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 charlotte on November 22, 2017 at 5:39 pm

The reason I was thinking about sedation or anti anxious medication is because it is not the crate my dog has a problem with...he's fine in a crate....he just cant stand the sound of the wind!! He goes crazy on stormy nights at the sound of the wind, he will literally bark and drive himself nuts for hours and hours....I can't begin to imagine what the sound of being in the cargo section of a 747 will be like for him...the sounds of take off and the sounds of the flight itself and turbulence and landing....we are flying from NZ to UK so the that level of anxiety for that many hours just really worries me. Any suggestions?
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By bethany@petrelocation.com on November 27, 2017 at 11:36 am

Hi Charlotte!

We're sorry to hear about your dog's anxiety - we know that can be tough on both you and him!

In the past for highly anxious pets, we've recommended adding extra "home comforts" to the kennel for travel. A blanket that smells like you or an old shirt may help him to feel a little calmer. Other than that, we've had clients look into some natural calming remedies, like pheromone sprays, to help with their pet's anxiety.

I know right now it may seem like it will be impossible for him to not stress out during travel, but we've had many anxious pets handle the journey without any issue. Most of the time, because the cargo hold is dimly lit, pets just end up sleeping throughout their journey.

We hope this helps somewhat, Charlotte, and hope both of you have a safe flight to the UK!
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By Antonios sorina on October 22, 2017 at 3:05 am

Hi! I have a french bulldog and I'm anlage to take him with me whend I travel home from Beirut to romania ...usually is 2hr flight tarom but I'm scare to travel with them,when i bring him with me they didn't accept this sub noise so i came with lufthansa but was a puppy and I'm going to take lufthansa or Airfrace ...is better if i don't sleep him no,and witch one is better? Please I'm so panicked cos his everything for me love so much and if something happen i won't forget my self ...
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By bethany@petrelocation.com on October 23, 2017 at 9:17 am

Hi Antonios!

We have flown many French Bulldogs internationally with Lufthansa, since they allow snub-nosed breeds under certain temperature restrictions. Because of this, we would certainly recommend looking into booking your dog with them.

Also, sedation is not allowed - this is why we stress the importance of crate training and making sure that your dog is as comfortable with his travel crate as possible. Try some of our tips above and speak with your vet if you find you are having trouble. Many vets can offer pet behavior advice to better help with crate training if the basics are not working.

We hope this helps! Please feel free to reach out to us here if you would like further assistance with your move - we are happy to help!
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By Priv on August 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Hi,When we start trial runs for time in the crate and increase the amount of time, must we do it everyday?And should we increase it to the same, full length of time for their planned trip?We are moving our Labs to the U.K. from South Africa.Thanks.
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By caitlin@petrelocation.com on August 7, 2017 at 9:21 am

Hi Priv, thanks for the question! We're glad to hear you're working on crate training your dogs -- this is such an important part of planning safe pet travel.

Essentially every dog is going to be a little different, but you should aim to get to a place where your dogs are comfortable entering the crate and staying there with the door shut for a good amount of time (such as when you leave the house for a few hours). We wouldn't say it's necessary to work up to the full length of time they'll be in transit, they should just view the crate as a safe and positive place to be.

Hope that helps! Just let us know if you have more questions.


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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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By Joao on March 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Try taking her to some nice place on the crate. It worked with me by taking my pug on the crate to the park on his crate, now whenever I put him there and close the door he just gets happy.
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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.
Reply

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 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 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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