How Long Is Too Long to Crate a Dog?

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

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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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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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Trina   east hampton, New York

6/6/2013 7:22:02 AM

We adopted a 1 year old terrier mix, who "came" crate-trained and housebroken. She is adorable. After tons of research and going to doggie training school, we find that she is happy to sleep overnight in her crate (she's 12lbs; the crate is for a 75 lb. dog so it has tons of room for her to stand, sleep on her pillow, drink water, and walk around), as well as for periods of time when we go out to dinner or work. Usually, hubby comes home mid-day to take her our for a short walk and keep him company for a few hours. Eventually we think she'll have the "run" of the spare bedroom where her crate is, but we also have a 17 lb 9 year old cat, and although they get along, we were warned NOT to leave them alone together. So, for now, this solution works well. Doggie plays with her toys in her crate, naps, and goes in by herself without a problem. As others have said here, it depends.

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Rob   Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

4/15/2013 11:45:30 AM

It sounds like your boyfriend just doesn't care to have your dogs around, if I might be so frank. Anyone with a heart or conscience doesn't try and confine dogs to single room. The fact that he insisted on crating them immediately, instead of working to train them to be a part of your family, might indicate a lack of interest in having dogs on his part. Ask him to help you train them so they're able to be around the family more. Training is essential. Leaving them in a room with their crate is not training, it's more like punishment. Dogs are "people" lovers and will always want to be around and please their owners. Shutting them off on a room is doing more damage than good. If I were you, I'd have a talk with that boyfriend of yours! :) Working together, you should be able to integrate them into your family without too many hiccups.

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