Choosing the right tool(s) for your dog

The variety of crates on the market and how to choose which one is best for your dog. In case confinement vs. crating is a better choice for your dog, we cover ex-pens and gates briefly as well. There are many options on the market for canine confinement and each has their place, however, there is not one tool that will work for all dogs. Let’s cover the more popular options:

wire crate

Wire crates are a fantastic option for at home confinement, travel (not necessarily in the car, but at the destination). They are easy to set up and pack up, a breeze to clean, not terribly ugly, and very accessible.

​They provide excellent airflow, dividers to adjust the available space, and very sturdy. These crates allow dogs to see their environment, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your dog! I am also a fan of those that have two entry doors! The only challenges are the lack of insulation for young puppies, the weight, and that the sound of the plastic tray can be a bit jarring for pooch or person, especially in the wee hours of the night.  

airline approved crate

Airline approved carriers are great for travel (car and flight) and good for dogs who prefer being cozy and covered. I often recommend these for dogs who get car-sick as it blocks most of the movement from the windows yet has fair airflow. These are also great for at-home (or destination-confinement).

​They’re easy to set up and pack up, or even dismantle and only use the bottom tray as a bed later on. These can get pretty toasty at times, so they provide good insulation for young puppies or older/frail dogs. Unfortunately, these don’t fold up and can be challenging to store because of their shape. Because they’re made of plastic, smells can hang around for quite a long time and they can be challenging to clean without taking them apart and giving them a good spray with the garden hose or shower head. Some dogs find these too isolating as they can’t see much of their environment, while other dogs prefer the privacy they provide.  

softsided carriers

Soft-sided carriers are very useful if your dog is very well crate trained – otherwise, you might find an escape artist on your hands as mesh and fabric aren’t designed to keep animals in (or out). These are great for small dogs who will be travelling in style, under the aeroplane seat (not cargo!), out for a shopping adventure, to the vet clinic, or to visit friends and family.

Many dogs like to sleep in these as they are snug and cozy. For large breeds, there are even ones that fold up to the size of a very small backpack or large purse and are easy to tuck away! There’s not much setting up for these – they generally just pop up and open and fold up within a matter of seconds. They can be a little tricky to wash and eliminate odours. When the zipper breaks or the mesh tears, it’s a pain to repair unless you’re really handy that way, and they certainly don’t last as long as wire or plastic crates.

Now for the non-crate options: 

exercise pen

Exercise pens (or “ex-pens” as we call them) are fantastic. They’re great for longer confinement so that the dog has room to stretch their legs and play. You can set up a potty area (pee pads or turf) at one end and a sleeping/play area at the other. ​

​They come in various heights, with or without a door. You can repurpose them to surround Christmas trees, plants, block off an area or a room, or you name it! They fold up and store well, but they’re quite heavy. They are easy to move and knock over if you have a persistent or anxious dog, so that’s something to consider.

baby gates

Baby gates. Another obsession. These are fantastic for doorways if you want to confine your dog to one room or block access to other rooms. I prefer the ones with the swinging door so that I don’t have to step over every time and risk a face-plant into the coffee table.

These are generally very easy to set up and take down and some take only a little power tool action to secure to door frames. They’re very cost-effective and are a clever way to block access to the front door if you have a door darter! They come in a pretty standard size, but you can get the extra tall version for larger dogs or dogs that come with pre-installed springs in their feet.