What Size Crate For My Dog? Getting The Right Crate Size For Your Dog or Puppy

Congratulations on your new bundle of joy! Whether you brought home a boy or a girl, right now you are probably shopping for all the necessities of life to make your new addition to your home happy, safe, and uncomfortable. One of the first questions you likely have is: what size crate for my dog? 

You may be shopping for soft, warm blankets for your sweet baby to cuddle as he or she sleeps. Perhaps you are picking up a teething toy to give your little nipper something safe to chew. And let’s not forget about the kennel. Just make sure it’s the right size. 

Yes, a kennel. You may find people, especially online, who are opposed to kenneling or crating dogs. I have a friend who feels that way, and of course, she is very vocal about her opinions. My friend grew up and currently lives in a rural area. When I mentioned that we were in the market for a new crate for our German Shepherd, she scrunched up her nose in disapproval. She talked about how cruel it was to keep a dog in a box all day. Her dogs were allowed to run free on the farm. After she dismounted off her high horse, I reminded her that dogs were not always domesticated. During the time when they ran free, they would create a small den or hole for themselves in which they would hide from predators or rest. My friend admitted that her dogs had a similar place in the barn where they burrowed in at night. 

The goal is to identify the right answer to what size crate for my dog? Given the right size crate, a kennel can offer dogs a feeling of security, while providing a place to go when he or she is tired or nervous. Perhaps you have witnessed this yourself when your dog goes to an open crate to relax when your house becomes particularly hectic. Many people keep soft blankets or chew toys in their dog’s kennel to give added comfort. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t mind having a crate myself to retreat to when my house gets crazy. Someplace with a soft blanket . . . and maybe a bottle of wine. 

Buying a crate or a kennel for a puppy can be tricky. What size crate for my dog? Should I get a soft-sided crate, wire or plastic? What about those fashionable crates that look more like an end table than a dog kennel? There are pros and cons regarding each type. 

Soft-sided crates aren’t very sturdy and can be destroyed easier than the wire or plastic alternatives. Wire kennels can usually be collapsed for easy storage. Plastic dog kennels provide a cave-like experience for your pet, but this same feeling can be created with a wire kennel and a blanket over the top. Some dogs are able to escape from wire kennels. Consider using zip ties to hold sections of the cage together to keep in even the cleverest of escape artists. The most important question of all is what size crate for my dog? 

Let’s start by assuming you have a full-grown dog. Perhaps you are the lucky owner of an adopted four-legged friend, and you need to purchase a crate for your new family member to sleep in at night.  It’s time to get out the flexible tape measure. 

Step 1: Measure the dog from his nose to the base (not the tip) of his tail. Add two inches for small animals and four inches for large animals. The goal is to provide a space long enough for your furry friend to stretch out and move around a bit. 

Step 2: Measure the dog from the tip of his ears to the ground. If the dog sometimes has erect ears, include the extended ears in your measurement. Some breeds of dogs may be taller when seated on the ground. Take the tallest height between the two measurements and add two inches for smaller breeds and four inches for larger breeds. 

Step 3: Armed with your measurements, look at your local pet store or scour Craigslist ads  or amazon to find the perfect kennel for your dog. 

Even though there are no standard kennel or crate sizes, just as there are no standard weights and measurements for each breed of dog, here are some general guidelines to help you pick the right size for your lovable pal. 

  • Extra small crates (24 inch x 18 inch x 19 inch) are reserved for the smallest of dogs. Breeds that would enjoy these close confines may include Pomeranian, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, and Shih Tzus. Usually, these dogs weigh between one and ten pounds. 
  • Small crates, for dogs between 11 and 25 pounds, may measure 26 inches x 18 inches x 21 inches. Consider purchasing a small crate for Terriers, Miniature Dachshunds, and Miniature Poodles. 
  • For medium dogs, including Pit Bulls, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Welsh Terriers buy a kennel that is approximately 30 inches x 21 inches x 24 inches. Of course, measure the dog first to make sure your friend is comfortable in his hideaway retreat. Medium dogs usually weigh between 26 and 40 pounds. 
  • Larger dogs, weighing from 40 to 70 pounds, may need a crate measuring 36 inches x 24 inches x 27 inches. These breeds may include Bull Terriers, Bulldogs, English Setters, English Springer Spaniels, Schnauzers, and Welsh Corgis. 
  • Extra-large dogs belong in extra-large crates. In general, these dogs weigh between 70 and 90 pounds, even though my full-grown German Shepherd barely hits the 70-pound mark. These kennels measure 42 inches by 28 inches x 31 inches. Besides our German Shepherd, other dogs may include Border Collies, Boxers, Dalmatians, Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, and Standard Poodle. 
  • Finally, those extra- extra-large dogs (and maybe a small horse) can fit into a kennel measuring 46 inches by 30 inches by 33 inches. Breeds include Bloodhounds, Giant Schnauzers, Great Danes, Great Pyrenees, Greyhounds, Mastiffs, and Saint Bernards. 

The Perfect Kennel For Puppies is Adjustable 

If you are purchasing a crate for a puppy, you may feel as if you need to get a second job to buy a new kennel every few months as your puppy grows and matures. Instead, look for dividers to place inside either metal or plastic dog kennels. Move the dividers as your puppy grows, and then remove them completely when your dog reaches maturity. Recheck the size of the enclosure when your dog reaches adulthood to make sure it is still the appropriate size for your particular pet. 

Some dog owners feel as if they are doing their dog a favor in purchasing a kennel or crate that is larger than recommended. In fact, the opposite is true. As mentioned, dogs like the cave-like atmosphere that kennels create. When left on their own, they build those environments in nature. 

Dogs also have an instinct not to go to the bathroom where they bed down for the night. If the kennel you purchase is too large, they may use one side of the crate to potty, and sleep in the other area. Please note that puppies obtained from puppy mills may not seem to have this instinct. Puppy mills keep their dogs locked in cages for so long that they have no choice but to relieve themselves where they sleep. You will need to be more patient when housebreaking these animals. 

In fact, crates and kennels are great tools to use when housebreaking a dog. Just remember to never treat the crate or kennel as punishment. Before you begin training, make sure the dog understands that the crate is a pleasant area. Leave the door open and let it smell and investigate this new structure. Put treats inside it and allow the dog to get the treats and come out to you again. If your dog isn’t destructive, place a soft blanket inside. 

After the dog seems comfortable, put a small treat into the kennel. When your pet retrieves it, close the door and stand outside. Feed a few more treats to your animal through the door. 

If your pet still seems resistant to the kennel, consider feeding full meals to your dog while it is in the enclosure. Make sure you are using a soft, soothing voice while talking with your animal in its crate. Pay attention to any loud, clanging sound the crate may make when opening and closing and try to eliminate those harsh sounds. 

Once your pet realizes that good things come with being in crates and that you will let the dog out after an acceptable period, it is time to use the kennel in housebreaking your friend. 

When housebreaking, make sure you are continually supervising your puppy. Yes, it is like having an infant in your house. If you can’t monitor your pet, place him or her in the kennel. As soon as you release the dog from your kennel, take your pet to the potty area. Make it a habit. As soon as you are outside, tell the dog to “go potty” in a soft voice. Repeat this softly as the dog “does its business.” 

Hopefully, soon your dog will understand that the kennel is for resting and retreating, and that outside is for excrement. Very soon, your dog will realize that even if he’s not crated, that inside is for relaxing and outside is for going to the bathroom. 

Another good habit to start with your dog is to train your pet to go to his crate on command. We tell our dog to “go to your kennel,” and she runs upstairs to my son’s bedroom where it is kept. She nudges open the door and stays inside. It’s also a good idea to have your animal hear a release command before it comes barreling out of a crate at the end of a session. This reinforces the fact that you are in control. Train the dog to stay in the crate after you open the door. Let your dog out only when he is calm. Your dog should only leave when you say such phrases as “you may go” or “ok.” 


Our dog’s crate is in our son’s bedroom. Our German Shepherd and our son have a special connection, so this was the obvious place for our dog’s kennel to be located. Other areas to consider are places where your family gathers the most. Also consider putting a crate next to your bed, especially when you have a puppy. Puppies are used to constant social interaction. Even in the middle of the night, it wouldn’t be too hard to stick a couple of fingers into your puppy’s crate for him to lick if he is feeling lonely. If you are adding an animal to your home, consider placing your new dog’s crate next to the old dog’s area. Of course, only do this if both dogs seem to like each other. 

Dogs are smart animals, and they may try to manipulate you into opening the crate before you intended by whining and whimpering. Do your best to ignore this behavior, especially if you know your dog went to the bathroom recently. If the whining continues and is consistent, ask your dog if he or she needs to “go potty.” If your dog becomes very excited, let them out to go. This isn’t a good time to play catch or go for a walk. After the dog “does its business,” have him immediately return to his kennel. Just as parents shouldn’t respond to whining toddlers, dog owners should not train their dogs that whining is appropriate interaction. 

How long should a dog be crated?

It depends on who you ask. Some view crates and kennels as training tools to aid in the process of housebreaking. Others see them as places for destructive dogs to reside while no supervision is available. Some use theirs to keep their dog secure at night so the human inhabitants of the house can have uninterrupted sleep. Others just use it to provide a getaway for their dog.

Crates and kennels are also used to keep your dog safe while you are away. Even though you feel as if your home is puppy or dog proof, you may be wrong. No one wants to arrive home from a long day to find that their dog had gotten into a stash of Halloween candy and eaten himself sick. Other foods are dangerous to your dogs too. The list includes grapes, coffee, onions, garlic, and chicken bones. Even though one would think that raw meat is a natural treat for dogs, they, too, are susceptible to salmonella. 

There are lots of household dangers for your pet. Kenneling or crating your pet will keep them out of harm's way for many of these dangers. Keep medicine (human and veterinary), dryer sheets, and batteries away from your dog. Also be aware of things that may smell good to an animal, like antifreeze, that they will lap up given half a chance. Of course, dogs that are crated or kenneled during the day will not be able to escape from your house as quickly as animals that are not kenneled. 

Exercise Your Dog Before & After Crating

Almost every expert agrees that the dog needs to be exercised before and after crating. The amount of appropriate exercise depends on the dog. Some will feel exhausted after a 30-minute walk, while others need much more rigorous exertion. This depends on the breed and age of your pet.

Dogs that are crated too long may become depressed or anxious. If you are unable to change your household’s schedule, consider hiring a pet walker to relieve the animal in the middle of the day. During the summer break, hire a trustworthy neighborhood kid. Also, consider asking a retiree with a passion for animals. 

If the dog doesn’t seem to mind, and you can’t change your schedule, it is good to know that most full-grown dogs can last in a kennel for eight hours without having an accident. Puppies do not have the bladder control and should probably have a chance to relieve themselves at least once every four hours. Keep this in mind throughout the night too. You and your spouse may have to take turns taking your puppy out in the middle of the night for a while until your pet matures enough to last longer. Or you can pretend you can’t hear your dog whining and wait for your spouse to get up in the middle of the night. 

You may have opinionated friends or read animal experts who tell you when, where, and how long a dog should be crated. This isn’t a black and white issue though. Not all dogs are the same. Even dogs in the same breed aren’t the same. Households are different too. When you first bring an animal into your home, you may have an expectation of how things will go, but as in most areas of your life, flexibility is the key. As long as you took the answer to properly address the question: what size crate for my dog? And you are not leaving him in longer than is appropriate, use the dog kennel as you see fit.

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