Soft-sided crates have a few advantages over hard-sided crates, particularly when it comes to travel and storage. But soft-sided crates aren't for every dog or situation, and there are downsides. Whether you go with a hard-sided or soft-sided crate often depends on how big and strong your dog is and how well she behaves in there.
Pro: Portability and Storage
Soft-sided crates are lightweight and not as cumbersome as hard crates. Hard-sided crates tend to be bulky and take up a lot of space in a car or home, especially when not in use. Many models can fold up like a small suitcase whenever they're not in use and be stored under the bed or in the closet.
Con: Not Easy to Clean
Not all dogs are happy in a moving car or, if they're sick, they might not be able to keep from relieving themselves in the crate. Because soft carriers usually have padded floors and are made of plastic fabrics, cleaning up a potty incident in a soft carrier could be difficult.
Soft-sided crates usually have one or more plastic mesh panels, allowing much more air to flow than hard-sided crates with solid walls. The panels also allow your dog to see more of you and the world around her, which will be more relaxing for her.
Con: Easy to Open
Dogs are more clever than even proud parents like to think. And because soft-sided crates usually close with zippers, clever dogs may figure out how to unzip the panel and get out. If your model comes with a double zipper, consider a small lock.
Pro: More Stylish and Less Expensive
Soft-sided carriers come in an array of colors, styles and patterns to suit your lifestyle and your dog's personality. They're also sometimes quite inexpensive, which means that they're more easily replaced if damaged.
Con: More Easily Destroyed
Because soft carriers are made of soft materials, dogs can often chew or claw their way through the mesh panels, particularly when agitated or frightened. If your dog likes to chew and claw when left alone, consider a more solid crate.
Soft is Comfy, but Vulnerable
Soft-sided carriers are padded and flexible, which is more comfortable for dogs than the hard sides of most plastic or metal carriers. But in the event of a crash or other accident, soft-sided carriers offer far less protection from flying objects. Sharp objects in particular can easily pierce mesh walls.
Whichever type of carrier you get, it's important to make sure your dog has room to stand up on all fours without hitting her head, turn around completely and lie down comfortably. But if you're crating while house training, remember that too much room inside the dog crate will cause your puppy to do her business on one end and not worry about the mess.