How do you choose dog crates?
There are three common types, and each is best for different things: wire dog crates, airline-safe crates, and 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 (and whether) to use crates: crate-training.html. Alternatives to crate training are also given there, including a discussion of exercise pens, which can be used like crates in some ways. They aren’t as secure, though.
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 ten years or more, so any price difference (if there is one) will be forgotten long before you part with the crate.
Don’t try this at home…
Here are Kent Krueger and Dancer from Sitstay.com, showing the sturdiness of the Precision Pet Suitcase crate. (Photo used by permission.) I love this photo, and was also quite impressed with their description of this crate’s good features.
As its name implies, this crate is easy to fold up and down:
I like to recommend things that I have bought and used, but that isn’t the case with any of the crates on this page, as my household is well supplied with crates at present. One of the reasons I like SitStay.com is that they offer their own commentary on many of the items in their store. And, as the photo shows, they are on top of their work!
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.)
Our cats have taken over a small dog airline crate we have. 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 make your reservations. If you are taking a small dog into the cabin with you, some of the soft crates and carriers discussed next might be acceptable.
Soft Dog Crates… and Carriers
If you have a crate-trained dog who doesn’t chew on fabric and won’t try to claw his way out if he becomes upset, the soft dog crates are quite nice looking and very light weight.
In researching the soft dog crates, I came across a page of pet carriers for small dogs, also at Sitstay. These things could serve some of the purposes of a crate — and also could make you use your regular dog crates less because the dog was out having fun with you! I didn’t know these things existed.
My husband and I have thought that we might get a small dog next time we add to our canine family, and these carriers are another reason to go small!
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.
Some pet stores will help you estimate what crate to get by the weight of the dog, but since a short, squat, muscular dog could weigh as much as a long lean drink of water, I think size is more accurate. Besides, I don’t usually know what my dogs weigh!
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, the bigger the better! More room for toys, a water dish, a friendly cat, etc.
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!)
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.
These two beds are designed for crates or by themselves. Both are machine washable and dryable and come in various sizes. The one with the large dog and Kong on it will wick moisture away. As it cuts easily with scissors, it would be versatile to use for puppies not yet housebroken and for older incontinent dogs.
These two beds, and a variety of others, can be seen at SitStay.com
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; for a more complicated shape, like some of the airline-safe dog crates, you would need to play around a bit.
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.