Choosing a dog crate is an important first step in the process of crate training your dog. Of the three basic types of dog crates- wire mesh, hard plastic, or soft fabric- the wire mesh variety is the oldest, and perhaps the most popular. According to one source, the practice of keeping dogs in cages such as these began in the 1960s. An enterprising individual from Indiana apparently bought cages originally intended for burning trash, and began reselling them as dog crates. Today, despite the fact that they have been adopted by the competitive pet supply industry, the basic design has not changed much. However, there are a few factors to consider when purchasing a wire mesh dog crate.
This style of dog crate can be further split into two basic designs- the folding 'suitcase-style' variety, versus 'drop pin' designs. The difference refers to the manner in which the sides of the crate are connected. A drop pin is a long metal wire with a hooked end. By inserting the pin through a series of loops along the edges of the crate sides, it holds the entire assembly together. Although this process requires no tools or mechanical expertise, it is sufficiently time-consuming that these cages are not considered 'collapsible'.
Suitcase style designs, on the other hand, are hinged together in such a way that the entire cage can be collapsed flat when desired. These designs are not quite as sturdy as the drop pin design, but allow the user to transport the crate much more easily. They are popular with owners who must frequently transport their pet in crates- if you plan to show your dog or take it to agility competitions, this is a good choice.
Apart from the basic design, there are a few other features to look for. Many cages have a removable catch pan in the bottom for when the dog soils its crate. Unless your dog is thoroughly housebroken, you'll want one of these, which can be bought separately for about twenty bucks. On the contrary, if your dog is consistently soiling its crate, you may consider picking up a 'floor grid'- a simple wire mesh floor that keeps your dog from sitting in its own waste in case of an 'accident'.
Finally, look at the quality of the cage. Test doors to make sure they swing open and closed easily, and latch securely. Check all welds and ends of wire for sharp edges that may injure your dog. Once you're assured of the quality and safety of the crate, you can buy with confidence, knowing your dog will have a happy and comfortable home.