How to pick a dog crate

There are three things to take into consideration when picking a crate. The first thing you have to figure out is what size crate you need. Second, you have to decide what type of crate you think will work best for your situation. Finally, you need to determine if you need one, two or even three crates.


My formula for deciding which size of crate I need is to ruffly (get it?) measure my dog when he is laid out in what we refer to as “sploot” position or “froggie doggie”. Speaking with more formality, this is a prone position with the back legs splayed out behind them.  After I think I have an idea of the number of inches associated with that position I add 6 more inches to my measurement to find a total. If I can’t find a crate that matches this measurement in length I round up. I believe it is unimportant to concern your self with the width or height of a crate. If the length, sometimes referred to as depth, is appropriate it will also be appropriate in width and height. You don’t need to concern yourself about your dog being able to stand  in the crate with room to spare as the dog will be spending 99.99% of its time lying in the crate. 


So many times my clients attempt to provide the smallest crate possible because it fits nicely into the nooks they have created during a remodel or a place they’ve designated for the crate but this will often result in a dog that is resistant to crating. Asking an animal to get in a box with no idea of when he’ll be let out is quite an exercise in submission and trust. I want to make it as appealing as possible by not asking them to be cramped.


Another topic that concerns my clients is housebreaking. They have received information from the internet highway telling them their puppy will soil its crate if the crate is too big and therefore should make it as small as possible. I find that crate soiling rarely has much to do with a crate being “too big” and can be solved through other means. 


If you’d like to get a crate that will fit your puppy at its fully grown stage go ahead and get the size you determine will be appropriate for your future adult dog. You can use the divider if necessary should you purchase a wire crate. You may find the divider unnecessary. I almost always do. 


After you determine your measurements it’s time to decide what type of crate you would like to purchase. There are two main types from which to choose. The most common types are the airline crate, also known as the clamshell crate, and the wire crate. Another type that is increasing in popularity is the soft sided crate. I do not recommend this for beginners. A soft sided crate is for the dog that has proven his acceptance to confinement. If you think your dog is ready for a soft sided crate I recommend this one sold on Amazon. I held on to it for a few years but it could not withstand the abuse from visiting puppies nor my rabbit. But for my trained and crate-accepting Cocker Spaniel it worked beautifully and I loved traveling with it. I will get another one when we start traveling again. There is a fourth variety that is lesser known and that is a type of crate I call a “tiger cage”. It is inescapable and very well made. This type of crate is often used for sporting dogs. It’s possible to lock this crate to prevent theft when traveling with the dogs. I’ve only needed to bring this crate to the attention of a couple of owners over the years for escape artists. Almost all others have been able to tolerate confinement without escape attempts. I’m linking here to the brand in this category of which I am familiar. The few times I’ve employed this crate I’ve not been disappointed. 


Let’s look at the pros and cons of the wire crate. Almost all wire crates are currently manufactured with the capability of folding flat. When collapsed they are approximately 4 inches in height. This makes for easy storing and transportability. Most also now come with rubber rollers on the bottom that protect your floors and make it easy to move around in your house without having to collapse the crate or to carry it in its functional position. They are easier to crawl into for cleaning and the pan can be removed as well if you’d like to clean it that way. I love this double door wire crate from Midwest. Two doors is very advantageous for cleaning and changing linens. I’ve used these to raise and train for many years.  The main con from my point of view of the wire crate is the noise it makes. For those that are sensitive to noise this may bother them. When I need to use a wire crate I reduce the noise it makes by placing something like a bath mat or folded beach towel between the pan and the bottom of the crate. Whatever you choose as a dampening device it will not be visible. This greatly reduces the noise when the dog is moving within the crate. Some bedding on top of the pan will further assist in noise reduction. As a side note, I learned to sleep with ear plugs in my ears 20 years ago. 


The clamshell crate is easier on your walls and baseboards typically as we tend to place crates in corners. And in contrast to the wire crate it produces much less noise when the dog moves within it. It can be more challenging to clean as it is harder to get the top half of your body inside it and because of its design there is a visibility reduction in terms of light that would allow you to be able to see what you’re cleaning. If you do get the top half of your body in there the fumes may overwhelm you if you’re cleaning a potty accident. Of course, the clamshell can be broken down for cleaning but it is somewhat time consuming and unwieldy. 


One key difference between the crates is one allows for more airflow and light and the other for less. I bet you can guess which crate is attributed to these characteristics. Some dogs like the nesting feel the clamshell provides and some dogs panic in a clamshell crate. Young puppies of any breed tend to do well in the clamshell but larger breed dogs tend to grow uncomfortable with it in a short amount of time as they grow older and larger. A blanket over a wire crate is a good solution for a large breed puppy. Small dogs, and particularly earth-dogs tend to prefer the clamshell variety. If you think your dog will rest well in a clamshell you can purchase that type for the bedroom. Professionals have made this Vari Kennel so popular that it is often called by its brand name when referencing the crate. This is what I currently have in my bedroom for my terrier. You have the option to choose a wire crate for the living room as you will most likely use the crate in the bedroom for the times you need to leave the dog or puppy alone in the home for a time and wish to induce a restful state. And that brings us to our next topic, quantity.


It seems quite daunting to consider two crates in our home, much less one crate as most of us find them to be aesthetically unpleasing and not a place we want to place our hard earned money. However, if you are housebreaking or bringing up an older dog with no manners whatsoever you might find having a crate in your common living space very convenient to assist when cleaning accidents or when you just want a moment to yourself so that you can concentrate on an article you’re reading. I can’t recommend the two crate method enough when we’re talking about housebreaking. If you don’t want to purchase a new crate check Facebook Marketplace for used crates or the Next Door app to see if your neighbors might have crates you can borrow. If you eventually want to move crates out of your home they can always be resold or donated to a local rescue organization. Lastly, consider whether or not you want or need a crate in your vehicle. If you think you’ll be transporting your pup regularly you might want to purchase a crate to keep in your vehicle to spare your back and sanity. Wire crates make hella noise so I’d recommend a clamshell or soft sided crate for the vehicle if you think your dog can handle the responsibility that comes with the soft-sided crate. For information on teaching your dog to accept a crate check out this video I created for my YouTube channel. 

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