To crate or not to crate?

Australian cattle dog in a PetCo crate.

I’m 90 percent sure that I want to adopt an young adult or adult dog (1-5 years old). From my research, reading, and volunteer work at the SPCA, I’m thoroughly convinced that adopting an adult dog is right for us.

So, here’s my question. Almost every training book you read raves about crate training. I think it’s a great idea for a puppy. But do you think an adult dog really needs a crate?

I guess it really depends on the dog. I’d much rather have the dog sleeping on her bed in a room than in a crate elsewhere, but I guess it depends on how trustworthy she is in the house while we’re gone.

Does your adult dog use a crate daily? Do you think we should get one regardless?


13 thoughts on “To crate or not to crate?

  1. Mine is only a year, so not a real “adult,” but we still crate her anytime she is left unattended. I think it depends on the dog and the available space you have in your house to leave them (my parents leave their puppy fenced in the kitchen and he does much better with that than he does in the crate, which he hates), but we have roommates and can’t get as much off the counters, so that would never work for us. Pearl loves her crate and prefers to sleep there rather than in bed with us at night even if we leave the door open. Plus sometimes she has trouble settling down and being in the crate gives her boundaries. I sometimes think when we put her in there she thinks “Phew, I am glad someone stopped me I was out of control.” You can usually see her visibly relax and calm down immediately. I think it depends on the dog’s behavior but also on what the dog is comfortable with. Some dogs love their crates and feel safe there. Others may not, especially if they haven’t been crate trained from a young age, and if they are able to handle the additional freedom I say a crate is not necessary. (I always travel with my dog crated or otherwise restrained in the car for safety reasons, but that is another issue).

  2. I have 3 dogs and 2 prefer to sleep in their crates at night with the crate door left open. One of my dogs likes to spend the night on the couch. When it is thunder and lightening or fireworks (every New Years and 4th of July) they all run to their crates. Until your new dog learns the rules of your home I don’t think that you have any choice. It would be a bit risky to leave the dog for a few hours if you value your furniture as my sister learned the hard way ( 4 out of 6 dining room chairs chewed on ) the first time she left her dog home alone for 3 hours.

  3. I think it definitely depends on the dog. I fostered 8 pups before adopting our Rufus, and only two (including Rufus) could be trusted out of the crate. We fostered two dogs under a year, but the rest were between 2 and 4 yrs of age. Rufus is super mellow, so we only crated him one night before realizing he was a non-issue. Many of our fosters had separation anxiety and chewing tendencies, so they had to be crated.

    It sucks, but some dogs just need the structure and security of a crate, but I do prefer having them “free.”

  4. Absolutely you should crate train. Eventually you may allow your dog out of the crate at night, but the ability to be comfortable in a crate is an invaluable skill. As a rescue volunteer, I see way too many dogs that do not have this skill. Dogs may need to be crated in the car, at the vet, on a trip. So many circumstances where having this skill is critical.

    My dogs are not crated at night or when we are gone, but we do crate for a couple of hours a couple of times a week so they maintain their skill.

  5. Pups need “time out” and crating is the way to go. For an older dog who has never been crated it can be a slow process. Have a proper size crate in a quiet spot,,cover the top and maybe one (or 2) of the sides (assuming it is against a wall and not in the middle of the room) .
    Throw a few treats in and leave the door open. Feed the dog in the crate with the door open.
    Chew toys that have grooves in them are great, add peanut butter to the grooves and freeze then toss in the crate to encourage the dog to enter. NEVER EVER force the dog in.
    Any dog can require medical care sometime in their life, or might need a few quiet days after an injury & will need to be crated. Frantic anxiety and chaos will ensue if pup can’t settle and in fact might cause further injury. We have a crate in the car, the one for sleeping,used to have one at my mum’s house and a smaller extra one for short term use in an emergency at my father-in-laws or at one of my son’s places.

  6. My Beagle is 2.5 y/o now, and we no longer crater her every time we leave the house. However, the crate is still her special place, and there are times when she just wants to go in and curl up in it (especially on days when we have a lot of people over). Sometimes, she even gets confused if we don’t close her in.
    While I don’t think dogs always need to be in crates, crate training gives an extra option, one that’s actually really nice to have

  7. You have some terrific advice here. I think you’ll know what’s the best choice as you get to know your dog.

    Honey is perfectly trustworthy in the house during the day. We left her free at quite a young age. But we crate her at night so we can all get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, she’s free to jump on the bed.

    Don’t forget there’s another option between crating and having full run of the house and that’s partial confinement. It might be a step to full freedom in the house or a permanent solution depending on your dog.

    When Honey was a puppy, we put her crate into an exercise pen in the kitchen. Yes, it took up a lot of room. But I think it was a great option. We’ve continued it when we fostered puppies for the SPCA. It gives the dog a crate for sleeping but a little more room to roam. And it’s still safe.

    Putting a baby gate across a kitchen door works well too. I find dogs feel more comfortable if they can keep an eye on the front door and the transparency of the baby gate works well for that.

    You’re such a thoughtful person I’m sure you’ll figure out the best solution when your dog comes home with you.

  8. I’ll put in my two cents mostly to let you know I am here due to Something Wagging – your thoughtfulness about first getting an older dog (YESH) to start and then crating reinforces your inspirational award :). I ask all my dogs to crate up – they are fed in their crates because it is good for adopters to know the dog they take home is accustomed to a crate (they need to “sit” before getting their bowl except for Herman – just directing him into the crate on his own is a reward). Some do better than others. I leave crate doors open during the day and often find dogs in them “getting away from the madding crowd” and napping in peace. When I am treating a dog with heart worms, they are accustomed to the crate and tolerate their treatment better.
    When I do have puppies (rarely), I ran to Dr. Dodman’s puppy book and found this advice which has been stated above: to put a crate in the Xpen for sleep; I then put a puppy pad behind the crate, away from food and water, for their business. This worked very well for my Margie (Border terrier mix found in a dumpster at 9-10 weeks of age! I was supposed to adopt her out – HA). She is well house-trained and jumps up into her second level crate for meals. Nothing new but enjoyed reading your entry and the comments. I LOVE ACDs though have only interacted with them during transports.
    BTW, my preferred crate is a wire crate with two doors for flexibility depending on your decor (what is that?).

  9. To add to what Nicole said, all those circumstances where a dog may end up having to be crated (travel, emergency, natural disaster, vet emergency, etc) are already stressful enough. Being distressed about confinement only adds another layer of stress for the dog.

    I encourage everyone to train (and then maintain) good feelings about crates and crate manners throughout a dog’s life [seniors may need more vet care for lump removals, treatments, etc] even if crating is not used on a daily basis.

    Plus….many dog lovers find themselves with an extra dog (or cat…and once a calf, that’s a long story!) now and then (found lost dogs and the shelter isn’t open, taking in a friends dog for an afternoon during an emergency, who knows) and having a crate will allow you to have a way for containing the animal.

    Bonus points for all your great planning!

  10. I just have to preface my comment by saying I love the entire concept of your blog.

    I found this post especially interesting, because I just adopted a 10 month old dog, Ardie. He came from a home where he was well taken care of, but not particularly well trained. He has some boundary issues and his crate has seriously been an invaluable tool. He doesn’t love it yet, and only occasionally goes in there on his own, but when he gets overstimulated or when my other dog needs a break from him, its nice to have a safe place for him to chill.

    I think the other comments have it right. It’s really a dog-to-dog thing. I think it’s good for a dog to know they have one space that is really theirs, though, especially if you travel. That said my other dog could care less about his crate. He even shares it with the occasional foster puppy.

  11. I agree with Pamela in the possibility of partial crate training and think it may work with my 8 week old mini Aussie puppy. So far it’s been less than 24 hours together and she really doesn’t understand the crate (despite my efforts), has taken a nap a few times but wants to be near me and now she’s on a dog blanket at my feet in the living room. When I have closed the door for 10 or so min while cooking, she whines for a bit, then is quiet but is not lying down and relaxed in the crate. So far no accidents indoors. Outside she is not going on grass of the lawn and instead on paving stones because although breeder had the pups playing on grass, the potty area was a gravelly space.

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