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How to choose a dog crate that your pup will love

With some training, they'll find Zen in their den.

A golden retriever lays down on the floor of a dog crate Credit: Getty Images / Christine McCann

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It’s hard not to look at a dog crate and imagine that you’re putting your best furry friend into puppy jail. Rest easy: That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Dogs are den animals, which means they actually seek out small spaces in order to feel comfortable and protected. That said, not all crates are created equal. There’s soft-sided crates, ones with removable trays, heavy duty options if you’ve got an enthusiastic chewer on your hands, and a bunch of crate sizes depending on if you have a small or large dog.

Here’s what to consider before making this all-important purchase for your pup.

Why should you get a dog crate?

A dog sits inside a fabric dog crate that's outdoor near a tent and pile of wood
Credit: Chewy / Frisco

Pet owners will want a dog crate for when they can't constantly keep an eye on their pup.

Unless your dog can be entirely entrusted to roam freely without supervision—as our dearly departed angel, Rowdy, blessedly was—crates safely contain a pup when you’re out running errands or busy with household tasks and can’t watch them like a hawk. Our new and spunky troublemaker, Zander, for instance, requires eyeballs at all times.

So, clearly, one of the most important factors is ensuring that the crate is not easy to break free from. “If your dog ever gets out of it, they will spend every moment in their crate trying to repeat their previous escapade,” warns Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and consultant for Five Barks. “It must be a sturdy container that acts as a safe haven and a place of rest and relaxation.”

“If your dog ever gets out of it, they will spend every moment in their crate trying to repeat their previous escapade,” Dr. Linda Simon warns.

You see, crates are useful for more than mere containment. When introduced and used appropriately, a dog should look to their crate as a cozy, safe retreat when they’re afraid, seeking a bit of alone time, or simply want to take a peaceful nap.

Crates can also serve as a home away from home by providing pups with a trusted refuge if they find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. “Some crates are collapsible, so they can be brought on holidays or into the yard. Decide if this is a must have for you,” Dr. Simon advises. You could also consider purchasing a pet carrier for when you're on the road.

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What size crate should you buy?

A black and white dog stands inside a wire dog crate
Credit: Chewy / Frisco

Whether you have a small or large dog, they should be able to comfortably stand inside their dog crate.

A crate shouldn’t be so small that your dog is uncomfortable and unable to stand up, stretch out, or turn around. That said, it’s supposed to be a snug sanctum, not so palatial that it’s basically another room within a room. Consider that your pup may potentially use part of it as a sleeping space and another as a toilet area, which could complicate your housebreaking routine.

“As a rule of thumb, opt for a crate at least six inches longer and six inches taller than your dog. This is a minimum,” Dr. Simon says. “Observe your dog inside, and ensure they can stretch out comfortably and are never cramped.”

“And remember that your puppy will grow, so the right size crate for them at 8 weeks may not be appropriate at 8 months,” she adds. Pet owners can avoid constantly upgrading by purchasing a model with a divider, which allows it to “grow” with the dog.

What type of crate should you choose?

A white wooden dog crate that looks like a piece of furniture on a green and gray background
Credit: Chewy / New Age Pet

Choose between heavy duty plastic dog crates, soft-sided or folded metal ones, and even ones that look like pieces of furniture.

There are a variety of materials used to produce dog crates, and each comes with its own pros and cons.

  • Metal: These crates are the most common option as they’re well ventilated, affordable, and stand up to enthusiastic chewers. They’re also easy to clean, lock securely, and come in a wide range of sizes from small to extra extra large. Plus, those on the go can find a folding metal crate that’s easily collapsible. However, they’re not especially attractive, and can make a jangling sound when moved (such as when riding in the car) which may upset sensitive dogs. Take note if the crate comes with a solid cover, otherwise you’ll want to purchase one separately. Not only will it help clean up accidents, it will reduce the risk of a dog’s toes or nails becoming stuck in the grates and causing upset or injury.

Recommended for medium and large breeds, this Frisco wire dog crate has double doors, a comfy crate mat, plastic pan, and divider.

  • Plastic: Most commonly used for smaller breeds, plastic crates have solid sides with ventilation holes plus a handle for easy transport. Dogs who require reduced stimulation from outside sounds, smells, and sights may find it easier to relax in one. They’re typically not as rugged as metal crates and can potentially crack if dropped or subjected to chewing. Another downside: They can sometimes trap odors, such as urine.

Built for pets between 5 and 20 pounds, this Petmate dog and cat kennel can be used whether house-training or traveling. In addition to a front-facing entry, this plastic crate also features a door to load pets from above.

  • Fabric: Aside from comfort, fabric is a good choice if your dog is sensitive to the potential noises made by metal. It’s also super portable, and can be folded up and taken just about anywhere, and possibly even run through the washing machine. You’ll pay more, however, and fabric is pretty much bottom of the barrel when it comes to durability. It doesn’t stand a chance against chewing and scratching.

This soft-sided Frisco dog crate has a steel frame, mesh panels, three zippered doors, and a water-resistant base. Its various sizes work for pets up to 85 pounds, and though it can't be tossed in the washing machine, you can hand-wash the fabric.

  • Wood: By far the most attractive, wooden crates are designed to make a fashion statement and blend in with the rest of a home’s decor. They’re often made of anti-absorbent woods to aid cleanup and reduce smells. They are quite expensive, however, not necessarily collapsible, and can be scratched and chewed.

This single door New Age Pet ecoFLEX dog crate is made of a durable wood and plastic blend, and it even looks like a side table in your living room. While it's available in small and medium sizes, the large and extra-large sport a second latch. Take note: This particular model is recommended for dogs who are already crate-trained.

When it comes down to it, a dog crate has to address the specific needs and behaviors of your pet, and fit in well with your lifestyle. If you plan on using the crate regularly, durability is key. Travel with your pup often? Keep security, ventilation, and ease of transport at top of mind. Those parenting a puppy may want to purchase a crate with dividers. And if your dog is a laid-back fashionista who simply needs a place to retire for beauty sleep, feel free to place an emphasis on looks.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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