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When it comes to choosing a crate, dog parents have a lot to consider—from materials and size to special safety features and aesthetic designs. And while the abundance of options means a better chance of finding your dog’s dream den, it can also make picking the right crate overwhelming for pet parents.
If you’ve decided to crate-train your dog, the right crate can make all the difference. We’ve consulted the experts to help streamline your decision. Here’s everything you need to know about picking the best crate for your dog and lifestyle.
What Size Crate for My Dog?
Getting the right size crate for your dog matters in terms of comfort and training. And bigger isn’t always better, according to Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS, a veterinary surgeon and consultant for PawLeaks. “Many owners mistakenly buy crates that are too large, assuming that the more space, the better,” she says. “While it is important we have enough space for the dog to stand up and turn around comfortably, we don’t want the crate to be too spacious.”
A crate that’s too big can make a dog feel exposed and vulnerable—the exact opposite of how we want them to feel in their crate.
Limiting crate size is also helpful in house-training a dog. “Crates are meant to limit a dog’s ability to move around a lot since limited mobility helps a dog to hold its bladder,” explains Alexandra Bassett, lead trainer and behavior specialist at Dog Savvy Los Angeles.
So, how big should you go?
“If a dog has reached maturity, the rule of thumb is to choose a crate size that allows the dog to stand to its full height and comfortably do a full turn—but no more,” says Bassett.
Your dog should be able to stand in the crate without hunching over, and their nose and rear shouldn’t butt up against the crate’s sides. They should also be able to sprawl out comfortably.
How to measure your dog for a crate
Breaking out your measuring tape is the best way to ensure you get an adequately sized crate. You may know how to measure your dog for a harness or sweater, but sizing your dog for a crate will look slightly different. Here are a few steps you can take.
- Measure your dog’s height while they’re sitting, moving from the top of their head to the floor.
- Measure your dog’s length while they’re standing, moving from the tip of their nose to the base of their tail.
- Add 2-5 inches to both dimensions to give you the most appropriate crate size for your dog.
How to size a crate for a growing puppy
If you purchase a crate based on your puppy’s current size, it will likely be too small for your pup as they grow. But getting a crate that’s too big is also problematic because it could hinder potty training progress.
Buying multiple crates can be costly, so a good workaround is to find a crate based on how big you expect your puppy to get—and use a removable crate divider to adjust the interior as your dog grows.
“Many crates come with a divider that creates a smaller area toward the front of the crate where a young puppy can comfortably rest—but that will still limit their movements to prevent unwanted potty accidents,” Bassett tells Rover.
Wire crates are ideal for growing pups because many models come with dividers to customize the crate’s size. If you’ve got your eye on a crate that doesn’t have a divider, you can also purchase them separately.
Should dogs ever share a crate?
It might seem like a convenient, space-saving solution for two-dog households, but sharing a crate is only advisable in limited circumstances, according to our experts.
“Crate sharing should only be done if you have two puppies from the same litter,” says Julie Burgess, CPDT-KA, a certified dog trainer at Senior Tail Waggers. But this isn’t a permanent solution. As the puppies grow, they’ll need separate crates. Generally, puppies will need their own space when they reach around 15 to 20 pounds.
However, not all dogs (even those from the same litter) will be good candidates for crate sharing, points out Dr. Ellen Russell, DVM, MPH, a veterinary consultant at The Malamute Mom. “Some dogs may fight over the space or become stressed out by being in such close quarters with another dog,” she says, advising pet parents to assess each dog’s temperament before deciding if they should share a crate.
If you do put two sibling puppies in a crate together, it’s also important to consider the size of the crate, says Russell. “This isn’t something to compromise on because it can cause significant discomfort, stress, and even injury to the dogs if they are cramped together.” She advises looking for a crate that’s large enough for both animals to stand and turn around comfortably. Each dog should also have a separate sleeping area with bedding.
What’s the Best Material for a Dog Crate?
To choose the best crate material for your dog, consider your pup’s size, activity level, and personality.
“Larger breeds and more active dogs may need a sturdier crate with strong metal bars or heavy-duty plastic,” says Dr. Russell. “If your dog is smaller or more docile, they may do well with a fabric or collapsible crate.”
Your dog’s habits are also something to take into account. “If they tend to chew or scratch, you may want something made of a tougher material that won’t be easily damaged,” Russell informs us. “If they’re nervous or anxious in the crate, opt for something with more breathability, like mesh or fabric.”
Dogs who overheat easily will also benefit from more open crates with ample ventilation. They may also appreciate the cooling breeze of a well-placed crate fan.
The purpose of your dog’s crate also comes into play. For instance, metal, plastic, and wood are best for permanent bases in the home, whereas a soft-sided crate, like the popular EliteField, is best for traveling or camping with dogs.
Still unsure what might work best for you and your pooch? Check out the pros and cons of the different crate materials below.
How Your Dog’s Age Should Affect Crate Selection
Your dog’s crate needs will also change from puppyhood to adulthood. For puppies, the focus will be on durability and washability. “Young puppies will do much better in wire or plastic crates simply because they’re more rugged and are fairly chew-proof,” Burgess explains.
Dr. Russell agrees. “Puppies tend to be more energetic and curious than adult dogs, so they may require a sturdier crate that can hold up against their puppy antics such as chewing and scratching,” she says.
Accidents are bound to happen during the potty training period, and a crate that’s easy to wash is an asset for busy new pet parents. Instead of hard-to-clean materials like wood or fabric, go for crates made with washable metal or plastic. “It’s smart to get a crate with a removable bottom tray or pan that can be easily taken out and cleaned,” Russell adds.
If you have a senior dog, opt for a low-profile crate so they can easily access it. And if your pup suffers from arthritis, they’ll appreciate the support of a cozy dog crate bed.
Why a Dog’s Breed and Temperament Matter
A dog’s breed and personality will also factor into your decision. Calm dogs, for instance, will do well in crates with ample visibility, whereas dogs who like to hide or burrow may prefer a more private enclosure. “If your dog is on the nervous side, they may not appreciate wire crates because they can see everything, and this may heighten their anxiety,” Burgess says. “If your dog is friendly, they will probably appreciate being able to see all the activity around them.”
How to pick a crate for a dog with anxiety
What about dogs with anxiety—will a crate help or hinder their comfort? According to Dr. Russell, it depends on the dog. “Sometimes, a crate can serve as a safe and comfortable space for an anxious dog,” she says. “Other times, crates are not suited for anxious dogs at all, as they make their anxiety worse.”
For anxious dogs, Russell recommends choosing a well-ventilated crate with a breathable, flexible material that keeps them from feeling confined. It should also be large enough so a nervous pooch can move around comfortably.
Additionally, crate covers can create a cozy den-like atmosphere for your anxious dog—provided you follow some basic safety guidelines, says Dr. Russell. “It’s important to make sure the cover is not blocking airflow to the crate and that there are no loose strings or small pieces of fabric they could ingest,” she adds.
Russell also advises monitoring dogs closely to ensure they’re safe and comfortable while using a crate cover. “It might also help to place their favorite bed or toy in the crate with them,” she says. “This will give them something familiar to snuggle up to, which should help them feel more secure and relaxed.”
What crates are best for escape artists?
Is your pooch a regular Houdini? To prevent a getaway, look for a heavy-duty crate with extra locks and safety features. The KELIXU, for example, features welded steel bars, and the latches are not accessible from the inside. While it looks a little intense, our Rover tester had great success containing her accomplished escape artist in this crate, and a good crate bed and blanket helped make it cozy.
What crates are best for chewers?
Puppies or constant chewers require a crate that can hold up to serious chompers. This leaves out wood, plastic, fabric, and crates with thin wires. For dogs who dig or chew, a heavy-duty crate is your best bet. Consider a crate with steel bars or solid metal sides for a (mostly) chew-proof option.
Safety Requirements for Travel Crates
If you need a crate that travels well, safety and practicality are top priorities to guide your selection.
“Look for a design made of strong, durable metal like aluminum or stainless steel that has solid walls without any gaps where your dog’s head could become stuck,” Dr. Russell advises. “It’s also important to make sure that the latch on the door is secure and won’t easily come undone during travel,” she adds.
For car travel, a crate with straps that attach to a seatbelt is preferable. Where you place the crate is also a critical part of the process. “When choosing a crate for car travel, it’s important to consider your pet’s area to lay down and nap,” Burgess explains. “Car travel can lull almost any dog to sleep, and they’ll appreciate the opportunity to relax in their travel crate.”
Where Should You Put a Dog’s Crate?
A crate’s ideal location depends on your dog’s personality. Some dogs like to have eyes on their humans, while others may prefer more privacy.
For most dogs, the ideal spot will be in a quiet, out-of-the-way place in your home, according to Dr. Russell. “Try to avoid putting it in a high-traffic area, such as near the entrance of your home or in the kitchen,” she says. “Ideally, the crate should be located in an area that your pup can access easily and is close enough to the family so they don’t feel isolated.”
A spot in the living room or a bedroom is usually a good choice. But before setting up, take note of the temperature in your chosen space, keeping the crate in an area that’s not too hot and away from cold drafts. It’s also important to watch for nearby electrical cords, ensuring none are close enough for your dog to chew.
How We Chose
The crates featured here were selected based on a combination of our own hands-on testing, a deep dive into customer reviews across several retail platforms, and interviews with a veterinarian and a certified dog trainer.
We prioritized dog crates with durable materials and extra safety features. Additionally, we considered conveniences like multiple doors, portability, and ease of cleaning. We’re also guided by the experience of living and playing alongside our own much-loved and strongly opinionated dogs, who are never stingy with their feedback.