So, what is a Crate after all?

So, what is a Crate after all?

By Eleni Kaspiri
Positive Trainer for companion animals and caregivers
12/27/2023 - 11:22 translated by Evy Kapanieri 05/05/2024

So, what is a Crate after all?

Is it the incredible tool that helps the dog learn everything and solves all problems?
Is it a nest; his house and his haven, where he can feel calm and safe and where he enjoys himself?
Or is it just a cage, that does exactly what it was built for?
It restricts him, it takes away his freedom and not only it doesn’t solve problems, but, on the contrary, creates them?
Is it perhaps a tool that only serves humans?
The sure thing is that it is recommended everywhere; by all specialists and non-specialists, as an extremely effective, incredibly convenient and globally recognised tool, and its use is not only considered essential, but also mandatory. As if there is no other way of training…
It is so popular and has become such a “trend” the last few years, that whoever does not have one in their home, is now an exception.
After the publication of the article I wrote 2,5 years ago about my opposition to the use of crates, I have been receiving a lot of calls from dog parents (from different parts of Greece), in search of a dog trainer and facing a great dilemma...
Even though they do not agree at all with the use of crates, they are bombarded with information claiming that it is the best, the safest and the most up to date training method.

What shall dog parents do when they don't have the knowledge, but still do not want to use it?

As a lady who adopted a female dog that was rescued by the fires, called me and told me:
"I researched it a lot! Everyone I spoke with told me this is the best way for her to learn, that she sees it as a nest, she will be easily potty trained, she will not destroy anything, she will be disciplined, she will have a steady routine, she will not bother us…never and about anything at all...
I never had a dog before…And I don’t know things…But I don’t want to put her in a cage…I got her from a cage…
I was also puzzled because no one was making it clear to me how long she should stay inside and I was shocked when someone told me…All the time…And forever…”
These were her words, amongst others.
I feel obliged to say again what I believe and try to explain through my observation, viewpoint and experience (by coming into the life of dog parents and dogs all these years), why I am completely against its use.
So that another, different opinion can be heard against the predominant one…which happens to, unfortunately, cause so much discomfort to the dogs!

Let’s take a look together at what a crate is

For those who do not know about it, it is a wired cage.
And more specifically, a cage with dimensions that barely allow the dog to fit inside.
They buy the cage depending on his final size.
They give him, of course, some extra centimeters. But don’t think about that many. I would say around ten…Max twenty!
I am not aware of what happens in case they miscalculate the size. I want to believe that in that case they change the cage….
And don’t think that a puppy, due to its small size, has room to walk around there until it grows bigger.
There are cages that have a partition, which you can move in order to increase or decrease the space. This is because if puppies have more room, they will use it as a toilet, they will relieve themselves and then they will lay beside their pee or poop.
But if there is barely enough space for them to fit inside (which means the space will be suffocatingly tight) where will they find room to relieve themselves? So, then they will have to hold themselves…
Thus, it physically restrains the dog; it confines him in such a tiny space which robs him of the opportunity to walk, stretch, move to get into another position, stand up on two paws and barely stand up completely.
It represses his energy, it deprives him of his freedom of any natural movement and inhibits the expression of any natural behavior.

What are the reasons it is recommended and what is it used for?

-For toilet training
-For safety
-For avoiding destructions inside the house
-To keep him calm, but also for him not to be able to bother anyone etc.
-For obedience
-For punishment
-For separation anxiety issues
-For habituation in general
-In case he or she needs to stay at the vets or to travel with any means of transportation.
In a few words?
It does it all and it is incredibly convenient...

For how long does the dog have to stay in there and how long is it being used for?

Now this calls for a long discussion, because there is no clear answer.
-Is it until he learns?
How relative, but also how subjective is this and on how many factors it depends on?
-Is it until he reaches adulthood?
Time and again, people say until 18 months.
Just that he needs to be left out very often for up to 6 months (because he cannot hold himself) for toileting.
And what happens after 18 months?
No one knows what happens then...
It depends on the mood, the needs, the demands, the character, the mentality, the problems…and in general the judgment and decision of each specific dog parent everytime.
When he sees how convenient it is (for himself) and since he has the “permission of use” from the specialist, he also uses it when the dog does anything he doesn’t like, when he wants some peace and quiet and in general whenever it suits him.
And this is how we have dogs that spend a minimum of 16 hours (calculate also when the caregivers are at work plus sleeping - so in general when there is no supervision - and this means it is possible that the duration can reach up to 18, 20 or even 22 hours) inside the cage.
And you can also consider the extra occasions it can be needed.
Of course, it is often recommended that an adult dog (since he is able to hold himself and not soil inside) should stay in there permanently, as long as he goes out twice a day, every day.
And if you see the situation in its true dimension, there are dogs that live most of or maybe even all of their life inside a cage!
And unfortunately, its “ingenious” (as it is presented) use, ends up becoming excessive!
And not only that…
I have seen all of this happen many times.

The most accurate and up to date method?

Crate training is considered (from all of those that recommend it) the best, the most accurate and most up to date method for a dog to learn any behavior we want them to.
In other words, does restriction by confinement, the suppression of energy, the deprivation of any natural movement and the blocking of any natural behavior bring positive results?
And is it also a way of learning that is proper, healthy, balanced and fair for the dog?
And an up to date method?
But…it takes us back…
How is it possible in this time and place, that we want to train, to educate, to teach someone something (anyone) and choose to do so with a tool that restrains?
And to think of it as the ideal and best way possible?

What is the main reason they believe it makes its use “ideal”?

That it is a nest and the dog’s home!
And that he sees it like this, since due to his instinct he wants to nest somewhere.
And this way he feels calm and safe and has a great time there.
And that he will learn to go in there on his own, will sit calmly and will not complain.

How do they teach him to get inside?

It depends on the method someone follows and the reason they want to put him in there.
Mainly they do it with food, toys, treats.
And then they close the door.
Either right away…Or not right at the start. Slowly slowly…Gradually…For a short time and then the duration becomes longer.
Of course, there are the occasions where the procedure becomes shorter. Yelling, pulling, pushing.
This way he gets inside easily, super fast and without trouble.

It is also recommended with an open door.
As a nest and not for training.
Why should someone have it then?
There are many even more comfortable, cozier and nicer nests for a dog than the cold, suffocating and uncomfortable wired cages.
Which are also a lot cheaper.
As for the open door?
It has closed many times…When? When it was needed.
And this is up to each dog parent to know and decide…
I have heard many different reasons they had to close the door...

Let me take things from the start
A house... and a nest...

Honestly, I try to, but I have a hard time understanding how a crate can be a home and a nest since we lock it and open it whenever - and if -we decide to do so?
I think we will agree that what we call a home is the place where we enter and also have the choice to get out of, whenever we feel like it.
If we are locked inside a place, even if this is our own home, we feel imprisoned.
Besides, all the animals in nature choose their own nests, where they will feel safe and calm; but they always want to have the option to leave, because they cannot bear feeling trapped.
If there is a living being, anywhere on earth, that wants to live imprisoned and who also enjoys it, I would really like to know about it…
A locked crate is in reality impoundment, a forced confinement, a prison!
All these words mean the same thing:
I lead inside, close the door, force someone to stay confined inside a cage - closed space. I confine him in a suffocatingly tight place. I take away his freedom...
Besides this is why cages were built…This is their actual use....

What are the reasons someone needs to be confined inside a cage / an enclosed space?

For punishment and correction (prisons)
For exploitation and profit (zoos, selling of animals etc.)
For a hobby (birds and other animals)
And finally, as a solution of need (in shelters and if there is a medical reason or for transportation).
Now in its “uses”, training was also added…
Crate is the worst means of confinement
You will hear them say: “In no way this is a prison…don’t see it like this…”
Oh, it’s not a prison? Neither impoundment? Neither a forced confinement?
So, let’s “accept” it simply as confinement.
This is what it’s called anyway: “Crate - a method of confinement”.
To confine, again, means: I force someone to stay in a specific place, without having the option to leave.
It is splitting hairs...
However…Whatever name we choose for it, whatever the method and the reason we use the cage, the consequence from its use will always be the same.
Deprivation of freedom, deprivation of movement, deprivation of life!
It’s as simple as that.
And however we try to sugarcoat it, this is the reality!
A method of restriction used for dogs (popular and classic through the centuries) is tying them up, with a rope or a chain. In the garden, the balcony, the terrace, even inside the house.
Just that tying up, even in 2x2 shelter cages, may restrict, but the dog can make a few steps (to stretch), even to run (even as much as a 2 meter radius allows him to), to stand on two paws (if he feels like it), to change positions between laying down and sleeping (something he wants and has a need for).
Now you’ll tell me, so you prefer the tying up?
I disagree with any form of slavery and any means of restriction - confinement.
I am mentioning it because compared to others, the crate is the worst means of confinement!
It is immobilization!!
A modern one, whatsoever…And a costly one…

How does the dog feel in there?

In no way cozy and comfortable.
Talking reasonably, how comfortable, cozy and enjoyable can immobilization be?
For anyone….
Let’s think of this:
If not all, some of us have been restricted to a seat on a bus (I’m using a simple example) for a 6,8,10 hour trip.
How did we feel?
We couldn’t wait for the time to come for the driver to make a stop or to reach our destination and get off, walk, move, stretch our bodies.
And we are speaking of one time, right?
Why should it be any different for a dog?
Especially when it happens everyday and for many more hours?.
I will not discuss when this goes on a permanent basis…
His immobilization causes him boredom, lack of interest, tediousness and a lot of times anxiety, fear and panic when he feels trapped.
Some dogs suffer from depression and others start showing obsessive-compulsive behaviors, as well as physical issues and myoskeletal problems, when they stay in there for hours or permanently.
Others get hurt in their effort to get out; they cry, they howl insenstantly, they hit themselves against the walls and bite the cageί.
Another very important aspect is sleep.
A dog needs to change positions very often.
With a crate, we are forcing him to sleep in one place, to get bad quality of sleep, to get stiff and to feel tired.
And of course, with whatever consequences all these have when he gets out of the cage…
So, the crate can create problems. Many and serious ones sometimes.
And you know what the irony of this is?
Many of those using it have adopted their dog from a shelter in order to save him from living a life…in a cage!


Let’s now investigate, if this “miracle” tool (a multi tool as I call it) solves problems.
It definitely does for humans...
-It is used for….obedience
Obedience to commands, someone’s orders, conformity to rules.
A crate easily provides strict obedience and…discipline...of the military type!
The dog becomes a faithful soldier, standing still and quiet in there!
Of course “quiet” is not guaranteed...
Some of you may remember this old child’s game, where one child hides his face and counts until the rest take positions; and once they finish counting, they try to make their co players, who are standing still like statues, move or laugh.
Only that this was just a game, it was fun and it lasted a very short time.
However, what we are doing to dogs is not a game, it’s no fun at all and it lasts for hours, days, months…years...
Francois Mauriac (a French novelist, dramatist, critic, poet, and journalist, and laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature)
Has said the exceptional:
“Where does discipline end? Where does cruelty begin? Somewhere between these, thousands of children inhabit a voiceless hell.”
How much more appropriate and fair it is to talk about communication?

-And of course it is also used for… punishment

If the dog does something unacceptable, being punished by locking him in the crate is the number one solution and the best way to "conform" him. And for him to deserve such punishment, I guess that chewing the slippers, getting on the couch, asking for food at the table and similar behaviors, are (perceived as) felonious and condemnable actions and should be punished severely!

However, punishment does not teach proper-desirable behaviors.
The dog at that moment focuses on what is happening, on what we force him to be subjected to and not on what we want him to do.
It is proven that punishment does not erase any behavior.
It just restricts, restrains, halts the behavior for a certain time period and that's why it seems like it has worked.
Effectiveness, however, weakens and fades away with time when the punishment stops or when the punisher is no longer present.
And then the intensity of the punishment needs to grow higher for it to be effective again and for the behavior to be controlled.
The result?
To punish the dog forever more and more.
And of course then he will do whatever we enforce on him.
You will see such dogs. They call them co operative and disciplined...But, what they truly are, is scared and they have given up completely!
Punishment shows clearly the authority and the power of the person enforcing it...
And the results are based exactly on this inequality and the fear it creates.
And this way trust and respect are lost and the relationship between the dog parent and the dog is ruined completely.

-It is also used for safety

Due to teething, curiosity, but also for play, a puppy wants to chew on anything they can.
This is why they can chew on some object inside the house and, of course, there is a risk of destroying it, as well.
The suggested advice?
“Close him inside the crate so you can have your peace of mind. He will be safe there and he won’t destroy your house”.
“That sounds very convenient” …Anyone would think...
Indeed, this is a very convenient and easy solution for the dog parent.
There is also a better and fairer one for the dog.
Which one? To take away the stuff. All those that he can find and reach.
They call it prevention!
This way both our dog and our property will be safe, but also without our dog suffering in any way.
Prevention is better than cure.
And definitely a lot fairer than imprisonment, as well...
Don’t you think?
Why should the remote control be on a low table, the slippers in hand’s reach and the cables laying on the floor?
It is a provocation for the puppy. They perceive them as toys.
As if they know they are useful stuff? Or that they will be in danger if they eat something?
For our 2-3 year old child (precisely because they don’t know) why are we proactive and take away all these stuff to protect them, but also for them not to be able to damage anything?
Would we lock the baby away?
I have heard the argument that we also put a child in a crib.
But can we put a baby that is not walking to sleep on the bed or lay it on the floor? And if we do so it is for a short time and with us keeping an eye on them.
When they start walking and moving and when they crawl we let them move freely.
That is when we need to be preventive.
And of course, similarly neither does the few days old puppy which is not yet walking, need a large space. The safety of his mom's hug is more than enough.
But only until they start walking.
Later, when they come to our house around two months, maybe three, and even bigger sometimes, they need and should be allowed to move freely.
But for safety’s sake we prefer to deprive them of their life.
Because we all know that life is movement! It is out and beyond any type of cage.
And it is not just food, water, safety and some ”breaths” of freedom. It is a lot more...
I will remind everyone, that when (during the pandemic), and for our safety, we went into the position we put him in and we realized that the lack of freedom, even if it is for a good purpose or even if it is “served” in a nice way, is unbearable!
We felt trapped and we felt imprisoned in our own homes.
Even though we had all the comforts and the choice to go out to work or for shopping, for going on a walk, and even though we had the common sense to understand why?
The only thing we waited with great anticipation for was the day they would give us back our freedom.
Or am I wrong?
Karl Popper (an Austrian philosopher and professor) said:
“We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure.”

It is the same as the overprotectiveness of parents who suppress their children so much in the name of security that they end up depriving them of many things and experiences and who don’t allow them to live a normal life. They deprive them of their own life!
But this safety is so unsafe!
So prevention it is!
And then…chewing options.
There are a lot of toys which are appropriate and will help the puppy feel relief from the discomfort and pain.
Not all of them at once because they will get bored of them; it is a good idea to switch between toys.
Just be careful; it is very important we make sure they are safe so there is no risk if they chew or swallow something.
Also... decompression, distraction whenever needed, when we are present.
Only calm and short few minute games and not the ones that reinforce the behaviors we do not want to see in the dog later. Such as chasing, pulling, rolling around, pushing and in general anything intense.
It is so important to spend time with them!
Companionship and lot’s of love!
Same as we do with a baby.
Just because the puppy doesn’t cry (the same as a baby) do we think we don't need to attend to them? If we don’t do so and if we don’t provide all this for them, they will look for ways and outlets on their own.
When we are away or not supervising and attending to them, isn’t it a lot better to put them in a room with the right prevention and safe conditions? There are also baby gates, or we can shut some doors etc.
There are solutions if we want to find them. Why should we immobilize them?
It is just a transitional phase during which they need our help to go through it peacefully, smoothly and as painless as possible.

Another huge chapter in relation to crates is the topic of toileting.
A big problem for all the dog parents who get a puppy.

The "strong" argument for its use?
A dog doesn't like to soil his nest, thus he will have to hold himself and this way he will learn…

But, until he learns, and also if we are not fast enough or if we don't see it (it requires observation) because we are perhaps away, we are asleep, we are busy, we forget?
Is he going to have to sit and sleep on his poop?
Or is he going to start eating it?
Some puppies that were born or lived in a cage have learned to eat it so they clean up the space they will sit and sleep in.
Since there is not enough space!
A woman told me the other day: "I couldn't stand seeing him in there, but most importantly I didn't like it because I found him soiled. I threw it away."

Also, when he cries or barks inside the cage, the advice given depends on the method someone follows!
Scolding and hitting the cage or covering with a blanket (something like a dungeon essentially? Maybe even worse) or ignoring.
In no case should we open the door for him, or else he will learn that whenever he cries he will be let out and he will not become accustomed to the cage, he will not learn to sit inside.

And when he yells-alerts because he wants to get out to do his needs?
We ignore him so that we don't miss out on the crate training procedure?
So we force him to hold himself and pressure himself incredibly...
For how long? Until he bursts?
And then?
He will have to do his needs in there of course…

We go to the toilet when we feel the need to do so!
It is a natural need we all have!
For the dog, we deprive him of this right and choice and of course we stress him out!!
What is the right thing to do?
A toilet training program.
- Observing, how often does he want to go?
Usually after eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, training, visits.
- Reading his body language.
What movements - signals does he give to alert us? He smells the floor intensely, he whines, he circles around the same place, he quickly sits down, he gets overly excited, he moves out of the space, he might go towards the door.
- Rewarding once the goal is met.
- Ignoring whenever there are accidents.
Because there will be... Until he learns and also until we also learn.
So what? As if there aren't also inside the crate too?
And they are a lot worse because he also soils himself...
- And most importantly no scolding or punishment because he will then not even go to the toilet outside when we are present, if he is afraid.

And when we are away?
Until we reach a point where we are having a steady routine, we can do the same as with chewing. In a room and with proper precaution or safety gates where we have the option of closing some doors so that he is not able to move around everywhere.
This is also a transitional period and a procedure that requires understanding, proper, and basically, careful management so that it can pass without problems.
It requires proper management of the situation and patience.
It shall pass…

-Separation Anxiety

What to say about this?
The dog has anxiety and we make him even more anxious? Is this how we are going to resolve the problem?
Even if he learned from a very young age to get inside and stay in there, does this mean he will remain calm also when we are away?
Since the anxiety is created due to our absence.
The only thing we can prevent is the destruction of our stuff from chewing.
However, the dog still suffers and he tries to find relief from his anxiety through other behaviors.
He has no intention to ruin our property. Nor is he getting his revenge because we left him by himself, as some dog parents believe so.
As for the other behaviors (barking, howling, crying, toileting); we cannot prevent them by locking him in, as he will continue to have them.
He can even hurt himself in his attempt to get out if he feels trapped in there.
And so the situation can become a lot worse!
I have numerous examples of dogs who have suffered inside a crate.
I will mention only one situation a dog parent told me a while ago.
A dog with separation anxiety that caused damages in the house was advised to stay in the crate as long as they were away.
When they came back home they witnessed a shocking image.
The dog was wet, as if he had just taken a bath…
From what? From his own saliva…
Separation anxiety is a psychological state and a very serious problem that cannot be solved with confinement.
And it is definitely not solved with quick fixes.
Because this way one will risk making things a lot worse.
When we realize what is going on, we have to offer our dog immediate help and special treatment.
With gradual, slow desensitization and the right techniques by experienced specialists and experts on this specific problem.
What is needed is understanding, effort and patience.
If we want to help him not suffer when we are away and not just protect our stuff from damage. These we can protect by prevention, safe conditions and appropriate management of the space.
He is the only one who can truly know where he will manage best when we are away.
And if he wants to hide somewhere, he will find a way. Under the table, behind the couch, under the bed?
But this will be his own choice, and you know what is the most important thing?
He will also have the option to move away!
However, the most common situation (according to dog parents who have videotaped their dogs while they were away) is that the dog remains behind the door most of the time, until they arrive.

-Habitation with vets and transportation

If he needs to stay at the vets (perhaps even never), he will obviously have a serious problem, for example a surgery, a severe injury, or some serious situation.
Because for something simple or manageable by the dog parent (I want to believe) we wouldn't leave him there.
If he is after sedation, under tranquilizers etc. is the cage going to be the actual problem?
Besides, if he has been habituated and has learnt to stay inside and not react inside a cage in the house, nothing guarantees that he will stay in there calmly when he is in the vet's cage.
There are so many things in there to cause him anxiety.
The unfamiliar place, the strangers who will barge into his space and will force him to have a vaccination, to take care of his wound, to give him medicine.
But, also, all the other dogs that might be there, constantly crying and barking.

And when traveling by plane, there are tiring and stressful procedures a dog will have to go through, and someone will not make the decision easily (at least as far as I know) to take the dog with him for a short trip (an excursion, business).
However, if some people want to take the dog with them on frequent trips; or some others will take the dog on a planned trip (moving to a new place, vacation), then there is a reason and also time to introduce it to him. But still, the cage is not going to be the only obstacle since there again will also be separate reasons for him to become stressed.
I would never put dogs in such a position (everyday, and who knows for how long? perhaps forever so they will not fall out of habit?) for that occasion where they MIGHT need SOMEDAY to be hospitalized or travel by plane.

I will not discuss traveling by ferry.
A cabin or to, alternatively, stay on the deck is the choice. If we consider him family we will not "park" him inside a cage just like we do with our car.

As for traveling by car?
I have seen many people who put the dog inside the crate in the trunk.
What to comment on here?
What is a dog? Baggage?
In the back seat with a seat belt, attached to his harness.

Additional helpful advice for the use of the crate…

It is suggested to put him in a crate in the room we are also present, so that the dog doesn’t feel lonely...
This way he will watch, but, he will not be able to do or experience anything together with the family.
He will just watch…
How could this make him feel?
It reminds me of the phrase “Billy no mates”.
Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario:
Something happens to us (some health issue - not something serious - let’s say, for example, a broken leg, anything, it doesn’t matter), but we will have to stay in bed, not moving, for a certain period.
Everyone else is moving around, they come in and out, they play, they go out for walks, they do things together as a family and we stay there stuck in the same place. We sit and watch them because there is nothing else to do.
Or almost nothing…Because we also have television, our mobile phone, books, some board games to play with others and in general there are things to do so that we can pass our time and not feel bored.
Because otherwise it will feel like forever.
And yet, we wait for all this to end so that we can get back on our feet again and get into action and participate in real life.
Inactivity, idleness, stagnation, and monotony are unbearable!
Not that this example is the best representation (not even close), I am just mentioning it so that we can try to be in his position even a little.
Why shouldn’t a dog feel bored inside a crate?
Just because we gave him 2,3,5 toys which he will get bored of after a while (just like kids) and will not pay attention to them at all?
Really, what makes us believe he is having a good time there?
Where is proof about this?
Perhaps because he enters on his own?
Another situation is if we scare him. Then he will even go running there.
But even if he goes in to eat, to play and he doesn’t make any effort to get out, let's not forget this is what he has learned to do.
It is an automated behavior!
We taught him to do so...
Or is it just proof he stopped complaining or that he is sleeping?
Perhaps he got tired?
Is it convenient to translate giving up with calmness?
Does he have another choice?
Here let's bring up the chained elephant from Jorge Bucay’s story.
This mighty and enormous animal was tied at a tiny pole where, with just a small movement, he was able to take it out and free himself.
But in his head the idea of being weak was still rooted, from the time he was very little and tried several times.
He repeated his effort on a daily basis, until one day, one horrible day in his history, Bucay writes, the animal accepted his weakness and submitted to his fate. And this way he got used to his slavery.
Did our dog get used to the slavery (or confinement if you want to call it this way) we taught him and he compromised?
Dostoevsky says that "The best way to keep a prisoner from escaping is to make sure he never knows he's in prison."

Fidel, a beautiful, huge, strong shepherd dog, comes to mind, who went on his own in the cage when they asked him too.
"Look how he goes in when I tell him" the human said with pride.
When he locked him in, he laid down and gazed far away. Now and then he looked over at our company.
No resistance, no problem and everyone was happy. You could say the dog was "calm" and the humans were happy they taught him something like this.
Just that they didn't get once into the trouble of looking inside his eyes because then they would have seen the endless sorrow in his look!
I didn't ask if he was taught to do this in a bad or "good" way and it didn't make a difference to me.

Following the trends…

I would like to share with you a couple of stories so that you can get a better picture of how most people have been convinced about this "miracle" tool and the amazing benefits of its use!
And without any intention to exaggerate, I shall say that the crate has become the new piece of furniture in almost any home that has a dog.
Next to the couch, near the television, beside the hallway coffee table, right next to the nightstand, close to the washing machine in the bathroom, even inside the storeroom...
And... if someone has imagination they can picture it in any place inside the house.

I will mention a discussion under a post on the internet.
A woman, clearly upset, asks what she can do about a dog she hears crying day and night and who she finds out is on a balcony locked inside a cage.
Someone tells her to act immediately and call the police.
There are others who ask her: "Are you sure he is in a cage or is it a crate for training?"
What is the difference? asks the man.
"Well, if he is being trained there is no problem" answers a woman.
And others agree: "Yes, yes a crate is a training tool."
Just one person thought it was a no-brainer to take action and all the others thought it was normal as long as it was a training crate…

What are you talking about dear people?
That because this is a crate and not just any other cage exempts this person?
A dog is on a balcony, locked in a cage for days, cries and screams constantly and there is no problem as long as he is being trained?

Another occasion in another neighborhood (from a neighbor's testimony).
A dog for 3 whole months lived constantly in a crate and didn't stop crying devastatingly for a single second.
How did he realize this was happening? The dog hit against the wired walls of the cage day and night.
To any comments the reply was:
"He is being trained to stay inside the crate and it is none of your business...I will do whatever I want in my house and with my dog..."
How was this solved?
When he started hitting the dog because it broke the cage, the yelling of the person and the screams of the dog were heard by the entire neighborhood.
There are numerous examples but I will stop here.
I am wondering, however...For these dogs, there were people who heard them, felt sorry for them and took action.
What happens with the numerous dogs who experience, some οf them on a bigger scale, others on a smaller one the same things, but no one can hear them in order to help them out?
What happens with those that stopped complaining because they are afraid or just got tired?
And even worse what happens when people hear them, but still, they ignore them?
How can you know what someone does in their house?
Allas to the dogs that live under these conditions behind closed doors...
I can only say this.
Even in a shelter there is still hope the dog will someday be adopted
And the one that lives chained in the yard, someone might react and help him out...
What chances are there for the dog that lives in the crate, for the situation to change for them, when it's so convenient for the humans?

The extremes…and the crate in the middle…

I was recently speaking with someone who is a strong supporter of crates.
Endless hours (even up to 20), dogs of ages 5,7 and 9 years old, in a cage, from puppies.
When they get out they even bark at the wind…figuratively speaking…
At some point he asks me:
"Why do they behave so happily when they see me, since you say they don't like me putting them in a crate?".
And I replied, is it perhaps because when they see you that is the time when you open it for them or because they are anticipating you opening the door of freedom?
A short pause...
And then he tells me: "On one side there are those with the electricity (e collars), I'm in the middle and you are at the other extreme.
I love my dogs, I spend a lot of money on them, I offer them the best food and I go without so that they are not missing anything."

I tell him:
“I don’t have a doubt about your love for them, but are you sure you know what makes your dogs happy?
The fact that you deprive them of their freedom to move and live, do you think it can be replaced with your love and anything else you do for them?
Does the fact that you spend a lot of money on them (which leaves them untouched), make the fact that you force them to live like this less unpleasant?
You may love them, but why do you have these dogs if they are to live in a cage and you give them freedom in dribbles?
And what about companionship, connection, communication, interaction, family warmth?
Where? When? During the little time of freedom you give them?”
We had said a lot more and at some point (to my great surprise), he started crying…and I was left speechless…And of course I immediately stopped the discussion...
I don’t know why he cried.
He does, however...

Respect is the center

How we behave towards our dogs is extremely important and not only how we feel about them.
Loving is not the same as respecting!
Besides, the way we love is so subjective.
And let's not forget that in the name of love (I say this very often) the most mistakes were made and the biggest crimes were committed.

Respect is not the extreme my friend!
It is the center and the heart of it all! For everything!
And when we respect someone we don't suppress their needs, we don't step on their freedoms and rights, we are not indifferent about their feelings and we don't take away their life!
We all know what respect is. Do we apply it however?

In the book "A child’s book of values" Spanish writer, academic and pedagogue Esteve Pujol i Pons has gathered the most important values!
He has put respect as the trunk of the tree and as branches all the rest of the values. Love, trust, justice, empathy, patience etc.
All of them are interdependent, but none of them can grow without respect!
This book is a tool for children to understand the meaning of values.
Now there's a useful tool! One that opens the mind and the heart!
Because the tools that are used either for conformity and punishment or for "teaching" by locking up, by suppression, by deprivement of movement and life, shouldn’t be considered educational and they are definitely not innocent.
They cause suffering and they close the bridge for communication.

A crate is just a cage doing what it was built for ...

So many dog parents come to me after having tried solving different problems by putting the dog in a crate, after following advice by different experts.
For different behaviors: “Jumping on them and guests, chewing things, biting while playing, behaving annoyingly around food, toileting inside the house, going up the bed-couch, barking on the balcony, playing with the mop, conflicts with the other dog, chasing the cat, growling at the kids, different kinds of phobias, aggression towards them etc.”
A reasonable question by dog parents:
“They told me to put him in the crate. But, since he was locked in, he obviously could not do anything and not bother in any way.
However, he didn’t learn anything…When he gets out of the cage he continues to do the same…And he never relaxes, he goes up and out, sniffs around, fumbles to do something.
Is this thing called training?
I want him to learn and be free…Is this possible?”
What were these humans asking for?
That the dog learns some things and that they solve some issues and not just stop him by isolating him, so that they can have a nice co-existence, with the dog living by their side and not locked up.
Were they asking for much?
But... What more can a crate do?
It’s just a plain cage…and its job is just that! To restrict, isolate, confine!
This is all it can offer and it does its job well, too.
Nothing more...
As we said before... it is a “multi tool” but it’s not a magic cage…

We cannot teach through isolation

During the 17 years I have been working as a trainer, I have never used a cage and I feel very nice about this!
I didn’t feel it was a correct or fair way for the dog to learn.
The ones I found already using one, I accepted to take over and train with the agreement they would stop using it.
Besides, my experience showed me that it not only isn’t a fair method, but that also the dog doesn’t learn anything this way.
It doesn’t teach him anything. It cannot teach him which behaviors are acceptable and which aren’t; it can prevent but it cannot change the ones we don’t want and it can actually make them worse, plus create more problems.
It doesn’t teach the dog to have control, or to be calm, nor to emotionally discharge.
On the contrary, we risk that it will frustrate him, confuse and disorient him and in result this will make it harder for him to calm down.
Let’s look at this rationally.
How will he learn and how will he familiarize, when we are leaving him out of everyday life, when we deprive him of having regular contact and communication with anything and anyone that is outside the cage?
If we don’t give him the opportunity to explore and come in contact with smells inside the house, everytime he gets out it will be like going to a new environment for him and, thus, curiosity and the need to explore will be at their peak.
But also frustration, activeness, energy levels, will be (and totally normal) multiplied due to the inactivity.
And of course, the less we bring him in contact with other people, things, situations, the more this can lead to cautiousness, insecurity, anxiety, fear and finally, aggression.
All these are normal reactions and behaviors.
It is his way of fulfilling some need and desire, it is the expression of his mood and his emotional state, in his effort to be integrated in the house, the family and the life we force him to live.
We rush to interpret these behaviors as problematic, we charge him for mistakes (however the dog doesn’t make mistakes, he follows his instincts) and put all kinds of unsubstantial labels on him.
This is just bad communication!
And the responsibility falls completely on us!
Because the dog doesn't know our language (something we often forget) nor did he come into our house with a manual of good manners. I always tell this to dog parents.
It is our responsibility to learn to read him, to get informed about his body language and search for ways to properly communicate with him, so that we can guide him with patience, kindness and good will to cooperate; and always with respect to his needs and feelings.
He will learn anything we want, when he is able to move freely around us. This way he gets to know things, he gains experiences, he uses his brain, he cultivates skills, he adapts in different situations, he socializes, he familiarizes with everything, his personality forms.
Instead of that, we lock him inside the cage, suppressing his needs, not caring about his emotions, depriving him of his freedoms and we want - expect him to learn, to obey, to cooperate, to be disciplined, to be calm, to change.
We demand him to compromise easily with all these terms and rules and to adapt quickly into our everyday life and in our world.
We are in a hurry to make him a good “citizen” and an even better roommate...
We can make him a good citizen and roommate (so that we can coexist together harmoniously), but let's choose the way and the method that is first of all based on respect, on the proper communication and his ethical treatment.

Is the method of confinement inside a crate “innocent” when violence is not used?

There are methods that don't use any form of violence but, with a human centered approach, in my opinion, which is not fair for the dog.
And because of the fact that they don't use violence compared to other approaches and methods, they are considered "innocent"...
One of these methods is confining the dog inside a crate...when violence is not used…

Similarly the method of "time out" in kids, which also doesn't use violence and is only for a few minutes, was one of the most common aids and techniques for parents and teachers and was suggested widely by experts (for being calm, to make them think, to discipline them and also as punishment).
However, if we look at it objectively, it is essentially a way of punishment...
Recent studies showed that it is an ineffective and outdated method, because it has negative consequences in children's psychology and behaviors.

"When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet. In fact, brain imaging shows that the experience of relational pain—like that caused by rejection—looks very similar to the experience of physical pain in terms of brain activity."
Excerpt from the article:
"Time-outs are hurting your child"
Daniel J. Siegel
Clinical professor of Psychiatry
Tina Payne Bryson, PhD
Psychotherapist, child therapist
September 23, 2014

And I raise the question:
Can someone really guarantee what the consequences of isolating or even worse imprisoning the dog, are going to be?
How will his emotional world form and what are his behaviors and reactions towards this experience going to be?

Anthropomorphism or compassion?

And let's not go into the discussion "a child is not the same as a dog, a dog is not a human" and similar ideas.
It is very common that people accuse someone of using anthropomorphism when they argue that a crate is a prison and not a right way of training.
They have said this to me as well…

I will borrow and quote the words of Stavros Karageorgakis, Doctor of philosophy, addressing the scientists that don't accept the argumentations about the ethical consideration of other animals.
When someone supports that:
"Since it's wrong to cause pain in humans, then it is wrong to cause pain to other animals, since they experience pain at least in a similar way to us, then according to these scientists, the slip of anthropomorphism has been done and any further discussion is meaningless.
However is this the case?
Probably not.
In order to answer to this judgment, I will simply stand on three points:
- First of all I consider it a fact that we are also animals. Just as Mary Midgley has said characteristically "we are not just rather than animals; we are animals" and as such, I will add, we cannot but have the same functions.
- Second, a solid argument supporting the neurophysiological similarity between humans and many other species is the conduction of experiments using non-human laboratory animals.
If these strong similarities did not exist, then there wouldn't be a reason and also a purpose for laboratory animals.
- Thirdly, if we question if other animals feel pain, we should also question if other humans feel pain as well"
This is an excerpt from the text:
"Compassion as a basis for the ethical consideration of other animals."

And I do not attribute any human characteristics to dogs.
I am only saying that the dog (just like any other animal) has the right to be free.
In article 4 in the declaration of animal rights it states that:
"Deprivation of freedom, even for educational purposes, is an infringement of this right."
And in article 5 the following is stated:
"Animals of species living traditionally in a human environment have the right to live and grow at the rhythm and under the conditions of life and freedom peculiar to their species"

Moreover, I am talking about something that is more than certain and has been proven after numerous studies conducted, that dogs have feelings.
Besides, all of those who live with a dog know this first hand.
And since we know he has feelings and has the same reactions to pain, fear, captivity; we should also know that he suffers just like us, when we deprive him of his freedom.
Perhaps it serves all those speaking of anthropomorphism, to continue using the crate and stand away from any ethical dilemma.

We taught him to live this way…

I wonder: what makes us believe that a dog experiences the lack of freedom any different to us?
Where do we drive the certainty that he feels a locked cage as a nest?
And that it's just us humans that see it as imprisonment?

Just because some dogs might accept such a condition easier and show that they adapt quicker (due to several reasons) and thus it seems like this method is effective, does it mean that this would be their desire and choice if they could choose another way and if we hadn't intervened?
We trained him and taught him to live like this, let's not foresee this.
However, this doesn't cancel his tendency and need for freedom.
Neither isolation nor inactivity are in a dog's nature!
I have never met a dog who doesn't barge out the cage once the door opens.
I wonder why?
Apart from the exceptions where the dog is scared because he tried in the past and was punished, or because there is a scary environment outside the cage, or he got tired and has completely given up any effort, or he doesn't feel well, or he is sick, or is now an old chap.

The learning procedure should not be judged by whether the method is effective or not.
Physical punishment can also bring results, but it still remains a very bad practice.
Isolation, even more imprisonment, creates distance between us and our dog; he feels cut out and left out from his family, he feels the lack of freedom and hurt!
Let's not kid ourselves...
When we force him to stay inactive and just be an observer, he suffers.
From loneliness!
Either loudly...Or silently...
All this affects his psychology negatively, it can have bad consequences in his behavior and it can be the cause of many problems. It can even create conflict between us.

It is a very harsh punishment, in my opinion, for such a social creature who's need for connection, contact, communication, interaction is high and vital!
He has the need to live in a friendly and warm environment, to feel the warmth of our home and the safety of our company and love.
Constantly, and not on "schedule".
This is how our emotional bonds become stronger and how he will feel safe and happy!
Not in the cold safety and boring calmness of the cold, wire and locked up cage.
Whoever says that he is happy in the cage, this is what they want, or is convenient for them to believe..

Our home is his home

Since we took a dog into our house and in our life and we integrated him in our family, then isn't our entire house his as well?
So what does it mean then that the cage is his house?
And as for the notorious nest?
His own bed to sleep, to lay down and relax, is a comfortable and cozy nest for him and at the same time a very nice image inside our house.
This is the right and fair way if we consider him as an equal member of the family!

And besides, he spends most of his time inside a boring silence anyway...
Waiting, while we are attending to our everyday life...
Since he is dependent on everything on us!
Let's try to be in his place.
Let's try to see life the way he does and let's not make it even harder for him.
It is so unfair, amongst everything else, to also force him to live immobilized...
Let's minimize our demands and expectations, so that we can create a beautiful relationship of mutual trust and respect!
Because we all know that relationships are built with patience, through constant effort each day, with giving our soul and through the difficulties and bad moments and the different problems.
Relationships are won and not handed free to us!
Only machines work with a press of a button...

So, what is the crate after all?

If we really want, if we try to see the reality of things the way they are, we will understand that the crate is clearly a tool for the ease and convenience of the humans and just for them.
Is it because they don't have the time and the patience to work with the dog?
Is it because they are looking for an easy and quick solution?
And hey, why not?
Since they are convinced that this is the ideal, the safest and the most up to date training method.
The majority of those that use it don't have bad intentions and do it for a good reason. I do believe this.
But, I also believe that the goal doesn't justify the means.
And finally let's ask ourselves:
How ethical is it to lock someone somewhere so they can... learn something?
And even worse, to guide him (irrelevant of the way it's done) in order for him to go there on his own and then lock him up?
If you put him in because it's a matter of life and death, a situation of emergency, or to put him in because there is no other way to help him out in case it is needed…
Yes, I will accept that.
For training, however, there is another way!
I know it well and that's why I don't accept it.

I cannot accept that for the sake of some "training" that tortures dogs or for the convenience of humans, numerous dogs each day are immobilized and suffer so much!
Because all these years close to them and with everyday contact with them, I see, I listen, I observe, I study, I try to interpret and learn.
I learn from the dogs themselves, I say this everywhere and all the time.
And I have seen the apathy, the passivity, the quitting...what others call calmness...
I have seen the agony, the fear, the panic, the sadness in numerous confined dogs!
That's why I refuse to follow any knowledge, any method that uses such techniques and similar "modern" tools.

And it's not just that.
These dogs are deprived of the most valuable good and the most important and inalienable right every being has.
Because for any movement, action, behavior we want to do we need freedom; otherwise we feel imprisoned... trapped...
And if we have a different opinion about the dog and we still deprive him of his freedom, then we are unfair with him!
We have the obligation to respect this, without making any discount!

This kind of confinement is degrading and humiliating for any living being.

Do you know what I often think about?
A lot of us protest about the captured animals living in zoos, about the birds living in captivity and other animals.
We get angry with the ones that have their dogs tied up and we feel sad about the dogs that live inside the cages of shelters.
Some people try to help out the situation and others would really want to do something about it.
We speak about, we shout, we fight for freedom as an ideal!
And yet...
We think it is normal and appropriate to have our dog confined in a cage.
And we cannot see what a sad image this is to have in our home...
We cannot see that we mistreat and degrade a thinking and deeply feeling creature.
Our child?
Our friend?
Our dear companion?
Our dog?
However we choose to call him…
We degraded him into an eternal slave in our homes!
And we don’t realize it.
We don’t realize that we teach our kids to get used to the image of enslaved animals and think it is normal and right.
We got used to seeing birds inside cages…an old and familiar image of slavery inside our homes…
Now we also see dogs…A modern image of slavery…
Some people will say:
“But it’s not something permanent, it’s only for a short time.”.
I read somewhere something very nice.
"From freedom you cannot cut a single piece, because immediately all freedom is gathered inside this piece".
And does the dog live that many years, anyway?
We all know how short his life is close to us!
Before we know it he is an old boy!
Helpless, but also indifferent for all the things he once wanted to experience...
Everything he once could…Everything he longed for…Everything we deprived him of...
For this, when our dog is young and healthy, when he is able, when he wants to, when he has the strength, let’s allow him to live a true, real life close to us, with us, near us...
Out and away from cages!

"life without freedom is like a body without a soul " Khalil Gibran
Note: Two videos follow.
1. A visual with extracts of the text along with pictures) .
2. A recorded text in Greek