Lyudmyla believes in a dog's quality of life over owner convenience.
Raising a Puppy With or Without a Cate
First of all, let me clarify—I am not against crating, and do not believe crates are horrible. In fact, my Rottweiler was raised with a crate in the house, and still has one. Occasionally, she uses it to take a nap. At the same time, I do believe that crate training is often used for the convenience of humans, and not for the best interest of the dog, and one has to be careful not to cross the boundary into overusing this training tool.
Crate Training Myths
"Dogs are like wolves, wolves live in dens, it's their nature."
Really? Wolves spend 16 hours a day in a den? Yes, it is like a den, but let's educate ourselves on whether or not wolves live in dens past few weeks of age in puppyhood. If your defense is "it's like a den" for keeping a 6-month-old pup in a crate for 16 hours a day, then you need to realize that you are basing your reasoning on a misconception. And if you are planning to keep your pup crated at night for 8 hours, and then add another 8 hours during the day while you work (and let's face it, small breaks are just that—small breaks), then what kind of quality of life are you providing to your beloved pet?
"It's for their own safety."
This is not much better. If I take on responsibility for a dog, keeping them crated "for their own safety" doesn't seem to make sense. Staying caged might keep them out of chewing on electric cords, but should we be a tiny bit concerned with their general happiness? Shouldn't keeping them safe involve a bit of work on our part, something that goes beyond closing the latch on the crate?
"My dog loves her crate!"
Well, very well may be, that your dog learned to love the treat they get in the crate when you leave for work. They might have all the positive associations with it - and will even take a rest there out of their own choice during the day. But do you think they would benefit more from interaction with a human being or another dog 8 hours a day, instead of staring at 4 walls? Being social, pack creatures (since we all love the connection with nature argument) dogs would much prefer having a busy day doing things with others, and "will love their den" only if they don't know any better. What choice do they have?
Should You Ever Be Using a Crate While Raising a Puppy?
- Nighttime—when the pup is very young. Young puppies are prone to get in trouble. It is our job during the day to teach them how to control their impulses. It is our job to teach them what they can and cannot chew on. It is impossible to instill these lessons if the pup is always crated, and we are always too busy to deal with a restless 3 months old pet. It is a full-time job with sleepless nights Nighttime is different, since both, people and pets need their sleep, and we can't supervise occasional waking up of a young puppy.
- Naps. When your pup is ready for a nap, there is nothing wrong for that nap to be arranged in a crate. It allows you to have an hour, and sometimes even two, to do what needs to be done around the house.
- Short outings (1-2 hours). When the puppy is still young, I would try to avoid leaving a him home alone alone in a crate, unless they had a very busy exhausting morning, and you are certain that they will be sleeping for a while. If I had to leave, I would do my best to plan ahead, and tire them out beforehand.
- Three strikes—you are out. This last one fixed our pup's fascination with the comforter and laundry. Each time we'd be making the bed or folding laundry, she would jump on the comforter, or make a fuss over laundry pieces, and chew and bite, and get overly excited about the whole ordeal. We'd always say "no biting", redirect with a toy, and praise when she would grab onto her doggy toy. If this process had to be repeated three times in a row - we'd crate her until she quieted down (usually, no more than 2-5 minutes), and then let her out back into the bedroom. She caught on really quickly that biting our things meant isolation, and by the time she was 4 months old, you could go about your daily chores with a young Rottweiler pup chewing on her toys right by your side.
- Keeping multiple dogs safe. If you have more than one dog, and if your dogs do not share treats and food well, it is wise to give them their own space away from each other while feeding or providing a special treat, like a stuffed kong or a bully stick.
- Illness. Self-explanatory. After surgeries, or past certain traumas a dog might be required to stay in a crate.
- Emergencies. Things happen. Not everyday things, but outstanding, out of the ordinary things, and your pup might have to spend more time in a crate than usual for a day or two.
How Does One Raise a Puppy Without Overusing a Crate?
- What to do with a silly pup that won't calm down? Take her outside. Throw a ball with her. Take her for a walk. Give her a chewy treat that will keep her busy. Spend time with her. Train! Short training sessions provide mental exercise for the dogs, and tire them out in a healthy, productive way. This is the work they are talking about when they say "raising a dog takes a lot of time and effort."
- What to do if you work full time? Separate a puppy-proof room (kitchen?) with baby gates, leave safe toys and long lasting treats for your pup to play with while you are gone. Arrange for doggy daycare. Find out if one of your relatives will look after your pup during the day. Hire a dog sitter. It's a bill you must be willing to take on, if you want to provide a good quality of life for your new pet.
- How do you make sure they are safe and don't destroy things? You don't let your pup out of your sight, until they know how to behave on their own. As simple as that.
Is It Easy to Raise a Puppy Without a Crate?
Are these things easy to do? No, they are not. It's a job. It's work. It's an effort. You will be tired, and your finances will be affected. In the end you will be rewarded with a pet who didn't just "love their crate", but lived 8 hours of every day interacting with the outside world. This may sound harsh and judgmental to some, but in humble opinion, this is what it takes to provide a quality life to a new pet dog. This is what new dog owners should be prepared to deal with. Crate is just a training tool, not a solution to every puppy problem.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Amy Bord on June 28, 2020:
Thanks for the article. I have never understood the obsession with crates. Ive raised 3 well-adjusted puppies without a crate!!!
Melissa on May 09, 2020:
I agree 100%. I have an 11 month old Lab/Rottweiler mix. He’s never been crated and never chewed up anything he’s not supposed too. We provide him with lots of puppy appropriate chew toys, playtime and walks. He’s an awesome dog!
Katharina on November 22, 2019:
Finally!! Thank you so much for your wonderful post! As we’re about to bring our new puppy home next week, I was desperately looking for some humane advice about how to make nights work without a crate. It just feels not right and looks even more disturbing to me. Thank you for speaking up! Found some great resonance within. Great article! Namaste
yolo on April 21, 2014:
i love this
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 11, 2012:
Most of our dogs were raised without crates but one of our last ones...a rescued dog...did so much damage when we would be gone that we resorted to buying a crate and only put her in it when we left the house, immediately letting her out again when we would return. By choice, with the door open, she would often take naps there. Also, when she had outgrown the chewing and we removed the crate, everytime she thought that we were leaving the house...that is the area in which she would go.
I found this hub informative. One can easily tell that you are an animal lover just as we are. Thanks! Up and useful votes.
Lyudmyla Hoffman (author) from United States on July 09, 2011:
Joanne, I guess it depends on how many hours a day you work. Everyone is certainly free to make a choice for themselves, but my hope with this article is that people will at least begin to consider that it is not the best choice for the dog, despite the fact that it might be extremely convenient for the humans.
Joanne on July 09, 2011:
Before we could afford to buy a crate for our puppy. My husband built a crate, with wood frame and wire. We only used it for our dog while we were at work. Otherwise, we raise our dog without a crate. He did just fine.
Lyudmyla Hoffman (author) from United States on June 13, 2011:
Thanks Jenn for commenting. I have to admit, no matter where I bring it up, my opinion seems very unpopular. At the same time, whenever I hear someone just got their first pup and they say "but I feel bad leaving them in a crate," their conscience is allowed to "rest" by everyone around insisting how it is necessary to lock the pups, and even adult dogs, in four walls for 8 hours a day, and how the dogs looooove the crates, and how natural it is. Thanks for making me feel like I'm not alone.
Jenn~n~Luke on June 13, 2011:
I agree one hundred percent. The crate has become a method of a person's lack of wanting to put in any effort with their pup. So often we see the same thing...once the initial cuteness and newness of the new pup wears off, the reality of the REAL work and effort required to raise a healthy, happy and stable dog kicks in. Then the crate becomes what the tv became to a new generation of parents. Something to stick them in or in front of, so we don't have to "deal with it right now".
I have raised dogs since I was a young child. Since I can remember, my mother brought home animals constantly, of every breed, species and sex immaginable. It was always up to ME to do the work, to do the training. And guess what? Not one of those dogs over the years had a crate. And not one, made mistakes in the house after a certain age...not one destroyed everything in it's path while we were out. I have a breed that is often reccommended for crate training because they are prone to being so destructive. Even as adults. A lot of this has to do with the severe seperation anxiety they suffer. My boy was totally potty trained at nine weeks (thanks to the breeder, I can't take credit for that lol) and although I had bought a crate, he has slept with me and been literally attatched to my hip since that day over a year & a half ago. I admit, I got lucky with Luke in MANY ways. He's never been destructive, and despite the incredibly intense bond we have together, he is fine being left alone for a few hours when I need to leave...without a crate. People told me it was impossible. I heard snide remarks about how I was letting him dominate me by refusing to go in the crate after he reached six months old...etc. I just knew my dog, and knew what was best for him...and once he realized that he HATED the crate, because it was a physical barrier between him and I...no amount of trickery, force or bribery was going to work. So, crating is NOT the be all and end all of puppy raising. It can be a great help, and yes, there are situations where it erally is needed. But with proper supervision time, understanding how to raise a pup right...it can be done successfully with no problems.