Crate Training: Is it humane…or not?
There seems to be a lot of mixed opinions and continuous debating on the topic of using a crate.
This article was written to provide you with some very useful and helpful information so that you can decide for yourself what makes more sense to you.
As professional breeders of German Shepherds, as well as Certified dog trainers, we have been around many puppies, adolescents, & problem dogs – including all breeds, ages and sizes, for well over 40 years now. We’re not sure about the rest of the country, but here in California, things are always in high gear, and fast paced. We all have to adjust to living in a very stressful society. Most people feel overwhelmed, overworked, and simply overloaded with all that needs to be done on a daily basis. The dog is usually the least important, at the bottom of the list, and the first to be eliminated when it comes to family hardships such as financial problems, divorce, family feuds, tough economy, etc. Just getting ‘rid’ of the dog seems to be the logical thing to do when problems flood many households. Having to deal with a dog who is not housebroken, destroying the house, jumping and nipping at the kids, puts most people over the edge to say the least, and understandably so. Owners simply want a well-behaved, housebroken, friendly companion for the family. If people can’t get this in a reasonable amount of time, they most likely won’t keep the dog. This is the main reason dog shelters and rescues are packed to capacity and thousands of dogs are destroyed every year.
But people need to understand that life with a dog doesn’t have to be difficult, it can be very simple, easy, rewarding, and fun. And studies have proven that having an animal in the home, especially a dog, helps to reduce stress, improve health, add years to your life, and bring joy, happiness, security and positive attitudes to everyone!
All of us here, like most of you, welcome any tips, ideas, or suggestions to help multi-task and juggle all the demands put upon us on a daily basis. Why not take the easy road?
When it comes to puppies, adolescents, or untrained dogs in general, they can be a handful, no doubt. However, if you follow simple advise from professionals like ourselves who have already been there, done that, and have had much success already. It makes perfect sense that if you do what we do, you will have results like we have.
The first thing we suggest is for you to re-program your mind to the fact that dogs are not human and we need to think of them as another species and not little people or babies.
Confining a dog may seem cruel from a human perspective, but for a dog, it is just the opposite.
In order for a dog to live in your home and be part of the family, he needs to know and understand the rules. His environment needs to be managed in a way that will set him up for success. He is not born with this magical information; he will need to be taught. How do you teach these rules to a young puppy or new dog? It’s very simple. The key word you will need to begin with is ‘prevention’. How do you prevent a dog from any un-wanted behavior? You confine him, especially when he is un-attended. If he is not allowed to ‘practice’ or ‘repeat’ the bad behavior, it will simply stop or never have a chance to develop in the first place.
Much of the advice given out today on the topic of using a dog crate has changed drastically compared to what was suggested years ago. Many trainers are discouraging the use of the crate and recommending putting the dog in a ‘safe area’ instead. The typical recommendation is to set up a specific area for the dog, especially while the owner is gone or whenever he can’t be supervised. They recommend this area be a kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or garage. They suggest sectioning it off with a baby gate so that the dog can’t get out. The crate can be set up in the area, but with the door open so that the dog can choose to go in or out of it. They also recommend putting down newspapers or the latest, “Wee Wee Pads”. We guess the feeling is that the dog needs more room, and the crate is too restricting, so this is the next best thing.
We cannot disagree strongly enough with the above information. Although we agree with the fact that the dog needs to be confined, the set-up they are recommending is un-necessary, un-sanitary, counter-productive, time consuming, and inconvenient.
Giving a dog too much room causes pacing, barrier frustration, increased heart rate, anxious behavior, and invites him to eliminate in his area, as he has plenty of room to move away from it. This is not fair to the dog or the family, at all.
- Dog owners should not have to come home to a terrible odor from their dog eliminating on newspapers or wee wee pads and then have to clean it up after a hard day.
- The dogs are learning that it is ‘ok’ to eliminate inside the house, making it more difficult to teach them to only go outside once they get older.
- Owners should not have to give up part of their house to the dog.
- They should not have to keep replacing valuable items the dog has destroyed; even in this ‘safe’ area, dogs will chew on and destroy walls, cabinets, gates , etc.
- Many dogs eventually figure out how to break through the barrier and they then escape to the rest of the house and make their own fun!
- Separating your dog from the rest of the family with a baby gate only causes ‘barrier frustration’ and conditions the dog to stressful annoying barking, whining, pacing, and jumping up on people when they come into his ‘safe’ area.
The latest studies have shown that the average dog needs a minimum of 14 hours of sleep a day. They also need exercise, but they don’t need it all day long. They need some quiet time, to rest, sleep, feel safe, and to take a break from us and especially children. Dogs feel more secure in a smaller area compared to a large enclosure.
Therefore, the absolute best and most humane way to confine your dog IS with a dog crate!
Listed below are the reasons why we prefer crate training over the ‘safe area’:
- Housebreaking is easy for the dog to learn – elimination is outside only!
- Prevents many unwanted behaviors such as destructive chewing, stealing food, trash rummaging, play biting and jumping on kids, barking, running out the front door, hyperactivity.
- The dog stays clean – he is not stepping in his own urine and feces as he would with paper training – no smell in the house.
- The crate does not take up as much space as giving up an entire section of a room.
- Promotes calmness and appropriate behavior when indoors.
- A secure place of his own, to rest, and have ‘quiet’ time.
Conclusion – Crate training is a good thing! Be kind to your dog. Crate him when you are gone, when you are sleeping, when you need a break from him, or when you can’t watch him. Take him out often, give him daily exercise, and enroll him in a reputable dog training class!