Why did I get this book?
I purchased this book after stumbling upon an article in The Guardian, that questioned the use of crates in family homes with dogs. The article itself had a few years on it as it was from 2015, but compared to what I see every day over that the Community Forum, it still seemed highly relevant. The article interviewed the authors of the book, Ray and Emma Lincoln (canine psychology specialists), and mentioned the book and noted that they wrote it in hope of helping people to live better lives with their dogs. I have long been a skeptic of crating in the home – it is not a cultural norm where I come from, nor is it in several other European countries, so naturally, I got curious about the title.
After all, if a single practice can set off enough concern to write an entire book about it (350 pages, no less), there’s substantial reason to think that it can be a potential cause of the many behavioral problems we see over at the forum every day (something I had confirmed by a vet today, but that is a story for another day). And truly, a large percentage of the posts we see do in fact feature crate distress, people who feel pressured to crate, and dogs that are crated excessively in order for the humans to be able to breathe calmly in their homes.
The book itself is from 2010 but after reading it I will say that large parts of it are still highly relevant, even if there’s an odd point here or there I will not agree with. But really, it’s rare that I agree fully with much literature, regardless of the author.
What does this book do?
Well, You may not be impressed by the title or the graphic design of this book. Honestly, I’m not either. They could have spent a few bucks on a graphic designer and some flashy fonts. I do however believe that this is done on absolute purpose. It is a horrid subject, it is an ugly subject and so is the book, goddammit. But that’s all fine and good because my 1st class teacher taught me never to judge a book on its cover and neither should you.
The book features several case studies of dogs that the authors have treated in homes, as well as case examples of extreme animal abuse cases involving crates. They do however make a good job of not passing blame to the owners but do call upon animal professionals to be the change that can help the animals, and provide the material they need to do so with. Starting out with a full chapter devoted to the probable ill effects of excessive crating (ranging from aggression and developmental issues to untimely deaths, a total of 115 highly concerning entries), that mostly confirmed my suspicions that long-time daily crating is not healthy in the long run. It also features a lengthy chapter about puppy development (including a full description of how canines are actually only “den-animals” in nature for the purpose of puppy rearing) and explains very well how every moment a puppy is crated is a lost learning opportunity, as dogs develop good manners in home environments by actually being in the environments. From there on it jumps to the history of crating and how it caught on (you may remember 20-30 years ago when crates weren’t the norm?) and who profits from it. It is an interesting cultural insight that I, as a non-American, was quite intrigued by, even if I already had some idea about it.
The most important chapter, however, is chapter 5 which features scientific and veterinary evidence of the dangers of excessive crating, something that the community appears not to believe exists (even though we have compelling studies from lab animals and zoos on the subject of confinement). I’m going to point out that they also refer to some material that PETA has penned, however in conjunction with the other material provided such as veterinary journals, the reference is perfectly valid.
The end of the book provides a guide in how to house train, raise, and keep dogs without crates as well as a list of 20+ ways people can help others to ditch the crates and begin enjoying their dogs. As the book is 10 years old and written before force-free was popular and as widespread as it is today, there’s a few of the training aspects and lingo that’s a bit off such as the choice word “gentle verbal correction (we would know that as an interrupter today)”, however, the rest of the process is totally doable, gentle, and can serve as solid inspiration to help professionals craft guides on how to raise puppies in homes without losing your mind and resorting to a crate. It does a nice job of solidifying that crating for average pet dog owners is simply not necessary but actually stands a fair chance of causing more trouble than it provides aid in their daily lives.
What does this book not do?
Well, it obviously does not provide crate training info and it is not force-free as such. But, it also doesn’t say that crates in all are evil and should be banned (in case you think so) and it also does not voice concern with sport and show events where crating is common as these are rarely regular family pets and thus subjected to a different daily life. They willingly acknowledge that crates do have a place in the world (vets, transport, rest after injuries, sport, and so on), but should come with a strong warning and should not be used for extended periods in pet homes in order to control a dog of any age.
It is not an easy read – it leans much more towards being an academic paper rather than a mainstream consumption book, which is fine because it refers to other easier reads that might be better for the individual reader. And I’m okay with that. It will also not denounce or shame other trainers by name and will pay credit where it is due – even to Cesar Milan. It will however not, shy away from questioning writings of popular dog authors in hope of motivating them to take an official stance on crating.
I do think this book is worth a read. Despite the authors referencing PETA and CM in their work, the references are absolutely valid to the subject and supported by numerous sources that allow any reader of the book to move on and check their research. In short, there are no secrets.
If you are a dog professional who routinely recommends crating, I would recommend this book. If you’re simply curious, by all means, do read it. Take the info and adjust it to your training methods because no longer than 30 years ago, crates were not necessary, and they still shouldn’t be today.
Where do I get this book?
As usual, Amazon is your friend. It is an older release, but it is still available.
It is not an easy read – it leans much more towards being an academic paper rather than a mainstream consumption book, which is fine because it refers to other easier reads that might be better for the individual reader. And I’m okay with that. It will also not denounce or shame other trainers by name and will pay credit where it is due – even to Cesar Milan. It will however not, shy away from questioning writings of popular dog authors in hope of motivating them to take an official stance on crating. If you do not want to read it, so be it, but please keep in mind not to bash material that you do not wish to look into.