Dog Bed Vs Crate Vs Pen Vs Kennel – What’s The Better Enclosure?

Although you want your dog to be a part of your family and to feel comfortable in your home, there are times when you’ll need to contain or confine your pet. That’s especially true when you’re potty training a new puppy or when you’re going out to work and you want to keep your dog safely contained in one place.

But every dog and family are different, and what works for one set of pet parents might not be the best option for another. So, how do you decide which to choose?

In this guide, to help you make the right choice, we draw a direct comparison between a dog bed vs. crate, crate vs pen, and crate vs. kennel.

Keep reading to learn which is the right option for your canine companion.

Dog Bed vs. Crate

A dog bed and a dog crate are really quite different.

A dog bed is simply a bed on which the dog can rest comfortably and without confinement. Essentially, your dog can come and go from his bed whenever he wants to, provided he has access to the bed and the room that it’s kept in.

In comparison, a dog crate is a container that’s designed to keep the dog securely in one place for reasons of training, when you’re not around, when transporting the dog between different locations, and in case of emergency.

Both a dog bed and a dog crate can provide a safe space for your dog.

Dog Crate vs. Pen

As described above, a dog crate is a confinement and containment solution that you use to keep your dog in one place, specifically when potty training or if you’re leaving your pet home alone.

A pen is generally used to keep a puppy or a small dog confined for a short period or in preference to using a tether and leash, for example, when on a camping trip. A puppy pen is larger than a crate, so the dog has more space to play and exercise.

Dog Crate vs. Kennel

A kennel is usually an outdoor structure that’s used to provide shelter for a dog that spends long periods living outside.

A kennel is often contained within a run or backyard but the dog is able to enter and leave the kennel as and when he wishes via a front door. Kennels are generally weatherproof, whereas a crate is most often used inside and is used for containment purposes.  

Comparison Of Crates, Pens, Beds, And Kennels

Here’s an at-a-glance overview of dog crates vs. pens, vs. kennels:

Summary Table

Features

Crate

Pen

Kennel

Bed

Containment

Yes

Yes

No

No

Indoor use

Yes

Yes

No 

Yes

Outdoor use

Sometimes

Sometimes

Yes

Sometimes

Suitable for transport

Yes

No

No

No

Used for training

Yes

Yes

No

Sometimes

Suitable for air travel

Sometimes

No

No

No

Easy to clean

Yes

Yes

Sometimes

Yes

Used for sleeping

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Crate

Containment:
Yes

Indoor use:
Yes

Outdoor use:
Sometimes

Suitable for transport:
Yes

Used for training:
Yes

Suitable for air travel:
Sometimes

Easy to clean:
Yes

Used for sleeping:
Yes

Pen

Containment:
Yes

Indoor use:
Yes

Outdoor use:
Sometimes

Suitable for transport:
No

Used for training:
Yes

Suitable for air travel:
No

Easy to clean:
Yes

Used for sleeping:
Yes

Kennel

Containment:
No

Indoor use:
No

Outdoor use:
Yes

Suitable for transport:
No

Used for training:
No

Suitable for air travel:
No

Easy to clean:
Sometimes

Used for sleeping:
Yes

Bed

Containment:
No

Indoor use:
Yes

Outdoor use:
Sometimes

Suitable for transport:
No

Used for training:
Sometimes

Suitable for air travel:
No

Easy to clean:
Yes

Used for sleeping:
Yes

Dog Bed Vs Crate Vs Pen Vs Kennel

Now, let’s draw a comparison between dog beds, crates, pens, and kennels. All these items have slightly different uses, but which one suits your requirements the best, and do you need more than one of these options?

What Is A Dog Bed?

A dog bed is basically as it sounds; a comfy bed that your pet can rest on.

Just like crates, dog beds come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. For example, you can choose a snuggly, soft dog bed for a puppy, or select a firm and supportive one for senior dogs with joint issues. Generally, dog beds can be machine washable or at least have a removable cover that can be popped in the machine to be laundered when required.

Also, you can buy solid plastic shell beds that are designed to contain a soft lining. If you have a puppy, make sure that you choose a bed that’s resistant to chewing. If your puppy manages to nibble his way through the outer cover of the bed to the soft, fluffy interior material, he could choke.

Sometimes, dog crates include a dog bed. However, you can mix and match what kind of bed you put in the crate, depending on your pet’s needs.

If you’re planning on taking a camping vacation or if you live in a warm area, you can buy special raised dog beds that are designed for use outside. These beds help to keep the dog cool and protected from pests such as ticks, spiders, and even snakes, depending on where you are in the country.

What Is A Dog Crate?

black and white dog in metal cage or crate

There are several different styles of crate that have different uses but essentially a crate is an enclosed container with good ventilation and at least one door that can be closed to contain and confine your dog.

  • A standard wire crate comes in various sizes to accommodate all kinds of pups.
  • Soft-sided crates are more suitable for small dogs and are generally used for transportation.
  • Heavy-duty metal dog crates are usually used for transport, often for larger dogs.
  • You can use a larger crate with a divider for a puppy to save the expense of having to upsize the crate as the pup grows.
  • Pet crates often fold flat for convenient storage

All kinds of dog crates can be fitted with a water bottle or dog crate water bowl so that your dog won’t get dehydrated while he’s confined to his crate. You can also choose to add a comfy bed to the crate if you want to.

Soft-sided dog crates can be machine washable, whereas most others come with a removable plastic tray for easy cleaning in the event of accidents. You can buy a crate cover if you intend to use the crate outside. 

What Are Dog Crates Used For?

Dog crates have a few different uses, including:

Containment

A dog crate’s primary use is to keep a dog contained or confined for short periods. 

For example, if you’re likely to be out at work for a few hours or if you’re going to the store, leaving your pooch home alone, the best way to keep your home protected from damage is to keep your dog in his crate.

Also, you know that your beloved pet is safe and sound in his crate while you’re not there.

Training

Miniature Golden Doodle Puppy and Potty Training

Crates are an invaluable training resource for dog owners. For example, most people use a crate to potty train puppies.

A Safe Place

Dogs instinctively like to find somewhere safe and warm to rest, and a crate can provide the perfect environment for that. Be sure to place the crate somewhere quiet in the house so that your dog won’t be disturbed, and he’ll most likely go to his crate voluntarily when he wants to rest.

Sleeping Space

Most pet owners don’t want their dogs roaming around the house overnight, potentially disturbing their sleep.

In fact, dogs generally prefer to sleep in their crate at night, especially if you cover the crate and provide a comfortable bed for your pet to rest on. Dogs thrive on a regular routine, and spending the night in a crate is an important part of that, helping your furry friend to feel secure and safe.

In Case Of Emergency

In cases of emergency, you don’t want your dog getting underfoot and making a potentially stressful situation worse. So, putting the dog in his crate is a good solution.

Transport

two dogs in two separate crates

The safest way to transport your dog is in a crate, regardless of whether you’re traveling by road, rail, or air. A crate protects your pet from injury in the event of a collision and provides him with comfort and shelter for the duration of the journey.

You can also buy specific crates for travel use, including those that are airline-approved

If you enjoy going on hunting trips and you want to take your bird dog with you, you’ll need a heavy-duty, weatherproof dog crate that is specifically designed for use on rough tracks and will sit securely in the back of your flatbed truck.

Separating Strange Pets

A crate can be the perfect solution to introducing strange pets to each other. 

For example, when I bought a cat home from my local shelter to live with me, I put him in a crate so that my dog could meet the kitty through the mesh without the risk of a chase ensuing! Once the two parties had met and lost interest in each other, I put my dog in her pen and let the cat out so that he could explore his new home without being hassled by the dog.

What About Dog Pens?

A dog pen is basically the canine equivalent of a child’s playpen. Puppy playpens have sides and a door but no roof, so you can contain your puppy or dog safely inside the pen for relatively long periods of time.

Generally, a dog exercise pen is larger than most crates, making them the better choice for the confinement of your pet for more than a few hours’ duration since your pet has more space to move around. Pens also offer a much easier solution to puppy-proofing a room. You can keep an eye on your puppy without worrying that he’s destroying your possessions if you need to leave the room for a minute!

Also, if you take a camping trip, a pen can make a much better containment option for your pup than a crate. Like a wire crate, metal pens are suitable for outside or inside use. 

Unlike some crates and dog beds, you can’t generally wash a dog pen. However, most are made from materials that are easy to clean.

Pen and Crate Combos

Of course, you can use your pen and dog crate in combination. If you opt for a pet playpen that’s extendable and flexible in a layout like a portable fence, you can set it up so that your dog’s crate is incorporated. That way, you can keep a young puppy enclosed in his crate during nap times and let him out to play without allowing your pet the freedom of the whole house.

That also enables you to contain your puppy when necessary as part of the toilet training process. 

Don’t Bother Dogs!

If you have a new puppy in the home, a playpen and a crate can both be used to stop the youngster from hassling any older dogs that you have living with you.

Although you might find your new puppy’s antics entertaining and amusing, a senior dog will most likely find your furbaby’s attention annoying and even quite stressful. By putting your puppy in a playpen, you’re enabling the two parties to interact, but your older dog can walk away when he’s had enough.

The same principle applies when introducing a new adult dog to a multi-dog household. Sometimes, a new dog can feel threatened by other dogs in a new environment and might respond aggressively. So, by keeping the newbie in a dog pen, your pet can check out his new companions safely. 

Dog Kennels or Dog Houses

German shepherd resting in its wooden kennel

Dog kennels are also referred to as dog houses, often having a slanted roof design like a miniature house. These structures are constructed to resemble small houses, having a roof, at least one door or entryway, and sides. 

Whereas a dog crate and a dog pen are both portable, a dog kennel generally is not. Crates and pens are usually made from lightweight materials. However, dog kennels are typically made from wood, solid metal, or even stone and are designed to remain in one place for the long term. Sometimes, you can buy kennels that are made from canvas that are suitable for use during the warmer months of the year.

A dog kennel is typically used to house a dog that lives outside most of the time. Shelters and rescues often use dog kennels and guard dogs on construction sites, and the like are housed in a kennel when performing their duties. Unlike a crate where a dog is contained, a dog kennel is intended for use as a shelter where the animal has the option to go in and out of the kennel as he pleases.

Dog beds can be used inside dog kennels. In fact, if you intend to keep your dog outside in a kennel, you should provide him with a comfortable bed that he can rest in. That’s essential if your dog lives outside in all weathers.

What Are The Main Differences And Similarities Between Dog Crates, Beds, Pens, And Kennels?

  • Dog beds are not used for containment or enclosure purposes.
  • A dog bed can be placed in a pen, crate, or kennel to keep your dog comfortable and warm.
  • You can usually wash a dog bed, whereas most pens, kennels, and crates cannot be machine washed.
  • Dog beds are generally for indoor use only, whereas pens and crates can be used indoors or outdoors, depending on their construction.
  • Dog kennels are typically for outdoor use only.
  • Dog pens and crates are used for confinement, whereas dog kennels provide the dog with optional shelter.
  • Dog beds, crates, and pens can be portable, whereas kennels are typically not.
  • You can combine a crate and a pen to create a training, sleeping, and exercise area for a puppy.

In Conclusion

As you can see from our detailed comparison, dog beds, crates, pens, and kennels all have their place. However, although they do have some similarities, all of these four enclosure and containment options are very different.

Essentially, a dog bed is designed to keep your dog comfortable and provide him with somewhere to rest. Dog crates are used to contain your pet for training, travel, sleeping, and in case of emergency. A dog pen is what you need if you’re looking to enclose your dog for more than a few hours, but you want him to have more space to move around. Dog kennels are primarily used to provide a dog with shelter from the elements if he is to live outside for long periods. 

Based on our comparison, what kind of enclosure suits your dog the best? Do you use more than one of these solutions?

We’d love to know! Tell us your opinion in the comments box below, and don’t forget to share this article if you enjoyed it!

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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