The Crate Debate

Just like pretty much every other part of dog ownership, there are lots of opinions out there regarding crating dogs. Some people swear against it, some people swear by it, and some people just don’t care. Similarly, some dogs love it, some dogs hate it, and some dogs can be trained to tolerate it.

I love crating. Responsible crating, that is – i.e. in a crate suitable for the dog’s size and for an acceptable amount of time. There are some parts of my fostering life where I’ve found it’s a total life saver to be able to crate a dog – mostly being any time I need them to not have free reign of whatever space they’re in (duh). It puts everyone’s mind at ease when you don’t have to worry about the dog getting into any trouble, and knowing that they’re happy while staying secure.

Something I’ve started doing with my fosters is crating at night. I believe that it’s best to keep my foster pups away from my room for bedtime so that they don’t get too used to sleeping in “my pack”. Who knows if it actually makes a difference, but since this is not their final destination I don’t want them getting too comfy with me at night.

It also helps me to be able to crate dogs when I, well, need them contained. This was very important for Baxter because of his affinity for eating things. That meant any time he was home alone, he was crated. He would get kongs and other indestructible things to keep him occupied, and he seemed pretty fond of his little house (after the first two weeks).

Regardless of the arguments one way or the other (dogs should never be caged vs. dogs love having something resembling a “den”), I choose to decide if my dog is happy to be crated simply by how they act. Do they resist going in? Do they whine? Do they bark? Do they try really, really hard to get out? While these are all things that can be worked through with a dog, it still helps to determine a pup’s initial feelings on the topic.

Otis’ last owner said she didn’t crate him because she knew he had probably been in a cage most of his life. While I understand that when translating this to human emotions you might not want to continue to “put him through that”, but in Otis’ mind the crate is his safest place. When I brought him home the first night, I walked him straight into his crate and closed the door while we hung out in the kitchen (the crate is right there in all the action), and he settled in nicely. I wanted to show him that this could be his happy place while at my house, and it’s continued to be that way ever since.

Since Otis doesn’t have the same eating problem that Baxter did, he gets the run of the house when we’re gone (so nice to have a dog like that, I know!). Honey Bunches only stays in his crate at night now. I’m okay with it because 1. He walks in willingly when it’s time to call it a night 2. He doesn’t whine or bark when he is in there and 3. He settles right in when I turn off the light and say goodnight. He seems to like it.

I also always make sure he isn’t in there for too long. If I want to sleep in, I often wake up super early to let him out to go to the bathroom and then I’ll let him sleep in my room for the next few hours since it’s technically just a nap, and it’s not every night.

So for us, crating works well and can be a total blessing for those “special cases” that need a little more supervision. I know that a lot of people don’t believe in crating, but – like most other things – I like to just look at it from a dog to dog (and situation) basis. Perhaps the next dog I get will hate crates. After whining about it myself for a few hours, we’ll figure out an alternative. We’ll work towards crate acceptance. We’ll adapt. That’s what you’ve got to do. But for now, we’ll revel in our crating successes.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.

26 thoughts on “The Crate Debate

  1. devereux66

    I am finally adopting after losing my Mugs and your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I guess I am one of those that hasn’t ever really thought about crates but my husband is less enthusiastic about a new family member and I really want this to go as smoothly as possible. After reading your post I think a crate will be best for all concerned.
    Spent a small fortune last not at petsmart……sans crate……guess they will be happy to see me today…….thanks for helping with this post.

    • Hey! Whether or not you use it long term, I think crating is a hugely important resource when adapting a new dog to your home. You can check out some tips online for training your dog to accept it if they’re not initially keen on it (one example is – just be sure you always use the crate for POSITIVE things, like treats, meals, toys, etc. – not punishment. It will also help with, like many people are saying in comments below, traveling with your pets. Good luck! Let me know if you need any help!

  2. Karen Wagner

    It looks like Otis does not mind being in his crate at all:) He looks very content! He is just the sweetest! Just love him! Give Otis a hug for me! xoxo

  3. My pit mix has hated the crate from day one. He won’t go in and if we manage to get him in, he thrashes and screams, so we don’t crate him. The other two a Corgii and Jack Russell LOVE their crates and willingly jump in any time of day. Of course there are ” special” treats in there that they ONLY get inside. So when I say “crate up”, we just have to stand back!

  4. Our pittie girl Addie loves her crate too! She found her way to the crate the first day we got her and it has been her safe place since. We have it in our living room, which is the central part of the house and we too have a cover over it so it feels like a den to her. She’ll retreat there if she’s tired or is a little under the weather. And every morning she sits in there while we eat breakfast, waiting for us to leave the house for work so that she can get her Kong. :)

  5. I remember crying my eyes out when we first crated Fred. Now, I would worry all day long if both dogs weren’t securely tucked away. It’s amazing how much the human needs to become comfortable with the idea too! :-)

    • Yeah, I think it’s definitely a harder thing for humans to be okay with than most dogs! (like most other things regarding dog “emotions”). Glad everything worked out though!

  6. Lynn Guntner

    I am a convert from “thinking” the crate was cruel and punishing to realizing that it can be an incredible tool for setting boundaries for one’s pet as well as providing a place of safety and even security for them. I grew up on a farm where all of our dogs, except for our Chihuahua, lived outside. They had safe shelter and had the “run” of the place. Now, THAT was a dog’s life. The reality is though, that every dog, or should I say MOST dogs, do not have that lifestyle. When they are brought into our living spaces, they are still dogs. However, indoors, there must be boundaries set for them to ensure the health and safety of the entire family pack. Responsible crating is no different than keeping a baby in a crib or gated area. No one wants to come home to a half-eaten couch or redesigned window treatments, but it really goes farther than that. If your beloved dog is safely crated, he can’t get into the trash or other things that may harm him if eaten. I know I am preaching to the choir, but there was a time that I thought of crating as horrible. But there was also a time I thought parents of children throwing temper tantrums in public places were horrible parents. I think one of the best points you made was knowing your dog and looking for their reaction to the crate. I can tell you from experience that you can teach an old dog a new trick. I recently acquired my sister’s 10-year-old Chorki who had never been crated. She hated it to begin with, and would destroy every bit of bedding inside. She now seeks her crate when the door is open as a space of solace. I currently have four dogs in my home….Hallie the Chorki, Marty a Jack Russell terrier, along with two pitbulls, Hercules and Effie. I keep the two pitties’ crates in one room, and the other two are in other rooms. The crates are in quiet areas than can be kept lowly lit and I honestly believe it strikes a primal chord in their canine nature that the crates are their dens. I guess when I see them choose to go in there on their own, I know it is not the horrible torture chamber I USE to think it was.

    • Sounds like you guys have found what works for you! It honestly is so worth it to come home to a happy and contained pet rather than a destroyed house, as long as the dog is not in there for too long. I think all the “converts” out there are happy they found what they were missing!

  7. I am so happy to hear others crate debate. My first “grown up” dog didn’t need one, garbage was her only weakness. I didn’t use one with my current rescue Abbie because I wasn’t sure HOW, but the amount of money I have spent on shoes and other belongings well surpassed the price of a good crate. Since fostering I have become more comfortable with it, I think that is a huge thing, as someone mentioned. The majority of my fosters have done great in their personal space. Now, somehow, Abbie has realized that crates are good. She willingly “kennels up” and waits for her treat. I am so thankful, as when I move in the next few months I won’t have to Abbie proof my boyfriends house! Dogs DO learn by example.

  8. I agree it’s a case by case, dig by dog basis. My pit mix was crated while we were gone up until about 5 months ago — he will be 4 in October and we’ve had him since he was 9 weeks. He was very destructive — even ate a corner of the wall. He was very nervous being out of the crate when he was home alone. When we came home he was panting and very nervous. Now, he is great! We slowly introduced him to being alone for short periods of time and he does fine. He still eats in his crate and he also goes in on his own when he is given a treat or chew bone. It’s still his comfort zone. :) My other 3 are different. They were crates for a couple of weeks until they were housebroken and then crating was no longer needed.

  9. I am a firm believer in the crate. It makes the transition of bringing a new dog into the family go much smoother. The rules of the crate can flex depending on each individual dog as well. When educating people on crate use I always ask them if they would let their toddler crawl around unsupervised?
    When you are not supervising a dog to help them learn the rules of the home you are not only missing training opportunities but also risking their safety.
    There are some people that I have met that have done great without the crate in the long run but I have found after talking with them that they could of avoided some miss-steps if they had opted to use it. But to each his own :)

    • Yes, of course everyone has their own thoughts on the topic. I just feel bad for the people I talk to who tell me about their destroyed homes and when I bring up crating they say, “Oh no, I don’t want to do that to him.” Yikes!

  10. Thank you for this article! We crated our rescue dog for the first 6 months after he came home to get him used to his completely different new home. As first time owners we weren’t sure of what we were doing (although we did tons of research to guide us) and it was a rough adjustment for everyone, but your experience helps me know that we did it the right way. Two years later our pup is well-adjusted and able to roam freely when we’re not home, and I’m convinced the crate training period helped with that transition. Thank you again for that peace of mind!

    • If you feel like it went well, then I’m sure it was the right thing to do. Like Jenna commented above – you can often get away with not crating, but sometimes it is just easier for your dog to have that “skill”, especially for traveling or moving, etc. Congrats on the well-adjusted pup :)

  11. I used to feel SO GUILTY crating Monster, because the first time we crated him he pretty much screamed bloody murder. Eventually I took the time to crate him once in a while when I was staying in the room like you did with Otis that first night in the kitchen so that it wasn’t just associated with being left alone in the house, and also to walk away when he whined and come back in the room when he was quiet. Works much better now – not as much whining/barking and fewer chewed up expensive purses/shoes. With my impending move, I’m hoping the crate will be something he’s familiar with to comfort him in an unfamiliar home. Very timely post :)

  12. FosteringRosieTheRed

    I have used the crate with all my fosters. Not all of them LOVED it, but they could all tolerate it and it reduces the potential for issues while I am away. I think the biggest mistake is not introducing the crate slowly enough. I always start by using the crate when I am present and something really good is happening inside (usually food). I also make sure that the best cozy blankets are in there. There’s lots of good resources about how to introduce slowly. I usually plan about 2 weeks before they are really “trained” and comfortable with the crate for longer periods with no human present.

  13. Wonderful post – I’m a great fan of crates. I train my rescue/adoptable dogs to “kennel up” for meals and to remain in their crates several hours a day as well as overnight. It is a boon for puppies, of which I have few but love Dr. Dodman’s method – I place a smaller, usually airline crate within a large wire crate. Behind the “bedroom crate” are puppy pads for elimination; in front of the bedroom crate is food and water (I wean water away after I ensure the puppy can find and access the regular water bowls inside and outside the house). I get up earlier than normal to let the current puppy outside after which she usually snuggles with me for another hour or so….this puppy I now consider house-trained; I watch her take herself outside on her own, no longer needing direction from me, using the dog door, doing her business and then staying out to play or coming back inside. When I put her in at night, she will whine and jump around a bit like any youngster (“I don’t wanna go to bed”) but out of the corner of my eye, I see her sit, look around, then walk into her bedroom for a good night’s sleep. Good dog!

  14. I just got into a huge discussion with a few people over a poster I saw about how evil crating was. It bascially came down to how I was a horrible dog parent for using a crate (I really don’t care what others think, it is truly what works best for us). I crate our three at various times during the day/night. They all really truly do love it. We just say “Go to bed” and off they trot. I think when you have 3 dogs, they do like to have a little bit of their own “alone time” too. They don’t spend all their time in their kennels but when we’re not home I feel more comfortable having 2 in their kennels and only leaving 1 out. They all get turns who stays out so it’s not one sided. And at night, even when we leave their kennel doors open, I will come down most mornings and they’re in the kennel anyway. They all get plenty of love and attention else wise. And sometimes a special night in bed with mom and dad, though that’s rare because the snoring and the bed hogging tends to keep me up.

  15. Crates!!! To me?! BLESSINGS. With Knox, boy did he HATE it at first. But we stuck with it (for a good, 4-6 months)…he had terrible separation anxiety, which basically made it completely unsafe for him to be anywhere else BUT his crate. With him, plus a foster, it was unsafe to keep them both out unsupervised. With fosters that were ‘too much’ for Knox, it was a crate and rotate… which was nice because the foster could be within sight of us, see us, ‘be a part of it all’ but still learn to calm down in the action. We crate fosters at night too— so they dont associate crate=leaving. They somehow know we’re just upstairs, and it makes the crate less of a negative/abandoning connotation. Some of our fosters got super anxious in it… and we stuck their crate right next to Knox’s, and it seemed to help SO much.
    After those first 6 months…Knox would go into his crate willingly…and would even choose to nap in it while we were eating dinner…etc. etc. Amen to crates!

  16. Tricia

    I completely agree that crating or not is a dog-to-dog situation. I fully advocate crating new pups from day one, and have crate trained them all but my most recent. He was 4-5 yo when I adopted him, border collie/cattle dog mix, and he would not tolerate the crate unless I was sitting in the same room. Otherwise he’d cry, bark and fight it til he either got out or hurt himself. Multiple times I’d come home to him, greeting me at the door with a bloody nose or cut up paws. After extensive training, he now has a “house” that he loves to sleep in and chill in, but I dare not close the door. Luckily, we’ve worked on other house manners since, and I can leave him free to roam without any problems. My roommate’s pittie puppy though (upon my insistance) has been crate trained since 7 weeks old and it’s wonderful. He loves his crate and we love him being in it.

  17. I too would feel guilty, but when I was home I realized that Miss M just automatically goes to her crate and chooses to stay there. I also think it’s only fair when fostering that we do the crate training. The adoptive family can choose not to have the crate, but at least it will be easier for the dog to integrate into their new home.

  18. We crate Badger and Mushroom when we are sleeping and also when we are gone. Eventually we would like to work our way up to leaving their crates open at night, though I get the feeling they’ll still choose to sleep in their crates.

    I don’t think we’ll ever leave them both uncrated when we’re out of the apartment, though. They’re not the best of friends, and we always closely monitor their interactions, so I’d be afraid that they’d have a spat while we were gone.

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