Can a dog crate be too big? Why it should not be!

can a dog crate be too big

The first and most important step that will determine the level of success you can achieve when crate training your puppy is the choice of the crate.

The whole crate training process can go out the window if you don’t choose the proper crate for your dog.

When choosing a crate some pet parents especially those that are not convinced yet that crate training is actually a good thing and it’s not cruel try to compensate for that by getting the largest crate they can get their hands on to give the dog a lot of space according to their understanding.

A dog crate that is too big is no longer a crate, it turns into a playpen and that’s a completely different type of training and it does not share the same purpose as a crate.

However, one would have questions about what’s wrong with giving your dog too much space! everybody wants more space, generally bigger is better or is it?

Can a dog crate be too big? Yes definitely a dog crate can and should not be too big for the dog, or else he’ll use one end to sleep and lie down and the other end as a potty corner. The ideal dog crate should be just big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down and that’s it.

In a hurry?! Get the Midwest Ultima Pro Dog Crate (check current price at Amazon), it comes in different sizes to fit all dogs and has a free divider to adjust the size as your puppy grows.

How can a dog crate be too big?

To be able to understand how a dog crate can be too big you need to know the purpose of a crate.

Dogs are den animals by nature, meaning they need a personal safe space where they can feel safe and relax.

A den in nature is a small and confined place where the animal needs to stay to feel safe, so it has to be as large as the dog not much larger.

If the crate is too big for the dog then it’s no longer a den and the whole process of crate training can not be achieved properly.

How to tell if a dog crate is too big?

It is easy to tell if the dog crate is too big, one thing you will notice is that your dog has a preferred end within the crate, meaning he always lies down in the same corner.

The second obvious thing is that the dog when standing or lying down has a lot of space between him and the crate panel.

The dog should not be able to roll down and jump in the crate, it’s not a playpen, it’s a place where he goes to sleep and relax when he needs to and that’s it.

If your dog has enough space in his crate to play around and jump then it’s too big for him and that’s valid even for small puppies.

Why can’t a dog crate be too big?

The main reason why a dog crate can’t be too big, is the den nature of the dog, if you do not provide what the dog considers as his den, then he’ll simply find one and you might have noticed this in dogs that are not crate trained, they usually like to hide under some table or behind a couch when they need to relax.

Another reason why the dog crate can’t be too large is because it makes potty training harder, the crate does a great job when it comes to potty training but when the crate is too large it’s no longer the case.

Dogs are fairly clean animals and would rather not to eliminate where they sleep and eat so if they have enough space within the crate they’ll use one end as a living area and the other as a potty corner.

Choosing a crate that is the proper size is the right thing to do to avoid potty training issues and incidents in the crate but how big exactly should the crate be.

How big should a dog crate be?

Dog crate too big

the dog crate can’t be too small but also not too big, it can be confusing so how big should it be.

The crate should be just big enough for the dog to be able to stand in it without touching the top, long enough for him to lie down with his entire body inside and not touching the front or back panels and wide enough to turn around.

This means that it has to be a few inches larger than the dog’s size on each dimension and not larger.

To make things easier I’ve gathered a list of the most popular dog breeds with the ideal size crate for them.

You should note that depending on gender and the possibility of mixed ancestry, your dog may need a home that is larger or smaller than the one listed in the table below.

The crate size is based on the inside available space, a metal crate panel would be slightly thinner than wooden crates, other crates like furniture crates might be smaller.

Dog breedCrate size
Brussel Griffon, Jack Russell Terrier, Japanese Chin, Maltese, Papillon, Pomeranian, Toy Fox Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier.18-Inch crate
18L x 12W x 14H inches
Australian Terrier, Border Terrier, Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Dachshund, Miniature Poodle, Norwich Terrier, Pug, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel, West Highland Terrier.24-Inch crate
25L x 18.75W x 20.5 inches
American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Water Spaniel, Basenji, Bedlington Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Clumber Spaniel, Dachshund, French Bulldog, King Charles Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Schnauzer, Pekingese, Scottish Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Tibetan Terrier, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Welsh Terrier.30-Inch crate
31L x 21.25W x 23.75H inches
American Eskimo, Australian Cattle Dog, Basset hound, Beagle, Brittany Spaniel, Bull Terrier, Bulldog, Chinese Shar-Pei, Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Springer Spaniel Finnish Spitz, Harrier, Keeshond, Kerry Blue Terrier, Norwegian Elkhound, Portuguese Water Dog, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Standard Schnauzer, Welsh Corgi, Whippet.36-Inch crate
37L x 24.375W x 27.5H inches
Airedale Terrier, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collie, Boxer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chow-Chow, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Ibizan Hound, Irish Setter, Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Saluki, Standard Poodle, vizsla.42-Inch crate
43L x 28.5W x 31.25H inches
Afghan, Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Anatolian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bloodhound, Bouvier Des Flandres, Briard, Bullmastiff, Collie, Doberman Pinscher, Dogue de Bordeaux, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Greyhound, Greyhound, Komondor, Kuvasz, Newfoundland, Old English Sheepdog, Otterhound, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Weimaraner.48-Inch crate
49L x 30.5W x 34.25H inches
Borzoi, Great dane, Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhound, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Scottish Deerhound, Saint Bernard.54-Inch crate
54 L x 37 W x 45H Inches
List of dog crate size by breeds

What if your puppy outgrows his crate?

Choosing the perfect size crate for your dog is important but what should you do when you get a new puppy that is rapidly outgrowing his crate?

Small puppies grow up very fast especially if you have a large breed, so changing crates every couple of months is not really realistic, but again you can’t get your puppy a very large crate that will fit him in six months.

The best and cheapest solution is to get a metal crate with a divider, and that’s why we recommended the metal crate because you can have a crate that will eventually fit an adult dog, but meanwhile, you can adjust the size to the puppy as he grows.

If you want to invest in a furniture crate then we strongly recommend using a metal crate until the puppy reaches his adult size before switching to wooden crates and that’s because they can be expensive and not easy to replace every few months.

How to measure your dog for a crate

Before you choose a crate you must measure your dog yourself and do not rely on the manufacturer’s charts.

Dogs within the same breed can vary in size so much that one crate could not work for both.

In order to choose the perfect dog crate size, measure your dog according to the charts we provide bellow.

And when measuring it is better if you use a string, the tape measure can be difficult to use with a dog. then you can measure the string.

Before you start you need to have your animal in the natural standing position for the measures to be accurate.

You also need to know that you have four measurements to make as demonstrated in the picture below.

Measuring your dog for a crate
Measuring your dog for a crate
AThe length of the animal from the tip of the nose to the base/root of the tail.
BThe height of the animal from the ground to the elbow joint.
CThe width across shoulders or the widest point (whichever is the greater)
DThe height of the animal in a natural standing position from the top of the head or the ear tip to the floor(whichever is higher).

Now that you have the four necessary measurements for the crate all you need to do is apply this formula.

The crate length   A + ½ B 
The crate widthC x 2
The crate height D

The snub-nosed breeds require 10% larger crates.

You have to be aware that these measurements are for the dog crate size from the inside, meaning you have to check the measurements that are displayed by the manufacturer and make sure it’s the usable part of the crate.

You should not rely on the weight of the dog only when choosing the crate size for your dog, different breeds can have different proportions between size and weight.

Using a playpen for more space

Choosing a large crate to provide your dog more space is not a good idea, that’s why we recommend using a good-sized crate for crate training and a playpen to provide more space for your dog to play.

The playpen has a different purpose from the crate that should only be used for crate training.

If you need a secure confined space for your dog to play it is best to use the playpen, and using the two together is entirely possible.

What we recommend is to use the Midwest Metal Playpen (check current price at Amazon) it’s easy to set up and affordable and most importantly it can be attached to the crate we suggested earlier making a den-like space for your dog.

The crate and playpen combined offers a complete solution for your dog with the choice to get in the crate when he needs to relax, or play in the playpen.


  • The dog crate should be perfectly sized for a better result with crate training.
  • Measuring your dog is important because mixed breeds can be larger or smaller than the standard size.
  • When a dog crate is too big the dog will use one end as a living area and the other as a potty corner.
  • The dog crate should only be a few inches larger than the dog, the dog can have a playpen for more space.
  • If the dog is provided with a crate that is too large he might look for another place to serve as a den.