According to the ASPCA, approximately 1.6 million dogs are adopted in America each year. If you've joined the ranks of your fellow dog adopters, you've probably got a lot of questions regarding proper care, training, and supplies.
One question we often hear is, "What size dog crate does my dog need?"
Choosing a crate is just as important as choosing the right dog food. The right crate facilitates better training, increased comfort, and decreased anxiety.
This guide covers the importance of crate training and how to pick the right size for your pup.
Why Is Crate Training Important?
Dogs are den animals by nature. Their instinct is to sleep in a den and take shelter in a den. Even if you have a perfectly behaved dog, you'll still want to provide her with a crate that she can call her own!
Many owners find that crate training is a necessary part of housebreaking. Dogs who haven't adjusted to the owner-pet dynamic may not understand that some places or objects in the house are off-limits. Others may go through a serious destructive phase in which everything under the sun appears to be a chew toy!
Crate training allows you to leave your dog in a contained area when you have to be away from home for a few hours. Some dogs adjust to sleeping in their crate, too, although age and temperament will play a role in this.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a positive association with the crate. It should be a space where your dog can go to calm down when nervous or relax when she needs a little space. Read on for some of the do's and don't's of crate training.
Crate Training Do's
When your dog is adjusting to her crate, encourage her to investigate it by using treats or favorite toys. Keep the door open and stay close, using a happy tone that will reassure her that all is well.
Once she's comfortable going in and out, try feeding her a few meals in her crate. Close the door when she begins eating and open it as soon as she's finished.
Leave her in a bit longer each time she eats. If she begins to whine or bark, wait until she has ceased to let her out. Otherwise, you're teaching her that whining and barking is a good way to say, "Let me out!"
Work in a command that she will come to recognize, like, "Kennel," "Crate," or, "Den." The goal is that she will learn to respond to the command by entering her crate willingly and without a lure such as a treat or food.
Crate Training Don'ts
When your dog is still adjusting to the crate, never force her into it. This will only increase her fear and create a negative association with the crate.
Try not to use her crate as a form of punishment. Although you may use it to keep her from making a mess in the house when you're gone, it's not meant to be a place where she goes when she's in trouble!
If your dog is six months old or younger, you can't leave her in her crate for more than three to four hours at a time. Puppies need to go to the bathroom much more often than older dogs and if she's got to go, she's going to go!
What Happens If the Crate Is Too Small?
If a crate is too small for your dog, she won't be able to sit up without crouching her head. She also won't be able to turn around easily (or at all) or lay down in a comfortable position.
In other words, a crate that is too small won't create a pleasant environment for your dog, which is one of the primary objectives of using a crate.
Can the Crate Be Too Big?
When owners are determining what size crate for a dog is best, they often tend to assume that buying a crate that's much larger than their dog is the way to go. However, there are a few key reasons that you can, in fact, end up with a crate that is too big for your dog.
An oversized crate with tons of empty space may not help calm an anxious dog. When dogs experience anxiety, they exhibit symptoms such as pacing, shaking, drooling, and panting. Putting them in a well-fitting crate can help to ease their sensory overload while allowing them to feel safe and protected.
Dogs tend to be clean animals. They will not willingly lay or stand in their own urine or feces. If a crate is too big, your dog may establish one corner as a bathroom spot because hey, it's open real estate!
Hmm, maybe not the crate we're talking about!
So, What Size Dog Crate Do I Need?
The question, now, is how to match your furry friend with the perfect crate. We'll talk about some of the measurements you should take as well as the types of crates that are on the market. Grab a tape measure and let's begin!
Measuring Your Dog's Height
A lot of breeds are actually taller when they sit than when they stand. Using a treat if necessary, get your dog to sit and make sure she's not crouched. Measure in inches the distance between the floor where her paws rest to the top of her head. Note that if her ears are erect, you should measure to their tips!
For small dogs, add about two inches to this measurement to find the minimum height that your crate needs to be. For a medium to large dog, add about four inches.
Measuring Your Dog's Length
Ask your dog to stand back up and try to keep her spine straight and her nose facing forward. Measure from the tip of her snout to the base of her tail.
If you measure the entire length of her tail, you will end up with a crate that is too large. However, if your dog has a thick or firm tail, you may want to include about one-third to one-half of it in your measurement.
Once again, add about two inches to this measurement to find the minimum length that your crate needs to be. For a medium to large dog, add about four inches.
A Note on Buying a Crate For a Puppy
A lot of owners are unsure of how to buy the right crate for a growing puppy. On the one hand, you don't want to crate train your puppy in a crate that is far too large. On the other, you probably don't want to purchase a new crate every few months until your puppy reaches her full size.
The best way to navigate this situation is to buy a resizable crate. Do a little research on your dog's breed or consult your veterinarian to get a rough estimate of her full-grown height and length.
Resizable crates are usually collapsible and made of wire. They come equipped with a wire or wooden barrier that you can place on the inside of the crate, limiting the amount of space your puppy has access to. As she grows, you can adjust the barrier to give her more room until she reaches her full size and the barrier is no longer needed!
Choosing the Type of Crate
There are three standard types of crates to choose from. The first and most common is the wire crate. However, there are also plastic crates and soft-sided crates to consider.
Wire crates are collapsible which makes them ideal for storage or travel. They tend to stand up to chewing and most dogs won't figure out how to get out of them.
Some dogs don't do well in wire crates because they can see out of them--which means that they can see they are alone. Fortunately, there's an easy fix for this! If your dog has separation anxiety, invest in a crate cover made of nylon or another breathable material that will block your dog's view of the empty house.
Plastic crates are portable and many owners use them when they need to take their dog in the car. They may not provide enough room for at-home crate training, especially if you have a large breed. Because these crates are designed to be carried, they're not easy to find in jumbo sizes!
Finally, soft-sided crates have a frame made of wire but the sides are made of nylon or canvas. These are probably the most comfortable crate on the market but they're not good for chewers. Since the sides aren't protected with wire, a chewer could easily create a hole and escape!
A Little Research Leads to a Happy Dog
If you're asking questions like, "What size dog crate do I need?" then you're already on the right track to becoming a fantastic dog owner. A little research can lead you to create the best environment and lifestyle your dog could ask for!
At Wild Earth, we love tackling the questions dog owners ask. Our favorite subject to cover is dog food!
We've done the research and come up with the perfect blend of plant-based ingredients to give your dog a healthy, balanced diet. Check out the products we've come up with so far!
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