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How Long Should Dogs Be Crated and Why?

Updated: Mar 27

Last week, the Washington Post published an article about crating dogs. Entitled Should You Crate Your Dog? It's Complicated, the article goes into the basic information all dog guardians should consider when deciding whether or not to crate their dog. The writer's dog, she explains, likes his crate. She recognizes that crates aren't for every dog, however. And, while the writer covers many important topics in the piece, today, we're going to answer the question, "How long should dogs be crated and why?" with the help of the above-referenced article.

How Long Should Dogs Be Crated and Why? Time Limits

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In the article, the writer, Kelly Conaboy, reflects on how she trained her dog to embrace his crate, which she refers to as his "apartment." She says she made it comfortable for him by adding a memory foam bed, pillows, and a blanket. She also gives him a treat when he goes in his crate on cue. Nevertheless, Conaboy admits she feels guilty confining him, despite his seemingly positive association with his enclosure.

"One source of worry for me is whether I’m leaving my dog in his crate for too long," says Conaboy; a concern we wish more pet parents shared.

At Hearts at Home Pet Sitting, we believe that far too many pet parents leave their dogs crated too long. Without breaks or exercise, crating can cause physical and emotional discomfort. It can even lead to musculoskeletal problems, especially in very young or very old dogs.

For this reason, there have to be time limits in place but, how long depends on the dog in question. The rule of thumb is four to five hours at a time, again, depending on the pet's age and other factors like those we discuss below.

How Long Should Dogs Be Crated and Why? Exercise

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Marny Nofi, director of the ASPCA’s behavioral sciences team is quoted in the article. She says that even when limiting a dog's time in the crate to four or five hours, he or she should enjoy 30 to 60 minutes of exercise before being crated.

At Hearts at Home, we believe that dogs should go potty, sniff around, and exert energy before going into their crate. Specifically, dogs should go for a walk or jog, engage with a challenging enrichment toy, or play a game of fetch or tug, etc., before being crated. Going to the yard alone very rarely helps dogs exert energy in the same way that a dog walk or hike can, which is why we don't consider yard time to be akin to other more effective forms of exercise.

Nofi adds that if a dog is crated both day and night, the dog should get 60-90 minutes of physical and/or mental stimulation before each crating session. If you think about it, that's about 2 hours of exercise a day for a species known for walking miles upon miles each day. It's the least we can do to ensure our dogs' needs are met.

How Long Should Dogs Be Crated and Why? Crate Size

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Your dog's crate size matters just as much as how long you leave him in there. Because an improperly sized crate can cause greater discomfort and feelings of confinement, dog guardians should ensure that their dog can stand up, turn around, lie down, and stretch out their limbs completely in their crate.

While potty training, dog crate size should be kept small because it will encourage the dog to hold their bladder or bowel movements for fear that their waste will get on them - dogs are clean animals and don't want to sit in their own filth. That said, once potty training is complete, dogs should get more room. This is why we recommend wire crates that allow visibility, air flow, and come with dividers that grow with your dog and their skills.

To learn more about crate training from the Karen Pryor Academy, often referred to as the Harvard of dog behavior, check out this guide.

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At Hearts at Home, we believe that proper use of dog crates makes for easier potty training and behavior management. That said, we encourage our clients to add one or two midday dog walks when they are working long hours to provide their dogs with much-needed breaks. We even offer a frequent walker package to encourage more frequent visits that fit your budget. Schedule at least three midday walks each week, Monday-Friday, on a recurring monthly schedule to be eligible for our frequent walker pricing.

Our in-home dog walking and pet sitting services are available in Yorktown, Poquoson, Newport News, and Hampton, Virginia. If you are interested in registering your dog(s) with us, please complete a new client questionnaire here. Existing clients may request services here.

Please visit our website or contact us by email at or by phone at 757-745-9868 to learn more. Happy crating!

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