How to Choose the Right Size Crate for Your Dog

How to Choose the Right Size Crate for Your Dog (1)

My brother Allen and his family live in California, and they come home each year for Christmas.

This year my brother called to ask me my thoughts on them bringing their dog, Juni, home with them.

I said I thought it was a fantastic idea since Juni’s a chihuahua and is small enough to travel in the cabin with them.

We talked about the different things he could do to ensure Juni’s traveling adventure went as well and as easy as possible. And, we eventually came to the topic of what size and type of crate he should get.

Allen wanted one that would easily fit under the seat yet big enough that Juni would be comfortable.

Juni might be small, but he is older and suffers from arthritis, so he needs to have some space to stretch out a bit to avoid his joints from becoming stiff.

I said I would do some research on crate sizes and types and send him a list of ideas.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Size Crate for Your Dog

It seems like a simple question to answer:

Measure your dog and then you can determine the right size crate for them.

What to keep in mind when choosing your dog's crate sizeAnd though your dog’s size is definitely the most significant factor to consider, there other things that need to be taken into account when deciding the best size crate for your dog.

How to Measure Your Dog

The very first step in determining the size of the crate you will need is to measure your dog.

Below are instructions on how to accurately measure your dog to ensure you get the right size crate:

The Dog’s Height

Measure your dog while they are standing or sitting, whichever is higher.

You will want to measure them from the floor to the top of your dog’s head; this will ensure your dog has the headspace to sit up in their crate comfortably.

The Dog’s Length

Measure your dog from the nose to the base of their tail.

If you measure to the end of your dog’s tail then the crate will be too big.

Length and height are measurements A and D from this video. B and C are for shipping your pet!

The Dog’s Weight

You can bring them to the vet to be weighed, or if you have a small dog, you can step on the scale with them at home[1].

Most dog crates have weight restrictions.

Calculating the Crate’s SizeProperly sized dog crate with bed enough room to lie down

After getting your dog’s measurements, it is recommended to add 2-4 inches to both the height and length, and that will determine the size of crate best suited for your dog.

The width of the crate is not necessary to measure out as your height and length will determine the best width.

Now that you have the base requirements for your dog let’s consider some of the other factors and see how they impact your dog’s crate’s size.

Your Dog’s Health

I have used crates over the years to help keep my dogs restricted after surgery.

For example, after Daisy’s ACL surgery, she needed to be restrained in a crate when we weren’t home to watch her, but she was also required to wear a cone to keep her from licking the incision.

Her regular crate was too small when she had the cone on since it prevented her from turning around.Do you have to get a bigger crate for dog cone of shame

She needed a larger crate.

Additionally, if your dog has arthritis, it is helpful to put an orthopedic bed in their crate.

However, this added comfort also requires added space.

Plus, a larger crate is ideal for dogs with arthritis or other joint diseases, so they can change positions and stretch out, which helps reduce stiff joints[2].

Ultimately, if you need to put your dog in a crate for health reasons, often getting a larger crate will aid in providing greater comfort overall.

The Amount of Time your Dog is in the Crate

If you plan on kenneling your dog for short errands throughout the day and maybe at bedtime, the crate size can be a bit smaller than if your dog is in their crate for 10+ hours a day.Long term dog crate size considerations larger for food water

For a dog who will be crated for short periods, the standard size crate based strictly on their size will work great.

However, if you have to keep your dog in their crate for more extended periods, allowing them additional space will help keep them comfortable by giving them more room to sit up or stretch out.

Plus, it will allow for toys or other safe entertainment items to be added to the kennel.

Age Matters

I know I’ve already mentioned our silver seniors need for additional space, but our young puppies need the opposite.Crate size old young senior puppy dog divider

If puppies are given too much space in a crate, they may designate a corner of their crate to be a bathroom until they are fully housetrained.

If your puppy feels comfortable using their crate as a bathroom, it will make housetraining even more challenging.

Most puppies do not want to lay in their mess, so if their crate is too small to dedicate a corner to be a bathroom, they will often practice greater self-control until they can get out to use the bathroom.

If you are concerned about getting a small crate and then needing to buy another as your puppy grows, check out the crates that have a movable barrier allowing you to adjust the space to the appropriate size for your dog’s needs.

Location of the Crate

I know this seems to be an obvious factor, but speaking from personal experience, it is essential to take the time to measure the space you intend to put the kennel.Measure space where you will put dog crate in your home

I didn’t take the time and just assumed the spot looked large enough.

However, it turned out I was a couple of inches off and was left finding a new, less desirable place for the crate.

Also, when measuring the location for the crate, consider the orientation of the door.

How far will the door need to open?

Some doors you can change to open on the left or right side, but on my wire crate, the door is not adjustable.

Trust me, it takes only a minute to measure and could potentially save you a big headache later.

Travel Needs

The crate that works great in your home may not always be the optimal choice when traveling.

For example, Juni’s crate at home is far too big for traveling on a plane or even in my brother’s car since he drives a smaller car that already has a car seat in the back.How to size dog crate for travel car plane boat

So, if you are traveling by plane, be sure to find out the measurements for space under the seat or for the seat itself if you plan on holding the carrier in your lap.

Most airlines also have maximum crate sizes, too[3].

If you are traveling by car, be sure to measure the doorway and not just the interior where the crate will sit.

Another of my not so awesome moments was when I only measured the cargo area of my SUV and figured out the kennel would fit, but just barely.

However, when it came time to load the carrier, I realized the hatch itself was four inches shorter than the interior! Ugh!

I was still able to get the crate in the car, but I had to unfold and set it up inside the cargo area.

Beds, Blankets, and Toys

Whenever I set up a crate for one of my dogs, I always include a bed and toys.

And in the winter, I put in a blanket too.Should you get bigger dog crate when adding pad blanket bed toys

All of these items take up valuable real estate in the crate.

At first, you might think it’s just a few things, no biggie, but if you put in an orthopedic dog bed for your senior, you’ve decreased the interior height of the kennel sometimes by three or more inches.

Blankets, depending on the size, can eat up a couple of inches on either side, reducing the width. And toys, though generally don’t take up a ton of room, do take up some space.

Eventually it all adds up and a couple of inches here and there ends up making a pretty big dent in the overall space your dog now has to lay down and relax or sit up and stretch.

I’m not saying to put these items in or that you need the biggest crate ever made, but these are just factors to keep in mind when choosing the right size crate.


Who knew that choosing the right size crate had so many factors?Sleepypod in cabin dog kennel carrier airplane chihuahua sized

In reality, taking each of these factors as they apply to your situation will only make choosing the proper size crate easier in the long run.

In case you are curious, Allen ended up getting Juni the Sleepypod In-Cabin Pet Carrier.

We picked this one since it can fit under the airline seat, can attach to the luggage handle, it can be secured with a seatbelt, and easily folds up when not being used.

In California, they live in an apartment with limited space so it was a big plus to have something so compact when stored.


About the author

Jessica Mabie

Jessica and her husband share their lives with four amazing high energy Brittanys and one very awesome cat. You’ll rarely see her without her 4 pack, they go everywhere with her, including most vacations. So, if you see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).