The Great Crate Debate: How to Buy a Dog Crate

In this expert guide to dog crates, we discuss evaluating the perfect size, choosing the right type, and offer tips on training your puppy.

Wondering how to buy a dog crate? Let us explain…

I was making preparations to fly to Canada to pick up one of my dogs, and I had to buy a crate to transport him. I have used crates for training but had not purchased one for flight.

I found myself a bit overwhelmed by all the features and benefits, styles and price ranges. There is a lot to learn about dog crates! In this article, I share some of what I’ve learned.

The first consideration when you’re shopping for a dog crate (sometimes called a kennel) is to choose the product that fits your purpose.

Good crates are designed to:

  • Train,
  • Contain,
  • or Transport

Size Matters

The size of your dog is very important. Your puppy may spend several hours inside the enclosure and should feel protected, not trapped. A training crate must be well ventilated and kept clean.

Ideally, the container should be just big enough for your dog to stand and turn around. (There should be 3 or 4 inches above the dog’s head when he stands up.) If your puppy is still in the growing stage you may want to consider renting a kennel in order to “trade up” to more appropriate sizes as your pet develops.

Like a Den

Domestic dogs are only a few genetic steps removed from their ancestors: wolves. In the wild, these animals raise their young, sleep and are protected from danger in dens. Using crates for in-home training reinforces your pet dog’s natural instinct to seek safety and comfort in a small, enclosed area.

Dogs do not typically soil their “dens,” so crates limit the animal’s access to areas that are off limits. They provide a certain amount of control while your puppy learns acceptable behaviors during house-training.

In the video below, from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), Lisa Mazzaferro, DVM, explains why crates are ideal for puppies in a new home:

Training Guidelines

Review professional guidelines for crate training your dog. Recommendations from the US Humane Society include:

  • Never use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter it.
  • Don’t leave your dog inside for too long. A dog that’s crated day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious.
  • Puppies younger than 6 months shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for that long. The same goes for adult dogs being housetrained. They can probably hold it, but they don’t know they’re supposed to.
  • Crate your dog only until you can trust him not to destroy the house. After that, it should be a place he goes voluntarily.

Making the Crate Great

Denhaus Townhaus designer dog crate

As your dog grows and matures, a crate may become a source of containment. When training is administered effectively, your dog will return to the crate voluntarily to sleep or if there is some perceived danger, like thunderstorms. It will become his safe place.

Several companies present a line of upscale crates that integrate well into a room’s decor. DenHaus, for example, offers a beautiful TownHaus Hideaway Dog House. This innovative container doubles as an attractive piece of furniture while providing your pet with a cozy space. Prices begin at under $500 on Amazon (affiliate link).

There are occasions when a portable, soft crate may be necessary. Many evacuation shelters permit pets, provided they are properly contained — so the use of travel kennels may become critical during emergencies. Most pet stores and many discount retailers these in a variety of sizes and styles. Retail prices typically run less than $150.

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

The safety of your dog is a priority when you’re traveling. It is a best practice to always crate your dog when you are driving. Some states are considering legislation to require restraints for animals in automobiles.

Regardless of temperament and training, a loose pet can distract the driver and cause accidents that injure or kill the pet and other passengers.

Never leave an animal in a parked vehicle during hot weather. Most states enforce anti-cruelty laws and punish owners who leave their dogs in cars on hot days.

Safety tips related to cars:

  • Leave adequate space around the crate when it’s packed in your vehicle.
  • Let plenty of fresh air flow in and around the crate.
  • Make sure the crate is buckled to the seat or securely attached to the floor of the car.
  • Ensure that the locks and latches are safe and secure before traveling.

Airlines offer travel options for dogs (with some notable exceptions) provided that certain stipulations are satisfied. Crating your pet is mandatory on any airline regardless if the dog flies in the passenger cabin or in cargo. Dogs traveling on a commercial airline must be transported in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) compliant pet crate.

IATA minimum requirements include:

  • The container must be large enough for the animal(s) to stand, turn around and lie down in.
  • The kennel must be made of a sturdy plastic.
  • The container must have a secure, spring loaded, all around locking system with the pins extending beyond the horizontal extrusions above and below the door.
  • Although this is not an IATA requirement, many airlines are now requiring steel crate hardware instead of plastic fasteners.
  • Both water and food bowls must be attached to the inside of the front door and be refillable from the outside of the container without opening the door.
  • The container must have ventilation on all sides for international travel and three sides for domestic travel.
  • The container must have “Live Animal” stickers on the top and sides in letters at least 1 inch tall.
  • No wheels! If the container has wheels, these should be removed or taped securely so that the kennel cannot roll.
  • The container must be identified with your pet’s name and owner’s contact information.

Check with the airline or rail line before travel for additional safety instructions. For more advice, see our article on travel tips.

Toting Toto

Who hasn’t seen celebrity photos of stars with their precious pups tucked in designer bags? If well-behaved, the purse stowaways can be smuggled through retail stores, restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, movie theaters — places traditionally off limits to any dog other than service animals. I recently saw a tiny Pomeranian peeking from the flap of a Louis Vuitton in church!

While technically not a “crate,” the pooch purse demands some attention in an article about dog containers. Such carriers are available in everything from serpa slings to camouflage cargo bags and fanny packs. With the projected annual spending on pet products of $52 billion over the next two years, it is a good bet that toting Toto will continue to be vogue!

Just remember, safety first. Pets are not great advocates for the concept of suffering for fashion’s sake!

Additional Resources

C.D. Watson

View posts by C.D. Watson
C.D. Watson has been researching and writing about pets for many years. She is a freelance writer and a corporate refugee. C.D. lives on a farm in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband, 3 dogs and a variety of other pets.

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