Is crating your dog cruel? – Part 1

I am going to have to support the minority on this one, and vote ‘Yes’. As a licensed dog trainer, I have seen many dogs go through the crate training process, from puppy to adult. I have crate trained dogs myself, according to all the proper rules and guidelines. My opinion is that crate training is not a natural extension of a dogs ‘den’. Here’s why:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:off ice:office” />

1) Crates are not shaped like natural dens. True, wild dogs do sleep indoors, in a cave or other covered place that is called a den. Wild dogs often seek out old hyena dens, that have several entry and exit points, not just one. Tree trunks are often used, again, with two entries and exits. Dens are snug, but large enough to hold all of the dogs sleeping together. A small crate, only holding one dog, is not as large as the dens in the wild, and it only has one entry point.

2) Dogs in the wild do not sleep alone. All the dogs in a pack sleep together, amass, touching each other while sleeping. This is probably for safety reasons, if one dog wakes because of danger, they all wake up. It is not safe to sleep alone in the wild. When a dog gets crate trained, it is put in the crate alone, by himself.

3) Natural dens are not closed off. Dogs are free to get up and roam out of the den for water, etc.. The whole purpose of the den is to provide protection, and shelter, not encagement. When a crate is closed, it becomes a cage.

Dogs that go through crate training, whine at first. Why? Because they are locked into the crate, alone. The freedom of roaming out of the crate to get water, is prohibited. There is only one entrance to the crate, and it is closed. How does the dog feel? Cornered, alone and afraid. That is why he whines at first. Later on, he is ‘trained’ to stay in the crate, this is trained behavior, not desired. When an alpha owner tells the dog to do something with dominance, the dog will eventually get accustomed to it. If there is enough dominance, and oversight, this might ease the dog’s tensions after awhile. Some dogs eventually do go lie down in their crates. This is a combination of force of habit, training, and the fact that the crate is left open. However, most dogs will still lay in the crate with part of their body sticking out, as to prevent it from being closed on them. I have never seen a dog go into a crate left in a room, voluntarily.

I am against crate training, because of the fact that it is unnatural, unnecessary and dangerous. Unnatural because a crate does not mirror a natural den. A dog can be ‘trained’ to get used to a crate, but in my opinion this is yet another trained behavior to make the dog fit our lifestyles, not to the benefit of the dog. Unnecessary, because proper training can prevent any problems that usually pre-empt crate training. Dangerous because the initial training period causes stress, which- if done during the fear imprinting of a puppies life cycle- can cause behavior problems later on. More than often the crate system is abused, leaving dogs locked up during the day, without access to water.

My advice: train your dog properly. Then have him sleep in your bedroom at night. Give your dog a dog bed with raised edges, that he can lie in during the day and at night. Small dogs can sleep in the bed (like a pack would do) but make sure that larger dogs do not lie on top of you. (Some research actually supports that people sleep longer and deeper when they sleep with a dog in the bed). Make sure they also have a bed for during the day. Train your dog not to get up before you do. Your bedroom will be seen as the natural den, no crates needed.

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