Why is it OK for dogs to spend huge stretches of time penned up in crates?

I’m not a dog owner, but I have occasionally wondered about “crate training” where people pen dogs up in relatively small crates and expect them to stay there for hours on end. It seems borderline cruel to confine an active animal like this. Is this really good for the animal physically or mentally?

I’ve wondered this myself. Four hours in a crate seems cruel, but I know “animal lovers” who have no problem doing this to avoid a mess at home. They go home for lunch break to walk the dog, then, back in the crate.

Any good pet owner is going to get a crate that is big enough for the dog to stand up in and turn around. It’ll have a soft bed and in some cases, a bowl of water.

If you leave a puppy alone in a house for any length of time, the puppy is going to get in trouble. The puppy is going to eat something he shouldn’t. When you crate a puppy you’re not only protecting your personal property but you’re keeping your puppy from choking, strangling himself or electrocuting himself.

It is also said that dogs won’t eliminate where they sleep. If the puppy sleeps in his cage, he won’t eliminate there. If he is roaming around the house, he very well might eliminate anywhere. And you won’t find it until much later. It doesn’t help with housetraining if a dog can just go where and when he wants. If he’s unable to eliminate until you are able to take him out, then he learns to control his eliminations and he’s on a healthy schedule.

Since she’s been about 3, my dog is no longer in a cage when I leave. Also since she’s about 3, she sleeps maybe 12-16 hours a day, whether I’m here or not. She doesn’t need to be in a cage because she’s not going to go around “getting into scrapes” anymore. There’s a good chance that when I leave, she falls asleep in one spot and doesn’t wake up until I return. If I put her in a cage where she has a soft bed and can get up, stretch, turn around and lie back down…she would hardly even notice.

It is natural for a dog to have a den. After getting used to it, most dogs will go to their crate to sleep for hours even if you leave the door open.

Dogs actually love confined spaces. I crate trained my dog and she took to it right away, but now she doesn’t want anything to do with the crate anymore. But some dogs will continue to use their crate as a playarea or a fort after they’ve outgrown the need for it.

Secondly, as ZipperJJ says, dogs sleep a lot when their people aren’t around. Whether they take that nap on the floor or in their crate (which had a pillow, a blanket, a chew toy and a water bowl for my dog) is no big thing to them.

I have to agree with Astro. Crate training is good - my puppy sleeps in hers, and if I have to go out for a couple hours, she’ll be in her crate with a rawhide chewie. But during the day, while I’m at work, I’m gone 11-12 hours. Even though her crate is probably double the adequate size, she goes into the 30X40’ dog pen I have outside. There she has a large (12X12) building with a covered front porch and a soft dog bed. She can bark at the horses if they come up.

Too often, crating a dog becomes a family’s way of life. The dog gets out for 30-60 minutes in the morning, then back in his crate for 10 hours. Out for another couple hours at night, them back in for bed. Like putting a toy away in a toybox. Spending 21 hours a doy in a cell is no life for a dog.


I rarely shut my dogs into their crates, but they spend hours and hours of their free time sleeping in their open crates.

Short answer: dogs will sleep for hours on the couch anyway, so why not close them in where they can’t make trouble?

There are definitely limits. Crate training is wonderful for puppies and house training, but unless you have a dog that’s destructive or not house trained I do think it’s a bit short-sighted to lock them up all the time. Dog are active animals as you said- they just tend to be active in short bursts. If you are going to crate the dog while you’re at work and overnight, he needs to be taken outside daily for a couple hours of exercise at least to be a happy pup. Needless to say most dogs I know do NOT get a couple hours of hard exercise a day, and a lot of them spend a majority of their time crated…

I’ve seen too many situations like the ones described above to really be able to advocate crate training; too many people seem to see it as a way to avoid training their dogs.

Sure, some dogs like small enclosed places - but most don’t want to spend 20 hours a day in them. And truly, a well-trained, happy adult dog does not destroy a house if left alone. Puppies (like children) tend to get into things if not watched, and thus, I think it makes sense to have a kennel or a crate to put them in at night and when they’ll be alone. But an adult dog who can’t be left alone in a house for a few hours is simply not well trained or not well adjusted, and putting that poor dog in a crate might save your house but it’s not doing the dog any favors.

From my understanding, crate training is used for just that–**training. **Once a dog is potty trained and no longer has the urge to chew everything in sight, the crate can be left out with the door open, but there’s no reason to shut the dog in the crate anymore.

I once had three dogs and two crates, and we’d put them in a large section of the kitchen at night, with two open crates. Two of the dogs slept in one crate, and one–the lowest dog in the pack, the one we got last–slept in the second. That was their choice. During the day, we let them roam the house, and they were (usually) fine.

Because dogs have different physical and psychological needs than humans do. Like most carnivores, when left to their own devices they’re more prone to fairly short bursts of intense activity interspersed with lounging about than they are prolonged low-level activity. Provided they run off enough energy outside the crate and have something to stimulate them mentally while in the crate, they’re fine–like putting a kid in a car for a few hours with some coloring books and games.

My dogs’ schedule, even when I’m home to play with them, goes something like this:

7am: get up and go outside to pee, unless it’s cold or wet in which case they feign sleep until physically rousted.

7:15 am: demand to come back inside, check food bowls to see cat food has magically appeared. Mooch around getting butt scratches.

7:25 am: take a nap.

10:30 am: get up for a drink of water, shriek at mailman, harass cats, go nap on other dog’s bed

12:30 pm: potty break. Potter around in yard a bit if weather is nice, take nap in sunbeam.

2 pm: wrestle for 30 minutes, demand to be let out. Immediately realize they’d rather be in, vacuum kitchen floor for lunch crumbs

3pm: take a nap

4:30 pm: go outside to bark at leaves, wait for other human to come home, wrestle some more

6 pm: nap until dinner

I don’t crate them when I’m at work any more because they no longer get into trouble when unattended, but even if I did, it wouldn’t really impact their lives a lot. They’d have to shriek at the mailman from afar, they couldn’t harass the cats, and they’d have to hold off the wrestling matches till I came home at lunch or in the evening. That’s pretty much it.

I’ve never understood people who think it’s cruel to keep a dog outside, when they themselves crate them almost the whole day - and it does seem to be people who crate them the wrong way who have the biggest issues about other people’s dogs being outside, so figure. Our dogs were outside dogs spring-fall, and besides insulated dog houses filled with hay and blankets, they had 50’ of study but lightweight run so they could do their thing without being hit by cars (the older dog got loose once as a puppy and immediately hit by a car, so they weren’t allowed unsupervised run of the yard ever after that) and that’s more cruel than shutting them up in a 6’x4’ crate all day? The dogs hated being inside all winter, but it was too cold to leave them out once they got past the dog equivelent of middle-age.

Because they’re dogs. Torturing an animal is cruel - treating them differently than you would a human is not.

Dogs enjoy having a den of their own, a safe spot to retreat for most of the day. People do abuse crates, yes. However, a dog can be happier and more secure if a crate is used properly. When my parents had indoor dogs, they had three crates, and the dogs would often just hang out in the crates with the doors open.

I have a couple of open cat carriers around the house, and the cats enjoy having a small enclosed den to retreat into. One cat in particular goes to the crate he regards as his when he wants to nap or just relax for a bit. The carriers each have an old towel in them, so that the cats have a comfy place to lie down, and the cats generally just regard the carriers as great places to watch the household activities. Dogs do about the same thing.

I am a huge advocate of crating, but not for the 20 hours or so I’ve seen mentioned in this thread. A few hours? No problem. Especially when housetraining, or with a puppy who can get into trouble in the blink of an eye.

Having said that, our puppy is rarely in his crate. I’m fortunate to not be working right now (which I why I chose right now to get a new puppy) and the (few) times we both have to be gone, we keep his crate time to 3 hours or less. I’ll have a job eventually, but I’m hoping by then he can be trusted to be free in the house. He sleeps in bed with us and has never had an accident at night, even before I considered him to be fully housetrained. It was like he knew our bed was his bed and didn’t mess it.

Our adult dogs were never crated outside of puppyhood, but they could be trusted not to go potty inside or chew things to bits.

No, of course “crate training” and sticking your dog in a crate for 20 hours a day are not the same thing.

In addition to the comments above about den instinct, etc., crate training also comes in handy for travel. Wherever you go, the crate is a familiar place with doggy’s bed and toys, and she’s happy to be in it.

Also convenient for an ill or injured dog. Being in the crate helps keep them calm and quiet, both good if their movement needs to be limited. We crate our dogs when we bring them home after surgery, until the anesthetic wears off completely.

Or maybe something has come up where you need to confine the dog briefly, to clean up a mess, let in a visitor, carry something heavy through the house, whatever. If the dog is used to the crate, she goes in without a fuss.

We have separate folding crates for our two springer spaniels, but they are also both perfectly happy to go into the same one. I don’t get it – it seems crowded – but they seem to like it. We prefer the open-style wire crates rather than the dark plastic ones – more visibility. You can always cover it with a blanket or towel if, say, the dog is ill and needs a bit more peace and quiet, or warmth.

We generally keep one crate in the living room and one in the bedroom. Only one of them tends to need regular crating: if we’re gone for a few hours and don’t put the dogs in the outdoor kennel, because she has an unpredictable chewing habit, and at night for the same reason. But she gets exercised right before and after going in the crate, and she gets snuggle time on the bed in the morning before her morning constitutional. And she usually gets a biscuit when she goes in.

Nothing new really to add except to repeat that dogs are den animals and if you pay attention, most dogs sleep almost as much during the day as cats do. We have seven dogs, and although I would trust most of them in the house when we are gone, that is too many to let loose in the house. Three of our dogs are left outside of a crate all day, an additional dog gets crated when we are at work and the rest are crated during work and overnight.

I do think one of the dogs does not get enough exercise- it’s my partner’s heeler, he’s a neurotic, hyper mess that cannot be trusted not to eat my cats, so a crate is a neccessity. But he probably could get a little more exercise than he does. The other three dogs that are crated more than the old house dogs are working dogs and they seem happy to have a quiet place to chill. Jet, my most energetic worker, sleeps more than any dog in the house, even the two 15 year olds are more active LOL.

They go willingly into their crates from a very early age, often go in when the door is open and are well adjusted, trained good dogs. I hope to go back to work next month, and I do hope for a more reasonable schedule so they don’t have to spend more than 8 hours in a crate while we are both working (former schedule was 10 plus hours on two days a week). Right now, I’m home most of the time, so the significant crating is nighttime.

Both of my girls do this. They know that their crate is where their bed and blankies are. When we are gone, it is a safe place for them to be. If there is a fire, the alarm company knows their crate locations and know to notify the fire department.

It’s cruel to make them stay there for hours and hours and to only let them out to eat and eliminate. When we are home, they aren’t made to stay in it, but sometimes they go sleep there anyway. And when the vacuum comes out, they run to their safe crate.

I don’t know that my dog’s crate door has been shut for a year. But he spends hours each day in there.

Given a choice, generally he will choose the couch, or the room his people are in. But he doesn’t take stairs so he can’t sleep in our bedroom (hip dysplasia) - and he often chooses his crate for hours - particularly during the day when the house is cold, but his crate is cozy (its a wire crate, but we have it draped with a sheet).

We never leave him in for more than about eight hours. When he was confined as a puppy/young dog we had a dog walker come mid-day to let him out so he could drink or potty and get a walk in - though honestly he was fine without it after he was five or six months (i.e. he didn’t run to the door to need to potty or run to get a drink when let out if the dogwalker couldn’t show.)

I see crates as a safe alternative to roaming free in the house.

I was a caretaker for my sister’s basset hound, who is kind of an idiot. Left to her own devices, she would chew electrical wires, eat CDs, knock down barriers, jump on the furniture or run up and down the stairs (which she wasn’t supposed to do because of a leg injury), poop someplace, counter-surf and generally cause problems. She could not be loose in the house.

In season, we left her outside all day to romp in the backyard and to sun herself. However, in long Iowa winters, we just had to keep her in the crate when we weren’t home.

I don’t live with the basset anymore, but they still use the crate. Realistically, when the basset gets out of the crate, she’s excited for about 30 seconds, goes outside to sniff around for a few minutes, then goes to her “outside the crate” bed (in the corner of the living room) instead of her “inside the crate” bed and sits there for hours sleeping or quietly chewing a toy. There’s no real difference except that she can’t get herself hurt by doing something boneheaded.

I’m really glad we crate trained early because she ended up having leg surgery and she was not supposed to be able to walk around. We had her crate in the living room and I would sit next to her as much as I could, and it was still hard, but I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if she was used to roaming free all of the time. She was confined for a month and could not leave except to go to the bathroom, and she had to be carried for that. Definitely rough for the poor old dog but she was a trooper (of course, we bribed her with lots of new toys and rawhides) as long as she was “where the action is”.

My dog is crated during the day when i am at work - about 7 hours. We have tried to leave him “out” in the house, but he gets nervous and scared and last time had diarrhea from the nerves.

He is genuinely happier if he crate him when we are out.