Before buying a crate, there are some questions you need to answer that will help you decide on the best one to suit your needs.
♦ What do you need a dog crate for?
♦ What’s your budget?
♦ What size crate do you need?
♦ Where will it be set up and stored?
♦ How easy is it to maintain and clean?
♦ Does it matter what it looks like?
♦ What style/type do you prefer?
*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I may make a commission for the sale. This has no effect on the price you pay.*
What do you need a dog crate for?
First and foremost you need to know what you’ll be using the crate for. That will help you determine whether you need a super sturdy crate that can withstand travel in the cargo hold of a plane, or a basic one that will suit him when he needs to escape the hustle and bustle of a noisy day at home.
- Crate training
- Airline travel (crate will need to be airline approved)
- Car safety
- A den/for quiet time
- Safe place to put him when moving
- A place for your dog to sleep
What’s your budget?
It’s tough to answer a budget question if you have no idea how much something costs. The easiest thing to do is have a look around Amazon to get a better idea of how much crates cost. Once you’ve done that it will be easier for you to decide how much money you’re able/willing to spend. With so many options available, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding one within budget.
Note – You’ll need to factor in some kind of bed or crate mat for the bottom.
Here is a table I created to give you a general idea how much a crate will cost, based on prices listed April 28, 2020 at 3 big pet supply retailers.
What size crate do you need?
You need to be sure you’re buying the right size crate, because not only can it be too small if you don’t measure your dog properly, it can also be too big!
If you’ll just be using it as a hidey hole for him, then it can never be too big. However…that isn’t true if you’re using it for airline travel or house training. Airlines have very strict rules when it comes to flying with animals, and specific requirements as to size of crates. Size is also a factor in determining the cost of the ticket, so you don’t want it any bigger than it needs to be.
When it comes to crate training, if it’s too big your dog can use one part for peeing/pooping and the other as his relaxing space. Something you do not want to happen.
Here’s how to measure your dog so you have the right size that will allow him to stretch out, stand and turn around without touching the sides of the crate. This is most important when flying.
NOTE: If it’s too hard to do it using a tape measure, a piece of string may work better than measure that when you’re done.
The following guidelines are from the IATA website.
With your dog standing, measure from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail (not the tip of his tail)
Height from the ground to his elbow (A plus 1/2 of B will be the length of the crate)
Measure across your dog’s shoulders or at the widest part, whichever is bigger (C x 2 is the width of the crate)
With your dog standing, measure from the floor to the top of his head or ears, whichever is taller (this is the height of the crate)
Where will it be set up and stored?
Where the crate will be set up will need to be factored into your search. For example, if it will be set up in a tight spot, a door that pulls up may make more sense than one that swings outwards.
If it’s not something that will be permanently out, you’ll have to consider how much storage space you have. If it’s limited finding a crate that is collapsible would be an important feature.
How easy is it to maintain and clean?
Does it come apart so cleaning is a breeze? Is it a plastic you can easily wipe down, or a fabric that may hold odours?
Does it matter what it looks like?
I’m not going to lie, a crate sitting in the middle of the living room can be an eyesore…so how much will that matter? If it makes a difference you may want a crate that look like furniture, or a crate cover in a pattern that blends into your decor.
What style/type do you prefer?
This is where we’re going into detail about the various options, including a list of pros and cons for each one. After reading this you will have a very good idea which type of crate will best suit your needs and the needs of your dog.
Crates are made from a variety of materials –
- Fabric/soft sided
- Stylish (wood/rattan/wicker)
- Best ventilation
- Available with 1 or 2 doors that swing outward or slide up – more flexibility for use in small spaces or corners
- Easy to see your dog
- Your dog can see what’s going on
- Option of covering the crate if your puppy is too distracted
- Divider panels mean you can buy one size and adjust it as your puppy grows
- Removable floor tray for easy cleaning
- Most fold flat for transport or storage
- Carrying handle for portability
- Sturdy and pretty chew proof
- For some dogs the open view can be stressful but, as mentioned, the crate can be covered
- May not offer enough protection against the cold. Again, a cover thrown over should help, as well as putting a pillow on the bottom and a blanket
- Some dogs are talented and can pee or poop through the wire onto your floor
- Can be heavy
- Can be noisy when your dog moves around
- Some escape artists can, well, escape!
My experience with a wire crate
When my dog Jack became paralysed and was recovering from spinal surgery he needed complete rest, so we got him a metal crate. We added a nice comfy bed and blanket for him and he loved it. It was (still is!!) in the living room so he was still part of the family and could see what was going on. He no longer needs it for recovery purposes, but he does love to use it in the evening. I don’t find it noisy when he moves around, he has never peed out of it and there’s no way he could possibly open the two latches. Does that mean this will be your experience? Of course not but I like to share stories from my own life when I can.
Although typically used for air travel, they can also be used for crate training
- Light and less awkward to move and carry than metal ones
- Top can be removed and the bottom used as a dog bed
- Insulated against cold
- Top turned upside down fits in the bottom so doesn’t take up a lot of storage space
- Harder for dogs to see out so there’s less distractions and less stress
- If you buy an airline approved crate, you can travel with it as well
- Harder for Houdini to escape from
- Wire doors are available to prevent chewing
- Some colour options if that matters
- Indentation around edge of floor allows pee to drain away from where your dog lies (theoretically)
- Easy to take apart for cleaning
- If you’re planning on replacing them as your puppy grows, reasonably priced ones are available, especially if they don’t have to be airline approved
- Not many openings to see through, can be stressful
- Harder to get the smell out of plastic
- Lack of air circulation can cause your puppy to overheat
- Not the prettiest looking thing – if that matters
- Some have thin plastic doors, dangerous if puppies use them for chew toys
- If you have a large crate, it can be awkward making it smaller to fit him meaning he’ll have enough room to pee or poop in the back, and a clean section in the front. You will likely end up buying a few over the course of his lifetime.
When I use plastic
I have never used this type of crate as a training tool, nor would I because I believe a wire crate is best for that purpose. I use plastic for transporting cats to the vet and for air travel with dogs and cats. I make sure the doors are metal for safety during transport.
For people who don’t like the idea of keeping their dog “locked in a prison” (even though we know that’s not the case!) – a soft sided crate may be easier to live with.
- Light and easy to carry
- Doesn’t take up storage space
- Can be used for camping or travelling
- Lots of styles, colours and fabrics for the fashion conscious
- Easily damaged
- Not particularly long lasting
- Some dogs can unzip the door
- Not secure since dogs (especially puppies) can easily chew through or rip the fabric
- Difficult to clean
These include wood, rattan, wicker… and are an alternative for those who prefer a nicer looking unit.
- Shouldn’t be difficult to find one that blends into your décor
- Top can be used as a table, so no extra space needed
- Fine for use as a dog bed or hidey hole
- Not suitable for destructive dogs who can easily damage the material
- Not recommended for house training because material stains, and odours are very difficult to get out
- Can be expensive compared to other options
How to make a dog crate comfortable
You now have all the tips you’ll need to figure out the best crate to buy. How about some tips on making it comfortable?
Although this isn’t part of the decision making process, it’s information that will ensure your dog is comfortable for whatever length of time he spends in it. Which items you end up including will depend on what the crate will be used for.
Putting a cover over it in the house will give your dog some privacy and help him relax, but it’s not something you could do if the crate was going in the cargo hold of an airplane.
Leaving water in a crate used for house training is never a good idea, but if the crate is used as a bed with the door open it won’t be an issue.
You wouldn’t want your dog lying on a hard cold floor, so a bed or crate mat is what you need. A blanket will also add comfort and warmth if needed. If you have a puppy that’s still a chewer, be mindful to get bedding that is strong and hard to shred. It may cost more, but if you aren’t having to replace the bedding you will save money in the long run.
What I like ⇒ Helix Durable Dog Bed and Crate Mat
No water in a crate used for house training, but otherwise it’s okay. I would look at getting the type that clips onto the side of the crate (if you buy a wire crate) or the inside of the door in the plastic carrier.
Keeping it elevated will avoid accidental spills and your dog lying on a wet bed.
You need to give your dog something to do, a way to entertain himself and a toy is just the thing…but how do you choose from the hundreds out there? A Kong is a great start because they’re durable, can be stuffed with food or treats, frozen to make them last longer and available in several sizes and styles.
If your dog is not a chewer and has a favourite plush toy, throw that in as well.
Whether your dog is experiencing some anxiety, or you’re about to embark on a road trip, some calming spray spritzed onto the bedding or in the crate may help him relax.
Some dogs find great comfort being enclosed, while others prefer to have a 360° view of what’s going on. If you aren’t sure which description fits your dog then give it a try and see what happens. It’s your choice whether you start off covering the top and 3 sides, or perhaps just the back. If at any time your dog seems anxious, is clawing at the crate or whining, he’s trying to tell you he doesn’t like the amount it’s covered.
While it is possible to use a sheet, make sure the ends aren’t loose or they can be dragged into the crate, chewed and swallowed. You also shouldn’t cover every side as there needs to be enough ventilation.
Note: These are only used on wire crates as they are the most open.
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