Sometimes, you just need alternatives to dog crates.
Maybe your dog hates the crate, for example, and not a single training strategy seems to change that.
Or perhaps you just plain abhor the way it looks!
Either way, these alternatives will help keep Fido contained without making him feel locked up.
What to do when your dog hates the crate
I’ve had five dogs over the past 19 years, and every last one of them hated the crate.
Yeah, yeah, if I had crate trained them properly, they probably would have learned to love it.
However, we decided after the first night with our first dog that crate training just wasn’t for us.
My dogs screamed every time we put them in it, I ended up crying, and it just wasn’t worth it.
Crate training is great, yes, but it’s far from the only way to raise civilized dogs, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you’re comfortable with your decision to ditch the crate, then skip ahead to the next section.
On the other hand, if you DO feel like you want your dog to learn to love the crate, there are things you can try.
- Make sure it’s not too big or too small
- Feel around and make sure nothing is poking your dog
- Sit in the spot where you place it and feel for drafts, listen for weird noises, etc.
- Try adding safe toys, blankets, or comfy crate mats
- Move the crate to a more central location so your dog doesn’t feel lonely
- Never use the crate for punishment
- Try feeding him in it- with the door open- so he associates it with yummy things
PetCareRx has some other great tips on helping your dog learn to love the crate, so check that out.
I want to move on to the dog crate alternatives, because I think that’s why you’re really here, right?
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Dog Crate Alternatives You Can Both Live With
We’ve used a few different dog crate alternatives over the years, so I’ll start with my experiences first.
Then, I’ll share some recommendations from fellow dog parents who don’t use crates.
1. Good training strategies
Our first step in going crate-free was training our dogs to behave throughout the entire house.
I recommend positive reinforcement training to teach your dog which behaviors (and parts of the house) aren’t off limits.
It didn’t take long for Tasha to learn that she wasn’t supposed to jump on the counter or chew everything in sight when unattended.
Maia, well, there was an episode involving the theft of blueberry bread (Amish bread that I could only get once every other week, no less!).
Cooper, my third dog, was a 6-month-old rescue who spent the first part of his life locked in a tiny cage with ten other dogs.
He was trickier because of food insecurities, so we had to put the garbage up when we left and make sure all food was locked away.
However, with a little work and a few preventative measures, all of my dogs could be left alone in the house without destroying it.
It’s hard to find good videos on training without a crate because every expert recommends it, but this one below is a good start.
2. Fenced yard + dog door + barrier
I know not everyone has the luxury of a large backyard, but if you do, consider fencing it in. You won’t regret it!
Here’s what we did
- Fenced in the entire yard with an inexpensive (yet sturdy) wire fence.
- Add a dog door to our screen door.
- Closed all of the bedroom and bathroom doors.
- Used a baby gate to create a safe space (that included the dog door, of course) and block off the rest.
It sounds like a lot of work, but once you get the fence up and the door installed, it’s one of the best alternatives to dog crates ever.
We used this something like this dog door (pictured above, too), in case you’re curious.
3. Baby gates
Baby gates make fantastic dog crate alternatives! We use them all the time with my Pharaoh Hound, Freya.
They keep her out of the laundry room (where the litter box is), bedrooms where cats are sleeping, and more.
This one from Chewyis a good option. Or, just reuse your old baby gate if you have one. That’s what we did.
While gates are great for keeping dogs out of certain areas, playpens are perfect crate alternatives when you need to keep him confined.
If you have a large breed, you may want to grab an expandable playpen.
The point is to get something that confines him without making him feel like he’s in a crate.
We actually used one of my son’s old playpens (it didn’t have a bottom, just a bunch of heavy-duty pieces that formed a circle.
Instead of setting it up in a tiny circle, though, we straightened out the system and made a barrier to block them in the kitchen.
Ours looked a lot like this one on Amazon. It’s a lot pricier than a dog playpen, but that thing lasted me years!
5. Pet-sitter or dog daycare
Freya is the only dog we’ve ever had that can’t be left home alone. Fortunately, my mom lives with me and rarely ever leaves the house.
However, when we both go out, my son stays home with her. When all three of us go out, we get a friend to sit with her.
If you don’t have a “homebody” live-in mom or a teenager to sit with your dog, hiring a pet sitter is an option.
Likewise, you can send your pup to dog daycare. Beware, though, this is by far the priciest option overall.
Honestly, we trust very few people with Freya, so dog daycare is not an option I’d be comfortable with.
She’s a sighthound with an enormous prey drive.
One little mistake, one moment of leaving the front door open too long or not securing her leash, and she’ll be gone forever.
Alternatives to dog crates aren’t hard to find, especially if you get creative.
However, regardless of which option you choose, you definitely have to train your dog to behave outside the crate.
If you do that, you shouldn’t have any issues. Like I said, aside from a blueberry break incident, we never had one.