To crate your dog or not, this is the question many pet parents ask themselves. Every pet is unique and the decision belongs to the dog owner. Crating your dog while at work or for extended periods of time during the day is a divided topic among pet parents. Some think it’s a good idea while others feel like it’s animal abuse. So, is it cruel to crate your dog while at work?
If you are on the fence about crating your dog, you must consider the reason why you are thinking about it in the first place. Some dogs are little angels and enjoy being home alone. They curl up in their favorite spot on the sofa and sleep the day away in peace.
However, many dogs don’t like being alone or become mischievous and destroy the furniture and find new ways to create chaos so their owner is upset when they arrive home.
If you have a mischievous dog that enjoys terrorizing your home, considering crate training is wise. Other reasons pets need to be crated include preventing them from urinating all over the house, reducing their anxiety, and keeping them safe.
Dogs that purposely urinate on furniture and different areas throughout the house often do it excessively to be spiteful while others simply can’t hold their bladder or have a medical condition. There are a variety of reasons dogs urinate in the house when left alone and crate training can help them adjust to a schedule that helps prevent them from destroying your house.
Many family pets experience anxiety when their owner leaves the house for work. The dog feels scared, abandoned, and experiences a level of anxiety that has a negative effect on their health. Some dogs feel safer when they are enclosed in a small area which leads to reduced stress so a crate is ideal for most pets with anxiety problems.
Some dogs can’t be trusted when left home alone. These are the dogs that find their way into the kitchen trash can and kindly distribute the contents throughout the entire house.
Whether your dog is a little angel, filled with anxiety, mischievous, or just needs a safe place to sleep while you are at work a crate is an excellent option. Continue reading to find out if a crate is the right option for your family dog.
A Quick Theory Behind Crate Training
History and research have revealed that dogs that live in the wild sleep up to 16 hours per day and dogs that are currently considered domesticated have the same ability. The theory behind crate training is based on the fact that wild dogs seek shelter in a den environment to protect themselves from predators, sleep, and raise a family safely.
Since dogs the DNA of their ancestors, it’s likely they seek out or desire a den-like environment in their domesticated lifestyle even though dangers are not present.
For example, have you caught your dog sleeping under the coffee table, sofa, and other furniture in the house? Did you notice the peaceful expression on their face as they slept for hours in comfort? If so, this gives you insight into how your dog will react when they are in a crate.
Generally speaking, a dog crate mimics a den environment found in the wild and fulfills your dog’s natural instincts to burrow and hide in peace. Chances are you have seen your dog scratch at the spot they are about to curl up and sleep. This is their natural instinct kicking in because in the wild they first dig into the ground to create their den.
Since dogs in the wild sleep for up to 16 hours straight through the night or day, depending on the situation, it means your domesticated dog has the same ability.
This means you don’t need to worry about them not going to the bathroom while you are at work for 8 or more hours, but you definitely need to avoid leaving them in the crate for more than 16 hours unless they have a medical condition that requires them not to be alone for an extended period of time.
Choosing the Right Crate for Crate Training Your Dog
The pet industry offers a variety of crate models that make it easy for you to choose the right one for your dog. The first task you need to do is measure your dog. It’s best to use a cloth or material measuring tape that is flexible and safe to use around your pet.
Stand your dog upright on all four legs or have them stretch out on their side on a flat surface. Place the measuring tape at the tip of their nose and glide it directly across their body to reach the tip of their tail. Once you get the final measurement to add four inches.
Then place the measuring tape at the top of your dog’s head and glide it down to the bottom of the paw, or where the paw meets the floor. Add four inches to this measurement as well.
Use both measurements to guide you towards the correct size crate for your dog. If you have two dogs that are going to share a crate, take both their measurements and use the measurements for the largest dog and multiply it by two to ensure you choose a large crate to comfortably fit both dogs.
Add extra inches if you plan to include a blanket, crate mat, or any other objects inside the crate while your dog is occupying the space. It’s important to add the extra inches to ensure your dog is comfortable. The goal is to choose a size that allows your dog to stand up, move around easily, and sleep in a stretched-out position.
Dog crates are made with a variety of materials such as plastic, wood, netting, and metal. You need to consider your dog’s behavior and personality when choosing the type of material used to design the crate.
Dogs who like to scratch at the walls excessively will do well in a plastic crate. A plastic crate is also considered a starter crate for most dogs when they are puppies. The durable plastic withstands puppy scratches while providing a safe place for dogs of all ages and sizes.
Wood structures make great crates for dogs that don’t scratch but need a solid frame and sturdy foundation that looks pleasing to the eye. These types of crates are often made to look like furniture and can double as an end table. It’s the perfect blend of furniture meets dog crate. It’s excellent for toy, small, medium, and large size dogs.
Ones that are made from netting or soft material are often suitable for young puppies, elderly dogs, or kind and calm natured dogs that never attempt to escape. The design of this type of crate allows you to zip the doors and windows and doesn’t require a lock since the zipper does the job.
Metal crates are considered heavy duty and made for dogs of all breeds and sizes. However, a metal crate is the most beneficial for medium, large, and X-large dog breeds that use their physical body and weight to attempt to escape.
Mode metal crate designed comes with a latch lock or some type of security to prevent your dog from escaping. Some are made with high-quality structure, design, and materials that are ideal for heavy and aggressive dogs.
Securing your dog inside the crate can be challenging if they are mischievous or highly intelligent when attempting to escape. Some dogs are so eager to get out of their crate they push their paw through the bars and unlock the latch. If your dog is an escape artist, you need to choose a crate that has strong, durable, and long-lasting locks that can’t be compromised by your dog.
Ventilation is the most important aspect of a dog crate because it provides fresh air and prevents your pet from suffocating and dying while in use. Dog crate manufacturers specially design crates to have optimal levels of ventilation. Most ventilation options can be adjusted in specific models which is helpful if you live in a cold climate. Your goal is to ensure your dog has cross ventilation in the crate and plenty of fresh air.
While most crates are intended for indoor or outdoor use, travel carry models are highly popular for dog owners who like to travel with their pets. Travel dog crates have plenty of ventilation, strong locks, and a carrying handle for easy use.
They are available in a variety of sizes, designs, and colors. Some of the models are designed to meet airline guidelines and restrictions. If you plan to travel with your pet it’s best to learn the dog crate guidelines for the specific airline you choose to use for your trip.
How to Crate Train a Dog While at Work
Crate training your dog is easier than you think when you try the following helpful tips.
- Place the crate in a high traffic area in your home – Your dog loves to be next to you and around your family at all times. Place their crate in the living room, kitchen, or high traffic rooms where your family spends the most time.
- Introduce the crate peacefully – Your dog will be surprised when a big box arrives in their territory. They might feel threatened or curious when they see their crate for the first time. Your goal is to make the introduction as peaceful and calm as possible.
- Add some cozy items to the crate – A great way to make a dog crate more inviting is to add a soft blanket, crate pad, and a few small toys.
- Use treats to encourage your dog to enter the crate – Place a few of your dog’s favorite treats inside the crate and speak softly as you encourage your dog to get their treats. Most dogs will slowly enter the crate because they can’t resist their tasty treats. Some dogs will go into the crate voluntarily just to explore the new item or to fetch their toys.
- Place a food and water bowl in the crate – Most crates have room to add a water and food bowl. Fill one of the bowls with fresh water and place a serving of kibble in the food bowl. Your dog will see they have food and water available in the crate which will help them see something familiar and create a welcoming environment. Try feeding your dog their regular meals in the crate to help them become comfortable inside the structure and give them positive reinforcement.
- Allow your dog to explore the crate on their own – Allow your dog to use their natural instinct and skills to explore the crate. Most dogs sniff and nibble on the structure to get to know it better while other dogs might bark at it to see if it reacts. Your dog has their own way of exploring new items in their environment, so make sure you give them the time to feel comfortable with their crate on their own.
- Start with 10-minute increments – Once your dog has fully explored the crate and eaten a few meals inside, start closing the door and leaving them inside for 10 minutes at a time. Don’t leave the room when they are in the crate and make sure they are able to see you in the room from the crate. Having you nearby helps them stay calm and allow them to become familiar with staying in the crate.
- Leave your dog home alone – By the time you reach this step your dog will already be used to staying in the crate while you are home. The next and final step is to leave them home alone for small time frames. For example, the first time you leave your dog in their crate just take a quick walk around the neighborhood. Start with 10 minutes away from home then gradually increase the length of time. As soon as you know your dog is staying calm and quiet in their crate while you are away from home, it’s time to leave them home alone while you go to work.
Keep in mind that some dogs are easier to train than others. It’s important to remain calm and patient while you crate train your dog.
How long can you leave a dog in a crate?
Pet parents often wonder about the length of time they should leave their dog in a crate. As mentioned earlier, dogs that live in the wild naturally sleep up to 16 hours a day without relieving themselves. It’s not recommended to leave your dog more than 16 hours in a crate and you should do your best to come home from work as soon as possible to release your dog from their crate.
If you are a busy professional who spends 16 hours a day at work plus commutes for more than 20 minutes each way, it’s wise to hire a dog walker to service your dog during the day.
A trusted dog walker shows up to your home each day they are scheduled to walk your dog and allow them to get fresh air, exercise, and play before placing safely back into their crate. Hiring a dog walker is an excellent way to be a responsible pet owner while still maintaining your career and work responsibilities without interruption.
Problems with Crate Training
Some dogs are afraid of their crate or have a difficult time adjusting to being inside. If you have a highly nervous dog that refuses to go into its crate no matter how many treats you place inside, it’s time to call a professional dog trainer for further assistance. Problems with crate training are common and there are several reasons dogs feel scared or timid when it comes to remaining inside of a crate.
Dogs that were once in an animal shelter usually have the most difficulty adjusting to being inside of a crate at home. Sometimes they have bad memories that induce fear and anxiety which causes them to refuse to go into the crate. If psychological issues are causing the problem, there’s a chance your dog will always refuse to go inside the crate because they attach it to a bad experience during their lifetime.
Chances are your dog might have experienced harsh treatment in a shelter that made them view their crate at the kennel as a negative experience. As a pet parent, you need to recognize your dog’s anxiety and address it with a professional dog trainer to see if a dog crate is in the best interest of your specific dog.
Alternatives to Crate Training
The length of time crate training your dog will take depends on your dog’s reaction, ability to be trained, and participation level. If your dog has serious issues during training and it becomes unbearable even when a dog trainer is involved, it’s best to seek out alternatives to crate training.
Popular alternative choices include dog gates, playpens, and doggy daycare. Dog gates allow you to enclose your dog in a specific room by blocking the doorway.
Dog gates are designed to act as a barrier to keep your dog safely inside a room while at the same time allowing your dog to see through the gate into the rest of the house. This option is good for dogs that can be trusted to be home alone and not destroy the furniture.
Playpens are a circled or octagon environment that creates a safe space for your pet to relax, play, sleep, and eat. The playpen can be set up indoors or outdoors and provides your dog with a safe area to play, sleep, and eat without having access to furniture.
If your dog tends to scratch its way out of enclosed spaces, make sure you place the playpen on a flat surface with tile flooring to prevent them from destroying your carpet, rugs, and wood flooring.
Doggy daycare might sound like an extreme measure as an alternative to a dog crate, but it’s an excellent option that provides socialization, safety, food, water, playtime, and exercise for your pet while you are at work.
Doggy daycares are so popular there’s a location in almost every city, town, or neighborhood. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a doggy daycare, choose one that is close to your work location for easy access.
Every dog is special and has its own issues. If your dog is truly having a difficult time adjusting to a crate, dog gate, playpen, and doggy daycare, you need to consider hiring a pet sitter or asking a relative who stays home all day to watch your dog. Sometimes this is the best option for dogs that have extreme anxiety when it comes to crates.
On the other hand, a large percentage of dogs grow to love their crate and consider it a place they can call their own. This means they don’t have to share their crate with any humans or other pets in the house while you still need to share your sofa and bed with them so they kind of get the better end of the deal.
Crates are safe for pets when used properly. Make sure you choose the right size and style that suits your dog’s needs the best. You need to find the perfect placement for the crate in your home and provide calm and peaceful training sessions to help your dog get familiar with their new crate.
Always consider your lifestyle when crating your dog. Sometimes you might need a few different styles to suit your needs.
For example, a wire crate for easy set up when you visit family and friends, a travel crate for flights, and a heavy-duty metal crate for large dogs that use their body weight to demolish and breakthrough their crate to escape. Your goal is to find the best one for your dog and help them feel calm and happy while in use!