To crate or not to crate? This continues to remain a big and heated debate among dog experts today. Problem is each school of thought presents a solid argument for and against dog crates. But at the end of the day, who suffers? Of course, dog parents and their dogs.
Dog parents, on the one hand, are very confused and torn between emotions. Many are not sure whether or not they are doing the right thing by looking up dog crates online for their dogs.
Others have never been more convinced that leaving their pooch locked up in a crate, aka cage, is downright cruel. And yet, there’s the fact that dogs are den animals and as such love to retreat sometimes.
We understand how this can be a big source of anxiety for any concerned dog parent. And that’s why we surfed as many resource materials as we could lay our hands on to compile this really exhaustive article on all things dog crating.
This article will not only tell you about the types, sizes, and uses of dog crates. It will also tell you about dog crate training. And, finally, it will present you the best arguments for and against dog crate training.
What Is A Dog Crate?
According to wiki, a dog crate is an enclosure which comes with a door and is used to keep a dog for the purpose of transportation or security. A dog crate is also known as a dog cage – a major reason so many people are against the use of it, including PETA. But more on that later…
Anyway, for now, it’s enough to know that dog crates may be made of varying materials. They could be made from wire, fabric, plastic, or metal.
The big idea behind the design of dog crates is to mimic a den. As you may have heard, dogs are den animals. A trait they share with their long distant cousins – wolves. Science has it that dogs love to retreat once in a while to an enclosed space for varying reasons.
As such, a dog crate is a great and safe way to give dogs a sense of safety and security when traveling or placing them in a new environment. Aside from this major reason, there are several other reasons dog crates are advised.
1. Toilet training for young puppies.
2. Limiting access while training a dog to follow rules.
3. Restraining a dog in places where they are not legally allowed to roam. Like on a flight.
4. Keeping the dog when visitors (who are probably scared of or allergic to dogs or in the case of a really aggressive dog) come around.
Sylvia-Stasiewicz et al. in their journal article “The Love that Dog Training Program” insist that using a dog crate for your dog is just like using a crib or playpen for your baby. However, labradortraininghq.com warns that prolonged locking of a dog is detrimental to a dog’s mental and psychological health.
What Are The Uses Of A Dog Crate?
There are several ways a dog crate can be of benefit to your dog and to you his parent.
If your pooch isn’t housetrained just yet, then you might want to consider getting him a crate. This is the thing about dog crates, because they give the appeal of a bedroom, dogs, naturally, tend to keep them clean. That means, no urine and no feces.
However, if you decide to get a crate, you must ensure that it is spacious enough to accommodate your dog. “Accommodate” means your dog can stand without hunching. He can lie and stretch his legs to the side. And he can turn around comfortably.
Just ensure that it’s not larger than the description above. If it is, your dog will easily turn into a lush apartment… with a bathroom ensuite.
If you get the right-sized crate, you’d find that whenever he’s allowed to come out and roam the outdoors, he’ll get about his business. This would give you the perfect opportunity to reward good behavior. And as you know, whatever is rewarded continues.
Introducing Your Dog To Chew Toys
Chew toys are great for dogs, and you, as well. If your dog is fixated with his chew, he’ll hardly find time for your socks and shoes. Everybody is happy and there’d be no need for expensive vet trips when he swallows yet another sock!
Aside from that, chews are a great way to keep your dog stimulated both physically and mentally. Also, it could give dogs something else to do other than hunt.
When you put your pup into his crate, be sure to throw in a nice chew toy along too. By the time he’s done working that, he’ll be so tired, he’ll fall right asleep. Needless to say, show us a tired dog, and we’ll show you a happy dog.
Creating Time Out Sessions
You can use your dog’s crate to enforce time outs for him. This is a bit tricky though because you don’t want to create what is called “crate hate.” Crate hate will only develop if “bad things” happen in the crate. So, be sure not to scold your dog while in his crate.
Also, keep in mind that putting your dog in his crate isn’t a way to punish him. The punishment is the fact that he loses his freedom in the middle of his fun time.
Try to keep the time outs short – 3 minutes or less is a great idea. And once he’s served his timeout, ensure that you don’t hold a grudge!
Can Also Be Used As A Management Tool
So, first things first, management is very different from training. Training is more of an active process, management is more passive.
In training, for instance, you’re teaching Fido not to jump on the visitors but rather to sit. In management, you’re keeping him occupied so he can’t jump on the visitors. You get the difference?
A dog crate can help you to manage a number of destructive dog problems especially when it’s not possible to supervise them. Destructive dog problems could be house soiling, destructive chewing, or nipping at the kids.
Bear in mind that crates do not teach good bad habits per se but then they don’t reinforce bad ones either.
No doubt, these benefits sound logical. However, there are yet many others who’d call this balderdash. And they come with pretty logical arguments too.
But just before we get to their arguments, let’s take a look at the different types and sizes of dog crates.
Types Of Dog Crates
When it comes to dog crates, there are about five main types. And they are:
1. Wire dog crates.
2. Soft-sided dog crate.
3. Plastic dog crate.
4 Fashion dog crate.
5. Heavy-duty dog crate.
Other types of dog crates include:
- Dog tents.
- Aluminum dog crates.
- Crash tested steel crates.
Let’s take a quick look at each of these crate types.
1. Wire Dog Crates
Wire crates are popular choices when it comes to dog crates because they are open. This makes it very easy for your dog to remain visible. And it also enhances the flow of ventilation, keeping the crate well aerated and leaving your dog comfortable.
Another reason they are a popular choice is because they fold down. This makes them portable crate options even though they tend to weigh a bit on the heavy side. Plus, many manufacturers include removable panels in their wire crates so your pup grows into his space with ease.
If your dog loves to take in his surroundings, then this is the type of crate you want to get him.
2. Plastic Dog Crates
Like the wire dog crates, plastic dog crates aren’t exactly attractive. True, the wire crate is the runt of the litter but then, the plastic dog crate isn’t far behind.
However, one thing you can’t beat about the plastic dog crates is their coziness. They make for super cozy spaces for shy dogs who love some privacy. They aren’t as easy to clean or as ventilated as the wire crate but they are fantastic options for air travel.
Also, some manufacturers make their plastic crates easy to assemble and disassemble.
3. Soft-Sided Dog Crates
From the name, you should already know that it’s a complete no-no for escape artists and destructive pets. Their attractiveness lies in the very things that make them unfit for dogs with any of the descriptions above.
Soft-sided dog crates have several advantages, one of which is their lightweight. This makes them great for traveling and storage as well.
But then they are only advisable for small dogs. Plus, they can be a bit of a chore to clean.
4. Heavy Duty Dog Crates
These are every bit as heavy duty as their name suggests. They do cost quite the pretty penny but then over time, you find that they pay for themselves. They are great for aggressive, escape artists. And quite a number of them are also approved for flight travel.
5. Fashion Dog Crates
For fashion crates, manufacturers go the extra step to make the crates every bit as fashionable as they are functional. Most come in rattan or wood. And when made to blend with home décor, they give a beautiful touch to living spaces.
You should, however, be careful to select something that’s every bit as tough as it is beautiful. Fashion dog crates cost a bit and if they don’t last, you’d have run at a loss.
And yeah, keep fashion dog crates far far away from destructive and aggressive dogs.
6. Crash Tested Steel Crates
Examples of such crates are those made by Variocage and Gunner. These ones are specifically designed for vehicular use. They are not to be used on airplanes or for other purposes besides transporting pets in a vehicle.
These crates come with a crumple zone and the crate’s crumple zone is supposed to be compatible with that of the car in which they are placed. In the event of an accident, this crumple zone absorbs the impact of the accident, keeping the pet safe.
Crash tested steel crates as their name suggest are tested for safety in a lab as part of standard manufacturing procedure.
7. Aluminum Crates
Aluminum crates come in different styles. Some of them come fixed, others come folded. Just like wire crates, aluminum crates come with several advantages which include excellent ventilation and dog visibility.
But here’s where they do even better than wire crates. Aluminum crates weigh lighter than the average wire crate, and they also will not rust! Plus, if you use the correct bracing, aluminum dog crates are actually quite strong!
Aluminum dog crates also have quite a varied range of uses. They can be found in vet hospitals, homes, and breeding kennels.
Another thing about this type of crate is that it comes in two models. There are those that come with solid walls around, while others come with bars. The type of dog you have should determine which of the models you settle for.
8. Dog Tents
Dog tents are practically the same as soft-sided dog crate with the same pros and cons. However, they are a far more portable option even than soft-sided dog crates. They can fold into really small sizes and can be carried around easily in a tent bag.
People who love to camp, hike, or do dog sports would love dog tents. But then, if you’re one of such, keep in mind that a dog tent isn’t great for untrained dogs. It isn’t safe for traveling in a vehicle either.
Sizes Of Dog Crates
Now, if you intend to make your dog crate comfy for your furry friend, you need to get him his perfect size. The trick is in getting him something that isn’t too big or too small either. Yeah, sounds like a real trick, right? Don’t worry, we’re about to show you the trick behind the trick, but before then, let’s check out the different sizes of dog crates available.
i. Extra Small Dog Crates: 18 to 22 inches (45 – 56 centimeters)
This size of dog crates is best for dog breeds weighing less than 25 pounds or 11 kilograms. A 24-inch dog crate is also okay too. The following breeds would do well in an extra small dog crate.
Russian Toy Terrier.
Toy Fox Terrier.
ii. Small Dog Crates: 24 inches (61 centimeters)
A small dog crate would be great for dogs weighing about 25 pounds (11 kilograms). Examples of these dog breeds include:
Jack Russel Terrier
Smooth Fox Terrier
Parson Russell Terrier.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier.
iii. Medium Dog Crates: 30 inches (76 centimeters)
Medium dog crates should be used for dogs with weights between 26 and 40 pounds (12 – 18 kilograms). Examples of such dog breeds include:
American Pit Bull Terrier.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi.
American Staffordshire Terrier.
American Water Spaniel.
King Charles Spaniel
Wirehaired Fox Terrier.
West Highland White Terrier.
Welsh Springer Spaniel.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
iv. Intermediate Dog Crates: 36 inches (91 centimeters)
Intermediate dog crates should be for dogs with weights between 41 and 70 pounds (18 – 32 kilograms). Examples of such breeds include:
Australian Cattle Dog.
English Springer Spaniel.
Kerry Blue Terrier.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.
Portuguese Water Dog.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
v. Large Dog Crates: 42 inches (107 centimeters)
If you have a dog weighing between 71 and 90 pounds (32 – 41 kilograms), then he needs a large crate. Examples of large dogs include:
Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
German Shorthaired Pointer.
Irish Water Spaniel.
vi. Extra-large Dog Crates: 48 inches (122 centimeters)
Dogs with weights between 91 and 110 pounds (41 – 50 kilograms) would need an extra-large crate. Examples of such dog breeds include the following:
Bouvier Des Flandres.
Bernese Mountain Dog.
Dogue De Bordeaux.
Old English Sheepdog.
vii. Extra Extra Large (XXL) Dog Crates: 54 inches (137 centimeters)
Any dog weighing over 110 pounds or 50 kilograms needs an XXL dog crate. Examples of such dog breeds include:
How To Measure Your Dog For A Crate
Even though we have listed different dog cage sizes with dog breeds they are best suited for, it’s still important to measure your dog before getting him a cage.
Now, here’s how to measure your dog.
You’re going to be measuring two parameters: his length and height. You don’t need to measure the width, because that parameter falls in place once you get the others right.
First, we begin with his length…
Measuring the Length of Your Dog:
This measurement is taken from the tip of your dog’s nose to his tail. Whatever result you get, add between 2 to 4 inches to the value. The smaller the dog, the smaller the value you add to the measurement.
Measuring the Height of Your Dog:
First, get your dog to sit. Many dogs are taller when they sit than when they stand, that’s why. After getting him to sit, measure from his head to the ground. If your dog’s ears tend to stand erect naturally, then begin measurement from his ear tips.
Factors To Consider When Getting A Dog Crate
So, we go into the most important factors to consider when getting a dog crate. They are quite a number, so get a note pad and take some notes.
Size is the number one factor to consider when going for a dog crate. Getting your dog the wrong-sized crate can lead to “crate hate.” Remember when we talked about that earlier? Your dog’s crate must be spacious enough to give him room to stand and turn around comfortably. But it mustn’t be too spacious either.
If you’re getting a crate for a puppy, then for economic purposes, get a large one. Preferably, something an adult dog of his breed would use. However, consider getting them something that comes with dividing panels.
With dividing panels, you can manage the space so it doesn’t feel too spacious, and therefore, insecure for your pup. As they grow into the space, the panels can be adjusted accordingly.
Remember what we said, a crate that is too large will encourage your dog to turn it into a bedroom and a bathroom.
If your pooch is a large breed, then moving his crate about from house to vehicle might be very inconvenient. You could consider getting two dog crates instead. You could leave one inside your house and have one in your car for when you need to move.
Another factor that should determine what kind of dog crate you go for is the reason you want to get it in the first place. Crates that would be used primarily indoors hardly need to be portable. You could even decide to go for a decorative type that blends with your home décor.
If your dog crate would be staying outdoors for the most part, then you need something that can withstand the elements. Think aluminum crate, probably since it does not rust.
For the frequent travelers, of course, your priority should be portability. You should look out for something that assembles and disassembles easily. You also want something that’s lightweight, takes up very little storage space, and is crash tested. Same goes for air travel as well.
Now, if you’re flying with your dog, you might find it a bit difficult settling on a particular type of dog crate. This is because many airlines have a ban on certain kinds of dog crates. However, most times, plastic and soft-sided dog crates are allowed on flights.
To be doubly sure though, you might want to confirm with the airline first.
Depending on the crate and the manufacturer, dog crates may come with a door, two doors, or even three. Three doors is, of course, the best option. This is because it gives you the most access to your dog at any point and in the case of any emergency.
Now, seeing as they are also the most expensive option, you might want to try going for a single door or double door (if you can afford that).
It’s all about choosing the right spot. If single door or double door, ensure that you place the crate in a space that works.
But then, we must say that the best type of crate for training really small dogs or puppies remains one with multiple entries.
4. Chewing Habits
If your dog is the anxious type or he tends to chew on everything he finds, then don’t even try a soft-sided dog crate. He’ll chew it to bits. Go for something more durable instead. Something that will withstand their antics, like plastic, wire, or aluminum.
If your dog is really destructive though, then ensure that you keep a close eye on him in the first few weeks when he’s introduced to the crate.
To help manage the situation for a chewy dog, try including a chew or some healthy treats. With this, you can reduce the tendency for your pooch to chew on his crate.
If you don’t have enough space to store your crate, then soft-sided crates, aluminum crates, and wire crates are your best friends.
Plastic crates, on the other hand, are a no-no. Many of them are difficult to assemble and dissemble, so storage would be inconvenient.
If you live in a hot region, you could consider getting a wire crate or an aluminum crate with bars. This becomes especially important in double-coated, long-haired dogs. The excellent air circulation advantage of these types of crates would keep your dog from overheating.
If the crate is going to be outdoors, consider putting a piece of cloth on the top of the crate. You could also consider installing a small fan for enhanced cooling.5
For cold areas, consider a plastic crate, especially for tiny, and short-haired dogs. You don’t want your dog catching a cold now, do you?
The length of time you intend to leave your dog behind in a crate is another important factor when considering a dog crate. If you just need it for short periods per time, then you’d be good with a soft-sided crate. But, if you intend to leave your dog in his crate, unattended for long periods at a time, then wire, aluminum, plastic are your best friends.
Which brings us to the next question: how long is too long when it comes to dog crating?
You’ll find the answer to that in this article but before then, let’s find out some tips to help you get your puppy to love his crate…
Crate Training: How To Get Your Pup To Love His Crate
The best way to get your pup to love his crate is to get him to associate it with happy experiences.
A. Cozy It Up
The first step is to make it as cozy as possible. You can place a blanket in it along with his favorite toys. If a wire crate, try covering it with a lightweight towel. This will create a den-like environment.
Dogs are den animals, remember? They’ll love it.
However, keep in mind that if you’re covering the crate with a towel, you need to keep the crate ventilated. You wouldn’t want the crate too hot, it could cause your dog to overheat.
Next, you want to direct your pup to his crate during nap time and timeout sessions. But you don’t want to make it too long at the beginning, though. Start with ten minutes, then work your way up. When he goes into his crate, be sure to give him a treat.
B. Take Them Out At Intervals
Every time you take him out of his crate, make it a point to take him on a walk. This will give him the opportunity to pee or poop as the case may be. With that, he’ll get to understand that after crate time, comes potty time. Of course, remember to praise. By praising him, you reinforce good behavior.
C. Let Them Sleep In Their Crate
Learn to keep your puppies in their crate through the night. Even though they might tend to cry through the night the first few nights, they’ll adjust with time. They are probably just sad because they are no longer with their momma and siblings.
For times when your pup would need a potty break, you might need to keep taking him out at different points through the night. However, by 4 months, the average puppy should be able to hold himself throughout the night.
How Long Is Too Long In A Crate?
There are a couple of things you must never do when taking your puppy through crate training. But first, you remember that we asked the question “how long is too long?”
Well, here’s one answer…
According to petwebmd.com, you should never crate any dog (puppy or adult) for longer than 4 hours at a time. And if you’re going to crate a puppy for longer than 2 hours, ensure you provide a water source for him. But make sure it’s in a dispenser not a bowl. A bowl would make things messy.
Check out this chart for the maximum crate time for different ages of dogs, also from petwebmd.com
Dogs between 8 – 10 weeks: 30 minutes to 1 hour.
For those between 11 – 14 weeks: 1 – 3 hours.
Between 15 – 16 weeks: 3 – 4 hours
And then over 17 weeks: 4 – 5 hours.
If you work all day, it might seem impossible, but you ought to give your pup a break once in a while. And it’s compulsory that you do that every midday for the first 8 months of his life.
Break or no break, a 2-hour confinement is still quite a long time. So romp him up before you go to work, during your lunch break, and when work is over. If you can’t reach him during your lunch break, you could think of hiring a dog walker to check on him at midday every day.
Finally, always ensure you give ample time for play before and after work.
Things You Should Never Do When Crate Training Your Puppy
Now, here are some other things you must never do when crate training…
1. You shouldn’t just crate your dog because you feel he’s a nuisance. If he requires attention, give it to him and play with him. In truth, young pups can be very exhausting but locking him up because of that simply makes you a negligent dog parent.
2. Don’t crate your dog as a punishment. You don’t want your dog making an association between crates and bad experiences. That would only make your pup hate his crate. Make crate time as pleasant as possible by creating pleasant experiences in there only.
Now, let’s wrap this up…
Arguments Against Dog Crating – PETA
So, you know PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? They are vehemently against dog crating for so many reasons. Their arguments are worth considering so we’ve put up a brief summary here for your consideration.
PETA quotes a book written by Ray and Emma Lincoln – Dogs Hate Crates: How Abusive Crate Training Hurts Dogs, Families & Society. In this book, they discuss the effects of crating on dogs and the society at large. These authors, who are experienced dog trainers, and also behavior specialists, have few good things to say about dog crating.
The number of hours your dog is left in his crate actually does add up, if you think about it. And that’s one angle Ray and Emma come from. The hours you’re at the office, the hours he goes to bed at night, plus some off and on weekend outings and some evenings when you go for a night out.
Also, the anti-crate school of thought believes that there’s no real basis for comparing a den with a crate. For one, they are of the opinion that dogs and wolves aren’t exactly den animals since they abandon their dens after a maximum of 8 weeks from their birth.
Plus, a den never comes with a door, does it?
They also do not agree that a dog can love his crate. In their opinion, no animal in the world would ever love being locked up anywhere. They believe that the only reason your dog would run back to his cage even after “freeing” them is a low self-esteem. Plus, they might have become terrified of the outside world as a result of being locked up for so long.
Finally, PETA (and Ray and Emma Lincoln) think that training is a better and more humane alternative to crating. They also recommend using a puppy-proofed room instead of a crate.
In the end, this is an exhaustive guide that we have put together for you. And, especially, with the last bit of information, there’s definitely a lot for you to chew on here. So, before making any decision on crating or not, ensure that you have weighed your options.
If you think about it, the major reason the anti-craters are worried is that we end up leaving our dogs in their crates for far too long. So, how long is too long? 4 hours. And even that is quite a long time and could have some adverse effects on your pooch.
And then finally, if you decide to get a crate, remember there are a number of things to consider – size, type, and importantly, the nature of your dog.
So, to crate or not to crate? It really is up to you – you’re the parent.