When Not to Use a Crate

Regular readers know, Casey is generally a huge fan of crates! However, I do not recommend crates universally. There are times when crates can actually...

Casey Lomonaco  |  Sep 7th 2010


Regular readers know, Casey is generally a huge fan of crates!

However, I do not recommend crates universally. There are times when crates can actually work against a dog, his owner, and their changes of finding mutually successful and desirable behavior.

When are crates not a good idea?

  • When you are away from home for a longer period than your dog can realistically be expected to hold his bladder or bowel movements. If your dog is able to go an average of four hours without eliminating, asking him to be crated for six or eight hours is unacceptable. With the exception of puppy mill dogs (see below), dogs naturally do not want to soil the area in which they relax. Taught appropriately, a crate should be your dog’s sanctuary – the equivalent of a canine bed room. Would you want to sleep in your bed were it covered in feces? I think not. If you must leave your dog for longer than he is able to hold his bladder or bowel movements, you must provide him with acceptable, safe opportunities for elimination. Ideally, this involves a potty break via yourself, or a trusted pet professional/sitter. If this is not an option, an “x-pen” or puppy proofed room with a potty pad may be your only option.
  • When you are adopting a puppy from a puppy mill or pet store. Dogs are naturally rather clean animals. They prefer to live in a sanitary environment. I know many dogs who, if given the opportunity, prefer to leave the owner’s property and eliminate on the border of the neighbor’s land just for this reason. At the same time, we must remember how formative critical stages of development are. Puppies that are exposed to a certain stimulus or environment in their early life are likely to imprint and accept these conditions as normal parts of their environment. The horrible psychological and physical abuse created by a puppy milling industry which recognizes puppies as dollar signs and not as individual lives worthy of respect and care works against the natural tendencies toward cleanliness of dogs. Puppies who are forced to live in their own filth grow into dogs that don’t mind wallowing in their own filth. For victims of the puppy mill industry, other management tools (x-pens, potty pads, belly bands, etc.) may be indicated to train appropriate toileting behavior.
  • For dogs with extreme separation anxiety. Dogs with clinical separation anxiety can cause serious bodily harm trying to escape from a crate. If your dog has repeatedly injured herself trying to escape from her crate, you should consult with an experienced, qualified behavior professional or, ideally, a veterinary behaviorist, for containment and behavioral modification solutions.