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Used properly, a dog crate can provide a safe, secure, and comfortable space for your four-legged friend.
Trouble is, it's not as simple as buying any old dog crate and hoping for the best.
You need to pick a crate that's an appropriate size for your dog, made of the right material, and more.
And, if you're new to the world of dog crates, it can all get a little confusing.
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You'll find our top five dog crates in the product matrix above.
But do read on to find out more about dog crates, and how to pick the right one for you and your pooch.
There can be some controversy over dog crates, but once you understand what they're used for and why, the argument for dog crates is quite positive.
When buying a crate for a puppy, buy one that will fit his adult size and use a divider to section off a smaller area. Move the divider as he grows until he’s large enough to need the whole crate.
If your dog has recently had an injury or operation, and isn't meant to be active, keeping him in a crate when you can't be home to supervise keep him from overexerting himself.
Dog crates can be useful to manage problem behaviors while you're training, but shouldn't be used as a permanent solution to unwanted behaviors. For instance, if your dog jumps at people when they enter the house, you could crate the dog when guests first arrive. However, you should still work on training your dog not to jump altogether.
Crates can be used to protect both your dog and your property while he’s learning not to chew. Most dogs grow out of that "chewing everything in sight" phase after six months to a year. If a dog never learns the joy of chewing furniture, socks, and shoes, he should be able to roam freely without doing any damage. Remember, you'll only need to crate your pup while you can't be there to supervise, and ideally it shouldn't be for more than a few hours.
Puppies who are confined to a crate while you can't supervise them (but for no more than 2 to 4 hours at a time, depending on age) are usually fully toilet trained much faster than puppies who have free run of the house at all times.
It's important to get the right size crate for your dog. The goal is for your dog to feel snug and secure in an enclosed area, so don't go too big. However, the crate should be large enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, sit up, lie down, and turn around.
Here's how to make sure you get a dog crate of the correct size:
If you buy a crate with these length and height measurements, the width will be proportionate, so you don't need to worry about doing a separate measurement.
You might think it's kinder to get the largest crate possible, but this defeats the goal of making your dog feel secure. Don’t choose a crate that's large enough for your dog to use one end as a bedroom and the other as a bathroom.
Wire dog crates are probably the most popular option out there, and are widely available.
Wire crates have great airflow, which is especially important if you live somewhere hot.
This type of dog crate is generally easy to clean, and many even have removable trays at the bottom to make cleaning even easier.
You can get dividers for wire crates to adjust the size as your puppy grows.
Many wire dog crates fold down for better portability.
You can find wire dog crates in a wide range of sizes.
Dogs can see out through all sides of a wire crate, and most of them like the visibility.
Some nervous dogs may feel more anxious and exposed in a wire crate.
Wire dog crates can be quite heavy to move around.
Some people find that wire dog crates are fairly noisy when the dog moves around inside, especially on uncarpeted floors.
Some dog crates are mostly made of wire, but part of the frame is wooden. These generally have the same pros and cons as wire crates but look more stylish.
Fabric or "soft-sided" dog crates are often marketed as travel crates.
First time crate users might find fabric versions look more "friendly" and less cage-like — though your dog probably won't mind either way.
Fabric dog crates are lightweight and portable.
Fabric dog crates fold down small while they're not in use.
Since they're soft, fabric dog crates may be more comfortable for your dog to lie in.
Destructive dogs can easily scratch and chew their way out of fabric crates.
Fabric dog crates are difficult to keep clean.
Some determined dogs learn to unzip the doors of fabric crates.
Fabric dog crates are great for travel or occasional use, but aren't the most durable option if you crate your dog most days.
Plastic dog crates generally have hard plastic sides with a wire door. They look a bit like cat carriers.
Although not as light as fabric, plastic dog crates are still fairly lightweight and easy to move around.
Plastic dog crates are great for use in the car and even on airplanes, though they have to meet certain standards for airplane use.
If you live in a cold climate, it may be warmer for your dog in a plastic crate as there's more insulation.
Some dogs feel more secure in a plastic dog crate as they're less "open" than wire versions.
Plastic can hold on to odors, so these dog crate might be harder to keep pristine.
Plastic dog crates can't be folded down flat when not in use.
There's less ventilation in plastic dog crates, which can be an issue in hot climates.
If your dog likes to see all his surroundings while crated, a plastic dog crate isn't ideal, as it's more enclosed.
Unless your dog will chew it, you should always put some soft bedding in his crate to make him more comfortable.
If your canine companion will be in the dog crate for more than an hour or two, make sure he has some water available. Use a clip-on bowl if he’s likely to tip it over.
Don't place your dog's crate in direct sunlight or in a draft, as he could get too hot or too cold, and won't be able to move to where the temperature's more comfortable.
If your dog feels nervous, he might be happier with a blanket or sheet covering the outside of the crate, lending it a cave-like feel.
Giving your dog a chew toy while in his crate can be a great distraction, but be sure it's something safe for him to use unsupervised.
Confining a dog to a crate shouldn't be a permanent solution to destructive behavior. Instead, you should seek help from a canine behaviorist.
Depending on their size and quality, wire dog crates can cost anywhere between $20 and $150. If you're going to use it most days, we recommend going for at least a mid-range option, as the cheapest will be less durable.
Fabric dog crates will usually set you back somewhere between $50 and $100, with smaller crates usually significantly cheaper than larger ones.
If you're in the market for a plastic dog crate, expect to pay between about $30 and $120. Again, they're more expensive in larger sizes. Don't opt for the cheapest plastic crate, as basic models can be quite flimsy.
Q. How long can my dog stay in his crate?
A. In theory, an adult dog can stay in a crate for approximately six to eight hours in a stretch, whereas a puppy can spend two to four hours in a crate in one go. This is because they have smaller bladders and need to relieve themselves more often.
That said, it's not appropriate to crate your dog for eight hours per day, every day, and then again every night, as he’ll lack mental and physical stimulation. Many dogs are shut in their crates just until they're toilet trained and have passed the puppy phase, when they want to chew everything. After this the door is always left open, so the dog can choose to lie in his crate when he wants to.
Q. How do I get my dog used to his crate?
A. Ideally, you should read some literature on how to properly crate train your dog, as there's much more to it than we can advise you about here. However, we will say that it should be a gradual process. Don't just shut your dog in for the first time and leave him there for several hours, as he’ll likely be scared and can develop an irreversible aversion to the crate. Introduce him to his crate over several days or weeks, letting him scope it out at his own pace, and encourage him inside with treats and toys.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.