Dog crates: When to use them and how to pick one

When should I consider getting a dog crate? 

Dog owners should consider getting a crate when adopting a puppy or an adult dog whose behaviors they do not yet know, or when their current dog has shown a history of destructive behavior if left unsupervised.  

Which dogs should be crate trained?  

All dogs would benefit from acclimation to a crate, as it can be life-saving in some scenarios. But not all dogs are easily acclimated to a crate, and they require systematic positive reinforcement training (set at their own pace).  

Why are dog crates beneficial? 

Through positive reinforcement training, when your dog learns that the crate is a safe space for them to settle down and relax, then having a dog crate can be helpful for multiple situations — including basic house training and preventing destructive behavior when you cannot directly supervise them.  

It also prepares your dog for a less stressful experience if they ever need to be placed in a crate for travel, hospitalization or in the event of an emergency — such as an evacuation or temporary displacement in disaster-relief shelter (where animals must be crated in order to stay with their owners). 

Are there situations when a crate shouldn’t be used? 

Some dogs may be highly stressed when confined or left alone. They should never be forced to remain crated alone if they are excessively barking, vocalizing, pacing, panting, eliminating or drooling. These dogs may do better by having a large space (like a pet-proof exercise pen) or a pet sitter to keep them company. You can also work with your veterinarian or a qualified trainer to help acclimate your dog to the crate and lower their anxiety.  

A dog should never be left alone in a crate for an extended period of time without the opportunity to relieve themselves, play or exercise, and perform other natural behaviors.  

What should I look for in a dog crate? 

Size, material and durability are the main factors to consider when looking for a dog crate.  

  • Wire crates are durable and can fold relatively easily for storage. Many dogs feel comforted by being in a den, so we recommend covering a wire kennel with a sheet or another kind of custom crate cover that still leaves one or two sides open. Wire crates often come with dividers so young dogs can grow into the kennel size they will need as an adult. 
  • Plastic crates are durable, and the walls are often solid, so no covering is needed, but they may be more cumbersome to store.  
  • Fabric or mesh crates are better suited for traveling or for short-term use for small breed dogs since they are lightweight and easily foldable. However, they are not very durable, and puppies or chewers may destroy the material.  

How can you determine the right size crate for your dog? 

If you are acquiring a crate for your puppy, then you will want a kennel that will be big enough to fit them as an adult to avoid buying multiple crates of different sizes. This means giving your dog enough space to stand up without ducking their head, as well as enough room to turn around and lay down comfortably.  

A divider can be used to make the larger crate fit the size of your growing puppy and help to accommodate them while they are potty-training. That way if the kennel is too large, they can use one side as a bed and the other as a toilet.  

If your dog is already house-trained and the crate’s purpose is to prevent destructive behaviors, then a larger crate with extra room to stretch out can be used.