Both my dogs are crate trained. When Kitsune was a pup crate training him was a bit of a nightmare. But, with lots of patience, he eventually learned to love his crate. Kit is 7 now and is well behaved enough that he can have free reign of the house. Even so, we still have a crate for him in our bedroom. We have an orthopedic bed in there for him, and besides our bed, his crate is one of his preferred sleeping spots.
We also have a 7 (almost 8!) month old puppy. Compared to Kitsune, Fenrir was a dream to crate train. He loves sleeping in his crate, and runs in there on his own when we ask him to, or when he wants to sleep. Because he's still a mischievous puppy, Fenrir is crated at night, and occasionally during the day if I need to leave the house or if, for some other reason, I can't keep an eye on him. If dogs are properly crate trained, they learn to see their crates as safe, comfortable places to rest.
Crates can be a great way to keep your dog (and not to mention all your worldly possessions) safe when you aren't around to supervise. But imagine believing that you were keeping your dog safe by crating him, then finding out that he had actually been injured by the same crate that was suppose to keep him safe!
Not a pleasant situation, and it's one we came very close to experiencing. I mentioned the other week that my fiance had gone away on a business trip. When he got home, the dogs were understandably excited. A few hours after our reunion I thought everyone had calmed down enough that we could all relax and go to bed. I took the dogs out, got Fenrir settled in his crate, then went in the other room to get ready for bed.
Just a few minutes later I heard Fen screaming. Not his typical "hey I need to get out of here and use the bathroom" whine, but a panicked wailing. I ran to the room he was in - I don't think I've moved that fast in years - and found one of Fen's paws caught in between two of the wire bars of his crate.
If he had remained calm I'm sure it would have been easy for him to free himself, but he was panicking. Frantically trying to pull his paw out from between the wires, he was only making his situation worse. One wrong twist and he could have broken his leg!
Luckily that wasn't the case. I was able to quickly free Fen's paw, which was unharmed. After our experience, I did some research and found that we're not the only ones who have had this type of experience with wire crates. I found reports of other dogs getting their paws/toes caught, and even an old petition about a dog who got her teeth caught in her crate, broke her jaw, and had to be euthanized due to her injuries.
Scary especially considering that many owners, myself included, leave their dogs crated when they leave the house. I hate to think of what could have happened to Fen's leg had I not been able to quickly help him free it. Hopefully he would have freed it on his own without hurting himself, but there's no way I can be sure the outcome would have been pleasant.
Since our scare I've been crating Fen in a soft sided carrier/crate. I understand this won't work for all dogs - the mesh windows are not the strongest material in the world. Luckily Fenrir enjoys sleeping in his crate, and doesn't normally try to escape from it.
Plastic crates are another alternative for dogs owners looking to avoid metal crates. Most plastic crates have metal doors, so make sure the metal grid on the door of the crate you select is small enough that your dog's leg/paw can't fit through.
Although Fenrir, thankfully, escaped his ordeal unscathed, it was scary enough that I won't be using metal crates anymore. From now on, when/if I need to buy another crate, I'll opt for a sturdy plastic crate over metal ones.
Part of me feels like this could be one of those "know thy dog" type of situations. Maybe metal crates are just not a good fit for certain dogs. On the other hand, it could take just a single incident to make dog owners regret using metal crates. Even if your dog has been using them safely for years, that doesn't guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen.
What do you think? Has your dog ever gotten hurt on his/her metal crate? After learning of the potential danger, would you stop using this type of crate, or do you feel the benefits outweigh the risks?