Fido's dog crate can be a useful device for house-training, safely transporting him to another location and confining him while you're out running errands or have company over. It also allows the pooch to have his own private area for sleeping, playing or when he simply seeks solitude. On the other hand, if the crate is improperly used, it can create a traumatic experience that may harm Fido's physical and mental well-being.
Improper Use of a Dog Crate
Your pooch's crate fulfills his natural-born instinct to be a den animal. His wild dog ancestors had dens to escape from danger and raise their family. Fido also retreats to his crate to snooze, chew on his favorite toys or take refuge when he's feeling fearful or anxious, such as during a thunderstorm. For that reason, never use his crate as a way to punish him, advises The Humane Society of the United States. If you punish Fido by banishing him to his crate for pooping on the living room floor, barking when a stranger arrives or other misdeeds, he'll start associating it with negativity and anger toward him. The crate will no longer serve as his peaceful safe haven, but a place to fear and dread.
Lack of Space
If your furry friend is confined to a crate that's too small, he could suffer muscle cramping, stiffness and pain. His natural roaming and exploration instincts become suppressed if he's cooped up for too long, leading to increased anxiety. When choosing a crate for Fido, make sure it's large enough for him to be able to stand, lay down, sit comfortably with his legs extended and turn around. On occasion, an adult dog can be crated for up to eight hours, but crating him on a daily basis could be harmful to his physical and mental health, according to the ASPCA.
Keeping your pooch inside his crate for extended periods of time can lead to feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety. If you place the crate in a remote location of your home, such as the basement or garage, it could make the locked-up pup feel even more lonely and isolated. If you notice that your pooch suffers separation anxiety while separated from you -- for example, excessive barking, howling, defecating or urinating after you leave him alone --- he should never be confined inside a crate, warns the ASPCA. The crate could cause his separation anxiety to worsen, leading to frantic attempts to escape the crate, resulting in possible self-injury.
Make sure the dog crate is sturdy without sharp interior edges and can't tip over. Stop crating your pup if you notice signs of distress while he was confined, such as crate damage from his attempt to escape, wet fur or dampness on the crate's floor from excessive panting and salivation, persistent barking or howling, diarrhea, vomiting or urination or defection inside the crate. Puppies and adults still being house-trained shouldn't stay in a crate for more than four hours at a time, advises The Humane Society of the United States.
By Liza Blau
About the Author
Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.