Crating A Dog: What's OK and What's Not Okay

Discussion in 'Life With A Lab' started by Sammie@labforumHQ, Jan 11, 2024.

  1. Sammie@labforumHQ

    Sammie@labforumHQ Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2011
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    The post below is taken from Pippa's guide on crating, in the Dogsnet Facebook group.

    You can also find her most recent article on crate time, here.

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    Crating A Dog: What's OK and What's Not Okay?

    It’s common for people to have problems with dogs getting upset when left alone, and / or crated, for long periods of time. Some people have problems with dogs that are not crated for long periods of time too, and we do talk about separation anxiety generally in a separate guide.

    However, sometimes the crate itself, (or the time spent in it) is at the heart of the problem. So I think it’s important that we talk about what the general consensus is on this.

    Bear in mind that some people are referring to a crate as a kennel, the terminology is slightly different in the USA vs UK. When we talk about a crate in this post, we are referring to the collapsible metal wire cage - usually with a plastic tray in the bottom. Or, the heavy plastic airline type crates that are popular with some dog owners.

    Okay! Let’s look at some opinions. And then we’ll look at some options for helping those that need to work full time while their dog is home alone.

    [​IMG] How long can an adult dog be crated?

    Most experts would agree that no adult dog should be left in a crate for more than around three-four hours in a day on a regular basis. Even that could be too much for some dogs.

    The RSPCA (UK) states 3 hours as a max
    The RSPCA (AUS) states 3-4 hours as a max
    The UK Government (legislation on home boarding) states 3 hours max
    The AKC simply states “Never leave dogs in their crate all day” which is less helpful

    My view is also that 3-4 hours is a reasonable maximum to use as a guideline for adult dogs. For me, that also means if the dog is crated for three hours in the morning, I would not crate that dog again in the afternoon.

    I believe that is also what is meant in the statements by those organizations listed above. In other words, three hours is the maximum for the whole day (not including night-time)

    By adult I mean a dog that is nine months to a year old. Most medium to large dogs are not fully mature at this age, but will usually have full bladder control.

    I’ll talk a bit about why we tend to use those times as upper limits to crating.

    [​IMG] What about puppies?

    For younger dogs, times are shorter. And there are some guidelines in the photo attached to this post.
    They are not set in stone but they do give folks some ideas of what is ok and what is likely to cause problems. Both for you and your dog.

    [​IMG] Why three to four hours?

    To my knowledge, no-one has done a study comparing behavioral traits in pet dogs that are crated with pet dogs that are not crated (or crated for shorter periods) However, studies have shown that social and spatial restriction in dogs causes measurable, chronic, stress in laboratory dogs.

    We don’t know how many hours a pet dog would have to be left each day to develop the same measurable levels of elevated stress hormones. It could be eight hours, it could be four, or even two. What we do know is that dogs regularly left home alone for much of the working day are at high risk of soiling, barking, and extremely destructive behavior. So it’s pretty clear that eight hours is too long. And that keeping a dog in a crate for the entire working day causes distress. It also likely causes some physical discomfort as most dogs with access to bathroom facilities throughout the day will empty their bladder every four hours or so.

    [​IMG] Where to keep a dog during the day?

    So if a crate is not a suitable enclosure for a dog, other than for very short periods of time, where should you leave a dog when you are at work?

    One suitable type of enclosure for a group of dogs to spend extended periods of time might be a purpose built outdoor kennel with a sheltered run. This addresses bathroom breaks and spatial restriction but only addresses the isolation aspect if more than one dog is involved.

    Indoors, a dog proof room can work. For puppies, a large puppy play pen with a puppy pad area at one end can work for a pup that occasionally has to be left indoors for more than an hour or two.

    But, neither the dog proof room nor the puppy play pen address the isolation issue. Dogs need company. Some dogs, and especially young dogs, more than others.

    [​IMG] The bottom line?

    This may be hard to hear, but the bottom line is: a crate is not a suitable enclosure for a dog to live in during the day, and social isolation on a regular basis may actually be harmful to dogs.

    [​IMG] But I have to work!

    I understand it is difficult when you have to go out to work. And we have a range of solutions and suggestions for you in some articles on the Labrador Site which I’ll link to below. Basically you need to break up your day and provide your dog with access to bathroom facilities, some company, and space to run about and stretch their legs during the middle of the day. This does mean more than someone just letting your dog out to pee for five minutes.

    It may mean getting a dog walker to come and take your dog out, or a friend that would come and collect your dog for a couple of hours, or you might be able to find a place in a doggy day care centre near you.
    A much larger crate can also be helpful for some dogs.

    It’s also worth talking to your employer, about working from home, or bringing your dog into work. Its increasingly common for employers to welcome dogs in the workplace. None of this is easy I know, but without some change, the dog’s problems are not likely to improve.

    [​IMG] Will my dog get better if I provide a mid-day break?

    No-one can guarantee that providing a reasonable length mid-day break will solve an already established case of separation anxiety in a dog that has been crated, for extended periods of time, over several weeks. Like so many things in life, this is much easier to prevent than to fix. And some damage may have been done. In addition, even a mid-day break still means that your dog is being crated for far longer than is recommended each day.

    However, if you are having anxiety problems with a dog that is crated during the working day, and you don’t take steps to at least provide your dog with a decent break during that day, it is likely that your problems will get worse rather than better.

    I’m so sorry that there are no easy answers here, and it frustrates me greatly that so many people sell puppies without making it clear what is actually involved in raising a happy and well adjusted dog. So many people are unaware of how much time and attention a dog needs.

    Do talk to your vet about your troubles and think about how you can provide a better environment for your dog. Providing more space, and entertainment such as frozen kongs to chew on can all help a dog to settle while you are out. In the meantime your veterinarian may be willing to provide some temporary medication to try to break the cycle of distress your dog is experiencing, while you implement your new routines.

    Useful Links:

    Is your dog home alone?
    Raising a puppy when you work full time (Labrador Site)
    Raising a puppy when you work full time (Dogsnet)

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