How Long Can 1 Year Old Dog Stay In Crate A Dog’s Den Instinct

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A Dog’s Den Instinct

When talking about reasons to train dogs, many well-meaning dog lovers point to dogs’ “natural nesting instinct.” Because we humans are so intimately connected to private space and a sense of protection, we assume that other creatures must be too. The depictions in different media have also created the impression that wolves naturally live in caves. This provides a biological rationale for crate training – the fulfillment of a simple dog’s instinct to call an enclosed space its own. But as we shall see, this notion is unfounded.

Dogs are direct descendants of gray wolves (Canis lupus) and are genetically almost identical – only 0.2% of their genetic code differs. Wolves in the wild don’t really “live” in caves. On the contrary, they roam large areas, sometimes over a thousand square kilometers, in search of food. The only time wolves use dens is for breeding purposes. Wolves are born blind and helpless and need time to develop before being exposed to the harsh effects of the wider world. Before birth, the wolf pack digs or finds a suitable hollow space. Here the mother gives birth, and for the next four weeks the cubs stay in or near the den. Even during this time, the mother wolf does not necessarily live in the den – she may go out hunting, leaving another member of the pack to watch the cubs. As soon as the cubs can do so safely, they leave the den to begin traveling and hunting with the rest of the pack. While the pack may return to the den for the birth of the next litter, they may just as easily abandon it entirely.

So if wolves don’t live in caves and dogs are as close to wolves as possible, it seems unlikely that dogs would have a “cave instinct”. Why are dog crates so popular and valuable as training tools? The answer is simply that dogs (in this case, unlike wolves) are tame, trainable animals. They have been bred for thousands of years to easily accept human care and to accept the conditions they are placed in. It can mean anything from the high-fashion lifestyle of Paris Hilton’s “bag dog” to the desperate and brutal life of a pit. – fighting dogs. Dogs have no more instinct to live in a cage than humans have to drive a car – but in both cases, training trumps biology. Crate training is useful because a dog crate is an easy way to limit a dog’s access to inappropriate objects or areas. Dogs also develop an instinctive desire not to soil themselves with their own waste – so confining them to a small area teaches them to “hold it” and helps with the housebreaking process.

The purpose of this article is simply to show that approaches to dog training do not need false “natural” foundations. The reasons for using dog crates as part of a training program are good enough on their own without creating non-existent behavioral elements. Dogs, like people, are intelligent and adaptable, and grooming usually trumps nature. So ignore the talk about “nest instincts” and focus on “nest training”.

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