Can a Dog be in a Crate 20 Hours a Day? (Answered!)

Can a dog be in a crate 20 hours a day? Many paw parents find this an absurd question and may even have a few nasty things to say (you many have already heard it which has you wondering and has brought you here)…

You shouldn’t have a dog if you have to crate him for so long. Why do you keep a dog that you don’t have time for? You are selfish! You should put your dog up for adoption! You don’t deserve a dog! A dog shouldn’t be in a crate 20 hours a day, that’s inhumane!

But the truth is… We’ve all been there – juggling busy work schedules and wondering if it’s safe or even humane to leave our sweet fur babies in their crates for an extended period of time.

So, how long is too long? Is 20 hours too long for a dog to be in a crate out of a day’s time (24 hours)?

The raw truth is… a dog should not be in a crate for 20 hours a day without any breaks. I repeat, without any breaks. Excessive time spent in the crate without breaks and proper attention can significantly impact the dog’s overall health and happiness. That being said, a dog with a total of 20 hours crate time in a day can be healthy and happy. There is a difference!

I am going to share with you why a dog shouldn’t be left in the crate for 20 hours without a break and I’ll give you alternatives to an extended crate time that will set your mind at ease and leave your dog feeling much happier.

But first let’s go over a few things…

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The Average Time a Dog Stays in the Crate in a Day’s Time

On average in a home where the paw parent works, dog’s can spend 16-18 hours in a crate during the day.

Sound absurd?

Well, let’s break it down…

8 hours crated at night and 8-10 hours crated during work hours.

With that being said, if you work 10-12 hour shifts and your dog sleeps 8 hours at night in the crate that’s 18-20 hours in a crate.

In both scenarios the remaining hours are spent with their family… playing, interacting, training, etc.

Can you see how a dog with a total of 20 hours crate time can still be healthy and happy?

What’s important to keep in mind is the age of your dog and how are the hours spent in the crate. Is it a full 20-hour crate time without breaks or is your dog out of the crate a couple hours at a time before returning to the crate?

Understanding a Dog’s Needs

Dogs, especially puppies, are energetic, curious, and social animals who thrive on companionship, mental and physical stimulation.

They are pack animals by nature and they crave spending time with their family.

And of course they need necessities like food and water to survive.

With that in mind, let me share with you an illustration why it’s NOT recommended to leave a dog crated for a full 20-hour period without breaks…

Why a Dog Shouldn’t be Left in the Crate for 20 hours Without a Break

Dogs have biological needs that simply can NOT be neglected. They NEED food, water, frequent potty breaks, exercise, and social interaction for their overall well-being.

Keeping a dog confined in a crate for 20 hours at a time without a break goes against their natural instincts and can lead to numerous problems such as:

Bladder and Bowel Problems

Puppies have small bladders and limited control over their bathroom habits and while adult dogs can hold it longer, being unable to relieve themselves at regular intervals can result in discomfort, accidents, and potential bladder or urinary tract infections.

Let’s say you leave food and water in their crate as most paw parents do (which I do not recommend) how can your dog relieve themselves if they can’t go out of the crate?

If your dog holds it to long, it can become uncomfortable, even painful for them. Just think about how uncomfortable and painful it can get when you have to go to the bathroom and can’t.

… And then again if your dog doesn’t have food and water access for long periods of time such as 20 hours, then your dog could starve and become dehydrated.

Muscle Weakness

Dogs, big or small, need space to explore, run, play.

Constant confinement to a crate for such long periods without breaks can restrict their movement and contribute to muscle weakness and lack of muscle development.

Anxiety and Depression

Crating a dog for an extended period can cause anxiety and depression as it can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Think about what isolation and loneliness can do to you mentally.

We all experienced it during Covid, those that were made to stay at home and even more the ones that had to go and work the long, grueling hours, right in it all without breaks.

Just think about it and how it made you feel…

Many people developed anxiety and depression including my husband and I.

Lack of mental stimulation and physical exercise can worsen these feelings, resulting in behavioral issues and an overall decline in your dog’s mental health.

Behavioral Problems

Crate time is a valuable tool for training, but excessive and prolonged crating can result in restlessness and destructive behaviors from boredom, frustration or pent-up energy.

RELATED: Dog Running Around Like Crazy All of a Sudden? Holy Zoomies!

Your dog can (and most likely will) destroy everything inside their crate, including their crate.

Alternatives to an Extended Crate Time

While crate training is an incredible training tool and has its benefits, it isn’t the only way to train or raise a happy dog. There are crate training alternatives that you can use instead to cut down your fur babies crate time. You can even eliminate crate time altogether!

RELATED: How to Train a Puppy Without a Crate: Alternatives to Crate Training

Provide a Designated Puppy-Proof Area

Create a safe, puppy-proof space.

This could be a room or area within your home like the laundry room or garage (granted it is air conditioned) or a fenced yard where your fur baby can roam and explore freely. This ensures they are in a secure environment while still being able to stretch their legs and get exercise.

Provide your dog with a comfortable bed, food and water. If your dog doesn’t do well free eating do not leave the food out. Feed your dog before you go to work.

If you choose to create a space within your home, I recommend litter box training your dog as this gives them a place to relieve themselves while you are away. If you don’t want to use a litter box you can use potty grass. I just don’t recommend potty pads as many dogs especially puppies turn them into chew toys unless you buy a potty pad holder.

Either way, the training method is the same for using both the litter box or potty grass.

RELATED: The Ultimate How to Litter Box Train a Puppy Guide: Step by Step!

Be sure to include plenty of interactive toys and/or puzzles that will keep your dog mentally stimulated, engage their curiosity and keep them entertained.

Also, be sure to include durable chew toys such as kong toys or antlers.

Ask for Support

If you’re unable to be around for long periods of time and can’t provide a safe and interactive place for your dog, consider asking for help.

You can ask a trusted friend, neighbor, family member. If all else fails and no one can help, hire a professional pet sitter or dog walker who can provide potty breaks, playtime, and companionship.

Doggy Daycare

If your budget and schedule allow, doggy daycare can be a fantastic option for socialization, exercise, and mental stimulation.

Doggie daycares work just like daycares for your toddlers. They provide a safe and fun environment where they can make friends, learn, and play.

This option allows your dog a fulfilled life and keeps you from worrying about your dog the whole time you are away working.

If you can’t do any of the crate training alternatives, as heartbreaking as it is, I do recommend putting your beloved dog up for adoption to a family member, friend or a loving home.

Crate-Free Sleeping

Training your dog how to sleep crate-free allows them a little more space to really stretch out and get comfortable. It also allows your dog to be next to you giving them added comfort and the feeling of being near you.

Crate-free sleeping does not mean your dog sleeps with you, your dog can sleep their own bed, next to your bed.

RELATED: How to Train a Puppy to Sleep Without a Crate: Nighttime Crate Free Training Guide!


The question of whether a dog can be kept in a crate for 20 hours a day is a complex and emotionally charged one. While some may react with harsh judgements, the reality is that many paw parents, including yourself, might find themselves grappling with this dilemma due to demanding work schedules.

The raw truth is that crating a dog for 20-hours without any breaks is detrimental to their physical and mental health. That being said, a dog with a total of 20 hours crate time in a day can be healthy and happy. There is a difference!

Instead of relying solely on a crate, consider options like making a puppy-proof space in your home, reaching out for assistance from friends or professionals, or even enrolling your fur baby in a doggie daycare. These choices offer your dog plenty of chances for play, interaction, and mental engagement, ensuring their well-being and keeping their tail wagging with joy!

Have you faced this dilemma? How have you found creative ways to balance your dog’s well-being and your busy schedule? Did you use one of the suggested alternatives? Share in the comments below, your comment may help another struggling paw parent!

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