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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PetRelocation Team

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By Moziah McIntosh on March 28, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Have a mixed dog. Need to relocate from houston texas to us virgin islands, St. Croix. Having problems with airlines. Please help
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By Karla Gabriela Sosa on April 27, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Hi i currently live in Orlando Fl and i want to know how much it would be to bring a puppy Shu shitzu from Houston Texas???
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By caitlin@petrelocation.com on April 28, 2017 at 8:43 am

Hi Karla, the costs of this move will include airfare, your dog's travel crate, the vet visit you'll need before the flight and any transportation costs to or from the airport (if you hire someone). You can contact us here if you're interested in hiring our services (https://www.petrelocation.com/arrange), otherwise you'll need to contact the airline, etc. to set up the move on your own. Hope this helps! Just let us know if we can be of assistance.
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By Ellen Kormann on July 8, 2017 at 11:48 am

My son is in South Africa and I want to bring his puppy to the states. It's a mixed breed born in South Africa.Any suggestions how todo that? My son can't leave for 1 1/2 years.
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By caitlin@petrelocation.com on July 10, 2017 at 8:56 am

Hi Ellen, thanks for your question! We'd be happy to offer some information.

To start, here are the pet import requirements for the United States. If you think you need some help, you can contact us here for a consultation.

Hope this helps! Just let us know if we can be of assistance.


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By Matias on July 14, 2017 at 1:26 pm

My eight months old pit doesn't like her wire crate very much --she goes in, sleeps in there, but she goes nuts when I lock the door. Now I want to take her to Chile (my country of origin) and bought a travel crate. I also thought this crate may feel cozier than the wired one and that she'd like it better. I was wrong: she hates it. As food oriented as she is, she doesn't even go for her bone if in put it in there. And I've only put the bottom part of the crate! In general, my dog isn't fearful, and she's overall well-behaved (although she has some separation anxiety). I simply don't know how to keep training her. I have lots of patience with my dog, but this is the only issue where I've made no progress. What could I do? I really don't want her to be traumatized after 11 hours in a plane. I'd appreciate any help! Thanks!
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By caitlin@petrelocation.com on July 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Hi Matias, sorry to hear about the trouble you've been having!

If the advice we offer in the article above doesn't seem to be working, we'd suggest talking to your vet or an animal behavior specialist to see if they have any tips. Sometimes training just takes time, but maybe someone with a background in medicine or training can offer a suggestion that will make a difference in time for your trip.

Good luck with everything, we wish you the best!


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