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By Dr. Seth Bynum | @birddogvet

When it comes to maximizing your dog’s safety, the proper fit of your Gunner kennel is as important as its rugged, rotomolded construction. As a veterinarian, here is my TL;DR on choosing the best crate size for your dog:

  1. A good rule of thumb for estimating kennel fit is to choose a size that allows your dog to sit up and turn around with minimal effort. Anything larger than that would seem excessive from a dog’s perspective and a potentially dangerous one from a safety standpoint.

  2. A more snug fit between your pup and the kennel works much in the same way seatbelts and airbags do at helping slow down the dog before the stop.

Below I break down my reasons behind these recommendations:

The Physics Behind A Tight Fit

Without boring you with the underlying equation, the idea behind the physics at play in an accident is best summarized by a quote from writer Douglas Adams:

“It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end.” – Douglas Adams

Scientists refer to this concept as the impulse, or the forces exerted on an object at impact. Naturally, the higher the impulse, the greater the risk of serious injury in an accident. 

The role of a kennel involves not only its ability to withstand the impact of a collision but also its utility in bringing your canine passenger from a high velocity to a stop as slowly as possible, thus minimizing the impulse forces imparted on your dog’s body. 

Perhaps more relatably, think of the walls of your Gunner kennel as your truck’s bumper and the interior space as the seatbelt and airbags. As rock-solid as they feel to the touch, the dynamic, flexible properties of the rotomolded plastic allows the kennel to slow down gradually, a quality best appreciated in slow-motion footage of crash tests. The kennel frame absorbs the impact of the collision, flexing and spreading the energy over a larger surface area while maintaining its structural integrity.

Additionally, the science suggests that the space between your dog and the interior wall of the kennel plays an equally important role in mitigating impulse. It’s worth pointing out that when a vehicle is traveling at highway speeds, so are all the objects within the vehicle, including your dog. In a sudden stop or accident, the vehicle slows rapidly, but the dog continues moving at the same velocity until other forces act on the dog to reduce its speed. 

“Double-wall construction essentially means double the impact protection (if not more) for the animal, as the exterior layer would absorb the majority of an initial impact, with the interior wall providing another layer of protection.” – Dr. Alvin Spence

By the same lengthy formula, the farther the distance the dog has to travel before coming into contact with the kennel wall, the greater the impulse generated in the pup’s collision with the kennel itself.  Simply, a more snug fit between your pup and the kennel works much in the same way seatbelts and airbags do at helping slow down the dog before the stop.

What A Veterinarian Thinks About Kennel Fit

I’m a veterinarian – definitely not a physicist – so I’m more comfortable relying on my understanding of canine behavior as it supports achieving a proper kennel fit as a biologically appropriate requirement in addition to a safety issue. 

As denning animals, our dogs come pre-programmed to embrace the sensation of tight quarters while resting or traveling. This natural inclination explains why my bird dogs feel more comfortable tucked in tightly in the space between my chair and ottoman as I write this instead of sprawled out in the open expanse of my office floor. 

It would be an error rooted in anthropomorphism to select the largest kennel for your dog based on your own personal preference for more elbow room. As much as I love to spread out in my king-sized bed, dogs neither crave nor benefit from the extra real estate found in an over-sized kennel.  

A good rule of thumb for estimating kennel fit is to choose a size that allows your dog to sit up and turn around with minimal effort. Anything larger than that would seem excessive from a dog’s perspective and a potentially dangerous one from a safety standpoint.

Be sure to take advantage of the numerous virtual tools Gunner has developed to assist you in finding the proper fit for your dog as well as your travel vehicle.  

Additionally, achieving a proper kennel fit doesn’t mean having to make compromises in comfort. If cush quarters are a priority in addition to safety – as is the case for me with my own dogs -– Gunner offers custom-fitted kennel mat and extra-thick orthopedic bed options, both of which I utilize on our multi-day hunting trips across the West. 

More About Seth Bynum

Dr. Seth Bynum is a North Carolina native but has lived in the northwest for more than 15 years. He is a second-career veterinarian, having spent more than a decade as a writer and photographer for newspapers and magazines in Montana and Washington. When he’s not in the clinic, you’ll find Dr. Bynum outdoors with a shotgun or fly rod, accompanied by his two rambunctious German Shorthairs, River and Shine. Follow Seth at the aptly named @birddogvet.