Can You Raise a Puppy Without a Crate?
The philosophy behind raising a puppy with or without a crate.
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.
I disagree with...
- "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 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 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.
So, 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.