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We first need to define what is a “crate.” It varies from plastic airline shipping crates to wire “fabric” on a collapsible, rigid frame; and collapsible, metal pens or kennels of various sizes. These crates or areas of confinement can cost $42 to $230 or more, depending on their size and type of construction and are available from pet supply companies, such as PetCo or PetSmart.

Using a crate wisely over the short term to aid in the training of your puppy or dog can be helpful in teaching a new dog to not defecate or urinate while confined to their crate and can eliminate damage to the home’s interior while the owner is away for short periods or overnight.

The Humane Society of Utah would prefer that dogs not be left at home alone and are housebroken so that inside “accidents” don’t occur. This eliminates the need for the use of a crate at all. If you purchase or adopt a dog and have to lock it up for long periods of the day and only take it out for a portion of the day during which it can eliminate and spend limited time with you, you may want to reconsider if this is the right time to include a dog in your life/household.

If a new puppy is brought into the home, a crate can assist in housebreaking if the puppy is taken outside to do its “business” before bedtime, is placed in its crate overnight, and is taken out into the yard first thing in the morning to again take care of its needs. A puppy normally has bowl movements after waking up, after eating or drinking, and after playing. Canines usually don’t like to soil in the area where they sleep. It is unreasonable to expect puppies or adult dogs to hold their need for elimination for overly-long periods of time without suffering from physical and emotional discomfort.

Keeping a dog in a crate while the owner is away from the home or overnight can help to prevent destructive behaviors from developing such as chewing on shoes, furniture, etc. or damaging blinds, curtains, drapes, and other household items. Three to four hours is generally the norm, while longer periods may be practical with older, housebroken dogs. If the owner works and leaves the dog crated for 8-10 hours during the work day and then again overnight, an animal could be crated for a total period of up to 15-18 hours a day! This would be inexcusable and not a humane life for any dog.

ASPCA guidelines state that a 8-10 week old puppy should only be crated from 30-60 minutes; an 11-14 week old from 1-3 hours; a 15-16 week old from 3-4 hours; and a 17+ week old from 4-5 hours maximum. On average, puppies can only control their bladders for about one hour for every month of age. Try to give your dog a mid-day break for elimination and exercise.

Some people and organizations believe that crating is inhumane. It depends on how the crate is used. If the dog is left for long periods without periodic breaks to take care of its elimination needs and exercise, or if the crate is not large enough to allow the dog to make normal postural movement, i.e.: sit up, lay down, turn around, etc., the crate’s use could be considered inhumane. If the crate is too large, it may allow enough room for the animal to feel unhindered in urinating/defecating. On the other hand, if the crate is of an adequate size and the animal isn’t confined for uncomfortable periods of time, a crate can be of use during reasonable periods of time and humane training.

A proper crate can provide a place of retreat, safety and rest, especially if provided with a pad or other bedding and possibly a toy on which to chew. Let the animal learn to think of its crate as a place of comfort and its “special” place away from other home-related activities or visitors, such as strangers, young children or other animal visitors. It shouldn’t be trained to think that its crate is a place of punishment.

Some animal activist organizations argue that crating can cause dogs “to develop mental health problems, including separation anxiety, hyperactivity, shyness, aggression, and obsessivecompulsive disorders like constant chewing and licking.” They recommend that instead of a crate, owners not leave their dogs alone (dog walking, doggie day care service) or that they confine them to a pet-safe room with a baby gate, rather than locking them in a crate.

Don’t crate your puppy or dog if they’re too young to have sufficient bowl or bladder control for the time of confinement; if they have diarrhea; if they are sick or vomiting; if you are going to be gone for longer periods than are provided for in the above guidelines; if the dog or puppy hasn’t eliminated before being crated; if the ambient temperature is too hot or too cold; and if the animal has not had sufficient exercise, socialization and companionship.

Puppies and adult dog should be an integral member of your family, not a prisoner in your home. When possible, leave the crate’s door open when the puppy or dog isn’t being confined so the dog can enter and leave the crate if they so desire.

The Humane Society of Utah
4242 South 300 West / PO Box 573659
Murray, Utah 84107 / 84157-3659
(801) 261-2919, Extension 210