The Great Dog Crate Debate

I don't know if my dog has a denning instinct due to his distant cousin the wolf. What I do know is crate training is based on this denning instinct, and crate use in dogs is a controversial topic to trainers and animal lovers around the world.

You want to set off an argument in the dog owner community? Just start throwing out hot & spicy opinions about crate use and abuse. 

I recently stumbled upon this article called, "In the Dog House: When Does Crating Your Dog Become Pet Abuse" while reading about crate training (with regard to our new pup, Cannon). I was surprised to find out it is frowned upon in other areas of the world, and even illegal in some countries! Yikes, I had no idea so I dove a little deeper into the topic.

What I gathered is this: Crating dogs is mainly an American thing and it's only really become a widely practiced training method in the last few decades. Crate training and use isn't nearly as popular in other countries as it is in the United States.

I can remember, as a child, we had dogs and so did many members of our family, but no one had crates. It wasn't a dog training tool people used. But, now, it's considered an essential purchase for new pet owners. 

I think about my 11 year old dog, Leroy. When we adopted him at 10 months, we was new (straight off the streets) and we were new to being "grown-ups". We had just purchased a home and were ready to start our family with a "dog child". :)

We used a crate to help Leroy learn the rules of the house. The crate helped us become more comfortable in our dog training abilities (even though we both grew up with dogs, we had NO CLUE how to train one). But, as time went on, Leroy graduated from a closed crate, to an open crate, to no longer needing or wanting the crate.

He's 11 now, and I can't imagine him spending his days crated anymore. He knows the rules of our home and enjoys napping in various locations throughout the day. He also enjoys sniffing around the house, looking out the windows, and grabbing a drink of water at his leisure when he gets thirsty. 

We actually didn't end up using a crate to train Cannon. He picked up on our expectations from watching Coach Leroy. At night, we shut him in our laundry room until he was trusted to not cause a ruckus in the house in the wee hours of the morning. ;)

What I've observed is the debate in crate training usually doesn't center around the use of the crate for "training", but more frequently, the long term use of a locked crate for extended periods of time.

Almost all sources I checked addressed this issue of crate overuse.

Here are a few excerpts:

The Humane Society

"A crate may be your dog’s den, but just as you would not spend your entire life in one room of your home, your dog should not spend most of their time in their crate." 

WebMD Pets

"Crates can be easily misused. They’re best used as a relatively short-term management tool, not as a lifetime pattern of housing. Your goal should be to work on any behavior problems and train your dog so that it’s not necessary to crate her 8 to 10 hours every weekday throughout her life."

So, what's my conclusion from all my reading and researching?

Enclosing your dog in a crate while you are away or busy or housebreaking is a useful dog training tool, but long periods of crating are not intended to be a permanent solution to sharing a home with your dog.

Just as training wheels are a temporary tool to help a person learn to ride a bike, dog training crates are a tool to help dogs learn to behave in our homes with the goal of gradually increasing trust levels.

What are your opinions? Did you crate train? Do you still use a crate with your dog today? If so, how do you use it?

Evan & Team Cozy Cama

Cozy Cama produces durable + attractive + mid-century inspired pet furniture thoughtfully sized to fit human pillows. 

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1 comment

  • As a dog trainer, I do advocate the use of crates – but only in the short-term. Puppies in potty training are less likely to mess where they sleep, although that does NOT mean they can hold it for 8 hours! Older puppies who are teething or dogs with destructive separation anxiety can be kept safer when they’re kept from chewing (and accidentally swallowing) things they shouldn’t. But once they can be trusted to not potty/not eat inappropriate things they should be allowed to at least have a room to roam in.

    Moreover, when I adopted my dog at 9 months old, he was already 100% potty trained and exiting his chewy phase – but he’s VERY anxious in new spaces. So when we brought him home (and again when we moved) we crated him while we were away. Then, as he became more comfortable, we let him have a room, then later free-reign of the house. His anxiety often causes him to become overwhelmed and not think about where he’s going and what he’s doing; he’s done some pretty stupid/dangerous things because of it. His crating was not for training purposes, but for his safety.

    His crate is still set up in the bedroom and he often sleeps there, or hides there during a thunderstorm. I don’t know if it’s a denning instinct or not, but he thinks of it as a safe space.


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