Dog appreciates private space

October 21, 2004

A visitor berated me last week because I use dog crates for both my dogs and my cat at night. I listened and decided to challenge her in my column instead of verbally arguing with her.

The visitor felt that confining animals in crates is equivalent to putting a human behind bars. I beg to differ. Pets are not human, no matter how we treat them. Actually instead of a jail cell, dogs and cats usually consider crates as their private bedrooms. Dogs are quite comfortable eating and sleeping in a crate that is large enough for them to stand up in, turn around and stretch out while sleeping. In a correctly sized crate, a dog will relax and gnaw on a chew toy while waiting for its owner to return.

But don't take my word for it. In 1972, Nicki Meyer conducted a research project and survey titled "Dog Crates as Aids to Pet Owners." Meyer had the same attitude as my visitor as she wrote: "Because I really still considered the crate a "necessary evil," I was quite unprepared for the puppy's immediate acceptance of it and for the way it made life so much easier for me by solving all the usual housebreaking, chewing and travel problems."


In conducting her survey, Meyer had 212 owners of 217 dogs, both purebred and mixed breeds, test the acceptance of crating the animals for six to 10 months. Eighty percent of the pets were 16 weeks or younger, 15 percent were 4 to 12 months and 5 percent were 1 to 11 years old when introduced to the crate.

Each owner was given a questionnaire to fill out. The questions tabulated the dog's reactions as well as the owner's response to the dog's reaction. The result of one question stated that 127 owners were surprised that their dogs accepted the crate, while 71 of the owners stated they were not surprised at the dogs' acceptance. That makes 198 dogs out of 212 that accepted the crate confinement immediately.

It is interesting that 63 owners answered the question about use of a dog crate very negatively before the test began. They considered it "cruel, inhumane, horrible, a jail" It looks like a number of this group became believers at the end of the test.

The survey asked for the owners' opinion for the most valuable asset of the dog crate. "Safety/security of dog was rated first, then in descending order: peace of mind for owner, great aid for housebreaking, general control/ training, controls dog in car and finally, makes traveling/visiting with dog much easier." Two additional assets noted by nearly all owners were that "the crate provided the dog with an escape from the children" and "a place to be put when company or strangers come."

I leave the crate doors open during the day and often find my animals napping there. Again, I say dogs and cats that have been introduced to crates usually regard them as their own bedrooms.


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