Category 1 & 2 Crate Warning in Effect:
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Safety & Well-Being Trump Convenience
Category 1: Rescue Dogs (Rescue—as in “freed from confinement, danger, or evil.” The definition itself provides the first reason for not crating a rescued dog—when we rescue an animal, it is antithetical to then situate that animal back in a condition that mimics the one from which s/he was rescued. It is fair to assume that at least some and probably many rescued dogs experienced some type of confinement before rescue. Unless we have verifiable facts that the rescued dog in our possession was never confined, it would be detrimental to confine a not-yet-stablized dog in a crate against her or his will. No dog should be crated without proper force-free, R+ crate training, and that takes skill, which takes a trainer in most cases.
Category 1b: Rescued Spanish #Sighthounds/Hunting Dogs. Before rescue, many, if not most, of these dogs suffer near-constant confinement and immobility. They are kept in small, often lightless shacks or caves, chained inside cubby holes, and sometimes also to one another, often with less than a few feet of line. Flying one of these dogs on a stressful overseas journey to freedom for the promise of a great life in America really should not include being forced to spend 6 to 10 hours a day once again confined to a small space in the USA. To them, it likely seems no different, other than their friends are gone, and they are now surrounded by frightening strangers, smells, sounds, and objects. It is cruel to put a dog through the stress of a 5000 mile or even a 500 mile flight, for the promise of a “happy new life”— to then begin him on merely a different version of the same old stressful story of loneliness and confinement.
Any owner-perceived benefit of #crating would not be valuable enough to be worth continuing —however unintended—the cycle of trauma these dogs endured before rescue. If the dog is a counter or trash surfer, for example, one can easily put away food and trash, and place breakables up higher or in cabinets. Another option is strategic use of baby gates (with caution, as these can also be dangerous if used incorrectly).
Category 2: Dogs with Anxiety, OCD, History of Trauma, et cetera. Confining a dog—any dog—to a small, locked-shut container such as a crate may, of course, result in anxiety if the dog is not accustomed to being crated, or if the dog has had bad experiences with crating in the past. If the dog has just arrived, happens to have a compulsive disorder and/or Separation Anxiety as well, we may now have a trigger stacking situation. Even without trigger stacking, however, any one of these alone—past trauma, OCD, Separation Anxiety, or even a slightly less complex Confinement Anxiety—can have dire consequences for a crated dog.
It is definitely—not just possibly—dangerous to crate many of these dogs, since crating anxious, traumatized, and/or unconsenting dogs often results in injured heads, necks, torsos, limbs, feet, or nails, cut gums, broken teeth, stuck jaws, and choked-on or swallowed blankets, bed foam, and/or other life-threating objects.
Any presumption that leaving a dog at home alone without crating is dangerous for the dog misses several important points. I mentioned one earlier. Another is that if the owner crates the dog against the dog’s will, that dog is learning distrust for the owner, and may also be looking at a future path toward learned helplessness if this becomes the habitual way of handling the dog. Furthermore, whether forced or willing, if a dog is crated and home alone and there’s a fire in the home, that dog has much less chance of escaping or being rescued than if s/he is freely roaming the interior of the home, or even roaming only the living areas of the home.
In some cultures, including ours, a notable percentage of dog owners and dog professionals feel that leaving a dog home alone outside a crate is dangerous for the dog. Their rationale is that a crated dog is safer from her/himself; e.g., s/he cannot ‘get into trouble’ by #chewing wires, eating dangerous objects, breaking out of windows, turning on the stove, and so on. But for each of those concerns, there also are preventive measures, and I would prefer to opt for #prevention, rather than a crating practice that is #aversive to a dog. (Something is aversive, remember, based on the dog’s experience of it, not the owner’s/handler’s opinion.) In multiple dog households, #babygates or ex-pen type set ups as indoor ‘fencing’ may be used to ensure no scrapes between the animals while owners are away. Wires can be covered with cord covers and stove knobs can be covered as well. For the willing, there's a solution for every problem. I would suggest that #humane professionals, especially those working in #rescue, but also those working with previously #rescued #dogs, alleviate the dog’s #anxieties, et cetera first, rather than risk exacerbating them.
I do agree with my colleagues that crate training is wise for all dogs in case of emergencies—e.g., in case an evacuation is necessary—and perhaps for safe sleeping arrangements in certain multi-dog homes. Ideally, though, crate training would be started during #puppyhood—a young pup is less likely to find crates and crate training aversive, especially if properly done via R+ and classical conditioning. If that is not possible, then again, crate training should only be attempted after the dog’s emotional/behavioral concerns are resolved. After all, if we force-crate a dog—in order to keep her safe, you say?— at the expense of putting that dog over #threshold, we are probably causing the harm known as #Flooding. #dogrescue #dogrehabilitation #behaviormodification #classicalconditioning #humanedogtraining #rescuedogs #fearfuldogs #anxiousdogs #traumatizeddogs #feraldogs #dogcrates #crating #aversive #countersurfing #separationanxiety #confinementanxiety #compulsivedisorderindogs #ocdindogs #triggerstacking #consentindogtraining #positivereinforcement #dangersofdogcrates #dogsafety #dogwellbeing #dogtrust #dogcare