Crate Confinement – Steven R Lindsay


Although a crate can be a useful training tool, it is too often used as an alternative to proper training and may become a way of life for problem dogs – a steel straightjacket!”

The use of crate confinement should always signify that some active and purposeful training is being accomplished by its implementation and, further, a plan is in place to ensure that the dog is eventually released from such close quarters – a philosophy of crate confinement referred to as constructive confinement. Admittedly, some dogs, appear to adjust well to life in a crate, and, in other cases, it is justified as a means to control an ongoing behavior problem, especially in cases involving destructive behavior or house-training difficulties.  In general, though, a crate should not be used in a cavalier manner or employed for everyday confinement without good reason. Dogs need daily attention. They thrive on the variety and stimulation provided by social contact, long walks, and structured activities like obedience training and ball play. Dogs are first and foremost social animals whose primary identity is experienced in their immediate social relations and cooperative activities. If they need to be left alone for long periods during the day, then efforts should be made to ensure that they obtain sufficient social attentions, exercise and environmental stimulation when the family returns home from work or school. The combination of crate confinement and neglect may adversely affect the bond between the owner and the dog. Patronek and colleagues (1996) found that dogs confined to crates were at an increased risk of relinquishment to animal shelters.

Thousands of family dogs spend 10- 18 hours or more every day confined to wire or plastic cages. Paradoxically, the daily tedium and loneliness of crate confinement may cause dogs to gradually acquire a dependency on such restrain, an outcome that their owners may wrongly interpret as a sign of positive adjustment to crate confinement. Such dogs may become bizarrely aroused with evident distress (pacing and panting) when they are let out of their crates alone or when access to them is prevented. Consequently, when dogs that had been previously confined to a crate are permitted to move about the house, instead of relaxing and quietly enjoying their new liberty, they may instead become highly active and exploratory, perhaps becoming destructive or eliminate, even though they do not soil the crate. Likewise, after months of crate confinement at night in a kitchen or worse in a basement, access to the bedroom to sleep may result in restlessness and an inability to sleep. Some of these dogs may even rub against walls and
furniture, seeming to seek the contract comfort of crate walls. These signs of distress and disorientation continue until the dog is put back into its crate, thereby confirming the owner’s belief that the dog likes its crate. Finally, although crate confinement may prevent some destructive behavior and elimination problems, its benefits may be offset by many untoward side effects associated with excessive isolation of the dog from family members and the home environment.

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