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Ultimate Dog Crate Guide: Best Crates For Your Canine

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Dog Carriers By Meg Marrs 14 min read April 29, 2019

Getting ready to buy a dog crate for your pooch?

It’s one of the bigger purchases you’ll make for your four-legger, so you’ll want to make sure you choose a good one!

Today we’re covering everything you need to know before you buy a dog crate for your fur baby. We’re talking about dog crate uses, sizing, various materials, and much more!

Let’s dive in.

Benefits & Purposes of Dog Crates

When selecting your ideal dog crates, it’s important to consider the different uses and purposes of a pet crate, and what your most common use may be.

1. Containment 

Containment is the most common and obvious use of a dog crate. While some dogs get free roam of the house while their owners are away, other dogs simply can’t be trusted.

It’s not just a matter of mischief and chewed up furniture (although decor destruction is certainly no fun); unattended dogs could end up hurting themselves if they ingest foreign objects or get into something they shouldn’t be sniffing around.

This is doubly true for puppies, who are even more likely to get up to no good than adult dogs.

In these cases, containment provides your dog with safety and you with some much-needed peace of mind.

2. Housbreaking

For many owners, crates are a core step of the house training process.

Dogs instinctively won’t go to the bathroom in their “den,” so keeping your pup in tight quarters – along with letting them outside frequently and lathering on praise with successful potty action – is how most owners end up teaching their dog proper house training skills.

Learn more about the housebreaking process here if you’re itching to know more!

3. Comfort & Safety

We’ve already touched on how crates provide your dog with physical safety, ie keeping them from lapping up bleach while you’re at work. However, crates provide certain mental and emotional security as well.

While most of our domesticated canines are only loosely linked to their wolf ancestor, they do retain certain instincts and habits. Many dogs love having a crate of their own because its reminiscent of the narrow dark dens their ancestors took refuge in.

Dogs feel snug and cozy in their crates – it’s a modern den to call their own!

Crates also serve as a much-needed escape when the house gets to hectic for your pooch. It’s their quiet corner they can take refuge in.

Now it’s worth nothing this isn’t true of all dogs – some dogs would much rather spend 24/7 under your feet than a moment in their crate. Still, for most dogs, a crate is far from a piece of cruelty – actually is a much-beloved spot of safety and comfort.

4. Transportation

Crates can also be used to safely transport your pooch during a car ride or airplane flight.

Crates are quite important for car travel to prevent distracted driving – having a dog constantly try to climb in your lap can be a terrible danger. In the event of a collision, an uncrated dog can also become a frightening projectile that could serious injure or kill you or other passengers.

The sad truth is that most crates will serve as distraction prevention but don’t do much else. Read our article on car carriers if you want to learn more about the best carriers and crates for car travel.

Crates are also essential for traveling with your dog in the skies. Whether your dog is small enough to travel in a under-the-seat carrier (see our full list of airline approved dog crates) or needs to put in the cargo of the plane, your dog can’t travel without a crate.

Types of Dog Crates

Crates come in a few different materials and styles – we’ll cover the most popular ones here!

Consider your dog’s personality – is he a chew monster? Does she get anxious when you step outside? Your dog’s personal preferences will likely have a say in which type of crate you choose.

Wire Crates

dog crying in crate

Wire is likely the most popular design for dog crates.

Wire crates provide plenty of ventilation, and they let your dog still feel part of the action, as there are little to no visual barriers outside of the odd metal rod – it gives your pooch the perfect line of sight to gaze at his favorite humans all day long.

Wire crates are popular for potty training since most feature removable bottom trays that can be filed with comfy crate pads or more disposable materials if your dog is still having lots of accidents.

Most wire crates are moderately tough – they can stand a bit of abuse, but not too much.

Wire crates can also be collapsed and stored away when necessary (although doing this daily would still prove a nuisance). This makes them fairly portable, although larger versions can get a bit heavy.

Wire dog crates aren’t appropriate for air travel, although they can be used in the car for distraction prevention.

Wire crates aren’t generally the best option for dogs with separation anxiety – strong, determined dogs can actually wedge themselves between flimsy wire bars when in a panic, opening them up to potential injury.

Wire crates also aren’t very pretty – if they’re being featured in a well-trafficked part of your home, you may want to opt for something more visually appealing.

Wire crates can also be a bit on the loud side if you have an unhappy dog rattling around in a fury.

PROS

  • Lots of ventilation and open line of sight
  • Can be collapsed and easily stored
  • Great for potty training – removable tray is easy to clean

CONS

  • Not very attractive
  • Can’t be used when flying

Best For: Dogs who like to be part of the action and see what’s happening. Also notably beneficial for owners in warmer climates due to increased ventilation.

Plastic Crates

dog travel crate

Most plastic crates are designed for smaller dogs and double as a carrier. Certain plastic dog crates can even be used for airplane travel – although there are certain requirements that must be met.

Plastic crates can’t be collapsed very easily, although they can be disassembled with a bit of effort when not in use.

Plastic crates aren’t ideal for ventilation – some have hard plastic on all sides except for the door, which is usually meshed wire. On the other hand, this structure also means better insulation, so this design is especially well suited for colder climates.

If you do choose to go with a plastic crate, you may want to consider opting for one with additional holes in the sides of the plastic for added ventilation – especially if you plan on using this crate for air travel, as this is actually one of the requirements for airplane approved crates.

More solid siding also means more privacy for your pooch. If your dog is prone to anxiety or stress, they may benefit from the seclusion and separation plastic crates provides (we think they’re especially ideal for households with rambunctious kids).

Plastic crates tend to be light and ideal for transportation (at least for smaller dogs). However, plastic crates aren’t as easy to clean, making them a less than ideal option for pups learning how to potty properly.

PROS

  • Well insulated for cooler climates
  • Some designs can be used for airline travel

CONS

Not as easy to clean – not ideal for housebreaking.

Best For: Dogs who prefer privacy, are heavy chewers, and/or who are housebroken. Also a great choice for owners who travel a lot and want to transport their pet easily.

Wood Crates

dog crate end table

Wood crates are often a choice for owners looking for a certain look to their dog’s crate, usually in order to match a certain decor.

Wooden crates have a nice look to them, but they may be problematic for chewers, who can make quick work of wood with their teeth.

This type of crate isn’t portable – it’s designed to pretty much sit and stay wherever you assemble it!

PROS

Unique look

CONS

Not good for chewers

Best For: Owners looking to match a specific kind of decor, and for calmer dogs who won’t be tempted to chew at the crate.

Soft Fabric Dog Crates

best soft sided dog crate for small dogs

Soft fabric dog crates are by far the best when it comes to lightweight, portable crates. They’re often designed similar to a child’s pop-up play tent, with a light metal frame covered with fabric and mesh.

These crates are often solid options for camping, hiking, or visiting family and friends.

The downside to these ultra flexible, portable fabric crates won’t keep a determined dog inside – a rough chewer or clawer can make quick work of these crates, rendering them useless.

For this reason, we only recommend them for calm, adult, dogs. They also can be quite difficult to clean, making them a bad choice for pups being housebroken.

PROS

  • Ultra portable and lightweight
  • Great for camping

CONS

  • Not ideal for chewers or rough dogs
  • Difficult to clean

Best For: For calm, well-trained dogs on excursions where light weight and portability is essential.

Heavy Duty Crates

best heavy duty dog crates

Heavy duty crates are designed to be escape proof – they’re made for those rough, destructive dogs who can easily break out of a standard wire crate.

These crates are made of tough materials like steel or aluminum. This means that these crates are completely chew-proof and bend-proof, but they very heavy and difficult to move or transport (although some do come with wheels).

Most of these crates also come with additional escape-prevention features like double locks.

PROS

Basically, Alcatrez for your pooch. Your dog won’t chew his way out of this one!

CONS

  • Heavy and cumbersome
  • More expensive than most crates

Best For: Houdini dogs who can make quick work of escaping traditional, standard crates.

Furniture Crates

dog ottoman crate

Furniture dog crates are crates designed specifically to compliment your home decor. These crates are often quite stylish, and tend to get a lot of attention and impressed comments from visitors.

Most crates in this category double as end tables or coffee tables. Not only does this look incredibly cool, but it also saves on space, erasing the need for an additional crate structure in your house.

There are some downsides – most of these crates are made of wood, and can be easily chewed apart by any dog inclined to use their chompers.

While many of these furniture crates have doors and locks, plenty others don’t, serving more as a casual hangout spot than any kind of containment station.

Interested? See our top picks for the best furniture crates!

PROS

  • Very stylish and subtle
  • Saves on space

CONS

  • Not very durable – can be destroyed by a chewer
  • Not portable

Best For: Easy-going, well-trained dogs who don’t chew a ton.

Dog Crate Sizing

When it comes to crate design, nearly all come in the standard rectangle shape.

The most common mistake owners make when choosing a crate is getting the wrong size.

Us humans like our living spaces on the larger size. We want our spare space – we’ll even pay extra for more legroom in coach!

However, dogs aren’t like us. They actually prefer tighter, cozier spaces. This is especially true when a crate is being used for potty training – if the crate is too big, your dog will treat his sleeping space as a separate area, and will manage to potty on the extra corner space he doesn’t need.

So what size crate should you get for your dog?

General wisdom says to get a crate that is long enough for him to lie down, wide enough to let him turn around, and high enough for your dog to comfortably stand up (plus 3-4 extra inches above the head).

Also keep in mind that some dogs actually have a taller height when sitting vs standing, so be sure to measure for both.

Try to measure your dog while he’s in his preferred sleeping style and get a crate long enough to match his snoozing system.

You may look at a crate and feel that it’s too small for your dog, best rest assured, cozy and comfy is what your dog wants!

Think about what your dog wants, not what you’d like if you (a human) had four legs.

Planning for Now vs The Future

Consider what you crate plan is for your dog’s lifetime.

Are you OK using one crate for your dog when they’re a puppy and upgrading to a new, larger crate when they grow? Or would you rather purchase a crate that comes with dividers, allowing you to give your dog more space as he gets bigger?

You’ll have a wider selection if you don’t mind the possibility of needing an upgrade down the line. Crate dividers aren’t uncommon, but you certainly won’t find them with every crate. If you want to invest and commit to a single crate for your dog’s lifetime, make sure to hunt down a crate with dividers.

Other Dog Crate Features

  • Locks. Most dogs can be safely contained with a single locking mechanism. However, Houdini-inclined dogs may require double locks or more complicated locking mechanisms to keep them safely locked up.
  • Top / Second Doors. Most crates have a single door that can be opened to let your dog in and out. However, some crates also feature double doors (a door on each side of the crate) or a door that opens from the top of the crate, for lifting a small dog in and out.
  • Dividers. Some wire crates come with dividers that can be inserted to make a crate smaller. This is a nice benefit for owners who are house training a puppy. Owners can use a divider to start their pup off in a small space (to discourage them from making messes), and then extending the crate by removing the barriers when the pup is housebroken or when the dog grow larger.

What to Put in the Crate?

You can make your dog’s crate an extra-special spot by including a few items and goodies that will keep your pooch happy and comfortable.

  • Kong or Chew. Placing a frozen treat Kong, a food-dispensing puzzle toy, or a chew is a great method of diction. An occupied, engaged dog is a happy dog. Give your pup something to do other than fret.
  • Special, High-Value Treat. When you’re first crate training your pooch, we suggest giving them a high-value treat upon first entering the crate (like a piece of hot dog or freeze dried liver). This makes crate time fun and exciting for any pup!
  • Clothing From Owner. Many dogs appreciate having a piece of their owner’s clothing in the crate with them – especially when they’re still a bit apprehensive about it all. Your scent makes them feel comforted (aww).
  • Crate Pad / Bed. You probably won’t want a crate bed until your dog is properly potty trained. However, when you’re ready, crate pads can provide additional cozy comfort.
  • Crate Cover. Crate covers are handy accessories that can be used to dark a crate or reduce visibility. This is especially handy for normally open wire crates in situations where your dog may appreciate more privacy (for example, when your young, handsy niece comes to visit).
  • Water Dispenser.Many owners choose to place a water dispenser in their dog’s crate (although be careful to consider how this might affect potty training with a puppy).

Crate Location: Where Should The Crate Be Positioned In the Home?

The positioning and location of your crate is another factor to consider.

Again, it’s helpful to think about your dog’s temperament. Shy or more reserved dogs will likely want their crate positioned someplace out of the way – maybe in a corner somewhere.

Energetic dogs who want to spend every minute by your side will likely prefer their crate to be positioned in a high-activity spot, like the kitchen.

The type of crate you select may also play into positioning. Less attractive crates are more likely to be designated to the side hallway or areas less frequented by family members, while more attractive crates can even serve as household features.

Furniture crates that double as end tables or coffee tables will only make sense in a living or family room, while wire crates can basically go anywhere.

Why Does My Dog Hate the Crate?

Having trouble getting your dog to enjoy his or her new abode? You aren’t alone. Many owners have trouble transitioning their dogs to crate life.

Helping your dog learn to love his crate involves making sure the first introduction is a positive and pleasant one.

Make sure to start your crating sessions small and work your way up. Start with leaving the door completely open, and giving your pooch treats for being inside. Then try closing the door for only 15 seconds – then a minute, then 15 minutes, and finally up to 30 minutes.

Treats and praise should be plentiful when your dog gets into the crate – you want this to be a place‚Äč your dog loves! Also make sure to never rewards your dog’s whinning in the crate. Wait until your dog is silent to let them out – otherwise you are rewarding bad behavior!

For more info, make sure to check out our guide on how to stop your dog from crying in the crate – it goes over in detail how to make your dog’s crate introduction and teach your dog to love his special spot!

It’s also essential that you never use the crate as a form of punishment. It’s not a time out spot. You don’t want your dog creating negative associations with the crate, so never put your dog in when you’re angry or mad.

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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