3 Tips to Choose The Ideal Puppy Crate for Safety and Comfort

How to choose the perfect size crate for your puppy

Congrats on your new puppy! One of the most important life skills your puppy needs to learn is how to use the puppy crate, and absolutely love it. Being comfortable in the crate is key to an easy adjustment. So knowing what size crate is best for your puppy’s safety and comfort is essential.

There are several kinds of dog crates to choose from – everything from metal to plastic to fabric, and even some wooden or decorative crates are available on the market. Trying to figure out which is the best fit for you and your puppy can be overwhelming. So today, I want to share my favorite crate suggestions with you and hopefully save you some money in the long run.

4 Types of Dog Crates

Metal Dog Crate Kennel

Metal Crates

For almost 20 years, I mainly used metal crates while crate training my dogs. These are easier to adjust as puppies grow because most metal crates have a divider that can be moved as your puppy grows.

The benefits of metal crates are that they fold flat for easy portability when not in use. The quality metal crates also keep dogs safely secured. Most metal crates also have a tray that is easy to remove for cleaning purposes.

However, metal crates are more open and airy, so they don’t provide much of a comfortable, quiet, stimulation-free environment unless you use a cover. We recommend against crate covers that fit too snuggly against the sides of the crate because they can become a chewing and obstruction hazard. Instead, we recommend a board that's bigger than the top of the crate on all sides with a sheet or blanket over the top. This way the cover is not accessible to your dog.

Metal crates also tend to rust over time, and some of the metal crates are made of poor-quality materials, which can result in injuries to you and your pup. The metal crates are typically much heavier than plastic crates – something to consider if you want to use one great multi-purpose crate.

Metal crates are also noisy when dogs move around. So a metal crate may be more stimulating for your puppy. And finally, some dogs have been able to escape from metal crates.

If you decide to use a metal crate, make sure to use the divider to provide the proper amount of space for your puppy while inside the crate. And ensure that the doors (one on each end of the crate) are properly secured so your puppy doesn’t accidentally escape.

Plastic Dog Crate

Plastic Crates

Over the last several years, I've switched to primarily using plastic crates with my own dogs and the dogs in the board and train program I used to run because I found that most of these dogs fared far better in plastic crates. There's something about the coziness and comfort the plastic crate provides that the metal crate does not. The den-like plastic crate helps a puppy feel more comfortable and safe.

I also found that dogs that continually had accidents in a metal crate had fewer accidents when switched to a plastic crate. And the plastic crates are far easier to clean when an accident occurs. They are also very durable – especially if you choose one rated for airline travel and made of thicker plastic that’s pretty hard to break.

Most plastic crates also travel well in a vehicle or when flying, but a plastic crate with a smaller base may tip over in a vehicle. For that reason, you may need to secure the crate with a seat belt or straps when traveling.

Plastic crates don't fold well and can sometimes be bulky. With plastic crates, quality matters, and cheap ones last only a short time. Besides breaking easily, puppies can escape from cheap plastic crates. You may also need to upgrade to a larger plastic crate as your puppy grows.

Wooden dog crate

Wooden Crates

I am not a big fan of wooden or decorative crates. Although they look gorgeous in your home, most wooden crates can be easily destroyed by an anxious or teething puppy’s scratching and chewing. Wooden crates are also harder to clean and tend to be more expensive than the other options. On the other hand, a wooden crate may be suitable for an older, more settled dog with excellent crate skills.

fabric puppy crate with soft sides

Soft-Sided Crates

One crate I never suggest for puppies is the soft-sided crate. Puppies can easily chew through soft-sided crates in a matter of minutes, and if your puppy has an accident, they are much harder to clean. In addition, they tend to become very stinky quite fast, and they don't last as long. The only benefit is that they can easily be folded up and moved to another location quickly. These are great for dogs that have proven themselves trustworthy and don't have accidents or are well beyond the chewing stage. We use soft-sided crates for events such as agility or rally obedience competitions, not when working on crate training a brand-new puppy.

Once you've selected the type of crate you want for your puppy, it’s time to determine the correct crate size.

What Size Crate Is Best For Your Puppy?

The perfect size crate will give your puppy enough room to turn around and lay down comfortably in their crate. In addition, the puppy should be able to curl up or stretch out while lying down.

However, the crate should not be so big that your puppy can play on one side and potty on the other. Your puppy should not be able to pace and circle inside the crate, either, because pacing and circling build up a puppy’s anxiety.

Also, the more a puppy can move inside the crate, the greater the likelihood of potty accidents because movement stimulates a puppy’s digestive and elimination system. So ideally, we want a puppy to remain calm, relaxed, and resting while in the crate.

How To Determine The Perfect Crate Size For Your Pup

Measuring your puppy is the best way to determine the appropriate crate size.

The Perfect Crate Height

The perfect crate height will be 2 to 3 inches taller than your puppy. Measure your puppy’s height from the ground to the top of the head and add about 2 to 3 inches.

The Perfect Crate Length

As with crate height, the perfect crate length will be 2 to 3 inches longer than your pup. Measure your puppy’s length from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail, and add about 2 to 3 inches to determine how long your puppy's crate should be.

Your puppy shouldn't be packed into the crate like a sardine in a can. However, as I said before, we don't want a puppy to be able to pace or do other anxiety or energy-building activities inside the crate.

What Size Crate for Puppy? 3 Pro Tips to Help You Choose

Now that you know what size crate you need for your puppy and which type of crate you want to use, you'll want to know how to set up the crate and playpen!

Michele Lennon with her dream dogs

About the trainer

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.