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To crate or not to crate... that is the question

This is a divisive issue among many dog people. My hope here is to provide information so that you may most effectively make your own, informed decision.

I, personally, do not crate my dogs. Why? First, I like big dogs and putting big dogs in crates to me seems especially cruel. In my opinion, it is far better to put a dog in a room where it is not able to do much damage until you can safely allow him or her to free roam the home. And I don't mean to lock the dog in a tiny bathroom, either. When we first adopted Daisy Duke, a 75 pound, 2 1/2 year old Pyr mix, we would leave her on the enclosed sun porch where there wasn't furniture to destroy. We invested in Kong toys to keep her entertained and hired a dog walker to break up her day while we were at work.

That said, since starting rescue, and often having many dogs at once (and plenty who are puppies), there is a benefit to crating a dog, at least in the beginning of him or her being in your home. Crate training can be an extremely effective tool in helping to housebreak a dog. Rule of thumb is the crate should be larger than the dog to give it room to move around, but small enough that it discourages peeing and pooping in the crate without being right on top of its own waste. For younger dogs, as well, it can help to keep them safe while you are out and leave them alone. A dog can easily and quickly get into mischief on its own. We have had several sofas eaten, ourselves.

Here is my issue with crates, however: far too many people use them out of laziness or as a punishment. I have seen many people use a crate, even if they are home, because they belief their dog can't be left unsupervised while they are in another room. If your dog can't be left unsupervised for a few minutes, then you are not being a responsible owner. Rather than crating a dog, there is another method called umbilical training where you wear a leash around your waste and the dog is tethered to you.

Do we have crates in our home? Yes. As I said, we rescue dogs. We don't let dogs freely roam at night until we know we can trust them. We have also had a couple of more challenging dogs who have had to be crated until they could get used to being in our environment. This was for their own safety as well as the safety of others. In general, we leave crates open with beds or blankets inside and some dogs do like to chill out in them for a nap during the day. (Most prefer to be on the sofa... but that's another story.) However crating a dog should not be over used. Sure, crate your dog for sleep. Crate your dog when you go out to work and while you are figuring out if you can trust him not to destroy your home in your absence. However, you should not be crating your dog for hours on end while you're home unless you want to create an overly neurotic, undersocialized dog.

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