The crate or pen must be comfortable, secure and large enough for your dog. Whether to get a pen or a crate depends on your dog’s size and personality. Open-top pens (sometimes sold as whelping pens) tend to offer more floor space than crates. It is also easier to access a dog in an open-top pen than in a closed-top crate, as you can open the door and step inside. 

If your dog will definitely not jump out, and if they are not strong or willful enough to knock over something heavy, then they will probably do well in a dog pen. For example, most (but not all) dachshunds and pugs are safe in standard dog pens. A standard height for dog pen sides is 80cm, but pens suitable for both indoor and outdoor use are available with sides up to 170cm tall. Pens with 170cm sides should prevent almost any dog from escaping but, being heavy and expensive, they are rarely used within homes. However, they may be a useful solution for some dogs. 

Above and below: open-topped dog pen set up for Bella the Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Above: Tiggy the dachshund in a child’s playpen. Photo courtesy of M.Randall.

If there is any possibility that your dog might try to climb out, then a closed-top crate is essential. These are sold as puppy crates, travel crates or recovery crates. Bouncy small dogs such as terriers are likely to try to escape from a standard-height pen, and are generally safer in a very large crate. 

Bear in mind that crates are generally too small for larger breeds. Though some crates are sold as suitable for large breeds for travel and other occasional use, they are not large enough to keep these same dogs comfortable during several weeks of recovery. If your dog is too big for a crate, but too bouncy for a pen, then room rest is probably the best option. It is best to discuss this with your vet. 

Above: Mac the terrier crossbreed (about the size of a Jack Russell terrier) recovering in a very large crate. 

The crate or pen needs to be sturdy enough to withstand some knocks and chewing. A purpose-built metal or heavy-gauge wire structure is best.

Most crates and pens have a raised “lip” at the exit. This is too high for smaller recovering dogs to step over. If you have the choice, opt for a crate with a floor level exit. If the crate does have a lip, then you will need to either guide your dog very safely and slowly over this obstacle every time they leave the crate, or lift them out. 

The crate needs to be at least big enough for your dog to lie fully-stretched out, to sit or stand facing in a choice of directions, to yawn and stretch, to turn easily, to eat, and to lick or chew at toys. For each dog breed, recovery crates should therefore be much larger than puppy crates. For the larger breeds, it is generally more practical to use a recovery room than a crate. Discuss this option with your vet.

When buying a crate, don’t be persuaded by the seller to buy one that is much too small. For example, the 42 inch crate is often listed as being suitable for Labradors. This might be okay for Labradors as an occasional travel cage but, as a recovery crate, the 42 inch crate is only suitable for very small dogs. Space requirements have been calculated based on the space taken up by various breeds when sitting, standing and lying.  

Minimum recommended recovery crate sizes for a few breeds are shown in the table below:

Dog breed Minimum recommended floor area during confinement Crate, pen or room rest
Japanese chin, pug, Yorkshire terrier 70 x 100cm (27.5 x 39in) Pen if dog will not attempt to jump

Crate: For most brands of crate, the smallest suitable standard size is 42in (106.5cm) long, and 70cm wide.

Jack Russell terriers, Norwich terriers 75 x 105cm (29.5 x 41in) Pen if dog will not attempt to jump

If using a crate, choose XL (42 inch crate) or even larger.

Cavalier King Charles spaniel 95 x 115cm (37 x 45in) Pen if dog will not attempt to jump

For small dogs of this breed, consider 48inch crate (XXL)

For larger individuals, consider specialised giant crate ¥

Or room rest.

Springer spaniel 110 x 140cm (43 x 55in) High-sided pen if dog will not attempt to jump

Large enough crates are not available.

Room rest is often the best option.

Labrador Retriever 135 x 180cm (53 x 71in)


150 x 160cm (59 x 63in)

Extra-large sturdy pen

Or room rest

Basset hound 115 x 140cm (43x 55in) Large sturdy pen

Or room rest

Miniature dachshund 75 x 95cm (29.5 x 37.5in) Use a pen if dog will not attempt to jump.

Or XL Crate or larger. The XL size is 42 inches (107cm) long. The width of the 42inch crate is not so generous, being only about 28in/72cm. Go for an even larger crate if possible, e.g. the XXL/48inch one.


Standard dachshund 105 x 125cm (42 x 49in) Large dog pen if dog will not attempt to jump.

If you must use a crate, then choose one no smaller than the XXL/48in crate. A specialised giant crate would be better.

¥ At time of writing, the largest dog crate found advertised online has floor area of 137cm x 84cm (54 x 33in).

For more information…

Try the following links for more advice on caring for your recovering dog:

Choosing a recovery crate or pen
Staying positive during your dog’s recovery
Toys for recovering dogs
Crate rest: Daily routine for the recovering dog
Crate rest: Bedding for recovering dogs
Crate rest: Flooring for recovering dogs

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