How Long Is Too Long to Crate a Dog?

Dogs should not be forced to spend all day in a crate.


Q. My 2½-year-old dog, Zoe, is a lovable, friendly, fun-loving part of our family. She is also the first pet I’ve ever had. We have cratetrained her since she was 7 weeks old. When she first came to live with us, I was not working outside the home and we only crated her when we all went out. I now work full time and am gone for eight hours a day. I feel bad about leaving her in her crate for so long. I walk her and she gets exercise with our 9-year-old son, but I wonder if she would be OK uncrated when we are gone, so she could walk around the house. She hates being closed up in another room, so I don’t want to confine her like that. We don’t crate her at night -- she usually sleeps in our son’s room, on our bedroom floor, or in her open crate. I’m also afraid that if we don’t crate her when we’re gone, if we ever need to crate her if she’s sick or needs surgery, she won’t want to get in it.

A. You’re right to be concerned about crating Zoe for eight to 10 hours every day. That’s not really good for dogs, as they need to move around and change positions more than a crate allows. Crating is mostly to protect the dog and the household furnishings through the potty training and teething stages of puppyhood and adolescence. Zoe is a full adult now, and if she doesn’t tend to chew your belongings or have potty accidents when you’re not watching, there’s really no need to crate her all day. If she doesn’t behave irresponsibly while you’re asleep at night, she should be ready to graduate from her crate in the daytime, too.

Try it out on a weekend, when you’re not gone all day. Leave Zoe alone, loose in the house, for an hour. If she doesn’t cause any damage or become overly anxious during that time, try it again for two hours later that day. If she can be left alone that long without misbehaving, she can probably handle your workday schedule without being crated. Leave the crate where it is for a few months, and if she continues to bed down in it for naps or nighttime, you could keep it available permanently, with the door open. That way, if there’s ever a reason to temporarily confine her, the crate will be convenient and she’s already comfortable in it.

Since Zoe has had her whole life to get used to being crated, and even goes into it on her own sometimes, she shouldn’t have any problem being crated for medical reasons.


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Leela   Revere, Massachusetts

1/10/2015 8:55:55 AM

Please don't crate him all day. My boyfriend and I had a dog that was crate trained for night sleeping. We split up and he took the dog. He started to crate him most of the day as he was out a lot. He also slept in the crate. I don't think at the time he thought he was being cruel. He thought the crate offered safety for our dog. But he was just in there too much. My sweet dog became anxious and aggressive. He realized that he didn't have time for the dog, but because of the change in the dog, nobody wanted him. He was going to put him down. I happened to run into him and asked if I could please have him back. I work full time. I actually took a vacation to see how he would be outside of the crate all day. He did great and I decided not to use the crate anymore. My dog sleeps on the couch and has never torn the couch up. I did put up a child gate to keep him out of a room with breakable items. But, he pretty much sleeps for the day. As far as his temperament- It has taken so many hours of training, and a lot of love, but, he is getting better, although he will probably never be the same. I am not against crating either. I just think there is a responsible way to use them. Instead of making my dog feel safe and using it as a training tool, it became a prison.

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Regina   Lynn haven, Florida

12/5/2014 6:16:33 AM

My husband and I are getting a divorce and we have a chiweenie, my husband says he can't take care of him ( though) he is completely retired I work full time from 8:30 to 4:00 and don't want to give up my dog. My question is , is that to long for him to be in his crate? We crate him when we go out other then that he has the run of the house. He still has accidents on the carpet sometimes also.

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Karen   Honolulu, Hawaii

2/17/2014 7:35:09 PM

My cocker has been free to roam the house for 18 years. Now she has dementia and paces all the time in circles. Her eyesight is bad, so she has been banging into things, and developed a hematoma. We ordered a helmet for her. We also got a child's playpen with netting so that she won't hurt her head. But with her weak hind legs, she'll lose balance and can't get up, and is in distress often, yelping and crying. But we can't let her roam free since the helmet comes off at times. The vet has suggested crating her when we're not home. That would be 8 hours every week day.

She eats well and drinks water and passes urine and stool. She fights to get up every time she's down. So we have decided to care for her and not put her down. Any insight would be heartfelt.

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Sam   Murfreesboro, Tennessee

11/21/2013 1:09:09 AM

I took some family pets in two dogs because my mother was wanting to move and couldnt take the dogs. I had to crate them for over 2 years but it wasn't good for them but I really had no other choice as I worked 10 to 13 hour days too much time for dogs to be alone in the house free roaming. So when she moved back and got a house even though it breaks my heart to let them go I moved them back in with her because now they have a back yard. But I advise a crate thats 3X larger than the required weight for room, absorbent dog liners as well, the large metal crates are the best you can line paper on the bottom like a bird cage if you do not like crating them all the time Bobbie put them in a dog room wash room or kitchen a place with no carpet and put up baby doors.

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