A crate is an excellent tool to use during puppyhood and beyond. Dogs enjoy den-like spaces, which keep them warm and help them feel safe. A crate provides a safe place for your puppy or dog to sleep or rest. Since dogs don’t like to eliminate where they sleep, crates are great to use for potty training. They are also a convenient place to keep your puppy out of trouble when you can’t watch him like a hawk. Crates are also helpful for traveling, serving as both a secure place to travel in the car and a safe place to sleep at night in a hotel or at a friend’s house.
When choosing a dog crate, consider size and style. Your needs will be different depending on the age of your dog and your intended use for the crate.
Dog crates are generally plastic, wire or canvas. Plastic dog crates are lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. Wire dog crates are also durable and easy to clean, but wire crates are heavy because they are made of metal. Wire crates stay cooler than plastic ones; they offer lots of airflow, but they are less “den-like” and are exposed on all sides. Dog crates made of canvas and mesh are lightweight and provide a little more privacy than wire dog crates. They can, however, be difficult to clean if your dog has an accident inside.
If you’re getting a crate for potty training a puppy, chose one that’s easy to clean. If you want a crate for traveling, look for a lightweight crate or one that collapses and folds. If you want a crate for an older, potty-trained dog to sleep or rest in, almost any style will do.
A crate used for pottytraining should be just big enough for the puppy to stand up, turn around and lie down. And larger and the puppy can poop or pee in one end and then sleep at the other end, defeating the purpose. Some crates come with dividers that allow you to section off a smaller space when the puppy is little and gradually increase the size.
For an adult dog, choose a crate that’s at least big enough so your dog can stand up, turn around and lie down. It’s OK if it’s a little bigger than that so you dog has more space to stretch out, but if the crate’s too big it might lose its den-like appeal.
Where to Put a Dog Crate
If you have just one crate, keep it in a quiet spot in the living room or kitchen during the day so your dog is comforted by your nearby presence. Move it to your bedroom at night so you hear your dog if it needs to be let out to go potty or if it's sick. You might consider purchasing two crates—one for daytime use and one that stays in the bedroom for nighttime sleep.
How to Set Up a Dog Crate
Plastic dog crates usually come fully assembled. You may need to attach the door or secure the top to the bottom—a process that is simple to do by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Wire dog crates generally come fully collapsed and may require assembly. Canvas crates may arrive folded, but they are easy to set up. Always follow the included manufacturer’s instructions to set up your crate. If your crate did not come with instructions, visit the manufacturer’s website to email or call and ask for the instructions.
Once your crate is assembled and ready, make it a comfortable and cozy space for your dog. Place a crate pad (cushion) or soft blanket in the bottom and add a few of your dog’s favorite toys. If the crate is more open like a wire crate, you may wish to drape a blanket, sheet, or towel over the top to make it darker, quieter, and warmer for your dog.
How to Collapse a Dog Crate
Wire crates and some canvas crates collapse and fold flat for storage or travel. Plastic crates can be dissembled so the top and bottom half come apart, but these types of crates do not fold flat.
Every crate is a little different, so always follow the instructions that came with your crate. If you no longer have the instructions, or if your crate didn’t come with them, call the manufacturer or visit their website to get specific instructions for collapsing your crate.
Most crates have tabs or latches that allow you to separate the crate sides from the top and bottom of the crate. Plastic crates have latches or screws; undo these to separate the top from the bottom. When collapsing a crate, always remove the crate pad, blankets, toys and anything else in the crate before breaking down the crate.
Using a Crate Properly
Crates should never be used to house a puppy or dog all day long. Young puppies can stay in a crate for short periods of time during the day—generally one hour for every month of age—but need to be let out to go potty, eat, drink and play. Older dogs can stay in a crate for longer periods, but never leave any dog in a crate longer than six hours. Puppies and dogs can sleep in the crate overnight, but keep the crate in your room so you can hear your pup and let them out if they need to go potty in the middle of the night.