When should I stop crating my dog?

So frequently we hear people say:

“We stopped crating our dog. He (or she) doesn’t make a mess in the house and they’re totally potty trained. We don’t need a crate anymore.”

Typically, people who say this are also trying to resolve some stress out of their dogs life...stress which in many cases has led to unwanted behavior.

There are several reasons building and maintaining the skill of crate training is really important for dogs.

For example, crate training is super helpful if your dog ever needs vet care or grooming care that requires they are crated, or, if they receive an injury or illness that requires rest for a period of time (which in some cases can be weeks or months - trust me, I’ve been through a spleen removal and 2 TPLO surgeries recently with my dog and crate training was a saving grace for his recovery!). If your dog isn’t used to being crated, this will dramatically increase stress on them during a time of illness or recovery which can not only hinder the process but potentially lead to further injury.

But, just as far as every day life with our dogs go, the crate is an underused and undervalued resource for dog owners in our society. We see it all the time. So many people struggle with feelings of guilt around crating their dog. And, I get it, trust me. I want to be hanging and having fun with my dogs 24/7. But that’s not realistic. So, I make the time I spend with my dog count. We do fun shit that they LOVE, activities and games that make their heart soar, sports that challenge them physically and mentally.

What I want for my dogs more than anything, is that they feel emotionally, mentally, and physically safe at all times. When I’m not home or available to watch them, they are crated.

Dogs tend to feel obligated to keep busy if they have the opportunity. If they have the freedom to go bark at the dog passing by the house, mail carrier coming to the door, or any other sight or sound that may catch their attention on a daily basis...well that’s a lot of work to do! For a lot of hours!

And for many dogs the stress of that is too much. It leads to increased anxiety, frustration, potentially aggression, and a dog that overall, could be A LOT happier, more confident, and calmer... IF they didn’t have so much responsibility on their shoulders.

It’s time to shift the perspective on crating your dog. If you feel guilty about it, here are some things we recommend.

1) Make sure your dog is in an appropriately sized crate. It should be big enough for them to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down.

2) Your dog should willingly enter their crate for you and it should not be a punishment. We have a great video on crate games on our YouTube channel.

3) Be sure to provide regular structured outlets for your dogs energy and biological needs as a dog. Walks alone don’t cut it. Structured tug, retrieving, scent work, & agility are a few examples of activities you can learn about challenging yourself and your dog with that will satisfy their natural drives.

4) if you need help with a dog that is a challenge to crate train, get professional help from a trainer you are comfortable with. Ask them about their success with issues like the ones you are having.

5) Get involved with a local dog sport or club to learn about appropriate outlets for your dog.

“Crating your dog routinely provides a safe space for them. They understand it is an opportunity to take a break from the world. Nothing can come in, and they don’t have to worry about taking care of anything on the outside.”