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 only used for a few dogs. 

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

Above: Walter the dachshund in a pen suitable for the first few weeks of IVDD recovery. Photo courtesy of Rachel Williams.

If there is any possibility that your dog might try to climb out, a closed-top crate is essential.  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’s best to discuss this with your vet. 

Above: Mac the terrier crossbreed (about the size of a Jack Russell terrier) recovering from cruciate ligament injury in an XXL 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, 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 larger breeds, it may be 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.  

 Some suggested options for recovery crates and pens are shown in the table below.  Many pens are modular: you can buy a 6-sided pen but make it up using just 4 panels during early recovery. Extend it once the dog is allowed to have more space. Check first with your vet. 

For dachshunds (UK only)

Dedicated to Dachshunds with IVDD  is an amazing charity that loans out recovery equipment for dachshunds in the UK (Registered Charity number 1199050). Depending on availability, this includes good-quality recovery pens, slings and pushchairs. To request a loan or to support their great work, get in touch with them here

Recommended pen size for various breeds

Dog breeds EARLY REST

Close confinement, e.g. for first 3 weeks after a disc extrusion (IVDD)

LATE REST

A larger floor area, e.g. after the first 3 weeks following a disc extrusion (IVDD)

Chihuahua L crate (36 in long)

Square pen with 22 inch sides

XXL crate (48 in long)

Rectangular pen with sides 22 x 43 in

Hexagonal pen with sides 20 to 22 in

French Bulldog, Jack Russell Terrier, Lhasa Apso XL crate (42 in long)

Square pen with sides of 28 to 32 inches

XXL crate (48 in long)

Rectangular pen with sides 32 x 63 in

Hexagonal pen with 32 inch sides

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel XL or XXL crate (42 to 48 inches long)

Square pen with 32 inch sides

For small dogs of this breed, consider 48inch crate (XXL). This may be too narrow for larger Cavaliers.

Rectangular pen 32 x 63 inches

Hexagonal pen with sides of 28 to 32 inches

Springer spaniel Giant crate (54 in long)

If the dog will not jump out: Square pen with sides of 40 to 43 inches

 

High-sided pen if dog will not attempt to jump, e.g. a square pen with sides of 55 to 63 inches long.

Large enough crates are not available.

Room rest is sometimes the best option.

Labrador Retriever Giant crate (54 in long)

If the dog will not jump out: Square pen with sides of 43 to 51 inches

Pen if dog will not attempt to jump, e.g. a square pen with sides of 63 inches long.

Large enough crates are not available.

Room rest is sometimes the best option.

Mini Dachshund XL crate (42 in long)

Square pen with sides of 28 to 32 inches

XXL crate (48 in long)

Rectangular pen with sides 32 x 63 in

Hexagonal pen with 32 inch sides

Standard Dachshund XL (42in) or XLL (48in) crate

Square pen with sides of 32 to 40 inches long

Use a pen if dog will not attempt to jump.

Rectangular pen 32 x 63 inches

Hexagonal pen with 32 inch sides.

 

Welsh Corgi XXL (48in) or giant crate

Square pen with sides of 32 to 40 inches long

 

Use a pen if dog will not attempt to jump.

Rectangular pen 47 x 63 inches

Octagonal pen with 32 inch sides.

¥ 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

For dogs with IVDD: further information to help them through recovery

This website contains plenty of information about caring for a dog with back or neck issues. Try going to IVDD and clicking on links on that page to start exploring this free resource.

For a complete and practical guide to home care, we recommend The IVDD Handbook. This is a comprehensive home care guide for dogs with IVDD (disc extrusion or ‘slipped disc’). It’s also suitable for those with certain other back or neck problems including FCE and traumatic disc. Use this book in conjunction with talking to your own vet. It contains:

  • clear practical guidelines for each stage of recovery
  • details on choosing and setting up their crate or pen
  • illustrated how-to guides for everything from sling-walking to home exercises
  • notes on when to contact your vet
  • an illustrated guide to understanding your dog’s surgical report
  • advice on keeping your recovering dog happy and content
  • a section on maintaining your own wellbeing while caring for your own dog
  • example daily routines suitable for dogs at each stage of recovery
  • hundreds of colour photos showing what to look for and how to help your dog
  • an index, glossary and colour-coded chapter to help you find information fast

How to get your copy

Click here to buy or look inside The IVDD Handbook.


The above link should redirect you to your country’s Amazon site.

Order the book to be delivered to you from the US if you live in Australia, New Zealand or Singapore. For further details, click here

Links to the book on this page are provided as part of the Amazon Associates program. Buying the book after clicking on one of these links will earn the author a small commission, thus contributing to the ongoing running of this website. 

Booking an appointment

For bespoke supervision of your own dog’s recovery, you are welcome to contact me to arrange a video consultation appointment. To book an appointment, use the contact form here or email me at Marianne@ajdorn.plus.com. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Please note that these contact details are for appointments only. I offer home visit appointments, when appropriate, for dogs and cats living near me in North Herts, UK. Video consultations are available for both local and distant patients. 

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