There is an argument against the use of crates which states that it is abusive and cruel, but this idea stems from seeing crates used improperly which we will touch on in more detail later on.
There is a lot to this question that will require a bit of a deep dive into dog behavior and training which allows you to come to your own conclusion whether dogs like crates or not.
If you are still not convinced, you can get a crate for your dog and use positive reinforcement to see for yourself.
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Do Dogs Like Crates?
When crates are used properly with your dog, they are seen as a safe space that they can use to decompress and remove themselves.
Some dogs will retreat to their crate more than others especially if they are nervous by nature or are more independent and like to have time alone.
To better understand how dogs feel about dens and smaller spaces, can you remember ever bringing home a puppy for the first time?
They likely hid under the coffee table or sofa for the first few hours before they felt confident enough to crawl out into the open space.
This is an example of the dog seeking a small space to feel safe and secure which is similar to how they use the crate as an adult.
This does not mean that your dog’s crate is particularly small as the best ideal size for your crate should be big enough for them to stand up and turn around so that he can get comfortable.
However, you do not want a crate that is too big as your dog might see it as an opportunity to use one of the corners as a toilet, especially if they are a puppy and are still being house-trained.
Making your dog’s crate comfy with pillows, blankets, or a dog bed will make them much more willing to go into it because a hard, metal crate is not very tempting.
Having said this, a dog can rely too much on its crate and if you notice that your dog is in its crate a bit too much even when the door is wide open, you might have a bit of a problem.
If your dog is also refusing to drink, eat, or go outside then they might be in pain or are feeling ill which means you will need to take them to the vet as soon as you can.
When Dog Crates Are Not Used Properly
We have covered why dogs like crates, but if the crate is not used in the right way, it can turn sour quite quickly.
Some owners rely on the dog crate to keep their dog contained for hours and hours a day while they are at work, sometimes for up to 12 hours at a time.
It is said that you can crate your dog for up to eight hours a day, but that is still too long for a lot of dogs. Can you imagine being stuck in a crate for hours on end without anything to do and nowhere to go to the toilet?
It can lead to frustration because the dog has no stimulation and gets bored which can then lead to them being destructive to the crate or even themselves (see also ‘Why Your Dog Is Refusing To Leave Their Crate‘).
If a dog suffers from severe separation anxiety, they can sometimes cope by destroying doors, walls, and furniture as well as having accidents, so owners think that crating them is the best thing to do.
However, if a dog with severe separation anxiety is locked in a crate when the owners leave, not only will they associate the crate with anxiety, but they will also do whatever they can to get out of it.
This can lead to them hurting themselves by gnawing on the crate by breaking their teeth or gums. If they cannot get out of the crate, then they may turn to self-mutilation.
You cannot expect to fix your dog’s separation anxiety by putting them in a crate when you leave, instead, you must go through lots of training which can take months to get them to the point of feeling relaxed when you leave.
In more severe cases, you may also have to try antianxiety medication for your dog.
About four hours is more suitable for the maximum amount of time the dog can be left in a crate because they should be let out for a break to go to the restroom and for a quick walk if possible so that they are tired out and able to rest if they are put back in the crate again.
Some owners also don’t think of giving them any puzzle toys or kong to keep them busy in the crate. Puzzle toys are great for giving your dog the opportunity to use their problem-solving skills which will tire them out mentally.
Kongs are rubber toys that you can use to stuff treats into and put in the freezer, if your dog is especially food motivated then it will spend a good 30 to 45 minutes working its way through the kong.
If you use the dog crate to punish your dog, they will not associate it with positive feelings and experiences and will therefore want to avoid it.
For example, when your dog does something that you don’t want them to do, putting them straight into their crate might help prevent the behavior problem from happening again in the future, but they will quickly see the crate as a naughty step instead of a safe place.
Benefits Of Crate Training Your Dog
When the crate is used properly, there are a lot of benefits that both you and your dog will experience. One of these benefits is that you can have absolute peace of mind that your dog is safe and not getting into anything they shouldn’t be whilst you are out.
Using a crate also helps to house train your dog because they will not want to go to the restroom where they sleep.
As long as you establish a regular routine and do not force them to hold their bladder for long periods of time, then they will soon stop having accidents.
Having the ability to put your dog in a crate during busy times such as when there are a lot of guests around, children are running through the house, or the family is sitting down for a meal will help keep the environment calm.
Your dog will also know that when they are in their crate, it is time to relax and tune out the hustle and bustle that is going on around them.
Taking your dog on car trips, even if it is just to the vet will become much easier if they are comfortable going in a crate as it is much safer for them instead of being loose in the car.
How To Crate Train Your Dog
The first thing to do is to introduce your dog to the crate. The crate should be put in a room that is frequently used by the members of the household and make it nice and comfy with soft pillows and blankets.
Then, take the door of the crate off or leave it open as wide as possible and let your dog explore the crate on their own as they will naturally be a bit curious about the new addition.
If your dog is not interested in the crate or is avoiding it a bit, you can try enticing them over to it with tasty treats and positive attention.
Throw the treats just inside the door of the crate so that they have to poke their head in a bit to get to them before throwing them further and further in.
If they still refuse to go any further into the crate, do not force them and instead repeat the process with small treats or toys until they are comfortable which can take either minutes, hours, or days, depending on the dog.
The next step is to start feeding your dog in the crate so that they see it as a positive place where they get tasty meals. Your dog should be pretty comfortable with the crate now which means you can place their bowl at the back of the crate.
Once they are eating their meals happily in the crate, shut the door for a few seconds before opening it again.
Repeat this process and leave the door shut for longer periods but if your dog shows signs of distress by whining or pawing at the door, then it means you have increased the time too quickly and will need to decrease it.
This is a healthy foundation that you can use to start building up even longer periods of time with them inside the crate with no signs of anxiety.
You can give them a cue such as ‘crate’ for when you want them to go into their crate. To do this, toss a treat into the crate and give the cue as they go into the crate to eat it, repeat this until you don’t need to throw the treat in order for them to go in.
When they are in their crate, sit next to it quietly, and if they are not showing any distress, increase this distance until you are out of the room.
From there you can build it up until you can leave the house without them whining, barking, or pawing at the crate.
The most important thing is to be patient with your dog as it is a new experience for them which can be a bit scary, also remember to keep it positive and light, and you will reach your goal much sooner.
There are debates all over the internet on whether dogs like crates as some people think it is cruel and abusive but if the crate is used properly, they are not cruel and actually offer a lot of security for your dog.
A crate could be seen as a prison for your dog that is used when they are misbehaving and left in for hours and hours, that is when it becomes detrimental for your dog.
But if you use it to keep them safe and secure for short periods of time and still offer them lots of stimulation and fulfillment then every household should have one.
Just keep in mind that a crate should not only benefit you, it should also benefit the dog!