The shipping kennels (also called the crate) are solid sided compared to wire versions often used for puppy housebreaking. The principles, however, are the same.
The crate simulates a cave or den – and dogs through out the ages are den creatures. Witness the dog afraid of thunderstorms….usually hiding in a closet, behind furniture, under the bed, in the bathroom tub, all signs of seeking someplace dark and enclosed where he or she feels safe. So feeling secure is a big deal to a dog.
If the crate has familiar items in it, then the smells a dog recognizes also have the ability to help calm a pet. We often recommend to people that a worn t-shirt or socks be put in with a pet while traveling. Although the items may not smell to us humans, the dog will recognize the owners scent.
So how should you acclimate your dog to a travel kennel?
if you dog was crate trained as a puppy, most likely he or she will remember how it feels to be crated, and will accept it right away.
I’ve had clients get a crate in advance, then complain the dog never went in it for the 3 weeks it sat in the living room. It’s up to you to teach your dog to accept being crated.
if your pet has never been crated, some time for training ahead of the move is a good idea, and one that can help relieve the stress of travel. Start slow – a few minutes at a time inside the crate. put in bedding, a toy, a chewie, dog biscuits…..anything your dog likes. The key is to make going into the crate fun and acceptable. Leave your pet in 5 or 10 minutes, then let out and praise. Leave the room for a few minutes. Then go back and open the door. The key is not to let the pet out if it is whining and making a fuss – other wise when you open the door and he dashes out, it reinforces the fact that, hey, if I make a ruckus mom will let me out.
When 10 minutes is working, up it to 20 or 30 minutes. Then for an hour or so when you run errands.
Maybe even overnight to simulate longer travel required for an international move.
You can also put the crate in your vehicle, if it’s large enough, and go out for a ride. This further acclimates a dog to being in the crate while riding. The motion of a plane is similar to that of a car. Better yet, go through a car wash – let your dog experience something new in the crate so he feels safe in it.
We’ll never be able to explain to our pets what is going to happen in advance of travel, but a dog acclimated to his shipping crate will have less stress than one not familiar with it.
That said, any crate training, even if not in the shipping kennel, is better than none.
As for cats,don’t bother. They don’t really crate train, but will naturally curl up in the back and make themselves small, sometimes even going under the bedding. Their general attitude is “don’t bother me, I will come out when it’s over’!