How to Choose a Dog Crate

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 13, 2023
4 min read

For short-term training and to keep dogs safe — whether you’re traveling or out of the house — crates are an important tool for any dog owner. 

Dog crates, also called indoor kennels or cages, have many uses. They’re important during travel and to minimize stress in emergency situations. They can help keep your dog out of trouble while you’re away from home. Crates can even be a comforting spot where anxious dogs or puppies can go if home is hectic.

Crates come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Before you choose one, you’ll need to think about your reason for wanting a crate for your dog. Needs may include:

Creating a safe space. Crates that are always open and located in a quieter spot in a house are like dens for dogs. You’ll need enough space to add comfortable blankets, favorite toys, and even treats to make the crate more comfortable. 

For emergency situations. If a dog is not feeling well or is injured in an emergency, they might feel more comfortable if transported in a crate or a carrier. These crates need to be manageable and fit in your vehicle.

As a training tool. If you bring a new dog home and the pup is still learning the rules, crate training is a common and effective tactic. Especially for puppies, a dog crate can be helpful. You may look for an easy-to-clean tray if you plan to use the crate during house training.

Transportation safety. If you’re flying with your dog, it may be too large for the cabin and need a dog crate for a trip in the baggage hold or cargo area. If your dog is small enough for in-cabin travel in a carry-on crate, you’ll need one that fits within the airline’s size restrictions. Even for road trips, the ASPCA recommends keeping dogs in crates — for their safety and yours. No matter how you travel, your dog will be in their crate the entire time, so make sure you get the right size. 

Travel can be stressful for dogs, who might chew their crates. Starting crate training before travel will help get them used to it. You can give them a chew toy to redirect their energy. You can also talk to your vet about your dog’s travel anxiety.

Size and temperament. Consider your dog’s weight and temperament, along with the breed, to determine what size crate is best.

The smallest breeds, like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, are usually under 30 pounds and will fit well in a carrier that measures 18 inches by 18 or 24 inches.

Dogs that weigh up to 40 pounds should have bigger crates, 24 inches by 24 or 18 inches. Some breeds may need a bigger crate even if they are under 40 pounds, because of their shape — think Bulldogs and Dachshunds.

Dogs that weigh between 40 and 60 pounds — like Bulldogs and Pit Bulls — do best in crates that are 30 inches long by 24 to 36 inches.

Bigger dogs, such as Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, and Siberian Huskies, will need the largest crates, which measure anywhere from 48 inches by 24 inches to 72 inches by 36 inches. 

Design. Dog crates come in many different materials and designs, with pros and cons for each.

Wire dog cages can often collapse, making this type easy to store or bring on a trip. A towel or blanket, or a customized dog crate cover, will add privacy for your pet.   

Mesh crates offer a lot more privacy but may be no match for your dog. Dogs that like to chew can make short work of some mesh crates, but dogs with more timid dispositions may love it.

Plastic-walled crates are also very commonly used as dens for dogs. Experts don’t recommend this type if you plan to crate the dog when left unattended. Plastic crates don’t offer as much air circulation as mesh and wire crates.

If you want to keep this crate in a common area where your dog can still be near you, like a bedroom or a living room, you may want to pick a crate with an attractive design.

Average costs of dog crates. Features, size, design, and materials all contribute to the cost of dog crates. You can expect to pay $25 for the most basic, small, foldable wire crates, around $250 for fancier, wood-sided models, and up to $350 for large mesh crates. The larger the crate size, though, the more expensive it will likely be.