Why have we been measuring dogs?
The recovery crate, pen or room must offer sufficient space for the patient’s basic welfare needs. In particular, the dog should be able to adopt each of its natural postures. For more on this subject, please click here. In deciding which crates could be recommended for which dogs, measurements of individuals of various breeds have been taken in the “sit”, “stand” and “lie” positions.
Recruiting dogs for measurement
Measurements have been taken from adult dogs of known breeds. These included dogs owned by friends, colleagues and clients, with further dogs recruited via social media. I measured almost all of the dogs myself. An instruction handout was sent to those who were happy to measure dogs themselves. A copy of this handout can be downloaded by clicking here. The dogs measured by owners were three of the standard wire-haired dachshunds and the four basset hounds.
For each dog, four measurements were taken using a measuring tape.
Standing length. This is the length of the dog in its natural standing position as measured from the most cranial to the most caudal point, with the measuring tape parallel to the floor. Where appropriate, measurements were taken with and without the tail included.
Sitting height. With the dog in its natural sitting position, this was measured as the distance from the floor up to the highest point of the head, as measured perpendicular to the floor. For those dogs that chose to raise their head to look up at their owner during measurement, we measured up to the tip of the nose.
Lying length. Each dog was encouraged to lie in lateral recumbency, and a measurement was taken from the most cranial to the most caudal point with the measuring tape parallel to the floor. There was plenty of variation in lying position, with some dogs choosing to lie more stretched-out than others. Each dog was given up to about one minute to adjust their position within lateral recumbency, and the most stretched-out position offered by each dog was measured. None of the dogs were pulled into an extended position or rigidly held in position. A few dogs would not lie in lateral recumbency. These individuals were measured in sternal, dorsal or semi-sternal recumbency, and this was noted on the form. Where appropriate, measurements were taken with and without the tail included.
Lying “width”. This measurement was taken with the dog in the same recumbent position as described for lying length, above. A measurement was taken perpendicular to the lying length measurement.
Measurements of individual dogs can be downloaded by clicking here. Results are summarised in table 1, below.
|Table 1: Measurements of dogs.
Mean average measurements are supplied, with the range of values shown in brackets.
|Breed||Number of dogs measured||Height of sitting dog||Length of standing dog||Length of lying dog (cm)||Width of lying dog (cm)||Minimum floor area of recovery crate or pen (cm)|
|Basset hound||5||46 (42-52)||91 (86-99)||96.2(86-103)||45 (42-52)||115 x 140|
|Border collie||3||71 (64-75)||88 (83-91)||95 (88-99)||57 (53-59)||110 x 145|
|Border terrier||2||39.5 (37-42)||65 (57-73)||66 (59-73)||36 (34-38)||80 x 105|
|Cavalier King Charles Spaniel||8||47 (40-54)||67 (53-82)||75 (61-88)||41 (38-44)||95 x 115|
|Dachshund, miniature smooth||9||31 (28-33)||53 (48-61)||54 (49-58)||20 (16-25)||75 x 95|
|Dachshund, standard wire-haired||4||43 (35-47)||77 (79-89)||76 (65-92)||38 (32-52)||105 x 125|
|Greyhound||2||73 (70-76)||105.5 (105-106)||103.5 (89-118)||70 (68-72)||135 x 185|
|Japanese Chin||4||36 (34-37)||50 (43-61)||58 (50-62)||38 (31-43)||70 x 100|
|Labrador||11||78 (66-90)||96 (81-131)||105 (90-129)||72 (61-80)||135 x 180|
|Pug||4||45 (42-50)||52 (49-54)||58 (53-61)||38 (33-42)||70 x 100|
|Springer Spaniel (English)||2||66 (63.5-69)||78.5 (71-86)||93 (82-104)||57 (55-59)||110 x 140|
Variation within the results
Variation in body size between individuals within each breed resulted in variation between measurements of both sitting height and standing length.
There were marked differences between amounts of limb extension offered when recumbent dogs were measured. Nervous dogs, and those unaccustomed to close handling, were less inclined to stretch out in recumbency. Where soft bedding was unavailable during measurement, dogs were also less inclined to lie outstretched. These factors caused wide variation in lying length. For example, Maude is a relatively small Labrador retriever (as shown by her sitting and standing measurements), but was the only individual of this breed who chose to stretch out fully in recumbency, and her lying length is therefore higher than others of this breed.
Making sense of the results
In deciding on the appropriate size of recovery quarters for any particular dog, we need to consider the breed of dog or, if a crossbreed, its size and shape in comparison to a known breed. We may also need to take into account whether the individual is a particularly large or small example of its breed. Other factors should also be considered when allocating space to a recovering dog, including the dog’s temperament and expected activity level, and the stage of recovery.
For each measurement, a mean average and a range of values have been given in table 1. As very few of the measured dogs stretched out fully during measurement, the higher end of the range of values for lateral recumbency length is more representative of the space occupied by dogs when lying down, and this figure should be used rather than the mean value.
Creating minimum floor space guidelines for the recovery period
Measurements of the dogs in their natural postures has been used to develop minimum floor space guidelines for the recovery period. These guidelines are estimated to enable the dog to lie fully stretched-out on a deeply-bedded area with the crate, and then to stand perpendicular to this within an adjacent area of the crate. A few centimetres has been added to the width and length of floor space to allow for the thickness of bedding tucked around the edges of the crate.
Many recovering dogs will benefit from having more space than the minimum requirements listed in the table. Floor space greater than these minimum values could allow the dog to do the following:
- To step off their deeply-bedded area before yawning and stretching (“pandiculation”), a natural movement that benefits comfort and puts joints through a healthy range of motion.
- To lie fully-stretched out in a choice of two areas, e.g. the dog may wish to lie out in their “standing” space while chewing on food-dispensing toys.
- To rise out of bed by stepping forward, rather than being forced to turn tightly while pushing up from the lying position. The latter method is challenging for many dogs with weak hindquarters or musculoskeletal injury.
- To change direction within the enclosure by moving in a broad arc, instead of being forced to turn tightly. Again, tight turns are challenging for many dogs with weakness or musculoskeletal injury.
Recommended minimum floor space allocations in table 1 have been given assuming that the recovery crate or pen has a rectangular format. If the dog’s owner has access to a pen with a square base, then they should ensure that the dog can lie fully-stretched out in each direction, with a little room to spare.
Dachshunds: A special case?
In the table above, a small extra allowance has been added to the minimum floor space allocation for miniature dachshunds. This is for the following reasons:
- These dogs have extreme long-bodied and short-legged conformation and therefore need the space to stand straight (i.e. with their body not forced into a lateral bend). Their standing length is in many cases at least as long as their lying length. These dogs need to be able to stand facing in a choice of directions within their enclosure, and this requires sufficient space.
- Around 19-24% of dachshunds suffer from intervertebral disc disease (IVDH) in their lifetime (Packer et al 2016), and many dachshunds in recovery crates or pens will therefore be recovering from spinal disease. To set these dogs up well for functional recovery, we need to make it as easy as possible for them to rise from rest and to turn within their enclosure. The width of the enclosure should therefore be at least as long as the dog’s standing length or lying length (whichever is greater) with some extra space allowance for moving through a broad arc when turning.
- Dachshunds hate cold draughts, and they typically like ample bedding tucked up around the sides of their enclosure. The thickness of this bedding does take up a little floor space.
- While the measurements where taken, nearly all of the dachshunds had low tail carriage. Tail posture should not be restricted by the width of the enclosure during recovery because the tail is an extension of the spine.
It has been suggested that dachshunds should be confined to a particularly small crate following IVDH incident in order to protect the spine from further damage. However, there is no evidence to support this opinion. A search of the literature has only brought up one study looking a the effects of crate-rest on dogs recovering from IVDH. In a retrospective study looking at 223 dogs of various breeds (mainly dachshunds) conservatively-managed for T/L disc herniation (Levine et al 2007), use of cage rest made no difference to outcome. 56% of the 55 dogs with no cage rest had a good outcome. Dogs were grouped according to number of weeks of cage rest (0-1, 1-2, 3-4, >4 weeks). There was no difference in outcome between the groups. Out of all the dogs, 54.7% had good neurological improvement.
During recovery from IVDH, the purpose of the crate is not to immobilise the dog, but to prevent accidents and exuberant activity. Activities to avoid generally include jumping (e.g. on and off the furniture), moving over slick surfaces, running, ball play and rough play with children or other pets.
Levine, J. M., Levine, G. J., Johnson, S. I., Kerwin, S. C., Hettlich, B. F., & Fosgate, G. T. (2007). Evaluation of the success of medical management for presumptive thoracolumbar intervertebral disk herniation in dogs. Veterinary surgery, 36(5), 482-491
Packer, R. M. A., Seath, I. J., O’Neill, D. G., De Decker, S., & Volk, H. A. (2016). DachsLife 2015: an investigation of lifestyle associations with the risk of intervertebral disc disease in Dachshunds. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, 3(1), 8.
For more information…
Crate rest: Investigating crate size
The following links provide information to owners of recovering dogs