Is it Cruel to Crate a Dog While At Work?
Say something about a political topic, social issue, or subject about which you care to a group of friends or post about it on social media and you’ll get a range of responses. There’d probably be some that would be willing to discuss your issue, but there’d also be a group that would sharply condemn you for ruining the day’s fun or destroying social media space with issues no one cares about or wants to discuss. Change the topic to one involving a dog, and everyone would be interested, even those who weren’t dog owners.
It’s quite fascinating, but not surprising. Study after study proves people care more about dogs than their fellow human beings. Experts say that that people see their dogs as human family members or “fur babies” with equal status alongside their own children.
So, what do you think happened when just the issue of dog crates was mentioned to friends and posted on social media? People have passionate feelings about them, to say the least. Everyone demanded formal acknowledgement of their view. Some even insisted theirs took center stage. Now, imagine attempting to discuss if it’s cruel to crate a dog while at work?
The tendency for people to humanize animals and use their own standards and emotions when offering opinions and making decisions about or for them is called “anthropomorphizing.” Taken in its best form, anthropomorphizing encourages people to understand the animal from its viewpoint. Taken to the extreme, ordinary animal behavior shocks people. For example, every summer, reports of shark sightings stir people into a frenzy. But, why? Sharks live in the ocean. They’re supposed to be there. Their swimming about isn’t evil. When we humans go into the water, we are invading their habitat.
Many believe just using a crate is cruel. Humans can’t imagine confining dogs because it goes against human nature. In fact, during the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese used confinement to mentally breakdown prisoners of war. But, dogs aren’t humans. Many scientists say dogs either evolved from or at least share some genetic lineage with wolves. When a pregnant wolf is about to give birth, she digs out a hole, burrows under a tree, hollows into log, or takes over an abandoned beaver or bear cave. The den has just enough room for the wolf and her pups to stand up in and turn around.
Wild dogs also use maternal dens
Whelping domestic dogs (i.e. those about to give birth) often shred, dig, and turn around (such actions mirror burrowing behaviors). Whelping boxes, which breeders use, are small, confined spaces that help the dog give birth and nurse more comfortably.
It would appear clear, then, that dogs, like wolves, are den animals. But, other experts say that the wolves and wild dogs only use the den for having puppies (and the dog only uses the whelping box for the same reasons). So, these other experts claim that the dog isn’t really a true den animal. Gophers, moles, and rabbits, which are true den animals, actually live in their dens and use them for protection. And, dogs aren’t like gophers, moles, and rabbits.
Nonetheless, dogs too tend to identify specific areas that only large enough for them to fit and seek out those areas when they are tired, stressed, need to be alone, or don’t want to be disturbed. And, crates mirror such an area. As well, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA PDF Download Crate Training), the American Kennel Club, the Humane Society, and other like organizations dub crates safe areas to which dogs are instinctively drawn and call them places for which dogs to feel safe. They additionally relate crates to dens.
So, did dogs’ instincts and actions originate from wolves?
Must their actions be precisely like wolves to be related? Does it actually matter? Do we really have to know why they act in certain ways?
Is our questioning anthropomorphizing in its best form or taking it to the extreme? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is one of the fiercest crate opponents and loudly protests the use. It also says:
“We at PETA very much love the animal companions who share our homes, but we believe that it would have been in the animals’ best interests if the institution of “pet keeping”—i.e., breeding animals to be kept and regarded as “pets”—never existed.”
In other words, PETA would rather people not even have pets.
So, while differing viewpoints for certain treatments must always be respected, make sure you know why certain organizations and/or individuals are passing those opinions. The best you can do is approach the situation open-mindedly, study the expert’s sites, and consider everything carefully. Either way, whether or not you wind up agreeing or disagreeing with PETA, at least you did so with all the facts and for the right reasons.
Crates in General
As mentioned earlier, crates offer dogs a place to sleep and feel safe. Used properly, as a tool in a training system, crates can teach dogs bowel and bladder control, thwart destructive behaviors, and show dogs how to calm themselves. Many dogs quickly become fond of their crates and for a lot of owners, they become lifesavers.
There are, however, exceptions. There are some dogs that cannot tolerate being in crates and some may fear it. A dog may also have a medical problem that prevents crating.
Like I have said before you should never use a crate to punish your dog. It should never be used because the dog is in the way or because the owner or someone else doesn’t want to deal with the dog. That kind of treatment is cruel.
The Topic at Hand
Crate training also provides a place to keep an unsupervised dog out of trouble. Even a high-strung dog can unwind and enjoy hours of quiet time, without any problems, in a crate stocked with toys, water, food, and bedding. Such times are mostly when owners are sleeping, entertaining guests, out for the evening, doing errands, or when they go to work. So, we’re finally back to the topic at hand: Is it cruel to crate a dog while at work?
Some dogs have absolutely no problems being left in the home while its owners are gone for the day. Dogs sleep fourteen hours a day and a great deal of that time is when the owner is working. Some dogs, on the other hand, will chew on and tear apart the home. Furniture, shoes, garbage pails, and table legs are just a few examples of the items dogs have destroyed. Some dogs, too, will pee and poop randomly around the house and others will howl and bark all day.
Boredom, separation anxiety, and simply being a puppy are all potential causes of destructive behavior. Whatever the reason, owners must deal with it right away. It won’t stop on its own. All dogs, and puppies especially, require dedication and positive reinforcement to encourage constructive behavior. Exercise, stimulation, dog proofing, and training are all appropriate remedies.
Eliminating the dog’s ability to destroy is also an appropriate remedy. Veterinarians and other experts recommend such a remedy, too. It’s the crate. So, again, is it cruel to crate a dog while at work?
To reiterate, the behavior won’t stop on its own. A dog might wind up ingesting an unhealthy or toxic substance. Or, its owners could give up. Destructive behaviors are one of the main reasons owners place their dogs in shelters.
So, is it cruel to crate a dog while at work?
It’s well within dog expert guidelines to crate a dog while you are out of the home for a significant amount of time or an extended period. Every dog, of course, is different and each expert has differing opinions on the exact length of time.
A dog’s ability to hold its bowel and bladder is a main factor when determining timelines. The ASPCA, the Humane Society, and the Barking Lot believe that puppies younger than six months should be limited to around three to four hours, while Modern Dog Magazine and Dogtime.com says that it is the puppies age in months plus one (so a six month old dog could stay in a crate for seven hours).
Dogvilles, Paws.org, and the Labrador Site say that an adult dog can stay in a crate between four and five hours. Modern Dog Magazine says up to eight hours, even longer, as long as it received proper care and exercise while out of the crate. Petcoach agrees that eight hours is fine.
Most sites agree that it is a good idea to ask a neighbor or hire a teenager or dog walker to take your dog out of the crate for some exercise and playtime during the day.
A Few More Things
If you use a crate, make sure that everyone knows that the crate belongs to dog. No humans or other animals should ever enter it.
When you are deciding how to use your crate and researching, go to the real expert sites. The aforementioned sites are very helpful. Those and other helpful sites are:
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
- American Kennel Club
- Humane Society
- Barking Lot
- Modern Dog Magazine
- Labrador Site
- Smart Dog University
- Cesar’s Way
Whatever you decide, remember that it’s never cruel to do what’s best for your dog.