How to Crate Train Your Dog for Travel

chase in his travel crateIt's not something you learn until you're facing a long-distance pet relocation: crate training is one of the most important parts of planning a safe pet move.

In our many years of experience helping pets travel around the world, we've found that having a dog who is comfortable in the travel kennel will help ease the anxiety (both your pet's and yours) that this major life event tends to inspire.

By taking a few training steps before your day of departure, much of the potential stress surrounding cargo pet travel can be alleviated. Here are our tried-and-true tips for helping your dog acclimate to the travel kennel before your relocation.

*(Have a cat? Check out our cat crate training tips.)

Start Early

As soon as you know you're moving, buy your dog's travel crate. This will mean doing some research and measuring them from the base of their tail to the tip of the nose and from the floor to the top of their head to make sure you acquire the right one—here is more information about how to choose the correct airline-approved travel crate. In our experience, as long as pets have a few weeks to get used to their crate, they are in a much better position to enjoy a low stress move.

Start Slow

If your pet has never used a travel crate before and you sense they might be skeptical of it, don't put the whole thing together at first—just place the bottom portion of the crate in your living room or another common area where your dog likes to spend time. Once they get used to this, add the top of the crate. When your dog is truly comfortable, then add the door.

dog in kennel

Normalize The Travel Crate

Many pet owners have found success by placing toys and treats inside the crate to encourage exploration. You may also choose to feed your pet in the crate—start by placing the food bowl just inside of it at normal meal times and then gradually put the bowl farther and farther inside on subsequent days. Before you know it your pup will be casually moving in and out of the kennel and choosing to hang out there for naps and playtime on their own. (These tactics even work for cats!)

Maverick in travel crate

Be Patient

Though crate acclimation is extremely important, try not to force or rush the process. Ideally you have a few weeks at your disposal to let you dog come around to seeing the kennel as a positive (or at least neutral) aspect of life, so in that time try to behave normally and let your dog have time to get used to this slight change of scenery on their own.

dog crate training

Take a Few Trial Runs

Once your dog is comfortable with the crate, try keeping them in it with the door closed when you run errands (start with a few minutes at a time and work your way up). After this is going well, you can try loading the dog and crate into the car and taking short rides around town so that dogs start to see that crate life is no big deal.

pug in travel kennel

Offer Positive Reinforcement

As with all dog training endeavors, it helps to reward your furry friend when they do something you like. Treats, verbal praise, and affection go a long way when it comes to reinforcing new behaviors, and as an added benefit, the time you spend working on this goal together will help to strengthen your bond and relieve stress as you prepare for your big move.

nike next to travel kennel

Our clients are often worried about crate training older dogs who have never spent time in a kennel, but in our experience it's never too late to set your pet up for a safe flight. Happy travel crate training, everyone!

Have questions about crate training or need help planning your dog's safe relocation? Contact PetRelocation to set up a consultation.

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By B Pathania on November 11, 2018 at 2:14 pm

I'll be moving from SLC to Mumbai. Do all pets arriving at BOM have to be in manifest cargo? He's a golden retriever standard poodle mix and quite tall. He is over 30" tall when standing, how will we make the crate requirements for air travel if we are limited to a crate of 30"? I'm just concerned I won't be able to take him to our new home!
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By Maegan at PetRelocation on November 14, 2018 at 9:56 am

Hello & thanks for your question! Pets can arrive into BOM as manifest cargo or as excess baggage. The crate size requirements will be designated by the airline your pup is flying on. Hope this helps!
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By Roman on October 16, 2018 at 12:40 am

I am going back to canada toronto from Sri lanka , I have a 8 year dashond dog I need to take with me what will be the cost do do so. Thanks
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By Maegan at PetRelocation on November 14, 2018 at 8:23 am

Hi Roman! Each of our moves are customized to fit the needs of our clients and their pets, and costs vary for each relocation. If you'd like to get an estimate for your relocation, please fill out our Arrange A Move form and a consultant will reach out to you soon. Thanks!
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By Daniel on October 4, 2018 at 6:49 pm

Hi, we are transporting our dog to Paris from Mexico City with Aeromexico in the hold. I am quite comfortable that he will be safe. But the one piece of information i just cannot seem to find anywhere is about the bathroom. How will he pee/poop and where? Is he expected to do this in his crate, if so do you recommend a diaper?
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By Maegan at PetRelocation on October 5, 2018 at 11:32 am

Hi Daniel! We typically recommend pet owners layer bedding in their pet's kennel. This way, if one layer gets soiled, your pup can move that layer aside and have a nice, dry place to sit. You can layer your pup's bed with puppy wee pads on the bottom (or in between each layer), blankets, towels, & old t-shirts. For more information about preparing your pup's travel kennel for the trip, check out this post here. Hope this helps!
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By Euna on September 23, 2018 at 11:36 am

we're visiting Korea for a few months and we really want to bring out doggie with us. so i've read all about the crate-training and that's great. my baby is a lab mix, weighs about 75 lbs and is as sweet as they come. i think we can train him to be comfortable with the crate......but my question is what will he do if he has to pee or poo in the crate during travel? and what about when he's thirsty? it's about 19-hr travel. is there like a dog-attendant that travels with them? they can't possibly be made to stay in the crate all 19 hrs, right?
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By Maegan at PetRelocation on September 26, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Hi Euna! We have some great tips on how to prepare pets & their crates for traveling on our blog here. If your pet is traveling as "manifest cargo" or "excess baggage" then there will not be a handler traveling with your pup.

A lot of times we work in a "comfort stop" for pets at a transit pet hotel to break up the trip. However, if it is a direct flight, your pet will not be let out of their crate, which it is why it is important to layer their bedding/absorbent material in case your pup has an accident, they can move one layer aside and still be dry. Also, your pet will travel with water & the airline staff will refill bowls before loading your pup onto the flight. If we can be of additional assistance, please contact us directly. Hope this helps!
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By Sadhana on September 18, 2018 at 1:45 am

Hi, I am planning to take my 2 English Bulldogs to Sri Lanka. it is 4.5 hr flight but I am very concerned if they will survive the journey due to their breed, age and heavy weight. Any advice? Any advice regarding the temperatures inside the cargo area of the aircraft?
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By Maegan at PetRelocation on September 21, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Hi Sadhana, Thanks for your question, it is one we get often because it is difficult to move snub nosed breeds. There are safe ways to do it, but there is always a bit of a risk with this breed. In order to relocate your pets internationally, you will likely need to wait until it is cooler than 80 degrees at all points of the journey. Here is some additional information about safely moving this breed internationally and information on cargo holds for pets. Hope this helps!
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By Elizabeth on September 16, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I rescued a street puppy who had been attacked last week, and we got a crate for her yesterday. She's fine going in and out, but she doesn't really like the door being closed. Next week I am flying her from India to the US so she can be adopted, live with a family with a yard and have lots of attention. We are working on the crate training, but I am kind of concerned I'm being cruel doing this! I know ultimately she will have a better life, but I am also worried she's going to be scared for 20 hours. Could you tell me a little bit about what the hold and such are like? I'd like to explain it to her, which might sound crazy, but I know she listens!
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By Maegan at PetRelocation on September 21, 2018 at 3:52 pm

Hi Elizabeth! That's wonderful you found this pup a forever home! If she doesn't like the door closed on her crate, you should start feeding her in there. Start with the door open, and as you progress, start closing it all the way. As soon as she is done eating, let her back out. Having something positive happen when she is in the crate with the door closed means positive conditioning. Plus keeping the time span short emphasizes the fact it’s no big deal to go in and out!

On a pet safe flight, cargo holds are climate controlled & pressurized just like the passenger cabin. Pets are actually breathing the same air as passengers on top. Here are some great tidbits to share with your pup. Hope this helps!
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By Marina on August 25, 2018 at 3:25 pm

I am planning a trip to England for three weeks I would like to bring my dog with me because my mother who I am visiting is very poorly and I think it would be important for her to be with him. He is And emotional support dog. He weighs 80 pounds and is the retriever chow mixI want him to travel with me in the cabin and wondered what your advice would be for the seven hour flight and how we can make it the most comfortable for him.
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By Christina at PetRelocation on August 30, 2018 at 11:34 am

Hi Marina

Thanks for your question! All pets entering through London Heathrow must arrive via manifest cargo, per their travel scheme. For all pets traveling this way, it helps a lot to get them acclimated to a crate. This significantly reduces travel anxiety. We recommend a 30-day lead time for preparation for most UK moves, so you have a comfortable time frame in which to meet the import requirements. Keep in mind that these requirements can vary depending on where you're coming from. If you would like a complimentary consultation with one of our relocation experts, please fill out this form and someone will contact you as soon as possible!
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By Sara on July 27, 2018 at 7:19 am

We are flying our 40 lb bernadoodle across country next week (6 hr direct flight). I'm very worried about the temperature restrictions (we are flying Air Canada)....it's going to be hot the day we fly:(. We have our travel crate and am wondering if we should put one of those doggy cooling pads in it? ....or is it better to leave the crate bare? Feeling so anxious!!!!!!
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By Maegan at PetRelocation on July 30, 2018 at 10:15 am

Hi Sara! We understand this can be an anxious time! We are a bit concerned that the airline might not allow cooling pads because the gel inside could open up and be hazardous to the pet if ingested. We do suggest layering the crate with absorbent material though (blankets, towels, old tshirts, etc.) The airline will require there to be some sort of absorbent material in the kennel and if your pet soils one layer, they can move it aside and have a dry area to rest. Feel free to check out this video about preparing your pet for travel. Hope this helps relieve some of your anxiety!
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