There's a huge variety of dog crates on the market. Soft crates, plastic and wooden ones, metal crates, big or small, foldable and not, heavy duty or extremely mobile, airline-approved crates and travel friendly, and tons more. With so many different styles it can be difficult to choose which type is best for your dog. This guide will help you make the right decision for a pet crate that will work for your pooch and your lifestyle.
- How are you going to use your pet crate?
- What specifically do you and your pooch need it for?
- Are you going to travel with it?
- What is your dog’s temperament?
- Does the dog crate have to fit your home decor?
- How much are you willing to spend?
- Does the pet crate need to be moved easily because you'll be moving it constantly?
These things will all play a big part in picking the best type of dog crate for your pet. For example, if your canine likes to chew a lot and is a strong chewer, a soft-sided dog crate won't be a good fit for him. Likewise, if you're hoping to use the pet crate when you travel, a heavy wooden dog crate won't be a smart choice.
Let's take a brief look at the type of dog crates that exist and their pros and cons so that you have an easier time deciding which pet crate would be perfect for your pooch.
How to Choose a Perfect Pet Crate
1. Soft Sided Dog Crates
What's a soft sided crate for dogs?
As you can see in the image on the lower right, a soft-sided crate usually means that its walls are going to be made out of soft mesh material (or something resembling that texture). Some soft crates will have steel tube frame for the crate to resemble more of a cage/den construction, while others may look more like a backpack or carrying case.
EXAMPLE LIST: The Best Soft Sided Dog Crates
Which type of soft dog crate you choose depends on how you plan to use a it, how often you're going to use it and what type of dog you have. Take a look at the pros and cons. One of the most popular soft sided dog crates on Amazon at the moment is 3-door one from Elite Field, which has garnered some great reviews from many pet owners.
Soft sided pet crates are the most popular option among pet owners. They're not too expensive, lightweight, easy to carry and dogs usually like them too. However, soft dog crates are not the best option for every canine or every situation.
- Soft sided dog crates are great for airplane rides and car rides. Because they are very portable, they are perfect for travel. Many airlines have approved pet crates of this kind for in cabin use.
- They are extremely portable because they are very light.
- Soft pet crates fold down for easier storing.
- These crates also tend to be the most comfortable for your pet.
- Soft sided dog crates are not well-suited for canines who like to chew, scratch, or are distressed from being contained.
- Because they are so soft, these pet crates don’t last very long and are not very durable.
- They are the hardest pet crates to clean. This means they are not a good choice for dogs who are not crate or potty trained yet.
When do owners usually use soft dog crates?
The biggest selling point of a pet crate that's made out of mesh material is its portability and weight. Therefore, majority of dog owners will choose these crates for traveling, whether by car, airplane or other means. However, there are a lot of safety precautions to keep in mind with these pet crates and not all of us usually remember about them.
As an example, a soft crate may not always be a great option for car travel due to how unsafe it is if left unsecured. You should always secure your dog in his crate with a seat belt and make sure that the crate will not be sliding or moving whatsoever.
For more on the safety of traveling with soft sided dog crates, I recommend you take a look at Center for Pet Safety research study on safety of pet crates (PDF) and how they performed. Spoiler alert: there's a lot of risk involved if the crate is not secured.
“…even if you can’t afford one of the top performers, any restraint is better than none. At the very least, it will keep your pet safer in normal driving and make it much less likely to distract you behind the wheel. That alone can help you avoid trouble, since distracted driving is a leading cause of accident, injury and death on the road.” – Baltimore Sun on the study results [source]
Here's more recommended reading related to traveling and soft pet crates:
2. Plastic Dog Crates
What are plastic crates for dogs?
Plastic pet crates are the middle ground between soft sided ones and the metal dog crates. They're not the best looking crates you can buy (in fact, most of them look pretty cheap and unattractive); however, depending on the reason you buy one, it may just do the job, and it comes with its own list of advantages.
RANKINGS: Top 50 Best Dog Crates of All Time
A plastic dog crate will certainly be more sturdy than a soft sided crate, and it will allow for a little more privacy for your pooch than a metal wire cage. But even with all the holes in the crate, the ventilation isn't always sufficient and the dog cannot stay there for too long. Plastic crates may or may not be easy to clean depending on the type you purchase.
The most popular plastic crate for dogs on Amazon is currently the Petmate 2-door plastic kennel for dogs up to 15 pounds. Overall, these are good crates for short travel and quick trips in the car or airplane (provided you confirm that the airline has approved your specific design). Take a look at the pros and cons of
- Plastic dog crates are really easy to clean. Just a quick hose down would suffice.
- They are durable. The thick plastic is pretty hard to break. They can be stacked on top of each other when not being used.
- Because they are enclosed and thick, it creates more of a “den” feel for the dog.
- They can help keep reactive dogs calm and quiet, because they can only see out of one side.
- Most airlines have approved these plastic pet crates for both in-cabin and below the seat use.
- Plastic crates for dogs do not fold flat so they are harder to store.
- They are durable but some dogs may be inclined to chew on this pet crate as it is made of plastic.
- Plastic absorbs odors so even though they are easy to clean, after a while they can have a permanent dog smell.
- They are bulky and can be difficult to carry around.
More recommended reading about pet crates and their use:
- How to Stop a Dog From Chewing on a Crate (Video)
- 15 Best Small Dog Crates for Puppies or Small Dogs
- Calm the Dog: 5 Best Dog Cage Covers for Pet Crates
3. Metal or Wire Crates for Dogs
What are metal wire dog crates?
Metal dog crates and/or wide crates for dogs are the ones people usually think of with the mention of a crate, kennel or cage for dogs. These crates are exactly what you imagine: a construction made out of metal wires that's very well-ventilated and provides great visibility (for you and the dog).
EXAMPLE LIST: The Best Metal Dog Crates
Metal pet crates are the best option for puppies who like to chew a lot, since it would be nearly impossible for them to destroy this type of crate (although certain larger breeds do manage that). The best thing about them is their sturdiness, visibility and the extra air-flow, but the major con is that they're heavy and difficult to travel with. For large and strong dogs, there are also heavy duty cages which are made of sturdier metal; they're often more expensive and not travel-friendly, but will be impossible to break.
Fortunately, there are plenty of metal dog crates that have been designed to fold easily for quick breakdown so that owners can take them wherever they go. The best and most popular metal dog crate option on Amazon is the MidWest Double-Door iCrate. MidWest are the experts in wire cages for pets and have a huge selection of high quality metal crates for dogs and cats of all sizes. Browse their store for more options.
- Most metal dog crates will fold up for easy transport.
- They are also easy to clean. Some even have bottom trays that could slide out for cleaning.
- Dogs can’t break through this type of pet crate.
- They are “open air”, which means that there is a lot of airflow. This is great for breeds that get hot easily.
- This type of cage will not absorb odors and remains odor-free.
- For dogs who like to be apart of all family activities these pet crates are great because they allow for 360 degree visibility.
- Because of the high visibility of these metal dog cages, they are not recommended for canines who are reactive.
- They are easy to clean but over time dog hair and dirt can get stuck in the cross bars.
- Because they are made of metal, these pet cages will rust over time.
- This is a heavy type of crate, so while they do fold up, they can be hard to move just because of their weight.
- The dog’s nails on the plastic tray tend to make a lot of noise.
- Some metal dog crates can be easy to escape from because of the door closures.
4. Wooden or Decorative Pet Crates
What are wooden, fashion, style or decorative crates for pets?
Just as the title implies, majority of dog crates that are made out of wood prioritize fashion and style. They often fit well with your home decor and look the best out of all pet crates listed in this article. Many pet owners who know that these crates will not be moved often or that use them as “stationary” pet crates while also having alternatives for travel will often pick a wooden dog crate and keep it in one place at home for their dogs to rest in.
SAMPLE LIST: The Best Cheap Dog Crates for General Use
While wooden dens for dogs definitely look best, and may even sometimes add to the style decor of your house by serving as a nightstand or a table, they are very heavy, hard to clean and not all dogs respond well to them. Even though all the functionalities of other types of crates are still kept with wooden decorative pet crates, they lack the simplicity, portability and the ease of use of plastic, metal or soft sided pet crates.
There's also not a lot to choose from in terms of great looking decorative pet crates made out of wood. One of the most popular wood crates for dogs on Amazon is the 2-in-1 configurable crate from Merry Products. Its best feature, which is unlike any other wooden dog crate I've seen before, is that it can be folded into a pet gate. That's convenient.
- They can easily fit into the look of a home. For example, they can double as a shelf or end table which provides a usable surface.
- There are a lot of different styles to choose from.
- They are not good for dogs that like to destroy furniture. Chewing and scratching can ruin these crates.
- It is hard to clean and remove odors because they are made of wood.
- These crates tend to be on the expensive side when compared to other types of crates.
5. Combination Crates for Pets
Combination pet crates is exactly what it says – a combo between several types of above mentioned crates. Just like 2-in-1 shampoo, they're for owners who are trying to accomplish a few things at once for a cheaper price; however, they're usually the worst in the category at what they're supposed to do, or they will be the most expensive and not worth the price tag.
- They are a combination of the metal and plastic crates.
- There are wheels on the bottom to make transport easier.
- They have easy entry and exit doors.
- They are very heavy.
- These cages are really hard to put together and will probably need multiple people to build.
RECOMMENDED: 7 Tips for Crate Training Your Dog
How to Choose the Right Size Pet Crate for Dogs?
Now that you have an idea of what type of crate to get, you have to make sure that the cage is the right size for your dog. First, you should measure your pet. Measure from the base of the tail to the tip of the nose and then add 2 to 4 inches. This is the perfect length for the cage.
Then measure from the ground to the tallest point of the head and add 2 to 4 inches. This is the perfect height for the cage. Below is a size chart that can also help when 0choosing the size of your pet crate.
- 18”-22” Extra Small Dogs
- 24” Small Dog Breeds
- 30” Medium Dog Breeds
- 36” Large Dog Breeds
- 42” Extra Large Dog Breeds
- 46” -72” XXL Giant Dog Breeds
A helpful tip to saving money is to buy an adult sized cage and then adjust it to fit your puppy. That way the crate can adapt to your puppy’s growth. Most wire or metal pet crate models will come with a divider that allows the crate to grow with your puppy.