To crate or not to crate? There are several pros to crating, like helping with potty training and keeping your pup safe while you’re away. However, dogs who are caged too long may develop caged dog syndrome.
If you notice your dog is acting strangely or behaving differently after spending several hours in their kennel, it may have caged dog syndrome. There are several ways to manage caged dog syndrome, like ensuring your dog is socialized and gets plenty of exercise.
Let’s discuss caged dog syndrome, the symptoms of the issue, and how to manage it moving forward.
What Is Caged Dog Syndrome?
Caged dog syndrome, also known as kennel syndrome, crate syndrome, or kennelosis, is a behavioral issue in dogs that stems from prolonged periods in a kennel. Dogs with caged dog syndrome may shut down emotionally, become anxious or depressed, chew their cages, or act aggressively.
Kennel syndrome is relatively common among dogs in puppy mills or shelters due to spending much of the day and night in a cage. However, it’s possible for a pet living in a loving home to experience caged dog syndrome if they’re left in the cage too frequently.
Symptoms of Caged Dog Syndrome
There are several symptoms and signs of dogs who have caged dog syndrome. Here are the most common symptoms.
Emotionally Shutting Down
Dogs who spend too much time in their cages may become shy and disinterested in daily activities.
Other signs of a dog emotionally shutting down due to caged dog syndrome include:
- Keeping its tail between the legs
- Freezing when strangers approach
- Cowering for seemingly no reason
When a dog shuts down emotionally, it’s crucial not to rush them back into re-socialization. They must receive gradual exposure to new environments, people, pets, and activities. Initially, dogs don’t need to interact with new people or dogs; the presence alone is a suitable start for re-socialization.
Spinning in Circles
Typically, spinning is a behavior of high-energy dogs that lack physical and mental stimulation. This behavior is most common in working dog breeds or hyper dogs.
Initially, these dogs may start by walking around the cage in circles or jumping off its walls. If the behavior continues, it can become obsessive-compulsive disorder. At this point, it becomes harder to manage.
Cage chewing signifies the dog desperately wants to escape the crate. Dogs that habitually cage chew risk damaging their jaws and teeth if the behavior continues. However, they’re so desperate to get out that they’re willing to hurt themselves to do so.
Typically, cage chewing occurs when a dog is put inside the cage or crate as punishment. When crate training, it’s vital to ensure your dog sees their crate as a safe space. Otherwise, your dog will negatively associate with the cage and want to escape.
Food Guarding or Cage Fighting
Food guarding or aggression and cage fighting are common in shelter dogs. Dogs in contact with several other dogs may instinctively feel they need to protect their food. Typically, food aggression is more common among shelter dogs due to limited food sources in some situations.
Cage fighting doesn’t necessarily mean attacking another dog but can include howling, growling, and barking. Territorial dogs are likelier to exhibit cage-fighting behaviors, especially around several other dogs.
When a territorial dog growls or barks and the other dog backs down, this positively reinforces the behavior, making the issue worse.
Aggressive or Destructive Behavior
Dogs need plenty of mental and physical stimulation; otherwise, overall aggressive or destructive behavior can occur. Compare it to being locked in a small room for hours; eventually, you’ll be hyperactive and possibly angry.
Similarly, dogs left in a cage too long become exceptionally active and may exhibit destructive behavior to release their energy. Though some dogs show destructive behavior by destroying furniture or other items, others will excessively lick or chew their paws.
What Causes Caged Dog Syndrome?
It’s unclear what the exact cause of crate dog syndrome is, though experts believe confinement and improper socialization are the primary factors. Dogs with caged dog syndrome may excessively whine, bark, pace, or scratch the cage.
There are several possible causes of kennel syndrome, including:
- Extended time in the crate
- Lack of nutrition
- Excessive crating
- Improper crate size
- Isolation when in the crate
- Kennel stress
- Lack of exercise
- Exposure to stressful stimuli
- Lack of socialization
Although many dogs do okay in a crate overnight while asleep, keeping a dog in a cage all day and all night is cruel. There are short-term and long-term consequences of crating your dog for prolonged hours.
Most dogs can hold their pee for six to 12 hours, but it’s not fair to make them hold it that long. Long-term over-crating can lead to caged dog syndrome.
How to Treat Caged Dog Syndrome
If your dog exhibits symptoms of kennel syndrome, seek help from an animal behavioral specialist or a veterinarian who can diagnose them. From there, the professional will help develop a treatment plan. Unfortunately, untreated caged dog syndrome can lead to severe behavioral issues.
There are several ways to treat caged dog syndrome, depending on the cause and the symptoms. However, some things you can do include:
- Ensuring your dog gets more socialization with humans.
- Providing your dog with plenty of exercise.
- Feeding your dog a nutrient-dense diet.
- Avoiding exposing your dog to stressful stimuli, like loud noises.
- Giving your dog breaks from the crate to go potty and move around.
A professional may suggest treatment options like:
- Anxiety medication or an antidepressant
- Relaxation techniques like music therapy
- Behavioral therapy
However, the best way to treat caged dog syndrome is to prevent it in the first place.
Preventing Caged Dog Syndrome
If you’ve been crating your dog for more than a few hours at a time during the day and the dog is showing symptoms, you may need to make a few changes.
Choose a crate that is the proper size. Your dog should be able to stand up and move around comfortably. If you plan to leave your pet in the crate for extended periods, provide access to water, food, and an area to do their business.
Take the dog out every couple of hours to exercise and play. Determine the proper amount of exercise needed for your breed. If you need more clarification, ask your veterinarian. Additionally, ensure your dog receives plenty of mental stimulation with interactive toys or teaching new tricks.
If you cannot come home from work to take your dogs on walks or play with them, consider the following:
- Ask a friend or family member to stop by to let your dog out of the crate.
- Hire a dog walker to stop by and take your dog on a walk while you’re gone.
- Consider a doggy daycare that provides sufficient exercise for your dog. Some places even have cameras to check in on your pet while you’re away.
The above is especially important if your dog is in its crate throughout the night. 16-plus hours is a long time to be in confinement, and your dog won’t get its daily exercise and human interaction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding caged dog syndrome.
Dogs left in a cage all day typically don’t receive enough exercise or socialization, which may lead to dog anxiety or depression. You may need to adjust your schedule, hire a dog walker or pet sitter, or take your dog to a doggy daycare to limit their crate time.
There are some benefits of crate training your dog. However, studies show that long-term crate time is detrimental to pets’ physical and overall well-being. Never use the crate as a punishment to avoid a negative association with the crate, so they see it as a safe space.
At most, adult dogs shouldn’t be in a crate for more than six to eight hours. Puppies that are at least 17 weeks can withstand four to five hours in confinement. However, it’s always best to give your dog breaks if you leave it in the cage throughout the day.
While some dogs can hold their bladder for 12 hours, it’s unfair to make them do so. Most adult dogs will need a potty break after eight hours, even if their exercise needs are met. Although it may be okay if your dog sleeps throughout the night in a crate, 12 hours during the day is too much isolation for your pup.
In some cases, it’s perfectly fine to leave your dog in a crate while you’re at work. However, if you work long hours or don’t get lunch breaks, you may need to ask someone to stop by and let your dog go potty and get some exercise.
You’ll need to ensure your dog gets daily socialization, mental stimulation, and exercise requirements when home from work.
Ideally, you should leave your dog in its cage for at most three to four hours at a time. Because most adult dogs can hold it for eight hours, you shouldn’t leave them in the crate for longer than that. With that said, it can be harmful to its mental health to be in a cage for a long time without exercise.
Dogs that are crated day and night don’t get enough mental stimulation, exercise, or human interaction. Spending so much time in isolation can cause your pet to become depressed, anxious, aggressive, or exhibit other behavioral issues.
If you work long hours, hire someone to watch your dog or take your pet to a doggy daycare to avoid caged dog syndrome.
Conclusion for “Caged Dog Syndrome: What to Do and How to Manage It”
Dogs can be in a crate for about six to eight hours, though they should get a break about halfway through. If your dog is in a kennel for eight hours, give your pet an exercise and potty break after about four hours. Leaving your dog in the crate too long can damage its physical and mental health.
To work on improving your dog’s behavior in a crate, try to socialize your dog, provide plenty of exercise, feed a nutritious diet, avoid loud or stressful stimuli, and give regular breaks from the crate. Above all, the crate should be a safe space for your dog, not a form of punishment.
If you find this guide, “Caged Dog Syndrome: What to Do and How to Manage It,” helpful, check out:
- Why Does My Dog Suddenly Hate His Crate? (2023)
- Dog in Crate 20 Hours a Day: What You Should Know! (2023)
- 7 Best Indestructible Dog Crate Pads! (2023)
Learn more by watching “Are Dog Crates Cruel? Should You Use A Dog Crate For Your Dog Or Puppy?” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
Why Trust We Love Doodles?
At We Love Doodles, we’re a team of writers, veterinarians, and puppy trainers that love dogs. Our team of qualified experts researches and provides reliable information on a wide range of dog topics. Our reviews are based on customer feedback, hands-on testing, and in-depth analysis. We are fully transparent and honest to our community of dog owners and future owners.