During my adult life, I've had many dogs. I always had a way to let them in and out of the garage or house when I wanted. They were outdoor dogs, so they had a nice cozy bed in the garage and a dog house for outside.
Nine months ago, we adopted Riley, who was then a 9 week old Yellow Lab. We knew from the beginning that we'd need a crate this time as we don't have the same set-up at this house where she can come and go and we sure couldn't turn her loose. So, we decided to try a crate.
We did our research to find out what size she would need. She was a tiny little thing at the time, but we knew that wasn't going to last. We decided on a large size "I Crate", which we had seen at PetsMart.
I Crate is a very well made product. It's made of steel, and painted black. The sides and back are open for air flow and there is a leak-proof plastic tray in the bottom for easy cleaning, if necessary. Luckily, we've never had that problem.
From the first night we brought Riley home, she took to that crate. We put blankets in there to make it cozy and she never whined or barked. At first, we got up a couple of times each night to let her out, but that's no longer necessary. She sleeps 12 - 13 hours a night and never once has wanted out.
I've heard horror stories about crates from people whose dogs hate them. We are very fortunate that Riley loves hers. I am not exaggerating... she LOVES going to her crate. In the evening, instead of lying down on her bed in the living room, she heads for the garage door and lets us know she's ready for bed.
During the day, she is out of the crate except when she takes her nap. Again, she lets me know that she wants to go to bed and willingly runs right in there.
During the cold winter, we covered the back and sides to cut down on the amount of cold air. Now that it's warmer, we've removed those so she can see more of what's going on or has something more to look at.
The crate is foldable and portable, including carrying handles. It has a divider panel so you can make it smaller inside for little puppies, but then expand it as the dog grows. This one is 36 x 23 x 25, a large, which is what was recommended for our breed. There is a door at one end or side doors if you prefer that.
If I had my way, we'd never need a crate, but Riley is a heavy duty chewer. From the beginning, we could not leave her alone for more than a minute without checking to see what she had found to chew on next. Outdoors was just as bad as indoors, as she chewed the deck, wooden swing, garden dividers, storage building, privacy fence, etc.... She walked by and yanked blooms off of flowers and pulled up more plants than I care to remember by their entire root. There was no possible way to leave her alone outside, which we had never experienced with any of our other dogs. Because of this, she has had to go to her crate at times during the day when one of us can't be home. If not for the crate, we wouldn't be able to have her at all.
She is finally calming down a bit and chews a lot less than she did a few months ago. In time, we want her to have freedom to be in the house whether we are home or not, but she's a long way from that right now. In the meantime, we let her run free as much as possible and play with her and take her for walks to make sure she gets plenty of exercise.
If not for the crate, we wouldn't have been able to keep Riley. The crate was the only place to put her where she'd be safe and we knew our house and yard were safe too, until she was awake again. Our house is not very big and there is no place for the crate inside the house itself, but she is perfectly happy just outside the kitchen door. When she's ready to come out, she makes sure we know about it.
I highly recommend this crate if you are in the market for one. It has held up remarkably well and still looks new.