If you had your way, we know you’d spend all day with your dog (and research shows the feeling is mutual). Unfortunately, most of us have lives outside of the home that we need to attend to, so Fido has to be in a crate for part of the day. But how long is too long for your pupper to be confined?
Answering the question of how long it’s safe to crate your dog is tricky. There are multiple factors to consider in determining crate time, and guidelines for responsible crate use. We’re going to take a deep dive into the ins and outs of crating your canine so you can ensure they stay safe and healthy even when you’re not home.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Crate Training
Crate training can provide numerous benefits to both you and your dog. It can serve as a safe and secure space for your pet to retreat to when they feel anxious or overwhelmed, as well as prevent them from accessing hazards around the house, such as electrical cords or toxic substances. Crates can also aid in house training, as dogs are less likely to eliminate in their sleeping area, and crating during travel can reduce stress and make the experience more comfortable.
However, it is essential to consider the drawbacks of crate training. Prolonged periods of crating can lead to physical discomfort, such as stiff joints or muscle atrophy, and behavioral issues like separation anxiety, whining, barking, and destructive behavior. Lack of exercise and socialization can also result from excessive crating, which can lead to obesity, boredom, and depression.
Factors to Consider in Determining Crate Time
The amount of time you can crate your dog safely depends on various factors, including age, breed, size, health, and temperament. Generally, puppies and senior dogs require more frequent bathroom breaks and may need to be crated for shorter periods. Large breeds may have difficulty fitting comfortably in standard crates, while dogs with health issues may require more extensive monitoring and care. Additionally, dogs with high energy levels or those that are more anxious may require more exercise and socialization to prevent boredom or stress-related behaviors.
Another crucial factor to consider is the reason for crating. If you are using a crate for house training or to prevent destructive behavior, it is essential to ensure that you are using positive reinforcement techniques in addition to crate training.
Guidelines for Responsible Crate Use
In order to keep your dog comfortable during crate time, it’s important to be proactive. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your pup feels secure and safe in their crate.
Choose the right crate size: A too-small crate can cause physical discomfort and may even lead to behavioral problems. According to Pet Pro Supply, the right size crate for your dog will allow them enough space to lie down on their side as well as sit, stand up, and turn around easily.
Gradually increase crate time: When you first start training your dog to use the crate, do so in short spurts. Then gradually increase the amount of time they spend in the crate. SpiritDog advises that “while a dog can sleep through the night in his crate, he should definitely not be crated for 12 hours during the day.” In a perfect world, you wouldn’t crate your canine for more than four hours at a time. If there’s not someone home within that time span, you can always hire a dog walker to come and get your dog out for some exercise between long stretches of time in the crate.
Make the most of time outside of the crate: When out of the crate, make sure your pup is getting all the socialization and exercise they need to be happy and healthy. Dogs need walks, play, and quality time with you and other fur babies.
Watch your dog’s behavior: Be on the lookout for signs of pain, anxiety, or stress in your pup, such as excessive barking, whining, or destructive behavior. If you notice any of these behaviors, it may be necessary to adjust the amount of time your dog spends in the crate or seek professional help.
If your workday is long, or bookended by epic commutes that result in extensive crate time for your dog, it might be time to reconsider your pet care arrangement. Consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter, joining a doggy daycare, or creating a dog-proof room that will give your pup the exercise and space they need while you’re away.
This article was written in collaboration with ChatGPT.