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How do you choose dog crates?

There are three common types, and each is best for different things:

  • wire dog crates
  • airline-safe crates
  • soft (fabric) crates and carriers.

On this page, I’ll describe and illustrate each type and their uses. I’ll also discuss selecting the right size for your dog. There’s a section on dog beds to use inside crates, and finally instructions for sewing a cloth cover for any rectangular crate.

Don’t miss my page that tells you how to do crate training for puppies and dogs. Alternatives to crate training are also given there, including a discussion of ex pens, which can be used like crates in some ways. They aren’t as secure, though.

I’ve also added a page that includes a list with pictures of the top ten dog crates right now at Amazon.com — it updates every day and includes ex pens as well.

Wire Dog Crates

Wire dog crates are often used at home and in vehicles. They provide the best ventilation, so they are the best choice in warm weather, especially for breeds that might overheat.

In choosing wire dog crates, consider how easily an escape artist of a dog could get out — does the door latch well?

How well made is the crate, and how sturdy?

How easily can you take it down and put it up?

We’ve had crates that have lasted us for well over ten years, so any price difference (if there is one) will be forgotten long before you part with the crate.

Many brands of dog crates offer a movable barrier so you can use only part of the crate when you are housetraining a puppy. You can do this yourself by putting something in the box.. Once a puppy is housebroken, it can enjoy the full crate size, but the smaller size encourages the pups to keep their crates clean, if they are taken outside frequently enough. (See my potty training dogs page for details.)

Airline-safe Dog Crates

Airline-safe dog crates are, of course, intended for airplane travel…But some people prefer them over the wire crates for daily use as well. The dog can’t see outside as much, and if you have a nervous or shy dog, he may like the cozier feeling inside these crates. (You can make a cloth cover for a wire crate that will give you the same results… see my sewing instructions below.)

Some of the crates in this category may be more easily tipped over than the wire crates.

As airlines do change their regulations, it’s a good idea to check with the airline company regarding exactly what they require, before you get a new crate. If you are taking a small dog into the cabin with you, some of the soft crates and carriers discussed next might be acceptable.

Our cats took over a small dog airline crate… That was okay with the Basenji.

Soft Dog Crates and Carriers

If you have a small crate-trained dog who doesn’t chew on fabric and won’t try to claw his way out if he becomes upset, try one of these.

The soft dog crates are quite nice looking and very light weight.

Here’s an example of a soft-sided carrier.The carriers are best for quite small dogs but the soft-sided crates are good for medium dogs too.

Our cat took one of these over and no dog in the house was allowed inside it. She was adamant, and our dogs knew better than to argue with Misty!

Selecting the Right Size Dog Crate

Dog crates come in quite a variety of sizes, so you can get a good fit for your animal and your situation.

If your dog is a puppy, you will want to guess how big he will be when he gets his full size. If you got him from someone who has the parents, you can find out their sizes. If he’s a known breed, the breeder or breed books can tell you the normal adult sizes for males and females. If he’s a mixed breed from a shelter, his adult size may turn out to be a surprise! Guess on the large side…

If your dog is grown, you can measure him. For him to lie comfortably, the dog crate needs to be at least a few inches longer than he is, and for him to get up and turn around, it needs to be not quite as tall as he is.

If you will be moving the crate around a lot, or if you live in a tiny space, you may want to get a dog crate that is just big enough. If you have the space and don’t plan to travel with the crate, the bigger the better! More room for toys, a water dish, a friendly cat, etc.

Dog Beds

A comfortable dog bed will help entice your dog into its crate. The more he likes the dog bed, the more he will seek it out. (He might even like it more than the sofa!) The popular one in this illustration comes in several sizes and in many colors.. click on the image to see it at Amazon.com.

If you are using a dog bed while potty training a young puppy, you may want to make the bed out of old towels, an old flannel sheet, or some of the commercial products that wash and dry easily… and you may want 2 beds for a puppy, so you’ll have a better chance of having a clean one handy when you need it.

Many dog beds can fit in crates, but you might want to measure before buying.

Sewing a Dog Crate Cover

Dog crates aren’t the most beautiful pieces of furniture, but an attractive piece of cloth can be thrown over them. I once sewed a cloth cover for a large wire dog crate that was in our living room, cutting a generous window in the panel that looked out toward the action.

It only takes basic sewing skills to make an attractive cover. These directions are for a rectangular dog crate. You won’t be covering the side which has the door. Wash and dry your fabric, so it won’t shrink later. Use one piece of cloth for the top and back, and cut two identical pieces for the sides.

The the top-and-back cloth should be about 2″ longer than what you measure the top and back combination to be, for hems on either end. Its sides should be about 2″ wider, for seam allowance where the cloth will be sewn to the side panels, and to allow for some ease in fitting over the crate.

The side panels can also be cut 2″ wider and longer than the measurement for the crate sides, for hems on the front and bottom and seam allowance where you will sew it to the long piece on the top and back.

The time to add windows is before you join the pieces. Cut whatever shape you please, hem or reinforce around it if you wish. Do machine embroidery on the cloth if you feel like it… whatever!

Pin the pieces together, inside out, and try it on the crate. Make any adjustments for size, and sew it up! Clip the two corners where the front and back meet the the top-back corners of the side panels…

Here is an example, sewn by Angie King of Woodbridge, Virginia, after finding these instructions. Her Lab-Chow mix, Eika, seems to like her new house.

Angie emailed me that she used a King size flat sheet, and it was plenty of material to cover a crate that was 24 x 27 x 36.

She added a bottom and I think this improves the design, especially for thinner fabrics, as they look neater tucked under.


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