Measuring Your Pet and Selecting a Travel Crate

Crates are good. To a dog, a crate is a den; a secure place to curl up, rest and relax in safety. A crate should never be used as a punishment.

When it comes to transporting your beloved pet to its new home, a crate is the single most important thing you can have. If your dog or cat won't go into its crate or feels anxious in it because it hasn't been trained properly, his trip will be long and miserable, or in the worst case, no trip at all. If the crate is too small, no trip at all. If the crate is too large, your freight charges climb almost disproportionately.

A properly sized crate is extremely important. Not only does your dog or cat have to feel comfortable, safe and secure in its crate, but the crate also has to meet the requirements of the International Animal Transport Association's Live Animal Regulations (IATA/LAR, for short). The IATA/LAR has several requirements regarding crates: proper size, design, construction, materials, type and method of assembly and many others. If you want to be sure your crate will breeze through check-in at the cargo counter, better read the Container Information portion of IATA/LAR. IATA's Traveler's Pet Corner has more information regarding shipping live animals.

One thing's sure, if the crate doesn't meet IATA/LAR standards, the airlines will turn you away at the counter. Your pet won't sit on the tarmac, because it won't make it past the check-in counter. Being told your beloved family member has to be left behind because you don't have an IATA-approved crate is truly a sickening feeling. It's worse if you're flying out the same day and have no way to get your pet to some sort of emergency location without missing your flight.

Choosing The Right Crate

Dog in crate and ready to go!

In my crate and ready to go!

A crate has to be just the right size. Too small and she feels squashed and cramped. Too large and she feels like she's in a cave. Bears and lions live in caves. She may think, "Maybe I have neighbors. Hungry neighbors." Not good.

A properly sized crate is truly her den. It's just large enough that she can stand up with a couple of inches of head room and lay down with plenty of room in front for her nose and plenty left in the back for her tail. Oh, and a bit of space for a couple of toys.

Luckily most dogs—and cats—are essentially squares or rectangles with proportionate height to length ratios. Happily, the standard-sized crates you can find on-line or in pet stores are made so these walking rectangles and boxes can wander right in, curl up and lay down for a nap.

Mostly. Some dogs just don't fit into a standard crate. But more on that in a bit.

How To Measure Your Pet

Dog measurement guide.

How to measure your dog.

Measuring your dog for his travel crate is easy. The length is measured from the tip of his nose to the base of the spine (where the tail starts). The height is measured from the floor to the tip of his ears (for dogs with ears that stand up straight or fold slightly) or to the top of his head. The figure below shows you the basics. It might take two people to do get the job done; one to keep him in position while the other takes the measurement.

Tip: Measuring height is easier if the dog is sitting. It's a posture thing. A dog tends to sit straight with his head up and ears perked up. A yard stick will work even better than a tape measure. Also, stand-stay and sit-stay are handy, if you and your dog have taken basic obedience training.

Standard Crate Sizes

There are several brands of molded plastic crates that meet IATA/LAR specification. The table below shows the industry standard size references and an example of an approved crate. Prices and quality vary; you can find them on-line or any pet store. Animailers carries a full line of crates at competitive prices. We guarantee that these crates are high quality and meet or surpass IATA/LAR specifications.

Small #100 21x16x15 inches  crate_generic
Medium #200 27x20x19 inches
Intermediate #300 32x22x23 inches
Large #400 36x24x26 inches
X-Large #500 40x27x30 inches
Giant #700 48x32x35 inches

Remember: Crates that are not properly ventilated or that have plastic snap-fasteners are not acceptable. Also, wire crates and soft crates (primarily cloth or similar material) do not meet the IATA/LAR specifications and are not approved for transporting your pets.

Cat in crate

Parker conducting crate quality control

Although this part was focused on dogs because of their variety of sizes, cats are also measured the same way. The trick is to convince your cat that getting measured is his idea.

Hang on. We aren't done yet. What if your dog doesn't look like the one it the illustration? What if he's just too big and you can't find a big enough crate? What if his body is longer than his legs? What if his head is bigger than the rest of him or looks like he went 15 rounds with a bulldozer? Now what?

Short Legs, Long Body

If you have fallen in love with a Basset Hound, a Daschund, or a Corgi, you have a couple of options: you can buy a crate that fits your dog's length. He'll have plenty of leg room, but length is the important thing. Alternatively, you can have a custom crate made, but it will be more expensive than an upsized standard crate.

Legs Too Tall, Crate Too Short

Several breeds and breed mixes fit the length just fine, but are too tall for a standard sized crate. For your Too Tall Jones, height extensions should do the trick. Animailers can extend the height of a standard crate to fit most taller than average dogs.

Crate Options for Bulldogs and Other Short Muzzles

Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, as well as Persian, Himalayan and other short muzzled cats and dogs are called brachycephalic, which simply means "short-nosed". But it also means that these animals are prone to having difficulty breathing because of the shapes of their heads. The animal's ability to breathe at flying altitudes is the major concern, so they need plenty of volume of air space around them. To make this happen, the crate you need has to be at least one size larger than the actual crate size for which your measures. That means that an English Bulldog that normally would fit an intermediate (#300) size crate would be upsized to a large (#400) size. The additional space around her would provide the additional volume necessary to ward off any possible breathing difficulty.

A note of caution regarding short-nosed breeds: Many airlines will not transport short-nosed animals at all. Those that do have the final decision on transporting these animals. There are several factors involved, but the primary factor is the temperature on the ground. Your Animailers travel specialist will be able to advise you.

The American College for Veterinary Surgeons website has more information on Brachycephalic Syndrome.

Custom Crates

Custom Wooden Crate

Sometimes the only answer is a custom crate. Only a few breeds actually need a custom crate, but if you have an adult Wolfhound, a custom crate is likely your only option. However, a custom crate can be built for any dog or cat. If your pet has special needs or you want to be doubly sure of her comfort, a custom crate may be for you. These crates are built specifically to meet the needs of the dog. Animailers builds custom crates from top quality, cabinet grade woods and hardware.

CR82 Crates

CR82 Crate ExampleCR82 Crate Example 2

The CR82 stands for Container Requirement 82 described in the IATA/LAR. It is a special classification of crate for animals that are considered dangerous, including dogs. Animailers builds CR82 crates from cabinet grade materials and fixtures that meet or exceed the requirements outlined in the IATA/LAR Container Requirement 82.

You may have the sweetest “Staffie”, “Bully” or “Am-Staff” in the world, but it still has to travel in a CR82. It’s unfortunate, but there are still several breeds of dogs that, for whatever reason, are considered restricted or dangerous by the airlines and by many countries. Examples of these dogs are Pit Bull (i.e. American Staffordshire Terriers, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terriers and mixes), Cane Corso, Mallorquin Bulldogs (Ca de Bou), Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Perro de Presa Canario, Presa Canario, Tosa (or Tosa Ken). There are others and the list varies by country, so it is a good idea to do some extra research—or ask Animailers to do it for you, if you own a breed or breed-mix that might be considered restricted or dangerous.

Custom crates and CR82 crates are special order items that will take two weeks to build. These crates will last virtually forever with just a little care and can even be disguised as furniture so your dog has its own quite den to relax and nap and still be around his family.

The Relocation Specialists at Animailers can help you make sure your pet travels in comfort in a crate that's just the right size. If you need something made, just let us know. Need to know about how much it will cost? Just fill out our Estimate Request Form and let us know what you need.