Which Dog Crate Is Best For My Puppy?

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It was a rainy day on January 7th, 2005. I asked the sales associate at the pet store: “which dog crate is best for my puppy?”

Yep, I’m talking about the day I rescued Linus from the Carson Animal Shelter.

I already knew I wanted to crate train Linus, but I had yet to research the different types and styles of crates.

Which dog crate is best for my puppy?
Which dog crate is best for my puppy?

Fast forward 13 years…I’ve crate trained over a dozen service dog puppies using several different types of crates and today I’m going to share with you my answer to the question: “which dog crate is best for my puppy?”

Which Dog Crate Is Best For My Puppy?

I’ve been raising puppies for Guide Dogs of America (GDA) and other service dog organizations for 12 years! Holy cow!

One of the great things about raising for an organization like GDA is they help you get started with your new puppy in training. They give you a puppy starter kit, puppy raiser manual, and you also have the option of borrowing one of their crates.

Over the years I’ve had the chance to borrow different sizes, types, and styles of crates. On top of that I’ve purchased my own crates and I’ve also received crates from our sponsor Carlson Pet Products for review.

So, which dog crate is best for my puppy? Let’s break it down:

What Is The Proper Size Crate For A Puppy?

What size crate do I need for my puppy?
Crate Training Puppies!

If you plan on crate training your puppy then it’s uber important that you choose the proper size crate for your pup or get a crate that can adjust to the size of you puppy.

What is the proper size crate for a puppy? A crate should not be too big, but large enough for your puppy to stand, stretch and turn around.

Two options I’d recommend:

  1. Get the proper size crate for your puppy and purchase a larger crate when you puppy outgrows the small one.
  2. Get a large crate with a divider so you can increase the size of the crate as your puppy grows. We like our Carlson Double Door Crate w/ Divider.

When we brought home Linus we purchased a large wire crate with a divider.

However, when we raised puppies for GDA we borrowed a small plastic molded crate which was much easier for transporting our small puppy from the campus to our home.

As our pup outgrew the small crate we moved him to an intermediate and later a large crate (also borrowed from Guide Dogs of America).

Plastic vs Wire Dog Crates

I’ve used and owned both wire and plastic crates.

Which crate do I prefer for my puppies?

Wire Crates.

Why?

  1. Easily Stored: If you have multiple crates like me or if you decide you don’t want to use the crate anymore you might need to store your crate. Wire crates are collapsible and easier to store. The plastic crates I’ve owned can be made into two half shells and stored, but they still take up more space then the wire crates.
  2. Visibility: Every puppy is different. Some like to see out of the crate while others like it more dark and den-like. We like the wire crate because you can either have it open so your pup can see everything going on around him or we throw a blanket over the top so he can’t see out which can be good for quiet time. Unfortunately, you don’t have this options with a plastic molded crate since it’s mostly all closed up with limited visibility for your puppy.
  3. Divider: Most (but not all) wire crates we’ve come across also have a metal divider allowing you to adjust the size of the crate to fit your puppy as he grows. We’ve yet to see a plastic molded-crate with a divider.
  4. Plastic Tray: Our wire crates came with a plastic tray that is easy to slide in and out. If your puppy has a potty accident in his crate it’s easy to slide the tray out and clean up. We’ve rarely had puppy pee or poop accidents in the crate, but we have had vomit and diarrhea that was easy to cleanup by sliding out our plastic tray.

Those are all wins for the metal wire crates, but are there any wins for the plastic molded crates? hmmm…

One thing…When we put a blanket over the top of the crate we’ve had some of our puppies decide it was their new toy and chew and shred the blanket.

One more thing…The plastic tray is not as durable as the rest of the crate. Ours have cracked and required replacement over the years.

The plastic crates are enclosed and wouldn’t require a blanket over the top and therefore no shredded blankets unless your pup decided to shred the nice plush blanket you put in his crate to keep him cozy. Yes, that has happened too.

Which crate is best for your puppy? Stetson and Raven test travel, plastic, and wire crates.
Stetson and Raven testing plastic, wire, and travel dog crates.

Travel Dog Crate

I’m not an expert with the travel crates, but I have tried two in recent years.

On a whim we bought a pop up travel crate at Target that we thought we’d use at the beach.

My advice on this and similar pop up crates?

I do not recommend pop up crates like the one pictured below.

Why?

Because this particular pop up crate was so light, when my puppy, Derby laid up against the side wall, it collapsed. After he figured out he could move the crate he tried to use it like a hamster ball.

Pop up crates might work well for smaller dogs, but in my experience with my Lab puppy…no es bueno (those 4 years of Spanish are really starting to pay off).

Which dog crate is best for my puppy? Hint: it's not this pop up crate.
Derby in his pop up dog crate circa 2008.

See the travel crate Raven is sitting in the image 2 pics up? I used that crate with Stetson in our hotel room at BlogPaws 2016.

It worked perfect as a getaway for Stetson in our hotel room in between learning sessions.

It was much sturdier then the popup crate, but lighter and more portable then our regular wire crate.

Of course we’re talking about puppies. My biggest concern with using a mesh travel crate like the two mentioned above is I can envision a puppy getting bored and chewing through the mesh.

I would definitely not leave my puppy (or even and older dog) unsupervised in either of these travel crates.

Fashionable Dog Crate Or Furniture?

Disclaimer: I’ve never used a fashionable dog crate/furniture, but I wanted to include this category to have a complete list of crates available to you, the reader. The crate I listed is highly rated on Amazon.com. However, please always perform your own due diligence.

We have yet to buy a dog crate that is also a piece of furniture unless using our wire crates as night stand counts? Ugliest night stands ever!

I can’t say whether or not the below crate is a great product. However, I did want to list the option here so you could see there are some more stylish crates on the market.

Crown Pet Products Wood Pet Crate End Table

If interior design is on the top of your list then you might want to try one of these crates.

My biggest problem with crates that look like pieces of furniture?

They can be a bit pricey!

Oh, and when one of my puppies puts tiny teeth puncture marks in my stylish new dog crate/furniture…yeah, no longer stylish…

Heavy Duty Dog Crates

Disclaimer: We have not had the need for a heavy duty crate and therefore we have not tested this category of crates. Once again I wanted to include these options so you, the reader would have a complete list of options. The crate I listed is highly rated on Amazon.com. However, please always perform your own due diligence.

Fortunately, we have not had the need for one of these heavy duty dog crates.

However, we have heard of some puppies that are capable of destroying the plastic molded and/or wire dog crates.

If you have a destructive puppy you may want to opt for a heavy duty crate like the one listed below:

Guardian Gear ProSelect Empire Dog

That thing is a BEAST! And, speaking of pricey…YIKES!

What Dog Crate Are We Using With Our Puppies?

We like the metal wire dog crates for our puppies.
Charlie practicing his crate training in his Carlson wire dog crate.

We are currently using two different Carlson Dog Crates with our puppies and dogs.

We still have, but do not really use the plastic molded crates. Our travel crate is somewhere in the garage collecting dust (I pulled it out for today’s photo shoot) and I think the popup crate met it’s demise during our move back in 2014.

If I was planning on only purchasing one crate for my puppy then I’d far and away choose a metal wire dog crate like the Carlson Double Door Dog Crate w/ Divider.

Why The Wire Dog Crate Is Best For Your Puppy

Here’s a quick recap of why we chose a wire dog crate like the Carlson Double Door Dog Crate over all other options:

  • Versatile – You can use it with your puppy all the way to adulthood. You can use it at home or for traveling. You can leave it open so your puppy can see the world or cover it up with a blanket for privacy and quiet time.
  • Durable – We’ve been using several of our wire crates for well over 10 years. One Exception: the plastic tray cracks and will require replacement.
  • Easy to use – It doesn’t require a brain surgeon to setup or collapse the crates.
  • Easy clean up – It’s easy to slide the plastic tray in and out if your puppy makes a mess.
  • Inexpensive – Great value for a crate we’ve used for years with many of our service dog puppies.

That’s a wrap! Now that you know what dog crates I prefer. It’s time for you to sound off…

Did you or are you crate training a puppy?

If so, what kind of crate(s) did/do you use?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

Which type of dog crate is best for a puppy?
Which type of dog crate is best for my puppy?

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18 Comments

  1. The first puppy I ever had was a purebred blue Great Dane. I crate trained her and she knew that her crate was her safe place. This particular Great Dane was a very energetic one so when it came time for her to be desexed, she spent most of her recovery period in her crate because that’s where she was most comfortable. She also refused to eat her dinner outside while recovering, she’d only eat in her crate.
    I now have a 16 month old Border Collie and he is also crate trained. He absolutely loves his crate too. He sleeps about 10 hours a night in his crate, and some mornings he doesn’t want to get up haha!! Both used/use a wire crate.

  2. I did not crate train my dog, Bailey, but I crated her when she hurt her leg. I used a wire crate and she did not like it. I came home one day to find the bars bent and her sitting on the couch. Being that she was Houdini, I can’t say I was totally surprised. I think she probably needed one of those heavy duty crates!

    1. Wow! We haven’t had a Houdini puppy yet, but I think starting them young makes it a little easier. Fortunately, we’ve also been successful with the older foster dogs we’ve crate trained, but like Bailey I have heard stories and seen pics of great escape artists from both the wire and plastic crates. I’m sure it would take a real master to escape that heavy duty crate.

  3. Great article! My dog Maffy loved the crate when he was a puppy. I like the look of the travel crates although we never traveled with one I think it would be fun to try it.

    1. The one thing I like about the travel crate we have is its that it’s lighter in weight then the wire crate and easier to transport. I think they work best with dogs and puppies that are already crated trained.

  4. My family never crate trained our small dogs (silkies and yorkies), but I see the benefit of it. We live in Southern California and after the fires that hit the area last year it would have been helpful for the dogs to be crate trained to help move them out of the area faster. We wouldn’t have to worry about them getting scared and running away and maybe the crate would provide a little bit of comfort in a crazy, scary situation. I will definitely crate train future dogs that we get just in case.

    Would it be a bad idea to put two dogs in one crate since we have smaller dogs at home?

    1. I would keep dogs in separate crates. One reason being that the two dogs could get so attached to each other that they may get separation anxiety without the other when crated. I could think of a handful of other reasons…maybe that would be good for another blog post 🙂

  5. I always had the plastic crates for our family dogs before Ace, and actually his first crate was plastic. But a good friend of mine got a great dane the same time I got Ace and she had a fold-up wire crate for the dane. When I went to visit her (6 hr drive) with Ace, she made fun of me when I had this big, plastic crate I could hardly fit in my car. Here she was with this huge dog and could easily fold up the crate into just about any vehicle. So that’s why I ended up getting a wire crate. Haven’t looked back. We travel a fair amount with our dogs and it’s just easier to have a foldup crate.

    For our fosters, I found that if they weren’t already kennel trained they had an easier time getting out of the wire crate. But if you have a puppy or a dog that’s already kennel trained, the wire ones are plenty sturdy. With Remy, we started out with a pretty small crate, then a medium crate and now we have a larger one from Carlson that he still sleeps in at night. Highly recommend the Carlson wire crates.

    1. We have a couple plastic crates that we use for training. One of the things about service dog puppies is it’s good to get them used to as many situations as possible. There’s always a possibility they could move to a household that uses plastic crates and not wire crates so even though we prefer the wire crates we try to get them used to both styles.

      I bet the crates used for Great Danes are pretty big. Most of our dogs have been able to fit in the intermediate sized crate (36″ length), but Apache. He was a big Golden Retriever and we had to upgrade to the large crate (42″ length). However, the x-large (48″ length) crate might have fit him better.

      We used to foster for a local rescue and of course we raise service dog puppies and maybe we’ve been lucky, but we haven’t had any of our dogs/puppies escape our wire crates.

  6. Our doggy Geo loved his crate as a puppy. We used a large sized crate (no divider) in anticipation of his growth. After a few years, we got lazy with the crate training and now he won’t set foot in it. I definitely recommend crate training as a puppy and then sticking with it. There have been times when it would have been convenient to place him back in the crate, such as when workers or guests are over, but he refuses.

    1. Sorry Geo doesn’t go in the crate anymore. You could try re-training him. We got Raven when she was older and she hated her crate. It took a little while, but we got her used to her crate after several weeks of training.

  7. When we adopted our dog, luckily he was already crate trained. He luved his crate for sleeping. He felt so safe and was always eager to sleep in it.

    1. Stetson was a guide dog puppy in training and we used his crate until he was 1 1/2 years old. When he came home we stopped using it regularly and he now prefers our bed (his bed). He rarely if ever goes into his crate on his own.

      Linus on the other hand would go and sleep in his crate sometimes at night. If I had to guess he split his time evenly sleeping on the floor, on our bed, or in his crate.

      1. IF Ralphie and Ninja were still alive, I would purchase the Carlson divided crate. Ninja (our beautiful beloved cat) would sneak into Ralphie’s crate at night and since the room was dark I would not see him, Ralphie would go right in and I’d shut the door….. about 15 min later Ralphie would be whimpering and when I would check to see what was bothering him, Ninja would be behind him, very comfy.

  8. We have never crate trained any of our dogs. All our dogs have been of a small breed (Silkies and Yorkies). Do you suggest all dogs, large and small be crate trained? Also, is it too late to crate train an older dog?

    1. I’m a definite advocate of crate training. It helps when working on potty training. It can keep your puppy out of trouble when your not able to watch him. It can also be a quiet place for a puppy to relax.

      Recently I found some other important reasons for crate training. We live in California and after the recent wild fires I heard several stories of families trying to contain their frightened dogs. The importance of crate training came up and how dogs that were used to the crate were easier to contain and keep from running away from owners.

      Another recent incident was when Linus got sick and spent time at the emergency vet. They keep most of the dogs at the emergency vet in kennels. When we went to visit Linus he was relaxing comfortably in his kennel which was very similar to his crate at home. Linus gets separation anxiety and I think he felt much more comfortable at the vet because he was crate trained.

      As for can you crate train an older dog? Yes, Raven was older when we brought her home and didn’t have much training. She was terrified of the crate. I put her first meal in the front of the crate and she stretched her neck as far as she could being careful not to get too close to the crate while she ate her food. After a few weeks we had her going to her crate for meals, naps, and quiet time.

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