A hunter loads his pointer into a kennel in the bed of his truck.

Aluminum Dog Kennels Versus Plastic Crates

A look at the pros and cons of an aluminum kennel versus a rotomolded crate

Brett dropped the tailgate and unlatched one of the doors on his side-by-side aluminum dog box.  Jet, his Pointer, exited gingerly, stretching every individual piece of his well-muscled body.  He’d put in his fair share of 30-plus mile days over the course of the quail-hunting season in southern Arizona.  The box was gargantuan, perched atop a custom aluminum drawer system, it took up a significant chunk of the full sized truck bed.

Curious about all the different kinds of dog kennels on the market, I peered into the box. It seemed spacious enough, but I had to ask, “How does this do in the early season, when it’s over a hundred degrees?”

Brett shrugged, “It reflects a lot of the heat. And as long as we’re moving, the airflow keeps it alright.  But I wouldn’t want to be sitting at a red light for too long.” He laughed. “And I don’t leave Jet in there when we hunt Kansas or South Dakota in November.”

Setting aside, for a moment, the price and portability of aluminum dog crates, the issue of temperature regulation — especially in cold conditions — was at the top of my list of concerns when comparing it to a plastic rotomolded dog kennel.  I live in a state that experiences fairly harsh winter temps compared to Arizona and the interior of my Dakota 283 G3 Medium Kennel tends to stay pretty toasty in the bed of my truck while my pups ride in safety. That makes sense to me as plastic is not supposed conduct heat and cold as speedily as aluminum.  But that’s a little bit of a personal opinion/experience so I thought it’d be worth comparing temperature performance between aluminum and plastic dog crates from a scientific point of view.

Temperature regulation

I faintly remember from high school chemistry that aluminum is simultaneously a very good and very poor conductor of heat, depending on the type.  Now, I am no savant so I had to do a little bit of googling to refresh my memory. I was reminded that there are three types of heat and aluminum’s performance varies greatly depending on the kind: conduction, convection, and radiation

Conduction – when one object touches another, heat moves through it.  An example of this would be a pan on a hot stove.  Aluminum is a poor insulator when it is in direct contact with something hot, meaning that heat passes through it easily.

Convection – when heat flows through liquid or gas from one area to another. Examples of this would be a hairdryer blowing hot air across the room or pushing hot water to the other side of a cold bath. Liquids and gases can’t pass through aluminum so it does do a good job of stopping heat loss via convection. Think aluminum foil sealed tightly over a casserole.

Radiation – when heat moves electromagnetically through radiation. The prime example of this is the sun sending heat through space.  Aluminum is a great reflector of radiant heat, reflecting almost all thermal heat back toward the source.

So, beginning with the most relevant type of heat to a dog crate — radiation — you can see that aluminum’s ability to reflect the sun’s heat is a nice feature when it’s hot, but a terrible feature when it’s cold.  Moving on to convection, unless you can seal the box entirely (not that you’d even want to), aluminum’s ability to trap heat in liquid or gas form is useless for the application to a dog crate. And then looking at conduction, if your pup is leaned up against the side of the kennel in cold weather, the cold would conduct straight from the outside through the aluminum into his or her body. In colder climates, you need heat from every source you can find and, in contrast to plastic, which is superior in conduction, convection, and radiation when it comes to insulating against heat loss, aluminum is a poor choice for anyone living in a place that dips below 32 degrees.

And temperature regulation is simply one attribute to consider when deciding what type of dog kennel best suits your lifestyle and needs.  Let’s take a brief look at the price and portability of aluminum dog crates compared to rotomolded plastic dog crates.

Price of aluminum kennels versus rotomolded crates

The Dakota 283 G3 medium is $349.99 with free shipping. After a quick google search, the cheapest (not that you’d even want to buy the cheapest) comparably-sized option out there was around $600, shipping not included.  Depending on the features that are important to you, that extra couple hundred bucks simply isn’t worth it.

Portability of aluminum kennels versus plastic crates

Nevermind my buddy’s double crate that took up a huge chunk of this truck bed, even the single dog crates are significantly heavier than their plastic rotomolded counterparts.  You would not be easily transporting the crate from the bed of your truck or trunk of your SUV into your house and back if you were lugging an aluminum dog crate. It seems like manufacturers know this as the majority that I found didn’t even have handles!  Dakota 283 G3 Kennels have a handle molded directly into the kennel itself which, combined with the weight-savings, makes portability significantly easier.  Consider also though, for the price of one aluminum kennel, you could almost buy two Dakota 283 G3s and not have to move one between your house and vehicle at all!  

Why choose a rotomolded crate over an aluminum kennel

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to dog kennel construction.  You can buy the cheapest two-piece plastic or wire kennels on the market that honestly don’t merit comparison to aluminum or one-piece rotomolded plastic kennels, or you can make a bit more of an investment for a far superior product.  In my opinion, aluminum crates definitely have their place and advantages, but if you’re not a professional desert quail hunting guide that needs a flatbed truck worth of space for his or her pack of dogs, the temperature regulation, price, and portability of aluminum dog crates is simply an inferior choice compared to one-piece plastic rotomolded dog kennels like the Dakota 283 G3.

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