I posed the question earlier this week: Is crating ok?
First a definition, just so we’re all on the same page.
By crate I mean an enclosure that’s large enough for a dog to stand up in and turn around but not large enough for him to take a stroll in or do a cha-cha. Usually made partially or totally of wire, they’re sometimes called pens or indoor kennels. Travel crates — also called carriers — are smaller, and serve a different purpose. I’ve never had a problem with the idea of using a crate to keep a dog safe in a car or on a plane (where they’re required), as long as the dog is acclimated to it beforehand.
But in general…
1) Crates seem unnatural
Calling it a crate doesn’t change the fact that we’re talking about a cage: an enclosure that doesn’t open (those things that do… they’re called dog houses).
I know, dogs don’t live in crates permanently like zoo animals. But that doesn’t make their incarceration any more natural. Here’s what PETA says about crating:
Crating… deprives dogs of the opportunity to fulfill some of their most basic needs, such as the freedom to walk around, the chance to relieve themselves, and the comfort of stretching out to relax. Crating began as a convenience for people who participate in “dog shows” to keep their dogs clean, but they did not take into account their dogs’ social, physical, and psychological requirements. … Forcing dogs to spend extended periods of time confined and isolated simply to accommodate their guardians’ schedule is unacceptable.
Read the rest of the article here.
2) The crate = den analogy is bogus
People who defend the use of crates love to compare them with wolf dens, lupine safe havens. But many of these same defenders critique Cesar Millan’s domination training methods, which, they say, are based on an inaccurate conflation of wolves with dogs and inaccurate depictions of actual wolf behavior. Why should the wolf den = dog crate analogy get a pass?
Even if you accept the premise that dogs are wolves, there’s still an essential problem. Wolves weren’t locked into their dens, even for brief periods. If danger lurked, they could escape.
But if the wolf den analogy is bogus, there is one that makes more sense. The wolves that became dogs sought out human encampments for protection as well as for food. So instead of a den, why not compare a crate with a crib or a playpen, enclosures that keep our young charges safe. And also keep them from destroying stuff.
3) Almost all tools for modern interactions with dogs are unnatural
Collars, leashes, car seats… pretty much everything contemporary humans use to deal with dogs is unnatural. And can be abused (think shock collars or chains that keep dogs tethered outside all day). Good dog owners seek to minimize discomfort while maximizing dog-human communication.
4) Crates can be a good training tool
Several of my Twitter pals sent me information about the advantages of crate training, especially @Keeping_Awake, who only describes herself as “A girl and her dog.” She particularly recommended Patricia McConnell’s For the Love of A Dog as offering a wonderful primer on properly introducing a crate as soon as you bring a pup home. And trainer Leslie Fisher (@LookWhatLabs) provided me with an excellent article on the topic by writer and training guru Pat Miller. I found a link to a version of the piece, called “Crate Training Made Easy,” in one of my favorite publications, the Whole Dog Journal.
5) What’s wrong with a little convenience, particularly when…
Athough crates are rarely used in Europe — or at least in Denmark — according to another Twitter pal, @Kenzo_HW, those randy Danes do have a use for them. Kenzo sent me a link that suggests a crate might be helpful when a couple is attempting to make love. (At least I think that’s what the article says; it’s in Danish, but “sexliv” seems like a good hint.)
I do know that dogs can be lust busters, whether because they think your partner is trying to harm you or because they think you’re playing and they want to play too. So a crate is appropriate if you can’t keep a dog out of your bed during intimate moments in any other fashion.