset with them.

Crates are good training tools, but they have to be appropriately used to be considered humane. Otherwise, there is great potential to abuse crate training in a way that leads to dog neglect.

Is It Cruel to Crate a Dog at Night?

In general, it is not cruel to crate a dog at night. Dogs have evolved to seek out compact, cozy spaces for sleeping, and over thousands of years, dogs have evolved away from nocturnal behaviors into the daily habits of humans. This means that when you're sleeping, your dog will likely be sleeping, too.

When a person first gets a puppy and puts them in the crate for their first night, they will often whimper, whine and cry. This can lead people to believe that placing the puppy in a crate is cruel. But puppies need time to adjust from being away from their family and in a new environment.

Placing your puppy's crate in your bedroom up on a table where the puppy can see you while you sleep nearby can help comfort the puppy and get them used to their crate. Later, as the puppy gets a bit older, you can move the crate to the floor and eventually to another room if you wish.

Keep in mind that a puppy usually can't hold their bladder through a whole night when they're still young, so make plans to get up in the middle of the night for a few weeks to take the puppy out. Eventually, as the puppy grows older, they'll be able to sleep through the night just like a human baby. Adult dogs should be able to stay in a crate all night comfortably.

Advantages of Crate Training a Dog

As long as you make an effort to make crate training comfortable and secure for a dog, there are many benefits associated with it. Here are some of the advantages of crate training a dog humanely:

  • Damage prevention: If you don't have a secure gated-off area for a growing puppy to use, training them to stay in a crate can prevent them from chewing chairs or having a housebreaking accident the minute you turn your back on them. 
  • Security: Once your dog is crate trained, it will seek out the crate when it wants some peace and quiet on its own. This is a much-needed safe space for dogs who live in busy or noisy households. Children and adults alike can be taught that whenever the dog is in their crate, they want to be left alone. 
  • No sleeping on the bed: Training your dog to sleep in a crate early on can prevent them from getting into the habit of sleeping in your bed. Research shows that certain people who sleep with their pets are more likely to experience sleep disturbances and poor sleep compared to those who don't. 
  • Housetraining ease: Crate training a puppy can make housebreaking your dog from having accidents inside much easier since dogs don't like to use the restroom in their sleeping area. However, you have to make sure to allow the puppy out of the crate often enough to use the bathroom outside to prevent them from having an accident in it.

While some people may see crates as inherently cruel, they can be helpful and humane tools if they're used correctly. Providing plenty of exercise and affection outside of the crate can make your dog enjoy the downtime they spend relaxing in the crate after a day of socializing and playing with you.

Alternatives to Crate Training

If you feel that crate training is cruel, there are a few alternatives to training a new dog or puppy without using a crate. These are a few alternatives you can take to using a crate:

  • Doggie daycare: Doggie daycares can be used to provide a place for your dog to play and exercise under supervision while you're at work or away from home. The downside of doggie daycares is that they can be expensive. 
  • Baby gates: Gating off an area of the house that you have extensively proofed for your dog can help protect your valuables from your dog's teething and playful destruction while you're away. The downside of baby gates or closing the dog off in a single room during the day is that there is an increased chance of housebreaking accidents.
  • Take your dog to work: More and more companies are becoming lenient about people bringing their dogs into work with them. If you're lucky enough to work in an office where bringing your dog is an option, consider making them your coworker. Most dogs enjoy the office lifestyle and are minimally disruptive once trained for the environment.

Dog crates aren't necessarily cruel, but they aren't the right answer for all dog owners. These alternative solutions will help you figure out what to do with your new dog or puppy during the day while you have to work or go to school.

Final Note

Dog crates can be cruel if they're misused, but they don't have to be. As long as you make sure that your dog doesn't spend too long in their crate and they have plenty of access to food, water, exercise, entertainment, and socialization, crates can be used to help housebreak your dog or provide them with a peaceful place to relax and rest.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to train your dog and techniques that could be cruel, then you need to look at these two articles that discuss the dangers of slip leads and electric fences.  

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