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 crate, it’s important to consider the different uses and purposes of a pet crate, and what your most common use may be.
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 décor 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.
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, but crates provide certain mental and emotional security as well.
While domesticated canines certainly differ in many ways from their wolf ancestors, they retain certain instincts and habits from their predecessors.
Many dogs love having a crate of their own because it’s reminiscent of the narrow dark dens their ancestors took refuge in.
Dogs feel snug and cozy in their crates — it’s a modern den and safe space to call their own!
Crates also serve as a much-needed escape when the house gets too hectic for your pooch. It’s their quiet corner they can take refuge in.
Now it’s worth noting 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, spending time in a crate is far from cruel. In fact, most actually learn to love their crate and think of it as their safe space.
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 seriously 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 an under-the-seat carrier (see our full list of airline-approved dog crates) or needs to be 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 is likely the most popular design for dog crates.
Wire dog 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 filled with comfy crate pads or more disposable materials if your dog is still having lots of accidents. This makes them a popular dog crate for puppies!
Most wire crates are moderately tough – they can stand a bit of abuse, but not too much.
These types of dog 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.
However, wire dog crates aren’t appropriate for air travel, although they can be used in the car for distraction prevention.
They’re also not usually the best crate 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.
- Offer lots of ventilation and an open line of sight
- Can be collapsed and easily stored
- Great for potty training since the removable tray is easy to clean
- Can’t be used when flying
- Not escape-proof for determined Houndinis
- Don’t offer protection from drafts in chilly weather
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.
Think a wire crate is right for your pooch? You may want to consider the iCrate Starter Kit. It’s not just a crate — it’s an entire crate kit that features everything you need!
A complete crate kit that provides everything you need, including food bowls, a crate cover, and a comfy bed.
Most plastic crates are designed for smaller dogs and double as a carrier. Certain plastic dog crates can even be used for airplane travel in the cargo hold – 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.
- Well-insulated for cooler climates
- Provides plenty of privacy for doggos needing time to unwind alone
- Some designs can be used for airline travel
- Not as easy to clean as other kennels
- Lack of ventilation is not ideal for warmer weather
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.
Think a plastic kennel will suit you and your pooch well? Amazon Basics offers a great option that has most features owners want and a price tag owners will love!
A straightforward, affordable kennel that comes in two sizes and features two doors for easy pet access.
Wood dog 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!
- Unique look is more aesthetically pleasing than wire or boxy plastic pens
- Designs typically offer excellent ventilation and sightlines
- Wide array of styles to choose from
- Not good for chews (no puppies, please!)
- Usually pretty pricey
- Not recommended for dogs prone to potty accidents
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.
Sold on the idea of a wooden dog crate? You’ll definitely want to begin your search by considering the Merry Pet 2-in-1 model. It looks fantastic and can be used in two different configurations!
A great-looking, furniture-quality dog crate that can be configured in two different ways, providing incredible versatility.
Soft Fabric Dog Crates
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. In fact, most owners use them as a travel crate.
The downside to these ultra-flexible, portable soft-sided 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.
- Ultra-portable and lightweight
- Pricing ranges from affordable picks to pricey designer options
- Tons of styles to choose from
- Versatile option that can also be used for vet visits, car rides, air travel, and more
- Not ideal for chewers or rough dogs
- Difficult to clean
Best For: For calm, well-trained dogs on excursions where lightweight and portability are essential factors.
Ready to pick out a soft and cozy dog crate? Check out the Amazon Basics model — it is very affordable and works well.
A soft sided, collapsible dog crate that's available in 4 different sizes and 4 great-looking colors.
Heavy Duty Crates
Heavy-duty dog crates are designed to be escape-proof – they’re made for those rough, destructive dogs who can easily break out of a standard wire kennel.
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 are 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.
- Basically, an Alcatraz for your pooch. Your dog won’t chew his way out of this one!
- Most offer great ventilation and sightlines, letting your doggo feel included
- Many feature nifty options like a removable tray for easy cleaning
- Heavy and cumbersome
- More expensive than most crates
Best For: Houdini dogs who can make quick work of escaping traditional, standard crates.
There are a bunch of heavy-duty dog crates on the market, but the Pro Select Empire Crate is one of our favorites. Built like a tank and designed with a number of owner-friendly features, this is a great option for owners with escape-minded mutts.
A roomy and rock-solid dog crate that's made from 20-guage steel and built on casters, making it easy to move around.
Furniture dog crates are crates designed specifically to complement your home decor. These crates are often quite stylish and tend to get a lot of attention and compliments from visitors. When it comes to unique and cool-looking dog crates, furniture-style crates often fit the bill!
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 his chompers.
While many of these furniture crates have doors and locks, plenty of others don’t, serving more as a casual hangout spot than any kind of containment station.
- Very stylish and subtle
- Saves on space (great for #apartmentlife!)
- Many offer top-notch pupper privacy
- Not very durable — can be destroyed by a chewer
- Not portable
- Most don’t have removable trays, making them difficult to clean
Best For: Easy-going, well-trained dogs who don’t chew a ton.
Interested in some furniture quality crates? You may want to consider the Causal Home Wooden Pet Crate. Designed to be a dog crate and piece of furniture at the same time, this is a great option for many pet owners.
A fantastic-looking end table with a built-in spot for Spot, this dog crate is available in 2 sizes and 4 different finishes.
Dog Crate Sizing: How Big a Crate Does My Dog Need?
When it comes to crate design, most come in the standard rectangle shape.
The most common mistake owners make when choosing a crate is getting the wrong size.
We 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 important when a crate is being used for potty training — if the crate provides too much extra space, 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 crate size should you look for?
Conventional wisdom says to go with a crate size 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.
Consider what your crate plan is for your dog’s lifetime.
Are you OK using one crate for your dog when he’s a puppy and upgrading to a new, larger crate when he grows? 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 to Consider
In addition to deciding on the right crate style and the proper size for you and your pup, there are a few other things you’ll want to consider when making your purchase.
A couple of the most important things to think about include:
- 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 panel 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.
- A Plastic Tray. Most wire crates have a plastic tray at the bottom, which provides an easy way to keep the crate clean and deal with accidents. Some owners like to line the plastic slide-out tray with newspaper or some other absorbent material, while others prefer just washing the plastic tray itself.
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 or crate mat 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 #cratelife.
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 your dog loves! Also make sure to never rewards your dog’s whining 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.
The Best Dog Crates: FAQ
Still have questions about picking the best crate for your dog? Don’t worry! We’ll answer some of the most common crate-related questions below.
What is the best dog crate?
The best crate is the one that best suits the needs of you and your specific pet. Some dogs will need a heavy-duty, durable crate that prevents escapes, while some owners want a crate that looks great in the home. As long as you select a high-quality crate that keeps your pet safe, helps your dog feel comfy and secure, and satisfies your desires, you can’t go wrong.
Is it OK to crate a dog at night?
Absolutely, as long as you’ve selected a crate that is appropriate for your dog, and you’ve introduced him to the crate properly — you don’t just want to buy a crate and start locking him inside all night long without laying some groundwork.
Is it cruel to leave a dog in a crate for 4 hours?
We certainly don’t think leaving your dog in a crate for a 4-hour period of time is cruel (although this may be too long for puppies — they can’t hold their bladder as long as adult dogs can). In fact, many dogs enjoy spending reasonable periods of time in their crate.
That said, you certainly don’t want to keep your dog locked away in a crate all the time. Be sure that you’re balancing your dog’s crate time with fun time that’s full of physical and mental stimulation.
What is a high-anxiety crate?
“High-anxiety dog crates” are simply crates that are built to contain a highly agitated dog. They’re generally made from very durable materials and designed in a way that prevents your dog from chewing on various parts of the crate. Many are also designed to be darker, which often helps anxious pups feel safer.
What safety features should you look for in a dog crate?
All dog crates should be secure, be devoid of any sharp edges or projections, and offer plenty of ventilation. Most high-quality crates satisfy the second and third criteria easily, but crate security varies quite a bit.
Just make sure that you stick to crates with secure latches and consider purchasing one that also features locks if your pup is prone to escape attempts.
How much does a dog crate cost?
Crate priced vary significantly depending on the size, materials used, and design concept. You may find a small wire, soft-sided, or collapsible crate for a puppy for $30 or so, but you could easily spend more than $1,000 on a large, super-secure crate for dogs with separation anxiety.
Picking a crate is certainly a bit of a project, but it’s one that’s totally worth doing! Your dog will love having a place to rest comfortably, and you’ll love how much it makes it easier to manage your floof.
We hope that the tips and instruction above make the process easier, but don’t be afraid to let us know any questions you may still have in the comments below!