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Sometime in their life, every dog will need to spend time crated—at a vet hospital, say, or while traveling. So, already being accustomed to spending calm time in a crate can be useful to dogs, as well as to the owners responsible for them.
But choosing the right crate for your dog, and then providing him with effective crate training to yield maximum benefits, requires time and planning. If you’ve got a large breed puppy who will grow into a large dog, or a full-grown dog who’s strong, even with the best of training, you may be looking for a stronger, heavy-duty dog crate that can stand up to more wear and tear from a heftier animal.
This article will explore some of the reasons why crate training is a generally recommended practice by professional dog trainers, how to shop for a heavy-duty crate, and look at a few heavy-duty crates available for purchase.
I’ve based these recommendations and tips on research and my experience. I’ve written about dogs for a dozen years, worked in the behavior department of an animal shelter, and owned and fostered pugs for many years.
Should I Crate Train My Dog?
Why crate train your dog? Though it’s a common method of housetraining, it’s about way more than that.
When a dog has been introduced properly to a crate, it can be a safe, relaxing space. If you’ve got a busy household, it’s good for your dogs to have a quiet, private place of their own, where they can get away from stressful situations.
There are times when it’s good to be able to confine your dog for safety without stressing him out. If you’ve got a serviceperson or guests going in and out of the house, they likely won’t have your awareness of not letting the dog slip out the door.
Crate training can allow your dog to go more places with you. Some hotels allow dogs only if they’re crated when you leave them in the room. And even if it’s not required, you can’t be sure how your dog will act when left alone in a new place, so it’s safer for your dog and more considerate of the property.
There are lots of positive reasons to use a crate with your dog, and when used as directed (and not as a punishment), crate training can be an indispensable behavioral tool. For more expert tips on how to train your dog to use a crate, see the Association of Pet Dog Trainers article on crate training.
How to Choose and Use a Heavy-Duty Dog Crate
A heavy-duty crate is the obvious choice for a large, strong dog, but smaller dogs may need a tough crate as well. Any dog with time on its hands can chew through plastic and possibly even bend thin wire. So if you know you’ve got a digger or chewer, a heavy-duty crate might be the best option even if your dog isn’t large.
Another reason to choose a heavy-duty crate is if your dog is fearful of strangers and potentially aggressive, and it’s important for both the dog and the people to keep him safely confined when you have visitors. You want both a sturdy crate and one where you feel secure that the door can’t be worked open.
Finally, if you need to move your crate around a lot, you may find that standard wire or plastic crates get bent and scuffed and want something sturdier. If that’s what’s brought you here, be aware that for some of these crates, when they say “heavy” they really mean it, so choose carefully if you want something you can comfortably move around.
Get the Right Size
To choose the correct size crate for your dog, remember that the crate should be big enough for the dog to stretch out while lying on his side, and to be able to stand up and turn around easily, without hitting his head. A crate that’s a little too big is better than one that’s too small.
Once you’ve determined the size you need, figure out where you’re going to put it. The crate should be placed in a location that will be peaceful for the dog. Remember to make sure that you have enough space both for the footprint of the crate and to be able to open the door conveniently; pay attention to the direction the door opens.
It’s vital to introduce your dog to a crate gradually in a positive way, and never use it as punishment. A dog new to being in a crate, whether puppy or adult, is unlikely to immediately tolerate long periods alone in a crate without being gradually trained to accept it as a positive experience.
Experts also recommend against crating an adult dog for more than four or five hours at a time. If you find yourself needing to crate your dog all day while you’re at work to keep him and your possessions safe, please consult a positive trainer for help.
Be Wary of “Dog Proof” Claims
If you have a strong dog or a serious chewer, skip plastic and fabric crates, which can be chewed and/or scratched through. Depending on your needs, a heavier version of the standard wire crate may be good enough, and we’ve recommended one of those. The choices do go beyond that, though: the crates with bigger steel bars and with solid metal sides on our list may be a better choice for the strongest dogs. These also have door latches of styles that are harder for a dog to get at.
But note that if you look through reviews, there is probably no crate that some determined dog, somewhere, didn’t find a way out of. Short of buying a second-hand tiger cage from the zoo, nothing can be guaranteed 100% dog proof. But it’s important to also realize that if your dog chews or otherwise breaks its way out of a crate, you may have a more serious problem, from boredom to anxiety, that requires more of your time, attention, and won’t be solved by buying a sturdier crate. If this is the case with your dog, please consult a good positive trainer.
For standard wire crates, make sure you choose a style with two latches, and use them both. Although some crates have only one latch, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to use only one of the latches on a two-latch style – they’re placed differently so that if only one is closed the dog might be able to push the door partly open, and is likely to get stuck and/or injured. For added safety on a wire crate, you can use an S-clip or carabiner to essentially lock the door shut.
Also note that experts caution that it’s safest to remove harnesses and collars when you crate a dog, because of the risk of tags and straps getting caught and getting your dog stuck, injured, or worse. In reality most of us don’t do this. It’s inconvenient, and you need to balance this risk against the risk of your dog getting out somewhere when he’s not wearing ID. But be aware that this is a risk, even if a remote one.
Best Heavy Duty Dog Crates
If you’re looking for a strong version of a wire crate, the Frisco Heavy Duty is a good choice. The same design as the standard type of crate but made with thicker wire, it comes in six sizes. There is also a double door version, but if you’re looking for heavy-duty because your dog is an escape artist, a single door provides fewer options for trouble.
Things to keep in mind:
- Except for the smallest size, there are two latches on the door; as mentioned earlier, be sure to always use both
- Unfolds for assembly and folds for storage
- The bottom is a removable plastic pan. This removes easily for cleaning but if your dog chews plastic, this crate may not be for you
When even heavy-duty wire bars aren’t enough, there are other styles to consider. The next step up consists of crates made with steel bars. The Frisco Ultimate Heavy Duty Steel Metal Dog Crate is made of 1/2-inch diameter steel tubing and the slide-out pan is also made of metal. The door bolts in this style of crate are also much harder for a dog to interfere with than those on a standard wire crate.
Things to keep in mind:
- Note that the door is on the side, not the end, so consider the placement of your crate so you can easily open the door
- One price you pay for heavy-duty is an increase in weight: This crate weighs 100 pounds, and it’s noted that it will take two people to carry and assemble it
- Once assembled, it has wheels, so can be easily moved, and the wheels have foot brakes
- Comes in only two sizes, Medium 37 x 25.2 x 33.9 and Large 42.1 x 30.7 x 40.9
A similar but less expensive option is the Itori Heavy-Duty crate. It is also available in only two sizes, but if you need something larger than the Chewy crate above, the large in this brand is 48 inches. Note that while this is described as “double door,” the second door is actually the top of the crate, which lifts up.
Things to keep in mind:
- Again, be aware that this is indeed heavy-duty: 83 pounds!
- Like the Chewy crate, the bars are ½ inch steel, but at least one reviewer states that their strong, anxious dog bent the bars, and has the photos to prove it. So remember that nothing is completely dog-proof and that no crate is a solution to a behavior problem by itself
Don’t trust any kind of bars at all? There are crates with solid metal sides. Impact Dog Crates offers several styles, all made in the USA. Their Stationary crate, in contrast to the crates we’ve seen so far, comes in a wide range of sizes that includes ten choices, with the smallest roughly 17 inches high and 20 inches long.
Things to keep in mind:
- Warning, these are not inexpensive: that smallest size is $389, the largest $ 1,889.99
- Comes in gray or tan, as well as seven other colors for an extra charge
- They say their crates are made with the same hardware used on cases they make to hold missiles and satellite equipment, so that should be a decent challenge for a dog!
If you have a lot of space, such as a basement or rec room, another possibility is to use an outdoor dog kennel. Note that these do not have any kind of floor, so they will need to be placed where you’re not concerned that the dog (or dog waste) will damage the flooring. The Lucky Dog Uptown Welded Wire Kennel is a well-reviewed choice.
Features and aspects of note:
- Made of steel
- Assembles without tools
- The latch is lockable, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of this with this style of latch; at least use a carabiner
For more information about crating and kenneling dogs large and small, continue your research with one of the articles below.