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Crating Your Dog While at Work – Is It Cruel? Here’s Your Answer…

Can I Crate My Dog While at Work?

Crating Your Dog While at Work – Is It Cruel? Here’s Your Answer…

Thinking about adopting or rescuing a new dog or puppy but are unsure what to do with your dog while you’re away at work?  Or perhaps you’re having some behavioral problems with your existing pet and you’re wondering whether crating your dog while at work could be a viable solution.  No matter what your circumstances, the decision as to whether it’s okay to crate your dog while you’re busy at work is not an easy one to make. 

Of course, this isn’t helped by the fact that opinions are heavily divided on the topic.  Some people adamantly believe that dogs love to be crated and, not only is crating your dog while you’re at work a feasible solution, that it’s also often the best solution.  At the other end of the scale are people who remain steadfast in their belief that crating a dog for extended periods of time is cruel and tantamount to animal abuse. What’s the real answer?  In this article, we will attempt to present both sides of the topic and help you come to your own opinion as to whether it is cruel or essential to crate your dog while you’re busy at work.

How Long Can I Crate My Dog For?

Image credit: Lorianne DiSabato

The Theory Behind Crate Training

Proponents of dog crating believe that crating works because it mimics a wild dog’s natural instinct to seek out a den as a place to raise a family, to hide if necessary, and to sleep.  It is believed that dogs enjoy spending time in their crates because it brings up natural feelings of safety and comfort that wild dogs would experience in a den. It is further believed that wild dogs can sleep for as much as 16 hours each day, so domesticated dogs can similarly be crated for the entire night and as much as half of the day so they can sleep in comfort and security – while also not destroying your house or getting into potentially dangerous situations while you’re away at work.

Choosing The Right Crate For Crate Training A Dog While At Work

Crates are available in a variety of different sizes, and it is important to choose a crate to suit the size of your dog.  If a crate is too small, your dog won’t be able to comfortably stretch out and relax. If a crate is too large, however, your dog may tend to go towards one end to go to the potty, while sleeping and resting at the other end.

If you are crate training a small puppy, resist the temptation to purchase one crate to accommodate the size they will eventually be as an adult.  You may need to purchase two or three different size crates to accommodate a growing puppy. Consider renting a crate for their puppy months, or purchasing a second-hand crate to save on costs.

How To Crate Train A Dog While At Work

If you haven’t already crate trained a new puppy, it is still certainly possible to crate train an older dog.  It is important to ensure that crate training is a happy, positive experience, and never seen as a type of punishment.  Follow these steps to successfully crate train your dog.

Happy Introductions

The most vital aspect of crate training is to ensure that your dog associates the crate with positive experiences.  Put one of your dog’s favorite blankets inside the crate, along with a toy or some treats. The crate should be positioned in an area of your home that your dog already associates with happiness, such as wherever your family spends the most time together.  Keep the door to the crate tied open to start with (or remove the door altogether) and give your dog plenty of opportunities to explore the crate in their own time. Read on for other tips on how to keep your pet happy.

Introduce Meals In The Crate

Once your dog is showing some signs of familiarity with the crate, start to associate the crate with mealtimes.  If your dog is showing signs of anxiety or wariness of the crate, start slowly by feeding your dog near the entrance to the crate, but not inside.  If your dog is already happily exploring the crate and even taking some naps inside, put your dog’s bowl all the way to the back of the crate at mealtimes.

Once you have successfully fed your dog in the crate a few times, start to close the door while your dog is busy eating.  Keep them crated for a few minutes after they have finished their meal, and wait until they have settled themselves down and are comfortably resting in the crate before opening the door again.

Increase Crating Time

Now it’s time to start crating your dog at times other than mealtimes.  Encourage your dog into the crate for putting a treat or toy towards the back of the crate, then encourage your dog (in happy, calm tones) to enter the crate.  Once your dog is inside, close the door to the crate and sit nearby, making sure you are visible to your dog. Wait until your dog is resting comfortably in the crate, then quietly move to another room where your dog can’t see you, then return after a few minutes and let your dog out of the crate.  Continue this routine over a period of several days, gradually increasing the amount of time you leave your dog crated while you are out of sight.

Crate Dog While At Work

When you are at the point where your dog can happily spend half an hour in the crate without showing signs of fear or anxiety, it’s time to start leaving them in the crate while you leave the home for short periods of time.  The key to this step is to keep your departures and arrivals low-key and free of emotion. It’s a good idea to start crating your dog at least a few minutes before you leave the home, rather than putting them in the crate as you’re walking out the door.

Common Problems With Crate Training

Crate Training A Puppy For Long Periods

It must be borne in mind that puppies – like human babies – do not have the same amount of bladder control as fully grown dogs.  By trying to crate train a puppy for extended periods of time when their body is simply not ready to hold the urge to go to the potty, you will set your young puppy up to fail, causing them to soil their crate.  Once a puppy is in the habit of soiling their crate, this can be a difficult behavior to get rid of in the future.

Whining

If your dog starts whining in the crate, you have a hard decision to make – is your dog whining to entice you to let them out, or do they genuinely need to go to the potty?  This is a judgment call you will need to make, based on how recently your dog ate or drank something and how long it has been since they last went to the potty. Be very wary of letting your dog out simply because they are whining, as your dog will soon learn that whining is a sure-fire way of being let out of the crate.  Most importantly, don’t yell or scold your dog for whining. If you are convinced that they are whining simply to entice you to let them out, just ignore their behavior. If you think they need to go to the potty, let them out for a break and then put them straight back into the crate.

Scolding While In The Crate

Crating must never be seen by your dog as a form of punishment.  If your dog comes to associate the crate with negative consequences – such as being scolded or spoken to in an unfriendly tone of voice – you will quickly undo all the hard work you put in to successfully crate training your dog.

How Long Can A Dog Be Crated?

This is the ultimate question when it comes to making decisions about crating your dog, and – like all aspects of this controversial topic – opinions are certainly divided.  As you’ll see further in this article, some people believe that dogs can only be crated for temporary and specific periods of time, such as during an illness or while recovering from surgery or an injury, or while traveling.

Other people who are proponents of dog crating say that dogs can be crated for the same amount of time as they can reasonably be expected to delay their urge to go to the potty.  It is argued that adult dogs can be crated all night and for half a day. Puppies, on the other hand, can only be confined to a crate for shorter periods of time because their potty skills are still being developed.  To calculate how many hours a puppy can be expected to delay the urge to go to the potty, take their age in months and add one. For example, a four-month-old puppy is expected to be able to delay the urge to go to the potty for five hours.

What Happens To Dogs Crated For Too Long?

If you’re wondering whether putting my dog in crate to sleep then while at work amounts to crating for too long, it can help to understand some opinions on the long-term ramifications of keeping dogs confined to a crate for extended periods of time.  PETA believes that dogs can suffer both psychological and physical problems from being crated for too long, including separation anxiety, eating disorders, depression, or hyperactivity, along with muscle atrophy, hyperactivity, obsessive-compulsive behaviors like licking and chewing, and even the inability to form meaningful bonds with humans.  It is believed that these problems arise because crating denies dogs from expressing their most basic, natural needs including stretching, moving around, exploring their environment, and going to the potty as needed.

Opinions On Leaving Dog In Crate While At Work

Can I Crate My Dog While At Work?  Here’s What Happens In Different Countries

It is remarkable how opinions on crating dogs differ from country to country.  In the United States, dog crating is not just an approved practice, it is expected that most people will leave their dogs in a crate the majority of the day.  The view held by dog owners and veterinarians alike is that crate training reduces anxiety and confusion, sets boundaries, and keeps dogs safe.

In Australia, on the other hand, people who crate train are a minority, and those who do use crates tend to use them overnight, rather than during the day.  In Finland, crate training is not only frowned upon, but it is also actually against the law. According to Finnish law, it is only permissible for dogs to be kept in a crate for “temporary and acceptable reasons” including illness and transportation.  The legislation stipulates the minimum amount of enclosed space that a dog must have access to. According to the legislation, a dog the size of a Labrador would legally require an area at least 37 square feet.

When compared to guidelines put out by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) – which only suggests an area large enough for a dog to stand up without crouching, turn in a circle, and lie down comfortably – the differences become clear.

Is It Cruel To Crate A Dog While At Work? Here’s What The Experts Say

In their guidelines and recommendations on crating, ASPCA condone the use of dog crates as a “short-term management tool”, and make comparisons between dog crates for domesticated dogs and a den that a wild dog may create – referring to both as safe spaces that dogs are naturally attracted to.

International animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) do not agree with this comparison, making the point that wild dogs spend time in a den for the first eight weeks of their lives, after which they abandon their dens.  In any event, PETA makes the point that a natural den of a wild dog does not come with a locked door, leaving wild dogs free to come and go as they choose.  PETA has published very strong views on the topic, stating that a dog crate is little more than “a box with holes in it”, and used as a means of depriving dogs of their natural and basic needs.

When Crates Can Be A Lifesaver

There are times when a dog crate can be a necessity for a conscientious dog owner.  If your dog is sick or injured and your vet has recommended a period of rest, it is necessary for your dog to be crated for much of the day and only let out for regular potty breaks, to refresh their bedding, and to ensure they have access to fresh food and water.  Highly anxious dogs can benefit from crate confinement during certain times, for example, if a tradesperson is visiting your home or you’re expecting a delivery. Crates can also be a lifesaver during times of travel, as a way of keeping your dog safe, calm, and protected during the packing and moving process.  If you are planning on moving house in the near future, check out our ultimate guide to moving with a dog stress-free.

Humane Alternatives To Crating During The Day

Crating isn’t the only way to safely leave your dog at home when you can’t be there to supervise.  If you’re considering leaving dog out of crate while at work the first step is to ensure that your home is completely safe for your dog.  If there are areas of your home that are not safe – where you’re in the middle of completing home renovations, for example – it is your responsibility to make sure that the area is completely secured so that your dog cannot gain access.  You could also consider asking a friend or neighbor or hiring a professional dog walking service to visit your home once or twice a day to check on your dog, to make sure they’ve got access to fresh food and water, and to let them out for a potty break.  For more tips on making arrangements for your dog while you’re at work, check out these 22 ways to take care of a dog or puppy while you’re busy working.

If you believe that it is not possible for your dog to safely remain at home without being crated all day, the perfect alternative could be a dog daycare provider.  Much like daycare for children, you drop your dog puppy off at the daycare center on your way to work and then pick them up on your way home.  This way they are cared for and supervised while you’re at work, while also having plenty of socialization time interacting with humans and other friendly dogs.  If your work has you working extended hours or taking overnight or longer trips from time to time, consider a dog boarding service to house and care for your dog while you’re away.  You’ve got enough to think about when you’re on a trip: at least if you drop your dog off at a dog boarding facility you can rest assured that your pet is being properly cared for while you can’t be there.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision is yours to make.  If you know that your dog truly enjoys spending time in their crate, perhaps you can leave their crate open to them during the day, but give them access to other parts of your home or backyard so they can come and go as they please.  If you’re concerned that your dog could exhibit destructive behaviors or even put themselves in danger while you’re away, take steps to limit your dog’s access to certain parts of the house.

If for whatever reason you think that crating might not be the right solution for your dog while you’re busy at work all day, you may be interested to know how to pick a boarding facility that is professional, reputable, and suits your dog’s temperament.  If you’re going away for a longer period – a work trip, for example – it can help to know how to leave your dog at home while you’re on vacation or away, as well as 6 key points to consider for overnight care.



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