Dog Kennels: Where is the line between use and abuse?


My adult, trained dogs crates: Left Rose, Right Loki. Note the wire crate under my bed for injured dogs and dogs-in-training. Note that windows are open letting in light- my dogs are confined to the bedroom while I’m at work and I feel natural light is important for their health.

Oh no, another PETA crazed person ranting about dog crates?  Don’t worry, I’m not going to start spouting PETA ideology.  I use dog x-pens for puppies while I’m at work (and yes, a petsitter as well).  I use wire crates when training older puppies and adults the house rules.  But when my dogs are trained the crates are put away or the doors are simply left open all the time.  I used the open door policy for many years but with Rose’s vision failing she seems to have more crate door accidents than necessary.  So, the crates went away last spring.  I left out their crate blankets so they can “go to place” for their meals and so the dog food doesn’t get ground into the carpet (nope, I don’t use bowls- Rose thinks they are frisbees and my walls don’t need more holes).

As a child we didn’t have crates.  Puppies were outdoors and brought indoors for short periods of time.  In the winter puppies were set up in a temporary enclosure built with a piece of plywood.  When housebroken they were left inside whenever we were home.  There was no stigma attached to dog houses and we always lined their houses with straw in the winter.  I always remember our dogs as happy and as very active participants in our household.  But once I got to college everything changed.  Suddenly you were a good dog trainer if you used a crate.  Yes, crates are useful!  I actually own several crates in several sizes.  I can’t drive down the road without hearing crates banging in the trunk.  But once the dog is trained why are they still crated for hours on end?

I have met many competitive sport people and many pet owners who keep their dogs in kennels 8-10 hrs during the day and then all night.  At what point does this become abuse?  How can a dog have proper musculature and mental development if they are always confined to a small space?  Even Susan Garrett (a pro-crate trainer) comments on this in her latest post.

Unfortunately I tend to see so many dogs these days that practically live in their crates.  If they are not outdoors or having a training lesson they are in their kennel.  These dogs spend 8-10 hours a day in their crates plus their nights as well.  Does this increase the likelihood of developing separation anxiety?  Developing stress related behaviors?  Rose came from an animal shelter.  After 3 months on their adoption floor she was “kennel crazy.”  She only knew how to walk in a square the size of her crate (and could not in fact walk in a straight line for 2 months after I got her), guarded her kennel, screamed, was terrified of people, bit/nipped with great accuracy, and would never make it in a typical home.  It took 2 months for Rose to become comfortable out of her crates (many were set up around the house to provide her with a safe zone) and many more for her to lose most of her neurotic behaviors.

So what are your views?  Where is the line between training tool and abuse?  Is there even a line or does it even exist in our own heads?