Crate training, albeit a popular and accepted practice, is rooted in misguidance and fallacies, and can cause long-term emotional distress and behavioral debilitation in dogs. It strips a dog of many opportunities, such as the freedom to walk around, discovering and interacting with their environment, and learning how to coexist in a society with humans.
Table of Contents
- The Advent of Crate Training
- Crate Training and Housebreaking
- Solitary Confinement Leads to Harm
- Cages are Not Safe Spaces
- Crate Training isn’t Necessary to Stop Dogs from Destroying the House
- It Harms Physical Health
- It has Adverse Effects on Behavior
- It does Not “Protect” in Emergencies
- It Gives Irresponsible Dog Owners a Free Pass
- It Increases the Number of Dogs in Shelters
The Advent of Crate Training
Crate training is based on the belief that dogs are den animals, so they must have a natural proclivity for seeking out a sanctuary where they can feel secure, hence using a crate for this den. Despite this being a popularized belief, there is little to no substantial evidence to prove this.
On the contrary, in the Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training (1984), P.L. Borchelt clarifies that dogs are not den-dwelling animals, although they may build a nest for the pups which is to act as a defense against predators and also to protect against harsh weather. However, the den has no door which would trap the pups for long and prevent them from coming out to explore.
Nonetheless, crate training is still widely accepted across the country, and is mostly done for housebreaking, behavioral issues, and to discipline the dog when the owner is away.
Crate Training and Housebreaking
Dogs have a natural instinct to relieve themselves away from where they sleep and eat, which is why most crates are just big enough for the dog to stand, lie down, and turn around in a circle. Keeping your dog in such a confined space to prevent it from soiling its bed does more harm than good.
Puppies physiologically do not have proper bladder control until they are six months old. They are physically incapable of holding in their urine, and eventually end up soiling their crate after experiencing much discomfort. In fact, puppies who frequently soil their crates lose their desire to keep them clean, which ends up prolonging the housebreaking process.
Better ways to housekeep dogs is by training them to relieve themselves outdoors on routine walks and in the backyard via doggy doors.
Solitary Confinement Leads to Harm
Proponents of crate training say that a dog should only be kept in a crate for about 6 hours a day. In reality, however, most dogs stay for well over 6 hours inside.
Many dog owners often crate their dogs overnight, and when they are at work, to prevent them from soiling the house in their absence. And when you factor in the amount of time dogs are inside crates when the owner goes to run errands or to some social event, you have at least 12 hours of solitary confinement.
Dogs are not meant to stay in restricted spaces for such prolonged periods of time. This has detrimental effects on their mental and physical health.
Cages are Not Safe Spaces
Dogs, like any other living being, deserve to live in a place where they feel safe and at peace. After the initial feelings of distress, a dog may find the crate to be familiar and safe. Dog behaviorists believe this behavior is very similar to Stockholm Syndrome.
A dog raised by loving and caring owners will feel safe in many places: on the couch, under a table, even right next to your bed. Once again, dogs are not den animals. They do not instinctively feel safe inside what is essentially a glorified cage.
Crate Training isn’t Necessary to Stop Dogs from Destroying the House
Another common reason to crate train is for the dogs to be non-destructive without supervision. Due to their hyperactivity, dogs might rip apart cushions, chew shoes and scratch doors when they’re alone to expel all that energy.
Crate training will not stifle these natural instincts; rather, it might exacerbate behavioral issues.
The humane solution is to dog-proof a room, or some specific area, with toys and drinking water, so that there is plenty of area for the dog to run around without causing any destruction.
It Harms Physical Health
Dogs who do not take well to crate training may end up seriously hurting themselves. They might bite the metal bars of the crate to get out and end up cutting their gums.
Moreover, dogs spend most of the time inside a crate sedentary, which leads to muscle atrophy. The lack of cardiovascular exercise also leads to other serious health problems. Dogs are active and excitable animals, staying inside a confined crate does them no good.
It has Adverse Effects on Behavior
Many experts believe that routine crate training underlies the development of many adjustment problems, including separation anxiety and owner-directed aggression.
In some cases, dogs end up developing more of an attachment to the crate instead of the owner. This leads to separation anxiety when the dog is removed from the crate, and interferes with the human-animal bond. The dog might be hysteric, and even lash out at the owner.
It does Not “Protect” in Emergencies
A popular argument to justify crate training is that it’ll make the dog comfortable during an emergency, such as during an earthquake, since the owner can just pick the crate up with the dog and evacuate.
If anything, it does the opposite. Due to regular crating a dog isn’t mentally stimulated enough, which makes it more likely to react negatively when faced with something huge and calamitic.
A dog raised with proper love and attention will feel safe with its owner no matter what.
It Gives Irresponsible Dog Owners a Free Pass
It’s an unfortunate reality that not all dogs get good owners. Lazy, irresponsible people often end up with a dog, but put in no effort towards raising it.
With people singing praises of crate training, despite the reality being otherwise, such irresponsible dog owners get away with the abuse and negligence of their dogs.
It Increases the Number of Dogs in Shelters
As is to be expected, there comes a point when the owners find the dog “difficult” to handle after jeopardizing its mental and physical health by crate training, and thus give them away for adoption.
And this cycle goes on and on, with dogs going from one shelter to another. In the end, shelters usually have no option but to put the dog down.