dog in a big crate stroked through wire

Can a Dog Crate be too Big?

Often, when we’re buying for our pets, we do it from a human perspective: what do I think will be best? 

In our lives, many of us will always choose big: bigger houses, cars, sofas, beds, etc.  Extra space feels like a blessing.  Often, we want our dogs to have bigger crates or kennels because space is a luxury, and we want our dogs to be happy.

But dogs aren’t like us. 

They might love running around in wide open spaced but when they’re nervous or tired, they like to go small. This is part of their denning instinct. Something you’ll have noticed when your dog scratches at your bed sheets or pulls the bedding out his crate.

Dogs like resting in smaller spaces because it feels safer and more secure.  In the wild, it would be a way for a dog to save its energy, to rest away from any predators.

A dog crate can be too big so shop sensibly.

(Not that we’re suggesting you should try to fit an Irish Wolf Hound into a Jack Russell’s crate!)

Does Dog Crate Size Matter?

Yes, it does matter.

It matters because dogs come in all different shapes and sizes.

Anything too small will be uncomfortable and unpleasant for the dog to retreat to.  If you have a puppy, then it’s easy to forget how quickly they grow up.  What was once a spacious crate can quickly become to cramped to use.

Anything too big can encourage the dog to poop or pee inside the crate as they can do their business and move away from it.  This isn’t ideal if you’re in the process of housetraining your pet.  Big crates can also be anxiety-inducing to puppies; the big empty space provides no place to run and hide.

How Much Room Should a Dog Have in a Crate?

Your dog needs to have enough space to be able to stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably.  Remember to leave enough room for them to lie on their side, too, taking into account the legs and paws.

Measure the dog so that you know the size of crate you’ll need.

This is often easier said that done but it is important.  Don’t rely on your own estimation because it can be difficult to pick the correct size on sight alone.  We’d also advise that you only follow the item’s sizing descriptions loosely as ‘small’, ‘medium’, ‘large’ etc will mean different things to different manufacturers.  What’s a large to one company may only be a medium to another.

AnimalSo suggests standing your dog against the wall and using chalk or wipeable ink to mark the wall behind them and to then measure the marks rather than the dog directly. Measure from the nose to the base of the tail.

Do Dogs Like Big Crates?

We’d advise getting a crate that’s suitable for your dog’s size rather than one that’s too big. Some dogs aren’t bothered by the extra-space but unless you know that, it’s worth buying size closest to your dog’s measurements.  As with most things pet related, there are plenty of exceptions. We found examples on Reddit of happy retrievers sleeping inside crates designed for great Danes!  Some dogs use much larger crates and are absolutely fine with them but as this goes against the dog’s denning instinct (and because it could encourage them to eliminate inside the crate), we’d suggest sticking to a size closer to your dog’s measurements rather than finding out the hard way that you have the wrong size.

Also, you should think about the amount of space a big crate will take up in your home. If you’ve only got a small dog, make the most of it and buy something that won’t dominate floor.  Some owners may have to factor in traveling with a dog crate at some point. You buying decision may also be influenced by the available space in a vehicle. 

Airlines all have different regulations on crate sizes.  If you’re hoping to fly with a small dog, you may be better off buying a dog carrier suitable for traveling in-cabin. Unfortunately, unless you have permission, your big dog won’t be able to travel on a plane seat. It will have to travel in the hold of the aircraft and so it may be worth reading up on acceptable crate sizes before purchasing.  Also, if you’re planning on taking your dog camping, the crate may need to fit inside the tent.  For general travel, you may want a crate that’s collapsible or lightweight.

Should a dog be able to sit up in a crate?

Yes, absolutely. 

Dog crates can be too big, but always be sure that you’re not buying one that’s too small.  Your dog should be able to comfortably sit up, turn around and lie down.

How to make dog crate smaller

If you have an over-sized dog crate, there are ways of making it smaller.  You can buy crates with a petition or divider which you can then add, move or remove throughout a dog’s growing spurts.  This is ideal if you’re puppy is brand new. We searched through some forums and found DIY projects that people have done to reduce the size of their crates.

“I built a partition out of thin ply wood. Drilled a couple holes on each side and just tied it through the air vents on my kennel. When he needed more room, I would just untie and move the board back.” From Retriever Trainer. On the same forum, someone said they’d used cardboard and storage boxes to block off the other side of the crate.

Someone else used a laundry basket.

There are ways around it. We’d always encourage people to be very careful about what they put into the crate especially if the dog is going to be unsupervised.  Sharp edges, things to chew or bite on can be dangerous.

Of all the options, we’d suggest buying a crate with a partition so that the dog has room to grow safely and comfortably. Dog crates can be too big, so it’s worth doing your research before buying and most importantly, measuring your dog correctly so you know which crate is best for them.