THE BALANCED PACK
WHY SIZE, MATERIAL & DESIGN MATTER
No matter what material or design you decide, the most important decision of all is size. Size matters, not just to your dog, but to you as well! Selecting a crate that is appropriately sized for your dog can be tricky if you have a puppy; specifically one who will grow up to be much larger than they are now. You may have to invest in a couple crates or a specific style of crate that can be divided and then expanded as the dog grows. Or you may opt to borrow one from family or friends until they grow up a little more, or you may choose to just buy a couple and re-use or resale at some point down the line.
With a full grown dog choosing size can be a little easier. Your dog should have room to walk in, turn around and lay down comfortably within the crate-with a little extra leg room if they decide to sprawl out. They should not have enough space to do all the above, and yet still have an equal sized space left over. These luxuriously over sized kennels do not encourage a natural ‘den’ feeling, because the dog is not securely surrounded. Dogs like the cozy feeling a crate provides-oversized does not = cozy. All that extra space you’re providing might make You feel better about confining your pooch but for a lot of dogs, but it can actually create more anxiety.
Since super sized kennels can create more anxiety for a lot of dogs(a mind set already prime for more poor decision making), having excessive space in the crate can lead to other behavior problems like defecating or urinating in the crate-because they have enough space to go lay away from their mess. Where as in a tighter environment they would likely make a better choice, to hold it, to avoid having to lay in/beside their own excrement. It can lead to destructive behaviors like crate mutilation(destroying pieces of the crate, bending doors, scratching) or even worse the anxiety could lead further into separation anxiety which can lead to self mutilation(gnawing their teeth down chewing doors, injuring themselves by attempting to escape confinement.) *Excessive space isn’t the only cause of these bad behaviors in the crate, but we will discuss those later on in the article.*
Size matters, so before investing in a crate for your dog be sure to read the rest of this article, do some research into brands available to your area and even take your dog along to try out floor models to ensure the best fit for your family!
WHATS IT MADE FOR?
These days there’s no shortage of different design options when choosing a dog crate. There’s collapsible fabric crates, plastic airline carriers, wire kennels, car crates and even Alcatraz style, escape artist-proof crates! When selecting your crate it’s important to consider what it’s main function will be to you, for example: will you use it for ‘safekeeping’ aka confinement to ensure your dog isn’t getting into funny business while you’re out-will they be using it unsupervised? Will it be mainly used for travel in the vehicle, keeping your dog off your lap and everyone on the road safe? Or will you be using it for short term use in a variety of locations-thus making portability and weight a factor? These are all important things to ask yourself when investing in a crate for your dog. You may even notice from my examples that having multiple crates, may even be necessary for your lifestyle.
If you’re mainly going to need a crate to confine your dog for house training or to provide a safe place in your absence, your best bet is a plastic airline crate. These kennels get their ‘airline’ associated name due to the fact that they are the only crates approved for travel in cargo holds of planes. They are durable, well designed and for the average dog-provide more than enough security against escape artists. In my experience, most dogs prefer this style of kennel due to their(usually) rounded walls, encouraging a nice relaxed sleeping ball. The limited visibility beyond looking through the door, also helps keep visual distractions low and mimics a more ‘den’ like space. These crates are also extremely easy to clean, making them a favorite of many dog care takers!
Wire kennels have become increasingly popular in the recent years, although to be honest- I have no idea why! Aside from their precisely square angles-which makes fitting them in places easier. There is no real upside to them over a plastic crate. They are heavy & I have caught my fingers in the wire while folding them to many times to count. They give a 360 view of all angles and so visual distractions are always available to create anxiety. Covering them with a blanket to reduce the visibility can also become a problem, due to the fact there’s such large gaps between bars it takes almost no skill on the dogs part to pull things through the wire. Leading to potentially deadly ingestion of undesired items.
This large spacing between bars also makes fitting mouths around them very easy-these crates are often the first crates dog’s learn to escape from, due to their poor quality and design. Once they think they’ve found an escape method, they’ll try it with any others. In my opinion, wire crates serve almost no purpose, unless they’re to be placed in a location where a plastic kennel may not suit(by heat vent) Sure, they may seem more visually appealing in your beautiful home, but for most dogs they’re the birthplace of anxiety. Unlike plastic crates, these wire counter parts are also extremely difficult to clean and the wide open holes leave plenty of room for messes to spill or be sprayed outwards.
Fabric crates are not for the first time crate user. These crates are for crate savvy dogs, who are well aware of the boundary’s the crate reinforces. Why? These are extremely easy to rip or tear, specifically at the zippers, and especially if you buy one on the cheaper end with poor quality seams to begin with. These should not be used without supervision unless your dog is one of the crate savvy pups mentioned above, and not before they’ve have plenty of supervised interaction in it, to allow you to interrupt any naughty behaviors(like pawing the door) Once your dog is comfortable and content with what being in crate means, these can be an awesome addition to camping trips, dog classes and dog events.
These simple, lightweight pop-up crates are easy to travel with and provide an easy to grab ‘safe place’ to stow your dog if your attention is distracted. For example, we went fishing on a camping trip and instead of leaving the dogs at the campsite, we were able to bring the pop up crate along to the lake, set it up in seconds in a shady spot, stow the dogs and focus on our original task. While still being able to include the dogs in activities (Ideally they’d of had a bomb proof place command, but that’s another article!) Fabric crates can be a great tool to have around, once you’ve installed that great crate foundation with your dog. Remember though, these are not for first time crate users, or to be used without supervision as a means of confinement until your dog is reliably calm in it, in your presence.
Car crates are the newest thing around these days, these funky looking kennels are specially designed to protect your pet and keep them safe and contained in the vehicle in case of an accident. They are on the pricier end of the scale, but unless you’re like me and have multiple large breed dogs, the cost and functionality may be better justified. There’s been many reports out lately showing the damage different styles of crates, like those mentioned above, can inflict not only your pet during a minor collision, but yourself as well. Not unlike a loose pet can become a flying projectile in an accident, so can their crate. I’ve even seen pictures of wire kennels smushed into bits and mangled by a low speed collision. Not only could your dog become impaled during that process, but should they come out unscathed but their crate is in pieces, the potential for them to flee the scene via a broken window, etc is increased. There’s a variety of styles and brands to choose from when selecting one of these heavy-duty crates- Invest wisely!
Last but not least, there’s escape-proof kennels! These crates are built from high quality, durable material and designed with every potential escape artist in mind. So if perhaps you made a mistake mentioned earlier and created an escape addict. These kennels will be your only solid investment. Plastic can be chewed, wire can be bent, fabric can be ripped. High end aluminum.. box and door and sophisticated locks.. Well they’ll be hard pressed to find a way to worm their way out of there. One of the most notably preferred escape proof kennels to serious dog professionals (those who see extreme separation anxiety on a regular basis) is ZingerWinger. So if you have a crate killer at home, search no more, this crate can give you your freedom back and give you peace of mind knowing they’re safe and contained, no matter what.
**If your dog is struggling with severe separation anxiety who self mutilates to escape, or is destroying property, contact a dog training professional to help you right away. These behaviors don’t get better, they manifest and get worse. **
CRATES: WORTH THE INVESTMENT
Purchasing a crate, or two, can seem like a decent investment of money, but it’s not just a monetary investment. Crate training your dog is also an investment of time. However it’s in my opinion, an invaluable investment into your dog that will have many pay offs during the rest of your life together. A dog who is comfortable spending time alone will be better behaved in a kennel or daycare, will be less stressed in a vets office and will make a great travel companion or hotel buddy. Don’t give up on the crate training process, the end outcome and your dogs mental health are worth it!
Don't forget to Check out our Step-by-Step Guide to introducing your dog to a crate and our other training articles featured in this blog!
Written By: Izzie Keyes, Owner/Trainer
THE BALANCED PACK