Crating your dog has a plethora of benefits, from providing your pup with a comfortable bed all the way to ensuring their safety when left alone.
But if you’re new to crate training a dog, you might be wondering how much the crate size really matters. On the other hand, if you are a crating veteran, there may still be some important information on validating whether you are using the right size crate or not.
Generally, a crate is too small if the dog cannot stand up and turn around comfortably, and too big if the dog can walk around in it. Failing to provide the dog with a properly sized crate during training can unnecessarily set back potty training.
Since it’s very important to choose a properly sized crate, I’ve made a handy calculator that estimates the crate size your dog needs while saving you the headache of thinking too hard about the crate selection process:
For those of you who are itching to know more about the topic, I will now dive deep into explaining everything you need to know about picking the right-sized dog crate for your pup - because the size really makes a big difference!
As counter-intuitive as it may seem to us humans, a dog crate can be too big.
We all want to spoil our pups, but giving them too much room in a crate can actually have a negative impact. If the dog has room to romp in the crate, it’s too big.
Believe it or not, a crate that is too big can hinder potty training tremendously. Dogs won’t usually relieve themselves where they sleep. If a crate is in the right size, this rings true.
If a crate is too big, then you’ve just provided your dog with a relief area. A puppy may be inclined to designate one part of the crate as a sleeping area and the other side as a potty zone.
This can also be present in adult dogs (so don’t think that just because you’ve survived the puppy years that this can’t happen again) because our canine friends are quite adept at making their own arrangements.
There are three key steps in picking a properly sized dog crate, from considering the type of crate to properly measuring your pup.
The first thing is first: pick the type of dog crate you want to buy.
There are many different types of crates and kennels, each with their own purpose. The three most common crate types are wire crates, soft-sided crates, plastic crates, car crates, and furniture crates.
Let’s go over them briefly to highlight which one you should be considering for you own dog.
Wire crates are the most popular (and flexible) types of crates out there.
Often used for puppies and during house training, wire crates are exactly as the name describes; crates made with metal wire walls and top.
These crates are awesome for dogs that like to look out (or can be covered by a fabric crate slip for dogs that don’t) and provide great ventilation for hotter climates.
Some options have dividers in them to adjust crate size and can be collapsible.
If you have a puppy, the divider is a huge plus that can save you a lot of money down the road, since you won’t have to buy a new crate when they grow up. You can just get a wire crate with a divider based on the adult size of your puppy and call it a day.
The downside is that due to the crate being open on the sides, a muddy or accident-prone dog will make a mess that extends beyond the crate - something to keep in mind!
A great wire crate to consider is Midwest Home for Pets.
Soft-sided crates can be commonly seen at dog shows or on the spot. These portable crates are collapsible and easy to transport.
Made of fabric, they are not intended for escape artist pets but rather those that love to go places with their humans. Soft-sided crates are more often than not machine washable, so cleaning is a breeze!
A highly rated soft-sided crate is Petsfit Portable Soft Collapsible Dog Crate.
Plastic crates are often used for transportation, such as to a vet clinic or on a plane.
These are lightweight and very portable because plastic is the material of choice and doesn’t require any tools to set up.
These crates have a lot less visibility than wire crates and soft-sided crates, which can ease stressed-out pups. But because of this, they have less ventilation, so they are not great for hot climates.
These crates are also a lot more difficult for escape artist pets to get out of (but they are not indestructible, so keep that in mind).
Petmate Vari Kennel is a good plastic crate choice.
Furniture crates help the dog crate match the decor of your home.
This crate is best for dogs already comfortable with crates, don’t try to destroy them, and don’t have potty accidents in them. This is because these crates are not built for much more than housing a well-trained dog due to the material being wood or other fashionable option.
These crates can also be rather pricey as they are seen as more a piece of furniture than something practical.
The Casual Home Pet Crate is both stylish and functional.
Car crates are designed for pet safety in a moving vehicle.
Car crates are also sometimes used indoors with particularly destructive dogs. The crates are very heavy-duty and crash-tested.
Car crates are intended as permanent fixtures and not something portable, as they are usually too heavy in weight to carry. Because of their strong build, destructive dogs typically cannot make their way out of them no matter how hard they try! That being said, these crates are very expensive.
A favorite amongst frequent travelers is the 4x4 North America VarioCage. Pricey, but well worth your dog’s safety in the case of a car accident.
The next step is to gather your dog’s measurements, which is the most sure way to get the right size crate.
First, as your dog stands up, measure the top of your dog’s head to the floor. This is your height. Then, measure the tip of your dog’s nose to the base of their tail. This is your length.
After getting the measurements, add 4 inches to each measurement.
A properly sized crate should allow your pup to enter without having to crouch down, your dog can stand up freely, and Fido should be able to comfortably turn around with the crate dog shut.
The crate is too small if your dog cannot make a full revolution with the door shut. There should be 2 - 4 inches of wiggle room on either side of your dog.
It’s okay if your dog cannot sit without their head touching the top of the crate; many dogs are taller sitting than they are standing. But, your dog must absolutely be able to stand freely.
Each crate type and brand may have some deviations in their size offerings - so be sure to compare different brands and see what fits the best. For example, a car crate might have a different sizing chart than a soft-sided crate.
For your information, the general size guide for crates is the following:
So, what do you do if you have a puppy? Well, there are a few options here.
If you’re not entirely certain the size your pup will grow into as an adult, it may be a good idea to buy less expensive crates in different sizes as your puppy grows. This is great for dog breeds that grow through various growth spurts and size changes, such as Great Danes and German shepherds.
If you know the approximate size of your pup in adulthood, you can always buy an adult-sized crate with a divider.
Lots of crate brands such as MidWest sell crates that can be made smaller using the divider. Use the divider until your pup has outgrown it, and then open the crate to its maximum size!
You can use the following calculator to estimate how big your puppy is going to get and select the crate size that it recommends:
One important caveat: Since each individual dog will grow to a different size, the calculator only provides an estimation and might be slightly off for your particular dog.
Another common thought is that a dog may like a bigger crate more than a smaller one. But, in reality, they may not!
Dogs are den animals. This instinct traveled through the evolutionary chain from their wild counterparts, the wolf. As such, somewhat more intimate and tighter spaces actually work better for dogs because this den-like feel makes them feel comforted and less anxious.
If your crate is too big, your pup may begin to favor other places in the house (making their own den, much to your dismay) over the crate.