Question: Should I crate my 1-year-old Jack Russell terrier when we aren’t home? No one could steal him, and he couldn’t get into anything, but in a kennel, he couldn’t guard the house, and if there were a fire or other emergency, he could not escape.
What should I do? — Jolene
First of all, I applaud you for being being aware that you should crate your dog when you’re not home. Many times, when dogs have free rein in the house, they can act out by destroying furniture, eliminating indoors — on your bed, for example! — and barking nonstop in the backyard.
When dogs are left alone too long without anything to do, they tend to make their unhappiness known, especially dogs of a mischievous breed like your Jack Russell.
A Den for Your Dog
But dog crates serve another purpose besides keeping your pet out of trouble: They provide a quiet place where your dog can feel safe and comfortable when you aren’t home. Canines are denning animals, which means that they instinctively prefer to sleep in small, comfortable spaces. If your dog becomes agitated when he’s alone, crating him is the best way to help him feel secure until you come home.
However, the questions you raise are good ones. If one of your dog’s jobs is to protect your home by barking at potential intruders, he won’t be able to do that job if he’s in a crate. Also, if there is a fire or an earthquake, your dog would, indeed, be trapped in his crate. Both situations are excellent arguments for leaving your dog uncrated.
On the other hand, crating your dog when you’re not home can actually protect him in both situations, too!
If Someone Wants in, They’ll Get in
I accepted long ago that if someone wants to break into my house, they’re going to do it, no matter what kind of security system we have. A barking dog is definitely a deterrent, but if someone wants in, they’re getting in. Should that happen, and if your dog responds by attacking the intruder, there is a good chance the burglar will harm your dog, perhaps even kill him.
On those same lines, if there’s a fire or other problem that involves an emergency response team, your dog will indeed be confined to his crate — and be that much easier for the team to remove from harm. Firefighters don’t have a lot of time to evacuate a home, especially one that is protected by a loose dog, so having your dog in a convenient “carrying case” will keep him safer.
I recommend you get one of these nifty free stickers from the ASPCA. List your pets on the sticker and affix it to your window. Burglars will see that you have pets and perhaps move on to another home, and emergency response teams will know that there are pets inside that need to be rescued.