It’s a conundrum, really, pondering dogs sleeping in cages. You really prefer calling them crates, because cages sound like prisons. On one hand, you see the ads for the crates with a jolly dog whose crate is full of treats and toys. On the other hand, you see the shelter commercials with the abused dog in a cage with only a bowl of water looking at you, crying, “You’re my last hope.” What are you supposed to think about your dog sleeping in her cage?

Why does my dog sleep in her cage?

There are two main motivations why a dog sleeps in her crate. The first is that she may find it to be a snug place to sleep with everything it takes to be comfortable for the night. The second is that she feels secure there, thus, finds it the perfect sleeping spot.

She probably finds her crate to be a cozy place.

Everyone wants a cozy, comfortable place to sleep, and dogs are no different. While outside on a hot day, dogs will dig a hole in the dirt to stay cool and be comfortable. If you keep your home’s temperature temperate, your dog will have no problem finding her cage an inviting place. You will want to provide a soft but somewhat firm bed, and her crate will provide her something akin to what a bedroom provides for you.

She probably feels secure in her crate.

Everyone also seeks security, a place where they can lay their head without fear that they will wake up to a violent attack. Dogs are the same way. They just want a place where they can lie down to sleep feeling secure in the fact that they don’t have to worry about what will happen while they are sleeping. A crate can be comforting, calming, and reassuring to a dog.

Should dogs always sleep in a crate?

Should dogs always sleep in a crate? What do the authorities say?

This is what the American Kennel Club says on the subject.

The AKC says it is the best thing for your dog to be crate trained as a puppy. Though many may feel guilty at first, most eventually see that it is best for the dog and the owner in the grand scheme of things. Dogs seek out small, enclosed spaces to relax and rest in, a good fortress — remember, the crate only has one entrance. You use crates to potty-train puppies (dogs don’t like to “go” where they sleep). Also, in an emergency, you will be so glad that you crate trained her, because you will be able to keep her safe when you have to evacuate and not have to worry about getting separated from her. The AKC says yes, most dogs would be the happiest sleeping in a crate.

This is what PETA says on the subject.

An article from the PETA website shows that they feel “crate” is simply a euphemism for “cage,” which has undertones of ugliness. PETA feels that putting dogs in cages is harmful and cruel and that it not only causes behavioral issues but does psychological damage. They largely stand on the assertions made in one book written by a couple who were dog trainers and behavior specialists. The authors assert that it is commonplace for crate-users to keep their dogs caged for upwards of 18 hours each day. However, no source is listed for where this data came from. PETA says no, it is never all right for your dog to sleep in a crate.

This is what The Humane Society says on the subject.

The Humane Society agrees somewhat with both. Well, the AKC would agree with some aspects of PETA’s assertions, if the basis data is accurate. Here is what The Humane Society says. Dogs should be crate trained as puppies, however, these other rules should also apply to crating a dog. You can never use the crate to punish her or she will hate it. You cannot leave your dog in the crate for an extended period of time: The standard maximum is 4 hours for puppies and 8 hours for dogs. The Humane Society believes that you should crate your dog until she can be left in the house without destroying anything, and then she should leave the crate, because “you would not want to spend your entire life in one room.” The closest stance one can pinpoint The Humane Society to is — you “may” not want to put your dog in a crate at night.

When should a dog stop sleeping in a crate?

The answer to this question varies depending upon what your motive behind asking is. Do you want your dog to stop sleeping in her crate? Do you not mind, and you are just wondering if you are doing something wrong?

What if you want to stop your dog from sleeping in her crate?

If your dog has been crate trained and has always slept in her crate, the time to make a change is around the age of 9 to 14 months. You will want to be careful, though, not to just take it away abruptly and put it in the barn, because when the day comes that you need to crate her to take her to the vet or especially if you need to travel, you will want her to still think fondly of her crate. Keep her familiar with it.

What if you don’t want to stop your dog from sleeping in her crate?

However, you do not have to stop letting your dog sleep in her crate just because she is 14 months old. Many people let their dogs sleep in their crate well beyond the 2-year mark, and some, indefinitely. Your dog may find her crate to be her “bedroom,” and if she does, all the better. This just means you have achieved what many across the nation have been trying to do and failing at horribly. Dogs are simply different one from another, and they get trained differently.

Why is my dog suddenly sleeping in her crate?

When a dog is suddenly sleeping in her crate, but that is not her norm, one of two things has probably happened, and the first is most likely. That thing is that something has scared her badly. The other is that something in her normal sleeping spot has changed.

These are the things you need to consider if fear is the reason.

She may have been scared by any number of things, and if she was, maybe she is fine and just likes the secure feeling of sleeping in her crate. Another possibility is, however, that she is not fine, and getting her back to normal could be a somewhat daunting task.

What could have scared her?

Your dog can get frightened for all kinds of reasons, like the first time their owner leaves them at home alone (separation anxiety), suddenly hearing the loud sounds of thunder, a siren, or some fireworks, being carsick, getting vaccine shots, going to new destinations (think of how you felt when you first went to kindergarten), or being in a crowd. Another thing that can certainly cause fear, especially in rescue dogs, is meeting strangers. Dogs that have been abused may fear that this stranger will hurt them. Any of these can trigger a reaction like her needing amped-up security to sleep well.

What are the signs that she has been scared and is afraid?

Fear shows on dogs in different ways. Some whine, bark, or pace. Others shake, cower, or hide. Yet others show signs of fear reactivity, which looks much like aggression. If your dog is suddenly exhibiting these behaviors, something has probably scared her, and this could certainly be the reason she is suddenly sleeping in her crate, because a crate is a confined, secure-feeling space, with only one entrance. Your dog may be smarter than you think.

What can I do to help her get over her fear?

The trouble with fears that scare dogs this badly is that sometimes it can develop into a phobia, which is much harder to treat. That is why it is so important that if you feel that your dog has been scared badly and has a problem, that you get her to your vet as soon as possible to be assessed. This way your vet will be able to advise you on what you can do to help your dog get back to herself. Some things the vet may suggest are:

Undergoing Behavior Modification Therapy

Your behavior may need to be modified as much as your dog’s does. Many times, the most well-meaning owners contribute to their dog’s fears or phobias even though they have the best of intentions. Your first instinct, for instance, is probably to run immediately and try to calm and soothe your dog, but this isn’t always the answer. The best way to learn about behavior modification is to ask for help from your vet. Though this method will take the most patience and understanding, in the long run, it will be the most effective.

Wearing Recovery (Anxiety, Calming) Clothing and Accessories

Dogs love to be held tightly or swaddled. It calms them and soothes them just as it does a baby. Nowadays, they sell “recovery” clothing and accessories, with the word “recovery” meaning it is meant to help your dog recover from her fear. The main one is called different things by different manufacturers: anxiety vest, anxiety solution, or recovery suit, but the first one to come out, the brand name is ThunderShirt. Now. they sell calming caps. Also now, they sell calming collars. These work by circulating the same pheromone that a dog’s mother puts out to calm her puppies.

Using Drug Therapy

With drug therapy, you can probably guess that the vet prescribes a pharmaceutical drug, a benzodiazepine, which helps calm your dog’s anxiety. The thing is that your vet won’t want to prescribe these medicines to her forever, so you will want to do some behavior modification while she is taking them.

These are the things you need to consider if she is just seeking comfort.

Has something changed? Is she sharing your bed with a third entity? Have you or your husband started snoring? Have you started tossing and turning? Even if your dog sleeps on the floor beside your bed, these things could disturb her or make her uncomfortable enough for her to seek “snugglier” accommodations. If you don’t want her sleeping in her crate, you may have to play Sherlock Holmes and figure out what sent her to her crate to get her out.

Is it cruel to crate a dog at night?

Is it cruel to crate a dog at night? What do the authorities say? See the section on Should Dogs Always Sleep in a Crate? above for more information.

This is what the American Kennel Club says on the subject.

The AKC feels that crates make dogs feel secure. Most authorities agree that puppies up to at least 9 months and most up to 14 months should sleep in their crate. They feel that most dogs if at all possible, would be happy sleeping in their crates, and that it is not cruel to crate a dog at night.

This is what PETA says on the subject.

PETA asserts that “no animal on earth “loves” to be caged.” They feel that it is not right to cage an animal at all, ever, so, to answer the question at hand, they would definitely say — Yes, it is cruel to crate a dog at night.

This is what The Humane Society says on the subject.

They believe in crate training for puppies, but a Humane Society representative is quoted here, “you would not want to spend your entire life in one room.” I would assume that, after “puppyhood,” The Humane Society would say — While it may not necessarily be cruel, it, at the same time, may not be the best thing for your dog.

The hard truth is that you must decide what is right for you and your dog and roll with that. If you’re doing something really wrong, you’ll figure it out soon enough, and then, your vet can help you get things back on track.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.