The Great Dog Crate Training Debate

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The recent publication of a book titled Dogs Hate Crates: How Abusive Crate Training Hurts Dogs, Families & Society by Ray and Emma Lincoln* has reignited the debate over whether crates are cruel or helpful. The jacket copy states:

“… although “crate training” is proven to cause hundreds of physical, emotional and social problems and is a poor method for behavior and housetraining, many dog industry ‘experts’, motivated by $50 Billion in greed, are attempting to persuade America that ‘dogs love crates’.

Free of emotional bias, Dogs Hate Crates details scientific and neurologic research, expert opinions and true case studies to demonstrate hundreds of serious symptoms caused by excessive crating, ranging from fear to dislike of humans.”

I have not read the book, so I’ll reserve judgment on it specifically. I do, however, strenuously disagree with the premise that dogs don’t love their crates, knowing from personal experience that the opposite is true. I admit I’m also somewhat offended at the suggestion that trainers like myself are motivated by greed.

Like any tool, crates can be misused, resulting in negative physical and psychological effects. Crates are not a substitute for proper manners training, nor should they be used as punishment for a dog – using the crate for a time-out, by calmly placing the dog in the crate and closing the door, is different.

Crates can also be used appropriately and effectively. Dogs feel safe in the enclosed space of a crate. Think about it: when your dog is scared in a thunderstorm, where does she go? Probably under a table, or under the bed. The crate has a similar calming effect.

Dogs who would otherwise feel the need to defend the house or who tend to be destructive out of boredom when left home alone often suffer from a sort of hyper-vigilance, which is reduced by crating. Since they can’t engage in the behavior, they simply don’t worry about it. Even well-behaved dogs benefit from not having to feel responsible for the house. Interactive toys like a treat filled KONG can be used to keep the dog occupied for part of the day – after which he will probably take a well-earned nap.

By all means, do your own research and draw your own conclusions. Make an informed decision about whether or not to use a crate.

*Actually a “revised version” of a 2011 book called Caged Love.

NR Tomasheski is a dog trainer who spent seven years as co-owner of a canine daycare, boarding, and grooming facility in Sherman Oaks, California. She has competed with her own dogs in agility, obedience, and rally.

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