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A crate is a cage is a prison
No matter what a pet shop owner or dog trainer might say, a dog crate is just a cage. Imprisoning animals for hours on end is cruel—and is no substitute for comprehensive dog training.
What if, at your local pet-supply store, you could purchase a dog-training tool that would make your dog weaker, klutzier and less intelligent? And what if this tool increased your dog's frustration and fearfulness about the world and made him or her less likely to bond with you? Would you buy it? Of course not! Yet, millions of these "tools" are sold every year to unsuspecting dog lovers who want the absolute best for their dogs. The tool is a "crate," which is just a euphemism for a cage. In fact, dog crates are even smaller than most cages that are used to house dogs in laboratories.
In their new book Dogs Hate Crates: How Abusive Crate Training Hurts Dogs, Families & Society, Ray and Emma Lincoln discuss in detail the detrimental effects of crating on dogs' well-being. They explain how the crating trend got started, what continues to fuel it, why it's so harmful and what the alternatives to crating are. The authors are experienced dog trainers and behavior specialists who found that they were spending much of their training time trying to undo psychological and behavioral symptoms caused by crating.
Shockingly, it is now commonplace for people who use crates to keep their dogs in them for upwards of 18 hours per day, according to the authors: nine hours while the owner is at work (including a commute), another eight hours at night, any hours during which no one is home in the evening and on the weekend and any time that company comes over or the dog is simply "underfoot."
Pro-crate advocates will say, "Yes, but a crate is just like a cozy den." But dogs, wolves and other wild canids are not true "den animals." Wolves use a den for only eight weeks, right after their pups are born. Afterward, the den is abandoned. And since dens don't come with a locked door, there is no true comparison between crates and dens.
Others will say, "But my dog loves his crate!" This statement defies logic. No animal on Earth "loves" to be caged. However, dogs do love people and will tolerate almost anything that their guardians force them to endure. According to some experts, dogs who appear to "love" their crate because they keep running back to it are often really exhibiting a lack of self-confidence or even fearfulness toward the outside world brought on by the extreme confinement and isolation of a crate.
In truth, crating is an inadequate substitute for comprehensive dog training used by trainers who lack competence and wish to increase their client base rather than taking the time needed to solve individual dog problems. At best, crating only postpones the day when real training will have to take place because dogs simply can't learn how to interact with the world while in isolation. At worst, crating makes behavior training, including house training, more difficult, often creating serious and sometimes even dangerous behavior problems.
But trainers aren't the only ones who profit from crates. There is a lot of money to be made from crates in the dog industry, not just from the crates themselves, but also from all the peripheral industries, such as products and services meant to cure behavior problems as well as medications and supplements for dogs who have not learned to cope with the world because of crating. If crating were widely denounced, many dog-based industries would shrink. No wonder so many dog-related professionals have jumped on the crating bandwagon.
Crating is a cruel practice that has tormented and harmed millions of dogs and brought unhappiness, guilt, stress and confusion to millions of people who simply want what's best for their canine companions. Dogs—and their guardians—deserve better.
Karen Porreca is a senior director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.