All About Crates

The most important aspect of Crate Training is to be sure that you have the right type and size of crate for your dog.  The second most important aspect of Crate Training is picking the right location for the crate.  I will address the positive, negative, and different aspects of each crate, so you can be as informed as possible, and make all the right decisions for your dog in regards to Crate Training.  I will also give my recommendation on what crate is the best one to use and why, as well as how to maintain the recommended crate properly.

Types of Crates:

There are many different types of crates, however, there are only 2 that should be considered for options for your dog.  One is the Plastic Crate.  There are many different brands available, the most popular and efficient is the Deluxe Vari-Kennel because it meets airline requirements for shipping.  There are many other brands that are perfect for home use.  The second type of crate is a Wire Crate.  They are collapsible and also have many different brands of these crates available.  A very popular question that I get asked all of the time is: ‘Do you have a preference on what type of Crate I should buy for my dog?’  This is a VERY important question because if you truly understand Dog Psychology, there should only be one type of crate that you should purchase for your dog. 

Three Very Important Facts About Dogs:

All dog owners should understand that dogs are Rank Structure animals, which means they live in a pack order, are natural Den Dwellers, and learn by Association.

With dogs being natural Den Dwellers, the only choice for a crate for your dog is a Plastic Crate.  The reason for this is because it is enclosed, dark, and has proper ventilation and viewing from the wire door and the windows on each side.  The door and the windows allow for the dog to look outside of the crate but still feel protected because they are enclosed.   The material of the Plastic Crate is also quiet and doesn’t startle dogs that are noise sensitive.  It allows the Plastic Crate to be a safe, cozy, and quiet place for the dog to rest.  It is also very easy to clean and sanitize which is very important, especially if you have a dog that has worms or other diseases.  The Plastic Crate also is easy to take apart and travel with.  You store the top of the crate inside the bottom of the crate and then it becomes the perfect place to fit your dog’s bag of food and personal items.  Another very important question that I get asked frequently is ‘Why is the Wire Crate so bad for dogs?’  If you go to a pet store and ask an employee what type of crate they recommend for a dog, most frequently, they will recommend a Wire Crate.  The employee normally follows up your questions with this question, ‘Well if you were a dog would you rather be in that enclosed one and not be able to see anything around you?  Or would you rather be in this one that you can see everything around you?’  With that said, the dog owner purchases the Wire Crate.  If we go back to the Three Important Facts About Dogs, two of the facts, dogs are den dwellers and dogs learn based on association, literally give us our answer about which crate is best for our dog.  A Plastic Crate resembles a Den, which is dark, quiet, enclosed but with a view.   A Wire crate does not resemble a Den at all.  It does not offer any physical protection to the dog inside it.  They can see everything around them but they can’t get to it or hide from it.  The metal tray in the bottom moves frequently when the dog enters the crate or moves around in the crate.  This causes the tray to bang against the other metal parts of the Wire Crate, which doesn’t allow for a quiet place to rest.  Also the Wire Crate is nearly impossible to clean or sanitize effectively, which is a very important feature.  Trying to clean each individual wire is time consuming and trying to find a big enough basin to soak a Wire Crate in is very hard.  If you don’t properly dry each wire of the crate, corrosion can occur and the Wire Crate becomes rusty.  Lastly, the Wire Crate is not enclosed at all.   As a Den Dweller, dogs want to see things but don’t want to feel vulnerable and exposed.  A wire crate causes this feeling because they can’t hide to feel protected. 

Many people, once they purchase a wire crate begin having problems with their dog barking excessively, clawing, whining, thrashing around, and biting at the crate to get out.  They then decide to cover the Wire Crate to give the dog more ‘comfort or privacy’.  This is a very bad idea because it prevents proper ventilation of the crate as well as the dog can grab the item that covers the crate and pull it into the crate and chew on it.  Both of these secondary problems will cause additional issues.  Also many people have experienced coming home to find that their dog has bitten the wires on the crate to form big gaps and  they see the dog with his head sticking out of the crate.  This is extremely dangerous because once a dog pushes his head thru the small opening, a lot of the time they can’t pull their head back thru the opening.  For these reasons, I never recommend using a Wire Crate.

Properly Sizing Your Dog To a Plastic Crate:

You will need your dog to be in a sitting position.  Measure the distance from the floor to the top of your dogs head.  Then have the dog stand and measure the entire length of your dog from nose to tail.  Write these measurements down on a piece of paper.

Before you purchase the Plastic Crate for your dog you always want to pay attention to the length of your dog and the length of the INSIDE of the crate.  That is the most important measurement.  Make for certain that you get the Plastic Crate that your dog can fit in length wise with extra room.  Then check the measurement for the height of the INSIDE of the Plastic Crate.  You might find that most of the time your dogs height is going to be bigger than the height of the crate.  Remember this is not a major concern because dogs will be laying down most of the time that they are in their crate.  If you can get a crate that is higher than the height of your dog, that is good.  Most large breeds and Giant breeds however, are going to be higher in height than the crate, and will have to have their head bowed slightly if they are sitting up in their crate.  Once again, please keep in mind this is not a major problem because the dog is going to be laying down the majority of the time they are in their crate.  Remember always get the Plastic Crate that your dog can fit in length wise with extra room.

Finding the Best Location For Your Dog’s Crate:

A very important topic to discuss is crate placement within your house.  Here’s a list of things to consider before choosing a location for the crate:

1.     You want to pick a room in the house that the dog spends time in when the dog is NOT in the crate.

2.     You do not want the crate to be near a door or in a busy traffic area of the house.

3.     You want the crate to be placed out of vision from all of the house quests activities, if possible, in case you have the dog in the crate while you are at home.

4.     You want to place the crate in a room so that you could hear the dog whine or bark inside the crate while you were asleep.  This is important because the dog needs to be able to alert to you if a potty break is needed.  Also you would want to hear if the dog is vomiting, so you can get them out of the crate and get it cleaned up before putting them back into the crate.  Dogs are very clean animals if taught properly by their Mother, breeder, or care taker, so it is very stressful for a dog to be in an unclean Crate.  You do want to unintentionally force the dog to eliminate in the Crate just because you couldn’t hear them indicating to you that they are sick or have to go potty.

5.     You want to make sure the room that you have the crate in gets ample ventilation, heating, or cooling depending on the weather.  Having the crate in a room with improper air circulation or that gets too hot or cold, can have severe consequences to your dog’s health.

Other helpful tips to consider when using a Crate:

1.     If you have a blanket or any kind of covering in the crate ALWAYS make sure that you only cover half of the crate floor.  Never cover the entire crate floor with any material.  If the dog is a dog that likes or needs to be cool, you are preventing them from laying on the crate floor that can cool them off. 

2.     If your dog likes to chew be sure that your dog is not going to chew-up and swallow the covering material or any toys that you have in the crate.  Remember, your dog is going to be in the crate unsupervised most of the time.  So if your dog likes to chew, only have items in the crate that are good to chew on.  Not items that they can choke on, that swell, that splinter, or anything else harmful.

3.     Most dogs do not need to have water in the crate with them if you are going to be gone for 9 hours or less if the room is temperature controlled.  If you would still like to put water in the crate, make sure it is in a bowl that is properly fastened to the door.  You do not want to take up the dogs space inside the crate with a bowl and you do not want the dog spilling the bowl and being forced to lay in water inside the crate.  Also it is a good idea to only fill the bowl up half way with water.  You do this to prevent the dog from drinking too much water while you’re gone and then being forced to hold the eliminations because no one is home to let the dog outside to go potty. 

4.     Never put you dog in a crate with any type of collar on their neck.  No collar should be on the dog while inside the crate.

5.     If you have a dog in a crate and another dog that is free roaming in the house, they need to be isolated from seeing each other. 

6.     You should randomly put your dog in the crate, even when you are home for short periods, so the dog doesn’t associate the crate with isolation only, and develop behavior problems while inside the crate. 

7.     You should feed and water your dog inside their crate initially so they associate their crate as their den and do not want to soil in their den.  It also helps to prevent the dog from associating the crate with isolation only, and therefore developing behavior problems while inside the crate.   Be sure to only leave the food and water in their crate for a 15 minute period.  Do not leave the food and water down in their crate all day.

8.     Cleaning the inside of the crate at least once a week with a bleach and water solution or any other solution that kills common dog viruses and bacteria is very important.  Always make sure to fully wipe down the inside of the crate with clean water afterwards to remove all residue of the solution as well, so your dog is not being exposed to chemicals.



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This article was wrote by Michelle Murrell.  She is the owner of A.B.C. Dog Training, LLC, a private, mobile, in-home dog training service.  She travels throughout the United States to educate and show families how to properly train their dogs.  She can be reached at if you are interested in purchasing additional articles, videos, or want to contact her about coming to your home State to train your dog.


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