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Kuranda Dog Beds - Rethinking dog beds
Kuranda Dog Beds
— December 4, 2012 —

To crate or not to crate.
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

Recently there was a post that went around from a well known animal rights organization. It concerned crating dogs and likened it to a prison.

First, let me say this. I have a crate in my house. I am involved in rescue and I have, more than once, had a dog in my house that had, “issues” of some sort. I have taken care of puppies and their over-protective mothers, I have had dog aggressive dogs visit as well as dogs that were not yet house trained. For all these reasons, the crate helps me to manage many different situations.

What some so-called animal rights advocates fail to realize is this. All dogs are not just like their dog. Not all dogs are super sweet, friendly, playful puppies for life. Some dogs are difficult. Some dogs are less social. We have to have options for taking care of these animals and providing for their security. Some dogs will require means and measures that the average dog doesn’t need.

We also have crates at our business. We cannot be a “cage-free” facility for a couple of reasons. One reason is that as a trainer, I tend to deal with “difficult” dogs pretty regularly. I need a way to keep ALL of the dogs safe while I work on training these dogs. Crates allow me to separate dogs that cannot be around other dogs or people for whatever reason. Another reason is that dogs need to rest. I can’t tell you how many dogs we have seen that would literally play themselves sick. In hot weather, dogs need to be rested and a kennel is the best way to ensure that they lay down and rest. We provide them water and a cool breeze so they can allow their body temperature to go down.

One argument against the crate is that if a dog likes the crate they only like it because they are too insecure to deal with the real world. Crating them has made them “under-socialized” and that is cruel in and of itself. This argument turns out to be strangely circular and the only thing that supports the argument is the argument itself. We watch throughout the day and the dogs at our house will go in and out of the crate as they please. We do have to close the door upon occasion to keep them in the crate and they are no more unhappy about it than if the door were open. Saying that my dogs only like the crate because they are too insecure to deal with the real world is simply not accurate. My dogs are my constant companion and I take them pretty much everywhere a dog is allowed.

As I write this, we have a senior dog, Gunnar, who is laying in a crate. The door is open and he is resting comfortably. He generally hangs out on the couch, but while we treat him for hypothyroid, he is feeling a little down and wants some space to himself. He chooses to lay in the kennel with the door open. He’s sleeping soundly and since he’s in the crate, the other dogs are leaving him alone. This raises a good point. Even in a perfect “cage free” world, dogs at the vet would have to be crated. They often have IV lines and would pull them out if they were allowed to roam free in a room. Training them to accept the crate is a good thing in the unfortunate situation where a dog needs to be admitted to veterinary hospital.

This is not to say that the crate is a immediate fix for every issue that a dog owner faces. In the coming weeks I’ll write about how to use a crate appropriately to help with some common behavioral issues. A crate can be helpful with separation anxiety, house training and aggression, just to name a few things. A crate is not a 24 hour a day dog-sitter. Dogs do need time out of the crate for exercise and enrichment, but it is not cruel, it is not unusual and it is not punishment.