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The Best Dog Crate

Updated: Jul 27

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After sorting through hundreds of models, interviewing dog experts, assembling the top models and lugging them to a veteran trainer for examination, and then trying to break each crate at its weakest points with measured force, we found that the MidWest Ultima Pro is the crate most people should get for their dog. It’s the most sturdy, secure, and adaptable wire crate we found, and it’s designed to last over the lifetime of many dogs. It’s also available in multiple sizes.

The MidWest Ultima Pro Double Door Folding Dog Crate has a tight grid of thick wire that makes it resistant to escape and damage, whether from your dog’s curiosity or your own mistreatment of the crate. Its bottom pan won’t give in to claws and can’t be pushed out by paws, unlike the flimsier plastic pans included with cheaper models. It folds up securely into a briefcase-style rectangle with solid clip-on handles, and it won’t come undone in a cacophonous crash if you grab the wrong part. Even if you are certain your dog doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety and won’t work to escape a crate, the Ultima Pro represents a sound investment in a safe space for your dog, and future dogs to come.

If the Ultima Pro crate is not available, MidWest’s Life Stages Double Door Folding Dog Crate is lighter, made of thinner wire, and designed with a slightly looser grid, but it should remain secure for many years of dog ownership. Sometimes it’s also available more cheaply than the Ultima Pro. If money is tight and you’re fairly certain your dog can stay calm in a crate, the Life Stages will do, but it’s a bit less likely to last as long without succumbing to bends or animal-caused destruction.

If you need a crate that keeps a dog more fully contained, want to occasionally fly with a dog, or have had bad experiences with crate escapes, you may prefer a solid plastic crate, sometimes called a “sky kennel. Petmate’s Ultra Vari Kennel is the best travel-friendly pick for most dogs. It’s easy to assemble and simple to latch shut, it has proper tie-downs for safer airline travel (for car travel, however, a restraint harness is a safer choice than a crate not designed specifically for in-car use), and it’s the go-to kennel among dog trainers and show-dog owners. If you need something even more secure and ready for long-haul flights or just want to protect a nervous dog from itself, Petmate’s Sky Kennel provides a stronger door and a four-point lock that should be undefeatable for almost any dog.

If your pet is grown, you know it stays calm in a crate, and you keep the crate in a common area of your home, you might want to trade security for decent looks and some end-table utility. Most “furniture” or “end-table” crates look and feel cheap, or are super-expensive design-fetish items. Crown’s Pet Crate Table offers just enough style to justify its higher price, while being solidly made and secure. It’s available in three finishes, the sides and bars are made of hardwood instead of fiberboard, and the bottom has a waterproof finish. It’s the only furniture-style crate we found (under $500, that is) that didn’t look or feel too cheap to be worth placing in your living room.

Why you should trust us

My primary qualification for writing about dog crates is owning a dog, a 35-pound puggle named Howard, and having trained him to use all three kinds of crates: wire, plastic, and furniture-style. Crate training was not an easy process—Howard spent hours barking at first, and put a modest effort into trying to open a crate door. I’ve read a number of books on separation anxiety and dog training in general. I’ve also spent more than 20 hours working with dog trainers on various issues, and I’ve occasionally helped friends with crate and other training needs.

In addition, I’m experienced in reviewing the durability and ease of use of home goods, having worked on guides for standing desks, kitchen trash cans, cutting boards, bed frames, and many more categories. For this guide we interviewed an expert dog-behavior trainer, a veterinary technician, and two of the manufacturers of crates we tested. We also read many relevant books and posts on dog training and behavior to get input on what makes a good dog crate.

Who needs a dog crate?

Not everybody buys or uses a dog crate, but they probably should. Some people go their entire pets’ lives without an accident or destructive incident, but they’re the exception, not the norm.

Everybody should at least consider a dog crate when they first bring home a dog, whether puppy or full-grown, purebred or rescue. Veteran dog trainer Tyler Muto told us he recommended a crate for each and every dog owner he and his staff worked with. “If you talk to two dog trainers, the only thing you can get them to agree on is that the third dog trainer is wrong,” Muto said. “Other than that, almost every dog trainer will tell you that a crate is an essential tool for dog owners.”

At the least, crates prevent accidents while dogs are housebroken, and they keep dogs from getting to dangerous or unhealthy foods or objects when the owners are absent. Keeping your dog in a crate can halt the pet’s tough-to-break habit of destroying household items and furniture while an owner is away, Muto told us. Beyond avoiding trouble, crates can provide a space where your dog feels safe and at home, and it can allow you to separate your dog from guests, contractors, or temptations when necessary.'

Everybody should at least consider a dog crate when they first bring home a dog.

Not everybody needs the same crate, however. People whose dogs have significant separation anxiety or escape-artist tendencies, or people who need to travel often with their dogs, may require a solid plastic crate. People whose dogs fare better in a crate, or need a crate only occasionally, can use a wire crate that is easily folded into a suitcase-style rectangle with handles. And people who want to use a crate regularly in a common area of the house—and who have a very crate-friendly dog with no separation anxiety—might prefer a furniture-style, end-table-like dog crate, which trades security for decent looks and utility.

It’s important to note that having your dog in a crate with its collar on can pose a risk of entanglement, resulting in injury or worse. As a result, many veterinary clinics and boarding facilities have strict collar-removal policies for dogs in their care. If possible, you should remove your dog’s collar before placing your pet in a crate. At the least, if you are planning to keep your dog in a wire crate often, you should consider a break-away or similar safety collar.

How we picked

Photo: KC Kratt

We started by reading up on crates and interviewing people experienced with dog behavior. We spoke with Tyler Muto, a dog trainer at K9 Connection in Buffalo, New York, who has also served as president of the International Association of Canine Professionals; we also spoke with Judi Bunge, a veterinary technician at McClelland Small Animal Hospital in Buffalo. We read through the relevant sections of many books and guides from trusted sources such as the SPCA, the American Kennel Club, and the Humane Society to learn as much as possible about crates, crate training, and the potential pitfalls of both.

We then looked at the crates available at our local pet stores and sifted through popular and highly rated crates sold online. We found that every crate, no matter how high its ratings or expert recommendation, was the subject of at least one review story about a dog escaping or, worse, injuring itself trying to escape. No common crate really works for a dog desperate to escape (some very expensive crates, such as Gunner Kennels, are all but escape-proof). Still, at the time of our research, some crates had attracted a number of complaints about specific flaws: easily bent doors, latches that popped open with the bump of a nose, or trays that dogs could slide out through the bottom.

The Wirecutter dog collective (plus one impostor).Screenshot: Kevin Purdy

We eliminated crates that did not come with a removable divider, as this inexpensive addition makes a crate adaptable for multiple dogs in your lifetime, from puppy to full-grown. We also favored crates that had two doors, as that design allows for more convenient placement, especially in smaller or irregularly shaped rooms.

With these findings, the advice of our experts, and the input of a panel of dog-loving Wirecutter staffers, we narrowed our list down to a small set of contenders in each category.

How we tested

Veteran dog trainer Tyler Muto, examining the AmazonBasics wire crate. Photo: Kimber Streams

The core of our testing consisted of an inspection of our wire and plastic crate finalists, nine in total, by dog trainer Tyler Muto at K9 Connection in Buffalo. We covered up all brand markings on the crates and left them labeled “A” through “H.” Muto inspected each of the crates, looking for features that, in his experience, set the crates apart:

  • Structural strength and door hinges that withstand and discourage escape attempts and resist accidental bending by owners

  • Locks that resist tampering from dog paws and snouts, but are quick for the owner to lock and cannot stay only partially closed

  • A bottom-lining tray that the dog cannot push out, or dig or chew through

Beyond those criteria, we also determined that a good wire crate should break down and set up smoothly, and clean up without much hassle; it should also be easy to carry in one secure bundle, and, if necessary, sturdy enough to last through multiple dogs. A good plastic crate should be much the same (though it isn’t broken down often), and it should provide the necessary security and tie-downs for air travel. A furniture crate drops most pretenses of damage resistance, but it should still be sturdy, and its looks and convenience are far more important than with wire or plastic.

We did not test for car safety. For one thing, you should never put your dog in a wire crate in the car.

Along with Muto’s examination, we examined and tested the crates ourselves. To verify each crate’s strength against pulling teeth or forceful paws, we used a luggage scale to apply roughly 50 pounds of pulling pressure to each cage’s door, at the center and then at a looser corner away from the latch. We set up and broke down each wire crate at least a dozen times. After latching each crate shut and attaching its plastic handle, we carried each crate to three locations to see how well it stayed together (not all of the crates did so). We pulled the plastic tray out from each crate to see how easy it was to remove, and whether cleaning involved any tricks or problems. Finally, we ran our hands around the corners and edges of each crate, looking for sharp wire, plastic edges, or unfinished corners that could injure a dog or a human.

Fifty pounds of force was more than enough to buckle some cages. Photo: Nick Guy

Source: Wirecutter.com