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Out of the Cage!

Locking dogs in crates/cages is not good for them. Is that really a surprise or is their a natural human aversion to do so? I don't think anyone enjoys shelter commercials with dog locked in cages, in fact, it is a motivator to adopt and rescue them. Locked cages absolutely fails to meet critical normal dog behavior and needs such as active play, chewing, chasing, searching/exploring, performing jobs, and being challenged and exercised mentally and physically - this is 24/7 dog behavior needs that need to be continually and in fact can be easily created and met in our dog's fundamental environment in our homes, not just on outside excursions. Further, immobilizing, caging and depriving dogs of the minimum ability to walk is unnatural and deleterious, and contributes to hyperactivity and behavior problems once let out of the immobility forced by the cage. It contributes to the development of and always worsens separation anxiety.
In reality, every reason cited for locking dogs in cages is much better met and more effective without caging! (though that does not sell cages and crates) Read on exactly how we can really take the best care of our dogs in line with their nature, creating the happiest dogs and deepest, peaceful harmony with our dogs - out of a cage!"

Think you should confine your dog in a locked cage/crate? Really feel that way? Believe it?  Your right, your 

instincts are correct, locked cages/crates are not meant for animals 

No surprise, locking dogs in crates/cages is not good for them.  Views of dogs locked in cages in shelters produces visceral, instinctive feeling of sadness as no animal is meant to be caged, yet somehow this does not translate to dogs locked in cages in our own homes. In the past, if I said I locked my dog in a cage for any length of time in my home many people would be horrified and notifying the authorities. Strangely, the idea of crates/cages crating dogs has somehow become not only acceptable but common place. This is true despite that fact that laws have now been enacted protecting dogs from prolonged tethering in many states and counties, in NYC dogs cannot longer be tied up for longer than 3 hours, one reason cited in passing the bill “tethered dogs do not have much of a life” The Humane society states among other deleterious effects, tethered dogs become lonely, bored, and anxious.  One slogan used to promote anti tethering is “Friends Don’t Chain Friends”.  But locking them in cages is ok? I am not speaking about unlocked cages/crates where dogs can freely come and go into.


Crating/caging is typically instituted on a daily basis and can include a time period of 2, 8 and even 10 hours a day while clients are out of the home working. Dogs can then be caged again at night for an additional 7-8 hours. Crates/cages have become extremely misused to the serious detriment of our dog’s basic needs, expression of normal behavior, access to needed and pleasurable activity and thwart our dogs’ happiness and essential nature.


As an acclaimed Dog Behavior expert for 20 years, we need to truly understand dogs are animals and we provide the best, happiest and harmonious life for them by understanding and meeting their specific needs as animals – dogs. Uncaging also prevents many obedience issues related to hyperactivity, and owners avoiding problems such as destructiveness by caging instead of training, which then creates a vicious cycle.


Again, dogs are animals that need to be provided minimally with simple physical mobility and mental stimulation.  A need for free movement is true for each and every dog. Depriving dogs of the minimum ability to walk around an apartment or home is completely unnatural and deleterious, it does not meet any dog's innate need for simple movement ability as an animal.  

Puppies and dogs need to be mentally and physically stimulated, in fact, it aids in optimal development and peak condition. They are animals that are inherently, instinctually designed to explore, investigate, and constantly encounter novel stimulation - think of how dogs behave in parks, yard and on walks. Locking them in a cage with possibly one or two toys (often the same toys over and over) is a great disservice to your dog’s needs and aptitude.

For 20 years, I have successfully and easily released every single clients’ dog from a cage whether obedience or behavior problems issues and regardless if the dog has been caged for years.

Instead of a caging, as part of my Total Harmony Dog Transformation System I have created a home environment protocol structure that satisfies puppy and dogs needs and instincts in every home (even a studio apartment), fulfilling their normal dog behaviors such as chewing, chasing, exploring, hunting, providing jobs to perform and regular exercise, including aerobic fun games with owner like hula hooping and bubble chasing as well as plenty of ways for them to play and exercise themselves with great interactive puzzle toys. This results in a happy dog and owner and highest, peak quality of life for your dog. It also fulfills and vastly surpasses reasons cited for caging as explained further below.

This home environment structure also is a fundamental component of preventing and treating behavior problems in dogs. Being unnaturally caged can both create and exacerbate serious behavior problems. Immobilized and bored in a cage/crate serves to highlight and sharpen the focus on your absence. Caging a dog when you are not home creates a negative association with your absences and leaves your dog with nothing else to do but focus on your absence, a conduit for creating and exacerbating Separation Anxiety. If used in attempt to separate an aggressive dog from guests it only worsens the problem due to the increased frustration of inability to reach and no way to physiologically calm and get rid of aggressive agitation as dog immobilized, instead increasing it.

See tips to create yourself under “Better Solutions” and vastly improve your dog’s life! You will see your dog’s happiness/enjoyment level increase dramatically and quickly.

But why do people think they need to and do cage dogs, yet I have never met a client that really wanted to do so?

Reasons cited for caging/crating dogs:


  • Housetraining

  • Restricting puppies when unsupervised

  • Preventing destructiveness

  • Safe place


Are these reasons actually valid? And is caging the best solution to them?


Better Solutions


Housetraining & Restricting Unsupervised Puppies

Creating a den area is a valid way to housetrain a dog.  In the wild, the smell of feces can attract predators.  Therefore, the mother dog will consume solid waste material (coprophagia) deposited in the den to keep it as odor free as possible.  Puppies in the litter learn from their mother not to soil the nest in which they sleep and therefore dogs are born with a natural disinclination not to eliminate in their den or bed area. Properly used cages/crates as the defined den area can be one effective and efficient way to housetrain your puppy, particularly in the timing of needed elimination and elimination areas.  However, if they are not provided access to an elimination area when needed by being locked within the cage they will eliminate in it and it loses its value as a den.  A cage/crate can be one aid to housetraining, not to house your dog.  Once your puppy is able to eliminate three times a day at walking times they should not be locked in their cage/crate.


However, there are many ways to create a den area and elimination area that better allow for meeting the mental and physical needs of a developing puppy. A very easy way is to use a pen, or even a small room such as a bathroom, kitchen or any small room which is then gated off.  The den area is created by a dog bed, the elimination area is provided by surrounding it with whatever substrate you wish to use - wee wee pads, dog potties which are essentially boxes covered with artificial grass are some possibilities. The pen is also provided with puppy toys to meet their specific needs like teething and interactive puzzle toys to develop their mental acuity and dexterity and, of course, have fun! This also creates positive associations with your absence and will naturally tire your pup out, all of which can help prevent the development of separation anxiety and hyperactivity. For step by step specific instructions on housetraining please see Christina's Services


Preventing Destructiveness AND Creating Happiness?


Dogs do not talk on smartphones, engage in social media, surf the web, read books, watch TV, or have guests over. Therefore, the activities we engage in at home to prevent boredom, stimulate ourselves mentally, decrease stress and relax, and enjoy ourselves do not cross over to our dogs. need to be actively engaged, playing, mentally and physically mastering jobs and given an enjoyable life apart


Living in our urban homes, toys are a necessity for our dogs to help prevent boredom, destructiveness, hyperactivity and to meet and fulfill their normal dog behaviors such as chewing, chasing, exploring, exercising and giving them a job to perform.

Today’s interactive toys are great to meet these needs, providing problem solving challenges, exercise and even behavior therapy in the form of actively calming dogs, To help teach your puppy and dog not to be destructive in the home, provide a wide variety of toys starting with 20, have 15 out and rotate 5 in and out each week.  There are a wonderful variety of toys on the market that meet your dog's natural needs for chewing, playing, pulling and dissecting. There are also many interactive puzzle toys that are geared to your dog playing alone and which provide investigation and problem solving challenges such as the Hide a Bee, Egg Babies and pull apart toys as well as food dispensing toys such as Kongs and the Pyramid Toy. Toys can give your dog not only one job, but several jobs to perform successfully each and every day, in harmony with their true nature. Toys also are extremely helpful in providing positive associations with your absence and keep your dog calm, busy and tire him out, all of which work to prevent and are one essential component of treating separation anxiety.   


Puppy Proof! For pups, moving dangerous and tempting items out of puppy's way and initially "puppy proofing" your home is of course a necessity – hide the toilet paper, magazines, cover wires!


Instinct Expressive, Aerobic Exercise!
Hula Hooping with your dog! Most dogs lack needed aerobic exercise and hula hooping done correctly for 15 minutes can be equivalent to going to the dog run for an hour, is not weather dependent so can be done daily and owners and dogs absolutely love it! It also helps to keep dogs calm throughout the day, reducing anxiety and destructiveness and can be done up to 3x a day. It also helps to speed treatment of behavior problems in dogs by keeping them as calm as possible, boosting confidence (frightened and aggressive dogs are not confident dogs) and giving them a routine & job to perform successfully on a daily basis - which is great for every dog. Very easy to do and incorporate into lifestyle – for free demonstration and instructions see my “At Work Training Videos”

Bubbles!! I have created a system of using bubbles with a specific bubble gun that dogs "hunt down", get heavy exercise and really enjoy! 


As mentioned, many toys also help exercise dogs. An owner and dog game using a Flirt Pole harnesses the prey drive and also providing significant aerobic exercise.


Another favorite of mine is the interactive Pyramid Food Puzzle toy, fulfilling the instinct to search food and providing great mental and physical exercise your dog can do himself.


There are many other great interactive toys on the market as well.


Safe Place


A dog bed provides a safe, secure den for your dog.  Within your apartment or house your dog will also be able to pick out many safe areas suited to his/her particular preferences  - next to or on a sofa where you usually spend time, the quietest area in your apartment or house, etc.


Cage? If you dog truly loves his/her cage as a safe place test it – don’t force them in it or prevent them from leaving it by locking them in it, leave it always unlocked.


The huge benefits provided by being uncaged/uncrated create quite a different life for your dog as opposed to one spent living in caged confinement, even if that confinement is for a hour or two each day of their lives. In summary, if used properly cages/crates can be one way to housetrain a dog.  They also can be very useful in transporting a dog.  The problem is when cages/crates are used to house a dog.  Dogs are not meant to live in cages/crates, which is the heartbreak of shelter dogs. Dogs are meant to live in and share our homes, have their needs met and live the most natural and fulfilling dog life – which is possible!

For comprehensive instructions on setting up/creating the best environment possible tailored to your specific home including for housetraining, my specific list of Best Toys and Extra Durable Toys, instructions and best ways on how to Bubble!  (can see free clip in my video section), preventing separation anxiety, best ways to acclimate rescue dogs, puppy proof and much more help is available directly with myself, see my Services section



Christina Shusterich © 1/2010

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