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How To Choose the Best Dog Crate

Your dog’s crate is one of the most expensive things you will buy him, especially if you own a big dog. It can be hard to decide what type to get: soft-sided, plastic, metal? Collapsible? Has wheels? Will it last the life of my dog? Basically it comes down to: Which is the best crate?

Frankly, the answer is, that depends. It depends on what you and your dog are planning to do, your dog’s behavior and your own preferences. I have owned every single one of these types (unless noted) and these are my observations on the durability and practicality of each type.

Before you Buy

Before buying a crate, you need to think about a few things. Each type of crate has its own pros and cons. Knowing these can help you narrow the field a bit before you go shopping, avoiding any wasted time or money.

Soft-sided

Pros: They are great for airplane or car rides and for carrying around small dogs (as long as they are calm). Also, they are the lightest crate you can buy, making them easy to transport and move around. Finally, they fold down and can be easily stored when not in use. Many are airline approved for dogs traveling in the cabin.

Cons: Don’t buy a soft-sided crate for a puppy or a dog that chews, scratches, or is “unsettled” in a crate. These types of carriers are not made to withstand that type of “abuse” and your dog will get out.  They are also hard to clean, being made of fabric, so not a good choice for a dog that is not crate-trained.

Plastic

The plastic crates are the most common dog crate purchased by family dog owners.

Pros:  They are easy to clean out (simply hose them off), and are generally thought of as pretty durable. You can stack them when not in use if you have multiple dogs. Because the sides are mostly solid, they do provide your dog with more of the “den feel” that most like and help keep reactive dogs calmer. A lot of these are airline approved for dogs traveling in cargo or in cabin.

Cons: Since they are plastic, they can be chewed by a determined dog. If your dog is outside of the crate, you may find her chewing on the corners, for example. Also, plastic absorbs odors, so you may find overtime that you can’t get rid of the “dog smell.” In addition, they are bulky and take time to break-down, and never fold flat.

Metal

Metal or wire crates, are used a lot by show dog people. Many see them as the “best choice,” a mix between the best features of the soft-sided and the plastic.

Pros: They fold flat like the soft crates, making easy to transport to a dog show or on vacation. They are also easy to hose off like the plastic. Most dogs cannot break their way through these (though I have heard of determined dogs doing it!). The “open air” design allows for a lot of airflow and since it’s metal, it won’t absorb odors.

Cons: The see-through sides can be hard for reactive dogs, making a cover necessary (which negates the air-flow feature). Although you can hose them off, dog hair and dirt can get stuck into cross points of the wires, which is almost impossible to clean out. Most of them will also rust after a time. And, even though they fold flat, they are the heaviest of the crate choices.

Combo Crates

There are a few brands out there that make crates that are a combination of metal and plastic. I have one called “The Other Door.” Why did I get it? I wanted the plastic top to put things on (including to use at a grooming table at shows), it has wheels making it a bit easier to lug around, but since the sides are metal, my crazy puppy can’t get out of it. I also like that one of the long sides goes up into the top (like a garage door) allowing for an easier entry/exit.

Cons? It is crazy heavy and hard to put together without two people. Plus, I feel the points that are plastic do not fit together super well. I have owned it for about a year and it’s holding up so far. However, I don’t think I will buy another one.

Car Safety

The Rough Tough Kennel is probably the safest, most durable kennel on the market.
The Rough Tough Kennel is probably the safest, most durable kennel on the market.

If you are like me, you worry about what will happen to your dog in a car accident. I have taken three dogs across the country twice. I thought about it the whole time. There is a crash-tested safety harness, but on long car rides with the car packed to the brim, I find it easier and more comfortable for the dog if they can be loose in a secured crate.

Whatever kennel you choose, you can strap it into your car, which will make it more secure. Wire crates in cars make me nervous, because if it crushes, your dog could be impaled by wires. Soft-sided crates will obviously provide no protection and will just collapse. Plastic might be your best bet for car safety, but plastic can only withstand a certain amount of force as well.

This is where the Ruff Tough Kennel comes in. I have not owned one of these, but I have show-dog friends that own them. The company that makes them has dropped them from the height of 12 feet, without noticeable damage. They have fired shots into the (obviously unoccupied) kennel, and with the exception of only a handful of them penetrating the material, most of them were stopped. This is good news for those who take their dogs hunting with them.

These crates were made to go in cars, and can be strapped in and stacked in the back of a van or SUV. They are lighter weight than a wire crate and easy to clean. Since they are made of one piece, they do not have any “weak points” that may buckle in an accident.  This will be my next kennel.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

 

 

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

 

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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