We are supported by commissions earned for purchases made through the links in our articles. Learn more.

5 Telltale Signs A Dog Crate Is Too Small (Time To Upgrade!)

Key Takeaways

  • Signs that a dog crate is too small always includes your dog being uncomfortable and unhappy when going to his crate.
  • The crate should be large enough that your dog can stand naturally, turn around easily, lie down and stretch out.
  • A dog crate should not be too big or too small for a dog. It should be just right for your dog to comfortably sleep or relax in.

If your dog can’t stand up straight or lie down and stretch out, looks uncomfortable in the crate, or shows aggression during crate time, these are signs that a dog crate is too small. Did you know that dogs can suffer from several health issues if they stay inside a cramped space for too long? So if your dog shows these signs, it’s time to change crates!

Pet parents are learning that a crate can be a safe space for their dogs, and I always advise to begin crate training at an early age. For dogs, crates are their own personal space (which dogs need), and they can be a boon for dogs with separation anxiety. They’re also invaluable for aiding dogs in recovering their health after a serious surgery, injury, or illness.

If your dog already has a crate, you may begin to notice—particularly if your young puppy is growing—that she no longer enjoys her crate when she once took naps there and would rest comfortably without having to be told to go to her crate. This is why it is important to get the best dog crate for your dog’s length. Your dog’s crate may be too small for him, and there are tell-tale signs to look for when it’s time to purchase a new crate. Let’s take a look at how to determine if your dog needs to upgrade to a larger crate. 

Can my dog sit up straight in the kennel?

One of the easiest ways for dog owners to determine if a pup has outgrown his crate is to observe to see if the he can sit up straight inside the kennel. If your dog can’t sit naturally and appears hunched over, it is a safe bet that the crate has become too small. Remember that your puppy grows, so he will eventually outgrow his crate.

Observing your dog’s behavior is a good way to gauge his comfort. Make sure that your dog is able to sit up without hitting her head on the top of the crate. Your dog’s head and ears should not be pressed on the roof, otherwise, it’s time for a bigger size crate. Compare your dog hunched over in the crate to a taller person sitting in a cramped compact car for a road trip. Having to sit hunched over can lead to muscle aches and back problems in your dog, so, as soon as you notice she is unable to sit up straight in the kennel, it’s a good idea to start looking for an upgrade to an adult sized crate. 

Can my dog turn around easily in the crate?

Surely you’ve observed your canine companion turning around multiple times in order to get comfy and lie down. A dog needs this space inside a dog house as well as a kennel. 

A crate should be able to comfortable accommodate a dog’s body. This test is one of the easiest ones that can determine if the dog’s current crate is too small. When you instruct your dog to get in the kennel, watch to see how she positions herself to lie down. If she appears uncomfortable or is completely unable to turn around, it is time to find a larger kennel. A dog’s nose and tail should not be touching the ends of the crate when Fido is standing straight or trying to turn around.

You can also carry out this test by taking a treat and using it to guide her to turning around in the kennel. Again, if she is unable to do so comfortably in the small space, start looking for a new crate. 

Can my dog lie down on its side with paws stretched out in the crate?

This is perhaps the most important test in garnering the crate size other than your dog’s ability to stand up comfortably in the kennel. 

Signs dog crate is too small. | The Pampered Pup

Observe your dog as it tries to lie down in the crate. Most dogs prefer to lie on their side with paws stretched out in the entire space. Her feet shouldn’t be touching the sides of the kennel, and her head shouldn’t be cramped either. There should be no restraint in her body as she stretches out. 

You may also need to measure your dog as she is lying on her side on her dog bed to get an accurate measurement for a new crate. You want your furry pal to have at least three or four inches of room on all sides of her body. Use a measuring tape for this task. Remember that too much extra space is also not good, so measure correctly!

It’s also important to remember that a dog who will be spending hours each day in a crate (dogs with separation anxiety often need to do this while their humans are at work or running errands [1]) will prefer to have an area to lie down as well as an area that offers room for a food and water bowl. Since most dogs need to stand up to eat and drink, it’s important to observe that a dog has room enough for this also—but remember that too much space is also not ideal. This rule also applies when you crate training for the first time.

Does my dog look uncomfortable in his crate?

Man holding dog. | The Pampered Pup

Again, look for a change in behavior toward the crate. Does your dog seem reluctant to go into his kennel where he once entered it enthusiastically? Does your dog suffering from separation anxiety show a hesitation regarding going into her kennel now? Has he balked at going inside? 

Once your dog is inside her crate, does she look uncomfortable? Dogs like spending time somewhere they can relax and this is usually the crate, so if he looks uncomfortable in it, this is a huge “tell” that she no longer fits. The space surrounding the crate will also factor into this. As your dog grows, the general area in which you placed his crate may end up becoming cramped to them. If this is so, then it may be time you review dog crate sizes.

Is my dog showing signs of aggression when crated (growling, barking)?

If your dog growls in protest of going into the crate or barking, this is a sign that the crate could be too small. In addition, if your dog is inside the crate and growls for no reason, this may be a sign that Fido is telling you he’s uncomfortable inside a too-small crate and has grown negative feelings toward it. 

Barking and whining are also telling that the crate is becoming too small for his comfort. Listen for stressed barks and lots of whining while inside the crate. Your dog is communicating to you that she is uncomfortable inside her once-loved crate. 

Related article: My Dog Will Not Leave His Crate, What Should I Do?


1. How do you know if your dog needs a bigger crate?

If your dog can’t stand up without having to crouch down and he can’t lie down and stretch out, then the crate has likely become too small for your dog. Dogs also seem to prefer a crate large enough for them not only to sleep but also roomy enough for a food and water bowl. 

2. Should my dog be able to stretch out in his crate?

Yes. Dogs should be able not only to lie down and curl up in the crate but also stand comfortably and stretch out if desired. 

3. How much bigger should my crate be than my dog?

The crate should be large enough that your dog can stand naturally, turn around easily, lie down and stretch out. Dogs tend to prefer a crate in which there is an area for sleeping and resting as well as room for a food and water bowl.

Home » Pet Parenting » 5 Telltale Signs A Dog Crate Is Too Small (Time To Upgrade!)

Leave a Comment