Like to “crate your critter”? An item featured in a recent issue of Reader’s Digest may be just for you. It’s called “The Doggy Den,” and it’s touted as a “convenient place to put a lamp and phone”-and a dog. That’s right, it’s an end table and a dog crate all rolled into one. The accompanying photograph shows two small dogs crammed into a wooden box located underneath a tabletop and a drawer that you use to stash your, oh, I don’t know-your conscience?
Imagine if, instead of getting in your car and driving to work every day, you were put in a “Doggy Den” and kept there all day long, allowed out only for a few minutes at lunchtime-if you were lucky. That’s what life is like for dogs who are crated during the day while their guardians are at work. But a dog isn’t a pair of shoes that you put in a closet until you are ready to use them. Dogs are active, intelligent, social animals who require mental and physical stimulation.
Of course, it’s highly convenient to lock your dog in a box when you’re too busy or stressed out to deal with misbehavior or rambunctiousness. “Oh,” people who do this say, “dogs are den animals. A crate is like a den.” What they seem to forget is that a den doesn’t come with a locked door.
Birds hate to be caged, lions in the circus hate being in cages, humans hate being behind bars … why should it be any different with dogs? Actually, there is one big difference: Dogs are willing to do just about anything for someone they love. And that includes tolerating being locked inside a cage. Dogs are stoic and they love unconditionally and want to please their guardians, which is a perfect recipe for abusive treatment.
Here’s a news flash for people who have deluded themselves into believing that dogs “love” being trapped in a cage all day: They don’t. Animals who are caged for extended periods of time often develop eating disorders or aggressive behavior or they become withdrawn, hyperactive or severely depressed.
Believe it or not, there is a humane alternative. It’s called “taking proper care of your dog.” Cesar Millan, TV’s “Dog Whisperer,” believes that exercise is one of dogs’ most important needs, yet it is often ignored, or at least undersatisfied, by many if not most canine guardians. Dogs want to run and sniff and explore. They want to take several long walks every day, play games of fetch and frolic with other dogs in the dog park. Dogs who get to do these things are usually tired dogs, and tired dogs want to sleep while you’re away at work, not “redecorate” the living room.
Dogs also need a potty break during the day-don’t you? Sticking dogs in crates and making them “hold it” for eight hours or more isn’t the solution-coming home from work at lunchtime, installing a doggie door or hiring a dog walker is.
I wish crates had never been invented. I shudder at their current popularity. I’ve shared my home with nearly a dozen dogs over the years, and I never made a single one of them stay in a crate. I puppyproofed my house, I taught my dogs manners, I take them for long walks every day and I decided not to subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens. Sure, I’ve got some shredded books and furniture as mementos of the puppy years. But who cares? My dogs’ mental and physical well-being mean far more to me than a few sofa cushions.