Crates or cages are used by many dog owners to help house-train their pets and to keep their dogs out of trouble when the owner is away. Some dogs come to like their crates, viewing them as a sort of den where they have their own space. If used incorrectly, however, or if the cage is not large enough for your dog, cages can have harmful effects.
Many dog owners use crates or cages as a form of punishment for their pets. When the dog gets into trouble or makes a mess in the house, he is reprimanded and sent to his cage. If your dog is only sent to his cage as a form of punishment, he will learn to associate the cage with negative feelings and with your displeasure with him. A dog crate should be a place where the dog feels safe, not a place to which he is banished when his owner is unhappy with him.
Lack of Space
When house-training a puppy, provide a cage that is not much bigger than the space the puppy needs to lie down. Because dogs have a natural aversion to soiling their own beds, this serves to keep them from making a mess in their crates. When the dog gets older and the crate becomes a den or a place the dog is kept when the owner is away, switch to a crate that provides adequate space for the dog to sit, stand and move around a little bit so his muscles do not become cramped.
Dog cages and crates, when used for puppy house-training, should be devoid of food and water so that the puppy does not need to use the bathroom. Once your dog learns to relieve himself outdoors, and the crate becomes his den or overnight housing, provide water to keep him hydrated. If left without water in the crate all day while the owner is at work or overnight, the dog may become dehydrated.
Depression and Isolation
Leaving your dog in the crate for extended periods of time can lead to anxiety and depression, even loneliness. If you keep your dog's crate down in the basement or in the garage, he may begin to experience the negative effects of isolation. Do not leave your dog in the crate for longer than necessary. If you can't be home during the day to let him out and take him for a walk, hire a pet sitter or rearrange your schedule. Depressed or anxious dogs can become ill.