The popularity of crate training has come a long way, with many households now opting for the humble crate as a catch-all solution for multiple dog (mis)behaviours. With so many options available, it can be daunting trying to figure out which one to go for. The best crates for dogs employ a combination of durability, safety, security and practicality for a specific purpose. We explore the thinking behind crate training as well as benefits and drawbacks of each crate type below. To go straight to our top picks, click here.
What is a dog crate? A brief history:
Dogs have been living in some form of kennel for thousands of years. Remains of mud brick kennels from ancient Egypt, going back to roughly 4500BC, have been found by archaeologists. Crates for dog use first started their rise in popularity in the 1800s, as dog fanciers became more interested in the showing and breeding of their pedigree pooches.
During the second World War, crates were used as a means for transporting and housing military working dogs. These initial dog crates were made of wood, resembling large vented boxes. These days crates can be made from many materials including steel, plastic, soft mesh, wood and many in between. Each has their own advantages and drawbacks, working best in different situations.
Why use crates for dogs?
There are numerous benefits to training a dog to enjoy using their crate:
Makes housebreaking a breeze
Dogs have an innate desire to keep their sleeping area clean. Using this instinct, crate training can make housebreaking an absolute breeze. As long as you’re consistent, and choose a crate that is the correct size for your dog, you can have a puppy housebroken within a couple of weeks or less! For a more in-depth process on how to easily house-train a dog or puppy, see our housebreaking guide.
A place to call home
Everyone enjoys their own space and dogs are no exception. Their crate can be their special palace. They can hop in when they’re sleepy, or out of sorts and want to be left alone. Because of this, it is important to establish that their crate is theirs and theirs only – dogs should never share a crate long term, as it is their private space to eat, sleep and just hang out when they want some downtime and don’t want to be disturbed. This is especially relevant if there are young kids in your household who may not be very good at reading dogs yet, and persist in trying to get puppy to play when he needs his rest.
Keeps your home in one piece
Having a dog crate is one of the most economical ways to keep your household in one piece since the new puppy can’t chew your smartphone if he can’t get to it! If your dog or puppy is known to be destructive, the crate is an essential tool for helping train appropriate chewing behaviours. Be sure to see our previous posts on the best chew toys for dogs and puppies if you’re pulling your hair out with a destructive chewer.
Safer for Fido
In addition, there are plenty of risks associated with letting a young or poorly trained dog run loose around the house. Electrocution, choking, swallowing toxic chemicals, splinters from chewed wooden furniture and more pose as invisible threats to dogs who don’t know any better. Teaching your dog to enjoy his crate time protects him from these potential dangers until he’s better trained.
Minimises anxiety if they ever need to stay somewhere overnight (eg. the vet)
Teaching your dog to comfortably sleep, eat and relax in a crate will better equip him with dealing with being caged when he’s away from home. If they ever need to be kept overnight at a vet’s practice or have to be boarded suddenly, learning to find solace in a crate will make the experience far less traumatic for your dog.
To prepare them for future travel
Air travel with your pet can not happen without your dog being caged (with some special exceptions, see our service dog posts to learn more). Some airlines may let your dog stay with you in the cabin, depending on their size. Others will require they be kept in the back of the plane with the cargo. In either case, your dog will need to be crated for the safety of the plane crew, the passengers and, of course, themselves.
Similarly, many people prefer to travel by car with their dogs crated.
- Safety for the driver – preventing life-threatening distractions or interference.
- Keeping the dog comfortable, with his toys and blankets
- Messes are largely confined to the crate, with car sickness and diarrhoea being an, unfortunately, common occurrence in dogs.
- And giving your pup somewhere safe to sleep once you get to your destination
Keep visitors happy
Not everyone likes or wants to be around dogs, as sad as that may seem! Be it allergies, or traumatic past experiences, your visitor may be uncomfortable. Keeping your dogs confined keeps your guests happy, and depending on the situation, you may even be able to keep your pup crated in the same room so that they don’t miss out on all the festivities.
Concentrates their mess
As we mentioned earlier, getting your dog comfortable with relaxing in his crate will keep doggie messes confined to smaller areas. Most dogs are going to be shedding and dragging dirt through the house regardless, but designating a chill area for them limits how far all that fur and dirt spreads around the house.
Teaching discipline/an off switch
Sometimes you need a break. We can’t be switched on all the time, and neither should your dogs. Teaching them to enjoy downtime is important.
We find ourselves thinking that good dog owners are constantly keeping their dogs engaged, which is simply not the case. Having a dog that can be calm at the appropriate times is a lifesaver – consider what happens if you get sick or injured. Even high energy breeds should be expected to switch off when the time calls for it.
Puppies can be especially draining, with their crazy puppy energy and need for constant supervision. It’s great to start teaching them to enjoy downtime from this early age. Your future self will thank you! Of course, this is no excuse for neglecting your responsibilities as a dog owner.
Dogs are social creatures and need regular interaction. However, instilling an off switch is part of the set of skills you teach your dog, so that they are better equipped at dealing with ‘real life’.
If they’re recovering from an injury
Dogs naturally enjoy having a ‘den’ area when they’re vulnerable. This includes expectant mothers, young puppies and dogs who are sick or injured. The crate gives your dog a comfortable space to heal and sleep while he recovers.
Personal anecdote time
When we got our GSD neutered, he had already been out of his crate 100% for about 6 months. His neuter wasn’t a simple snip, as he had cryptorchidism, and had to undergo surgery to remove the potentially cancerous testicle. When we got him back he was drugged up and in pain. We immediately got out his old crate, put some comfy blankets inside, and he went straight in. He stayed there for the next 3 days, only leaving to take water and bathroom breaks. We let him have his meals in there and gave him a few chew toys (which he was too miserable to chew on, poor thing). Not once did we tell him to go in, or keep the door closed. Ultimately, we wanted him to feel safe, and he did what came naturally – he sought out his old den and stayed there until he felt better.
During the day, the following guide can be useful if you’re feeling lost with how long to crate your dog:
8-10 weeks: 30-60 minutes
11-14 weeks: 1-3 hours
15-16 weeks: 3-4 hours
17+ weeks: 4-5 hours
And a few more ideas to make things safer:
- Hiring a dog walker to let your pup out for a toilet break and leg stretch is a great idea if you can’t do it yourself
- At night, body elimination slows down, so puppies and adult dogs can both handle longer crate times (assuming they have full bladder control)
- The crate should be kept clear from draughty areas and protected from extremes in temperature.
- It’s a good idea to remove collars before putting your dog in their crate, especially if they will be unsupervised while they’re in there.
- Make a household rule stating that the puppy or dog is never to be bothered in their crate, particularly if you have young children. Teasing and taunting (however innocent), can lead to disastrous outcomes over time.
What size crate do I need?
In a standing position, measure the length of your dog’s head to front toes, and then from the head to the base of the tail. Add 3-4 inches to each number, and those are the crate dimensions that will suit your dog best. If they’re still growing, and you’re not sure how big they will get, each manufacturer has their own recommended crate sizes for particular breeds and weights. Be sure to give those a look!
A great rule of thumb for choosing the right size dog crate is to allow your dog to be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. This is especially relevant for housebreaking, as you do not want your puppy to be able to soil one side and sleep on the other.
What type of crate is the best for your dog?
With the huge selection of crates available these days, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which is best. We’ve outlined major types with their main features below:
Made of sturdy wire on all sides, box-shaped with a plastic pan floor.
- Excellent ventilation, especially for dogs prone to getting hot
- Your dog can see out easily from all sides
- Easy to clean, thanks to the pan (just pull it out and hose it down)
- Collapsible, easy to store and assemble
- Can be segmented to keep puppies restricted to a smaller area
- Won’t build up much of a smell
- Resistant to being chewed up
- Can be heavy, especially the larger ones.
- Not innately den like, since it’s open on all sides. This can be fixed with a simple crate cover, however.
- They can be noisier than the other options if you have hard floors. This is easily remedied by adding bedding and rubber feet.
- May rust over time, although the better quality wire crates can last decades.
Made mainly of plastic with a wire door.
- A warmer, cosier, more private crate
- Easy to lift and clean out
- Many are, or can be modified to be, airline approved
- Great for car travel
- Less ventilation
- Destructive dogs can chew the plastic
Can be made from a variety of softer materials. Often canvas or nylon.
- Lightweight, washable
- Makes travelling a breeze
- Warm, cosy and private
- Super easy storage and assembly
- Can come with pockets for extra storage
- Easier to damage and escape from
- Best suited to smaller, calmer, well-trained dogs
These crates are far weaker than the others. If you are considering a soft crate for your dog, know their habits well. Aggressive, destructive or high energy dogs may easily break out of this crate.
Heavy duty crates
Made from very strong materials, such as aluminium, steel or high-quality plastics
- Best crates for escape artists
- Great for those who enjoy hunting with their dogs
- Safer for travel – many are crash tested
- Have excellent guarantees and warranties
- These crates are more costly due to the high-end materials and construction
- Heavier than a standard dog crate
- Not all variations are collapsible
Made from typical furniture materials such as wood or wicker, to blend in with the rest of your home decor
- The most attractive crate option – it looks like another piece of furniture
- Often made from natural materials
- Sturdy and warm
- Lots of variation in colours and styles to suit your home and personal tastes
- Can take more effort to assemble
- Not suitable for particularly determined or destructive dogs
Best crates for dogs – by type:
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Best wire dog crate
MidWest Homes for Pets has been an industry leader for more than 90 years. These wire dog crates have:
- 2 entrances – front and side, for quick access
- Easy clean plastic pan
- Quick assembly and disassembly, no tools required
- Side bolt latches for your pet’s safety and security
- A free divider panel to adjust the internal size as your dog grows, saving you having to buy more than one crate
- A no. 1 best seller with over 10k 5-stars reviews on Amazon.com
Midwest also provides covers and beds that perfectly fit their crates, for extra convenience
24″(dogs 11-25lbs) measures: 25 1/2″ L x 19″ W x 20 3/4 H”
30″(dogs 26-40lbs) measures: 31″L x 21 3/4″ W x 23 3/4″ H
36″(dogs 41-70lbs) measures: 37″ L x 25″ W x 26 3/4″ H
42″(dogs 71-90lbs) measures: 43″L x 29″ W x 30 1/2″ H
48″(dogs 91-130lbs) measures: 49″ L x 30 1/2″ W x 32 1/4″ H
Best plastic dog crate
Petmate Sky Kennel
Petmate is one of the original dog kennel manufacturers, known for their high quality and durability. The sky kennel is:
- Ventilated on all sides
- Made in the USA from a high strength plastic
- Safe, secure and easy to operate
- The gold standard for pet travel
- Available in 7 sizes and suitable for dogs up to 125lbs. Their size guide can be found here.
Each kennel also includes “Live Animal” labels, cups for food and water and an absorbent pad.
Best soft dog crate
- Super easy setup and storage
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- The water resistant base makes for easy wipe-cleanup, and the cover can be removed for machine washing
- Great for hassle-free travel
- Well ventilated
- Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Sizes go from 21 to 42 inches.
Best heavy duty dog crate
Impact Case Collapsible Dog Crate
Impact Case & Container make serious dog crates for the serious dog owner. Their crates and kennels are made by expert designers and engineers using state-of-the-art manufacturing methods to provide truly impressive products. The Impact Case Collapsible Dog Crate:
- Collapses for easy storage (not typical of a heavy-duty dog crate)
- Is constructed from aluminium, making it lighter and resistant to corrosion
- Door automatically locks when shut
- Contains drain holes for easier cleaning
- Includes rails for airline travel
- Secures even the most creative escape artists
- Made in the USA and available sizes M – XXL
- Backed by a lifetime warranty
A useful size guide can be found on their website.
Best decorative dog crate
Casual Home Pet End Table Crate
- Made from sustainable havea wood
- One of the most affordable decorative crate options
- Available in 3 colours: Espresso, Black and White
- Comes in two sizes, 24 inches and 27 inches
Richell Wooden End Table Crate
- High quality
- Made entirely from durable wood with a beautiful dark brown, stain resistant finish
- Door opens fully for easy access
- Includes a removable tray
- Sizes to suit dogs up to 88lbs
A few words on flying with your dog
If you’re planning on flying somewhere with your pet(s), be sure to contact the individual airline you’re travelling with. Criteria for pet travel differ airline to airline, so ask them what they need from you to streamline the process.
The main strategy with crate training is to always make the experience as positive as possible for your dog. Let this be your mantra!
Try to come up with creative ways to make this happen. A few ideas:
- Does he have a favourite chew toy? Keep it in there with him.
- Fill KONGs with delicious treats like peanut butter or string cheese and give it to him while he’s in there
- Keep the crate open during the day and toss in treats when he’s not looking. When he notices the treat and goes in to get it, he’ll learn that good things come from exploring his crate.
Susan Garrett’s Crate Games is an excellent DVD that shows step-by-step instructions on how to get your dog to love his crate (and a whole lot more).
Admittedly, crate training is not for everyone or every dog, and that’s okay! All anyone can do is what works best for them and their dogs. Hundreds of thousands of people have discovered the beauty of crate training and if you’ve gone through this post and decided that you’re on board too, then that’s great news. Leave a comment or contact us if you have any questions or handy tips for other owners.
References and recommended reading:
- MidWest Pet Produces http://www.midwestpetproducts.com/
- Petmate https://www.petmate.com/
- Impact Case and Container http://icc-case.com/
- Garrett, S. Susan Garrett’s Crate Games for Self-Control and Motivation.