Modern dogs often develop behavioral issues. They can stem from various reasons and vary in severity, from mild to unmanageable. Lately, in the dog parent community, there has been a particular interest in the so-called cage dog syndrome, the “to crate or not to crate” dilemma.
Caged Dog Syndrome-What Is It?
What is caged dog syndrome? Caged dog syndrome is a specific behavioral issue in dogs caused by excessive crating. It is also known as crate syndrome, kennel syndrome, or simply kennelosis. Dogs with kennelosis are hard to manage and exhibit various behavioral issues, including emotional shutdown, spinning, cage chewing, cage fighting, overall destructive behavior, and food aggression.
Cage dog syndrome is pervasive and concerning in shelter dogs and dogs coming from puppy mills. However, dogs raised in loving homes can also develop kennelosis if crated too long and too frequently.
This article will explain everything you need to know about caged dog syndrome – from recognizing its early signs to putting an end to the behavior.
The Role Of The Crate For Dogs (CAGE)
Dog crates are a hot topic among dog parents. Some adore them and see them as indispensable parts of the dog training experience, while others hate them and see them as torture devices.
In simple terms, both dog parent categories are correct. When used responsibly and adequately, crates can be helpful training tools. On the other hand, when used irresponsibly and inadequately, crates can be a punishment. It all depends on how you use the crate, for what reasons, and for how long.
In general, the main pros of using a dog crate are:
- Supporting the dog’s natural den instincts
- Protecting the dog from accidents while unsupervised
- Helping with the potty training.
The list of cons is a bit longer and includes:
- Physical frustration
- Emotional distress
- Crates can feel like punishment
- Crates can be dangerous if poorly assembled
- Also dangerous if poorly ventilated.
The recent spike of the dog crates’ popularity triggered a vital question – how did people and dogs co-exist before the crate invention?
Luckily, it is perfectly achievable to raise a well-behaved dog without using a crate. Proper training is much more critical than crating time.
Understandably, as a dog parent, you might not have the skills or time to be a trainer. Therefore, professional dog trainers will help you raise a good dog while checking zero crating hours. Additionally, some trainers can teach you how to use the crate correctly.
What Happens If I Keep A Dog In A Cage All Day?
Although it is possible for some dogs to willingly spend 12 hours in the crate at night while sleeping, keeping a dog inside a cage all day is cruel and irresponsible. There are many reasons why all-day long cage periods are bad for dogs.
Some have short-term consequences and other long-term consequences. For example, dogs cannot refrain from peeing for 12 hours, and even if they can, it is not fair to make them hold it for so long. In the long run, excessively long crate periods can lead to behavioral issues or, more accurately – caged dog syndrome.
Caged Dog Syndrome
As already mentioned, caged dog syndrome is a behavioral problem that stems from excessive crating and encompasses several different questionable behaviors.
Logically, caged dog syndrome is much more common in shelter dogs because they spend most if not all of their time inside tiny cages. However, caged dog syndrome is becoming more and more common among family pet dogs due to the irresponsible use of dog crates.
If your dog is acting strangely and you suspect it might have caged dog syndrome, look carefully for the following behaviors.
If your dog suddenly becomes too shy or scared from everyday activities, chances are it is shutting itself down emotionally. A dog going through an emotional shutdown will likely:
- Keep its tail between the legs
- Have a hunched posture
- Lay down and freeze when an outsider approaches
- Cower in the corners for no apparent reason.
Emotionally shut down dogs need slow re-socialization. They need to be gradually exposed to new people and dogs, environments, sounds, and experiences. In the beginning, the dog should not be required to interact with the new people and dogs. Just the mere presence is enough to initiate the re-socialization process.
Spinning is a typical example of high-energy behavior due to inadequate physical and mental stimulation. Spinning is more likely to occur in hyperactive dogs and working dog breeds.
These dogs usually start walking around the cage in circles and may even begin jumping or bouncing off the cage walls. Spinning can develop into a self-fulfilling obsessive-compulsive disorder. Once it becomes an obsessive-compulsive disorder, spinning is hard to manage.
Cage chewing is a clear sign the dog wants to escape its crate or cage. Dogs that developed cage chewing due to excessive crating are at risk of permanently damaging their teeth and jaws. These dogs would do anything to break out, even if that means hurting themselves.
Cage chewing develops in dogs put inside the crate as a form of punishment. Dogs typically like spending time in their dens (or crates). However, if the dog is sent inside its crate as a punishment, it will likely go against its denning instincts and try to escape. Once the dog stops seeing its crate as a safe den, it will see all crate-related experiences as bad.
Cage fighting is common among shelter dogs. Contrary to the term, cage fighting does not always need to include actual physical violence – it also involves aggressive behaviors like growling and barking.
Cage fighting is likely to develop in territorial dogs. Namely, when an overly territorial dog is closely exposed to several other dogs, it is natural to start expressing aggressive tendencies.
If the other dogs are calmer and back down when barked, the territorial dog’s aggressiveness is positively reinforced, thus aggravating the problem.
Food aggression is a crucial component of the caged dog syndrome, but cage fighting is almost always limited to shelter dogs. This is mainly because shelter dogs face scarce food sources and are fed only one meal per day.
Hunger is a solid driving force, and ensuring food access is a basic dog instinct. Any dog deprived of food can become aggressive over time.
Overall destructive behavior
Imagine being held restrained for too long – once released, you will want to be hyperactive. Dogs are similar. However, when dogs tend to be hyperactive, they are usually destructive as well.
An overly destructive dog can focus its damaging abilities on furniture or on itself. Destructive behavior in dogs is not always limited to chewed sofas and scraped walls. Sometimes, destructive behavior manifests with excessive paw licking and chewing.
Despite the risks and many contradictory opinions among veterinarians, trainers, and dog parents, crate training’s popularity skyrocketed during the past 20 years. The $50 billion pet crate industry is a simple example of how popular crates are.
However, this industry advertises only the pros of using crates while neglecting to spotlight the potential risks – primarily the development of caged dog syndrome. As a severe and hard-to-manage behavioral issue, caged dog syndrome is definitely worth more attention.
Not all crated dogs will develop a caged dog syndrome, but that does not mean that crating is the lesser evil. Crates can be excellent training tools but only when used responsibly.
If you are worried about your dog developing caged dog syndrome, invest in an excellent canine trainer and modify your dog’s behavior to your lifestyle. Positive and gradual obedience training is a far better alternative than locking your dog up whenever you feel it might do something wrong.
Is it good to keep your dog in a cage?
Using a cage or crate definitely has its benefits, especially in providing your dog with a safe and secure personal space. A crate is a good tool for housetraining puppies. However, the dilemma of whether it is good to keep a dog in a cage is more complex and depends on how your dog sees its crate and how you use it.
Can I lock my dog in the bathroom?
Locking your dog in the bathroom or any other room to prevent it from doing shenanigans while you are at work, away, or having guests is a questionable decision. Instead of keeping your dog locked up, you should be working on training your dog and teaching it which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.
Is keeping a dog in a cage cruel?
Keeping a dog in a cage or crate against its will is definitely cruel. However, if the crate’s door is always open and your dog can freely enter and exit its crate, then there is nothing wrong with the crating or caging concept.
What is dog kennel stress?
Dog kennel stress is a specific type of stress dogs develop after prolonged kenneling (usually in shelters and puppy mills). The stress can stem from several factors, including isolation, overcrowding, noise, bullying from other dogs, scarce food and water resources.
Should I get a dog if I work full time?
It goes without saying that dogs are a significant investment – not just in money but also in time. However, just because you work full time does not mean you cannot be a dog parent. You can choose an independent breed or have your dog enrolled in dog daycare.