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How to Win Friends and Influence People Not to Crate Their Dogs

Do you have friends or neighbors who keep their dog confined to a crate all day while they’re at work or to train a new puppy? Do you want to let them know that this is harmful, but you’re not sure how to address the issue in a friendly, nonconfrontational way? Here are some suggested tacks you can try:

Been there, done that. You could try telling the person that you’ve tried crating a dog yourself—or you know someone who did—and it ended disastrously. Dogs who are crated (caged) for long periods of time often develop mental health problems, including separation anxiety, hyperactivity, shyness, aggression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders like constant chewing and licking. Some animal shelters even have a term for it: “cage crazy.” Many dogs can be rehabilitated once the crating is stopped, but some dogs are permanently scarred by the experience. Tell your friends that you’d hate for them to go through the same thing that you (or your other friend) did and that you wish someone had told you then what you know now so that you could have avoided unintentionally tormenting your dog.

What’s it going to take to put you in this crate today? Some dog trainers, vets, groomers, and pet supply stores that promote crates just so happen to sell the cages themselves—isn’t that convenient? And isn’t it handy that some of these folks can then turn around and provide the training services and/or medications that you’re going to need to treat the behavior problems caused by locking your dog in a box all day? Sounds suspect, doesn’t it? Let your friend in on the secret.

Fire your dog trainer. Ask your friend if he or she is seeing results. Is the dog behaving better since being confined to a crate all day? More likely, the dog is actually behaving worse when he or she is finally let out of the crate. The dog probably is depressed (learned helplessness), tentative, fearful, or runs around like a maniac at the first taste of freedom. Dogs can’t learn how to interact normally with people or other animals when they spend all day inside a box—they need exercise and training, and they need feedback and the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned (such as self-restraint, making good decisions, etc.). Good dog trainers know this, which is why they do not recommend crates. Crating is promoted by trainers who either lack the skill to train a dog properly or who are more interested in having more paying customers than in actually solving the dogs’ problems by using a tailored approach. If a trainer advocates crating, tell your friend that it’s time to look for a better trainer.

Have you tried X, Y, and Z? Most dogs have crates either because a dog trainer/vet/salesperson advised it as a “must-have” accessory, like a leash or chew toy, or because the dog had an “accident” or got into some sort of trouble (chewed up a sofa cushion, stole the kids’ shoes, etc.). Most likely, these things happened when the dog was a youngster, and he or she has long since become housetrained and stopped teething. Those life stages are long gone, yet the crate/cage/solitary confinement remains, like keeping teenagers confined to the playpens that they crawled around in as toddlers. Urge your friend to try “weaning” the dog off the crate by first confining him or her to one room with a baby gate and seeing how things go. Of course, the house will need to be dog-proofed (share PETA’s safety tips with your friend), and arrangements will need to be made for someone to take the dog outside for a walk mid-day.

For more tips on how to train your canine companion humanely, check out PETA’s Four “P’s” of Training. For solving dog behavioral problems, If Only They Could Speak, Dogs Behaving Badly, and The Dog Who Loved Too Much, all by Nicholas Dodman, are excellent. For books on the negative effects of crating, check out Dogs Hate Crates and Dog in a Box, both by Ray and Emma Lincoln.

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  • Konstantina says:

    I do agree that excessive crating is cruel, but when you have a sweet but mischievous dog like one of mine that will ignore her toys and try to swallow weird things, you need to keep them safe when you’re not at home to watch them! My dogs can open cabinet doors and climb counters. They can jump our seven foot fence to chase a bird, and can climb halfway up our tree to try to get a squirrel! Dogs, like people, are all different and some have special needs. My dogs need to be crated for their safety when I can’t be at home. But,I exercise them every day, and they are never crated for for more than six hours, so they are always sleepy and stretchy when they come out, not anxious.

  • Gloria says:

    I notice that a lot, how everyone always spews the same quote “it’s just like a den” except dens allow movement and freedom to leave. And when puppies are young and in a ‘den’ their mother is there too. I was able to housetrain my puppy within a month with minimal usage a crate. And I got her a 10 weeks old. Now at 5 months knows to let me know when she has to go and can wait until I come home at lunch and for the day for potty breaks on work days. All in all there is even minimal chewing that happens. Up until recently, I had never heard of crating an animal. You would just confine it to a kitchen or bathroom until you could supervise the animal. Now it’s all the rage. Having the crate available for travel and medical issues is fine. Having the crate open so they can go in and out as desired is fine. Locking your pet in the crate for an entire day is not fine. If it locks, it’s not a den.

  • Lizzi says:

    My rescued pitbull was very, very restless until we got her a crate– we were always anti-crating before her but she was panicked without it and was upset with the door open, so we closed but didn’t latch it. Now that she’s older, we do not crate her because she’s comfortable with us but sometimes when stressed by company, the cat, etc., she will return to the crate because yes, it is her safe haven.

  • Wendy says:

    I have a friend who not only crates when she’s going out or people are coming in, but she has a collar (not electric) which she uses to stop the dog from chasing children and barking. I don’t like the idea of sprays and collars but the crate can be good for short periods of time if the dog is loved and cared for properly. My dog has never been crated, never had an accident in the house, has never damaged anything and he’s 16 years old. It’s how dogs are trained from 8 to 10 weeks on. Small dogs …puppies need to get walked often even if it’s for 10 minutes when they’re pups. I’ve been very lucky to have an un-needy dog who has the run of the house, is polite and well trained.

  • Riverdivine says:

    To all those who insist that crates are for the dog’s “own good”, “safety”, a “safe haven”, etc, and that this safety feature justifies its use.. MAYBE- but only if the crate/cage is left OPEN so the dog can come and go as s/he feels like, then it CAN be a safe place/a ‘den’. Anything locked, confined, is a CAGE. Would you like your partner or family member to stuff you into to a locked cage at night when you go to bed, so that you can stay safe- and maybe not pee on the carpet if you have to go during the night ….? Come on, people. Animals feel the same things that we do- and enjoy freedom, respect, space, and the ability to move freely EXACTLY the way that you do.

  • Irma says:

    I have 26 plus dogs. Six of them are big dogs Rottie,Husky and such. The rest are small terriers and Chihuahua mix, with one cocker. They are loose all day the big ones in and out during the day. They have plenty of toys and lots of attention. I have a room set aside for them at night with crates all with memory foam bedding and nice clean blankets. Around 9:30 I say bedtime and they all run to their crates, they go in get a treat make sure everyone has water and is comfortable. Three sleep with me, five with my daughter and 4 with my son. The rest go in their crates. The ones in the crate get their treats first the others sit and wait. By 5 in the morning they are all out of the crates and out to potty. Then it is breakfast and playtime. My dogs seem happy and well adjusted. During the day I will fine one or two asleep or playing in their crate. The only time they go in their crate other than that is when they are sick and have to be kept apart from the others, at that time I pay extra attention to them so they are not lonely. All of my dogs are rescues and very much loved. I think if properly used a crate is fine. I would never use it to punish nor would I leave them there all day long.

  • Lauren says:

    Well I agree and disagree with aspects of this article. I rescued a dachshund 4 years ago who suffers from siezures. When I am home my beloved dog can be/sleep/play wherever she wants! She sleeps in my bed with me every night! However, because she suffers from siezures I crate her while I am at work because if she has a siezures while I am gone she could really hurt herself. She could fall off the couch or bed or hit her head on a hard piece of furniture. I do it to protect her. In her crate she has no chance of hurting herself if she seizes when I am not there. Also, PETA , there is such an over population problem with dogs and many “crate” training people truly mean well and have adopted a dog who would otherwise starve, be beaten,, be keep outside, and unloved, and are doing their best and providing many dogs who would have euthanized a loving home (even if you don’t agree with he crate). I love this organization and support them but they need to look at “animal circumstances” on a case by case basis and not assume that one size fits all. Keep helping animals PETA!

  • Bernadette Ferriter says:

    I never heard of crate training until I returned to the US after living in Germany for many years…I do find it appalling and I have large dogs which I allow to sleep wherever they want to, even if it is bed with me. My Doberman girl is very clingy and was kept in a crate before I got her at 3 months and I believe that accounts for her being somewhat nervous and excitable. One of our dogs is a Siberian Husky and we can hardly keep him in the garden, let alone a crate. Sure, they destroy furniture and pillows from time to time but afterwards I see where we should not have bought certain items or left them alone without taking precautions. Our Labrador did the same thing as a baby but grew out of it and we could leave hime along all day and nothing was disturbed. I feel if people don’t put their kids in crates, they should not put their pets in them either. My pets are more important to me than my furniture.

  • suzy says:

    thank heavens i found your site as numerous people i know have used crates for their puppies when they were left alone.i couldnt get my head around how apparently animal loving people couldnt see how cruel it is to confine a baby who must be desperate to relieve themselves, move about and play. i found using a baby gate in the kitchen more than sufficient. there is not much a puppy can chew, they can move about and play with toys, puppy pads can be put down near an exit, helping with toilet training when the family had to go out. but if people have to lock a puppy in a crate perhaps a puupy is not for you. love ceser milan cant believe he endorses them

  • Veronica says:

    If there are other alternatives to crating, then, there is no need to confine a dog in a small space (a “cage”) like that. If the family or person who adopts a dog is responsible, they will have considered whether they have the time to properly train, and that they are able to handle a certain amount of “damage” to furniture or rug – it just happens. If a dog is behaving “badly” – chewing on things excessively, peeing or pooping in the house – then their parent/owner has not taken the time to properly train it. If you don’t have the time, or, don’t want to make the time, then get yourself a pet rock. Caging a dog is the equivalent to locking your kid in the bathroom while you’re sleeping or away from home. If you’re worried what will happen while you’re sleeping, set up a bed for them in YOUR bedroom and shut the door. Otherwise, a dog can be trained (humanely) to not chew on furniture or go to the bathroom inside the house. Just expect this to happen occasionally – it’s just part of having a pet. If that freaks you out, then think twice about adopting dog.

  • Kit says:

    I disagree with this article almost entirely. Crating your dog because you don’t want to spend time with it is cruel, but giving your pet a safe haven is not. We crate our dog at night for her own safety. We can’t supervise her while we are sleeping and don’t want her to get into anything dangerous. Everyone has a bed to sleep in and the crate is hers. The crate is also a place for her to go when the house gets crazy with guests and our playing children. In many instances, not crating is inhumane. We just need to train the people with their pets.

  • Lynn says:

    Interesting thoughts about crates. I so agree that leaving a puppy or dog in a crate all day is cruel. I do believe in using them for puppy training if done correctly. If you take the puppy out every hour for a chance to potty and play unless it is sleeping. I use them for car travel to keep my dogs safe. One of my dogs loves her crate which sits with the door open. She goes in it to get away from it all.

    I also disagree that a crate should not be used for time outs. I believe squirt bottles and newspapers are cruel. My dogs have a crate set up just for time outs. They are short time outs according to their ages. Barking excessively adds up to being picked up put in the crate not talked to or looked at for 10 minutes. They know that’s why they are in there because I’ve told them “I’ve got it.. quiet” After 10 minutes I tell them I forgive you and hug them and let them out. It has worked for me. I also use them when someone comes to the door and the dogs are going nuts so they don’t run out the door. We are working hard on going to their mat but I have terriers. They have little minds of their own. I do not want to lose a dog. They could run out the door. I use them when I have company and we are cooking. The dogs could get hurt.

    I do not ever leave them in the crates when I’m gone. I do have a service that comes in if we are gone for more than 4 hours. I have very happy dogs.

    Like most things crates can be used to better a dogs life or to make it unhappy. So many dogs are taken to the pound due to bad behavior. If used correctly crate training can do wonders.

  • MC says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think this article is entirely accurate. While I do think it’s not right to crate a dog all day long (for example, while you’re at work for 8+ hours), or all the time while company is over, crating a dog while you’re out of the house for a few hours isn’t a bad thing. Dogs are den animals, and they like having a little place to call their own, and a place to relax when they’re stressed. Case in point: my dog also likes to crawl under the bed and other pieces of furniture, just to have a little spot to curl up in when she wants to relax.

    My boyfriend and I tried everything with our sweet little mutt, Nelly. We tried leaving out toys, we tried having music or the tv on, we tried natural calming sprays, but none of it worked. Nelly would always get anxious whenever we’d leave the house and would get into the garbage, resulting in her getting sick. We tried getting different garbage with lids and locks, and hiding them under the sink in a cabinet, but she’s a smarty and would always find a way to get into them. We talked to our vet (who is a holistic vet who believes in combining modern medicine with natural and alternative treatments) and he said that crating her for a few hours while we’re gone would not only not be harmful, but would probably help her feel less anxious. So we go the best crate we could find, with enough room for a very comfy doggy bed, a spot to put her water, and enough space for her to stand up and turn around. And guess what? She likes it! She will go and chill in there when we are home. We leave the door open when we’re home, so she can get in and out as she pleases. She likes to bring her favorite toys in there when we play fetch. And she always willingly goes in there when we say “crate” when we’re about to leave the house. She never whines or hangs her tail low. If we know we’re going to be out of the house for more than 4 or so, we have a friend who lives near by come over and spend some time with her. All in all, I would say that my dog is very well taken care of, and the crate has done no harm to her. If anything, it has helped her anxiety go down when she is alone. Again, if we crated her all the time, I can see this article’s point, but companion animals live in a world where their humans aren’t going to be with them 24/7. For some dogs, having too much space to themselves when they’re alone can make them anxious.

  • Boo says:

    I think this article is a bit too general in its anti-crate sentient. While I DO agree that caging a dog as a punishment or because the owner is too lazy to train the animal is WRONG, I also think that during training, if used properly, a well-sized crate can make house-training go faster and keep a pup safe. A lot of vets and trainers who recommend crate training for pups are NOT SELLERS of these items, and insist that the time in the crate is limited to short periods of time and is never used for punishment. A vet who has had to surgically remove items from a pets stomach (or put the animal down), and shelters who have 8 month old pups returned because the dog continues to pee on the carpet and chew and or bark when left alone in a large space may have other ideas about what is CRUEL.

    Again, I agree confining a dog to a crate without giving him/her proper exercise before and after is cruel, and using it as a punishment or as an alternative to TRAINING the dog how to chill in the house is cruel……but used properly I think a crate can EXPEDITE training, keep puppy safe from their own silliness and ENHANCE dog/human relations by minimizing those early-stage disasters.

    Or I guess no longer let people who might every so often leave their home be deemed unfit to rescue a not-yet-trained dog? Well, I think that means more animals in …what is it again, oh yeah. CAGES.

  • F says:

    Strange, just bought a crate home and the first thing the dog (who’s never been in one before) does is climb in and go to sleep. The door was wide open, crate covered with a blanket like a den for him. Not forced in any way, he goes in and goes straight to sleep. It is his place. Doesn’t look cruel from where I’m looking…

  • AllieD says:

    I have had a few dogs in my lifetime, and none of them were ever crated. Tried crating one when she was a pup but that lasted about as long as it took for her to start whimpering, and that was that. They sleep with me, are allowed on my furniture and basically have the run of the house. Yes, I’ve had a few things destroyed but as one person commented above, if you’re so worried about your furniture and material things, maybe you shouldn’t have an animal. I have also had a doggie door and fenced in yard for the past 10-12 years and have never had a problem. The dogs are free to come and go as they please – if it’s a nice, sunny day they can go outside while I’m at work and soak up the sun. If it’s rainy or cold they spend most of their day in the house. I have never had anyone try to get into my house through the doggie door (except myself when I forgot my key!), have never had a strange animal come in through the doggie door, and my dogs have never gotten into any trouble while I am away. And while I’m sure it depends on the neighborhood in which you live when it comes to people “stealing” your dog, I have never worried about that. I know my neighbors and they all look out for my dogs. A doggie door, fenced in yard and free reign of the house are the only way to go when you have dogs. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  • Jen says:

    @emmyg didn’t you read all the articles on crating your dog? I can’t believe your still justifying it. that’s the problem there are just some people that don’t get it and never will. They have the attitude that their just an animal. That angers me so much, the poor dogs that get ignorant owners who have the dog near them only when it’s when they chose otherwise forget the needs of the dog and the effects of crating. So frustrating. Is this a cruelty that can be reported. I have a family member that has the sweetest dog but it is now hyperactive, is in the crate 23 and 1/2 hours a day. The other 1/2 hours is out to potty, its food and water is in the crate. If it gets loose from them as their bringing her in or out from going potty if she hasn’t already pooped all over herself in the crate she just tears through the house, jumps on everything including people. I thinks its making the dog crazy. She was 4 months when they got her from a puppy mill that had all the dogs stacked in kennels/the carry type. She’s now 11 months and they think they saved the dog..what a joke! Please help and @>emmyg stop crating your dog or give it a home where they don’t need or think crating is the only option. You should of told your mom no you didn’t want a dog under her rules but because you did what made you feel better not what was best for the dog its clear your not mature enough to make that choice and your mom needs to read these articles if it will make a difference in her decision on crating a poodle, come one a poodle? Darn this topic has just gotten under my skin and am shocked that so many dogs are being treated poorly! so frustrating, please tell me how I can help change things for these wonderful companions …PLEASE!

  • Frank Tenczar says:

    An additional comment…I volunteer for an organization that rescues dogs. We will not place a dog into a home with doggie doors. While the freedom it gives the dogs is nice, it is also very dangerous for the dogs. Unattended dogs are at risk for theft, possibly being sold to animal testers and there are numerous dangers in yards. A safe place for dogs when the owners are not at home is inside a doggy safe house! Preferably with a companion and free run (I always advocate a family to have two dogs…this gives them companionship during the day and reduces destructive behavior). The crate can be there with the door open and in my experience, two dogs will frequently share that space.

  • Ange says:

    Dogs love company, they love the company of their person, don’t put them in a cage. I was shocked when I first saw them on Cesar Milan Show. If you are not sure if its horrible or not, try it yourself!

  • Jena R. says:

    What about puppies and house training?

  • chander kumar soni says:

    thanks for such a tips.

  • Rob says:

    You should never put your dog in the crate as a form of punishment, a crate is intended to create a safe place for your pet, some actually prefer it.

  • Jan says:

    I’ve never believe in crates. I have always had a doggie door and my house is the dog house. My bed is the dogs bed. I have steps into my bed. My dogs are a member of my family and I am a member of their pack! My two rescue mutt-butts know they have it good. If I leave the gate open or the door is open, they don’t go anywhere! My neighbors boxer is always running away because they are too restrictive of him! I love my babies!!

  • Kathleen says:

    I was so lucky to grow up with dogs and with parents who always created dog doors and nice fenced-in yards for them. Both my furry companions have their own doors (one ot access screened in porch, the other for outside) to use so they can come and go when I’m at work. It works so well, I can’t imagine life without it. Both prefer to be inside more than out, but they need the option. And in case of an emergency, they can get outside. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • MCM says:

    When I first adopted my rescue she demonstrated so much anxiety because I always left her crate w/pad open. I think the freedom was a bit shocking since at first she would spend lots of time there. Now it’s just another place to chill that is exclusively hers but she doesn’t isolate herself and rather be around her family. I also took the time to train her so the chewing my stuff and potting training mishaps were a short phase. If someone doesn’t have the time or patience to do this without yelling or hitting, then a pet is not for them. But I whole-heatedly agree crating is not only ineffective but harmful if that is how the animal spends most of its day.

  • emmyg says:

    i have recently rescued a girl mini poodle, and i do have her in a crate when i am at school so she doesnt have accidents while i am gone because poodles are very well known to get seperation anxiety. this is the only time she is ever in her cage. She goes where ever I go, whether it’s for long walks or for a car ride. She sleeps in my bed at night on her own little blanket bed. Lets just say she is spoiled rotten, because I try and spent as much time with her as I possible can. In fact she is sitting on my lap right now. But I have to put her in her cage when I am at school because the rules to getting her per my mom was that she was my full responsibility, and than whenever no one was home she has to go in there. So i got her a cage that was actually very big, to where she can stand, stretch, and even walk a bit. She has her baby blankets in there, and her chew toys. Now she is in there from the time i go to school in the morning until the time I get home, and then I take her on a long walk. I am not sure how I am in the wrong here. I love peta and everything they are for, and the same with everyone who is reading this. I do not think if you can not properly care for your dog, and for the most of the day it just sets in the cage, that you should get a dog. Same with if it is locked on a chain all day. But I love my dog so much, and i give her the best treatment. I do not see how I am abusing my dog. It isn’t fun to set a couple hours a day in the cage, I get that. But I assure you, she is a healthy, happy dog. I rescued her and I know she is grateful for the life she now has. I am glad I could be the person to adopt her. And i think her cage is fine for a couple hours. She goes in there willingly, and she knows that i would never force her. Whenever i am in my room, she does go in there to lie down. She enjoys knowing that that is a peaceful spot to sleep. Dogs require 14 hours of sleep a day, and I only sleep around eight, so her sleepy time is healthy because she is up when I am home. Thank you for reading and listening to a story that is the exeption.
    Thanks! 🙂

  • Emily says:

    A firend of mine had a puggle, every day they would keep it in a small crate and put it in there as a form of punishment. The pooor dog was very hyper, so they ended up just getting rid of her.It was sad, I went over there a few times and I asked why they didn’t let her out, and my friend’s mother’s response was “she chews the furniture.” They also only walked her once a day and never picked up her feces when they did, Those peope should not have a had a dog and had they not given her to their cousins I would have reported them to the authorities. Dogs do not belong in crates! If you care about your furniture that much, you shouldn’t have a dog!

  • A says:

    Years ago I had roommates that horribly mistreated their dogs. They had two large dogs (an american bulldog and a german shepherd). While they worked during the day, the AB was locked in a crate so tiny she could not stand or turn around, and the GS was locked in a bathroom. They were also locked in these places at night, and anytime the couple went somewhere. This means that these two dogs got about one hour in the morning, and maybe 4 or 5 hours in the evening free, out of a 24 hour day. And thats if their owners didnt have plans after work. It was horrible. Their dogs would of course explode with energy and frustration when they were “let out”, and jump all over people and furniture and bark. The solution? These people would hit and shout at the dogs, and sometimes even lock them back up. We had MANY other problems with those people and soon moved out. To this day I am heartbroken and wracked with guilt that I did not turn them in to some kind of authority. I would often cry myself to sleep feeling so bad for those dogs, but at the time I didnt know what to do about it. If I could go back in time I would. Having said that, this was only about 4 years ago so its likely they still have the dogs. Why even own a dog at that point? I dont understand.

  • muttluva says:

    Crating is SO common and in my opinion a form of cruelty. I hate it and one of the stupidest things I hear is, “My dog likes it, it’s like his den, his own place”. Let me tell you, as mom of many rescues I can tell you NON of the animals I have ever had like it and that’s a lame excuse. They go to their crate because that’s what they were forcefully trained to do and dogs want to please. My dogs would much rather be around me then locked in a tiny box. People really need to put into perspective how tiny crates are compared to dogs and ask themselves if they would like being confined to that. No creature likes to be confined to small spaces and dogs are no exception. If you want to lock your dog up in a prison then don’t get a dog.

  • Brian Quigley says:

    Totally agree!