It'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.)
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!