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Crate Acclimation: Acclimating your pet to their travel crates

First things first! Stop panicking!

70% of your pet's stress is because you are stressed!

Your pet will be spending perhaps upwards of 10 hours or even up to 20 hours in the travel crate. They should be comfortable, so please read about crate sizing here before starting crate acclimation. Once you have obtained a suitably sized travel crate, it'll be time to start crate acclimation training. What is it you might ask? Crate acclimation is all about getting your pet used to his/her travel crate. Ideally, it should be where they run into at the first sign of "danger" or where they'd prefer to laze near or around.

As agent we've seen pets from the spectrum of "refusing to get into the travel carrier and trying to bite their way out" to "zipping straight into it once the door is opened". Do note that leaning towards to 1st type increases the risk of getting rejected by the airline for travel. Therefore, to get ensure your pet can reunite with you at the end of his/her trip, we recommend acclimating your pet to the travel crate early.

Please note that the following is written for humans with no professional training coupled with the most scaredy of cats and cowardly of dogs. Most dogs and cats can skip a few steps.

Get your pet's travel crate early

Until the crate arrives, your pet may have never had the experience of having to being put into an odd box for any length of time. Therefore, despite how calm you think your pet is, we recommend getting the travel crate as early as possible once you are sure your pet will be travelling. Even if you know the sizing you require, there are many designs on the market so do be sure it is IATA airline approved or do consult with a pet agent like 0x Cargo. Otherwise, if you aren't certain, our sister company Transcontinental Pet Movers have compiled a convenient shopping list.

Once your crate arrives, it's time to start training.

First, start by taking the ripest smelling piece of laundry from the pre-wash basket and wiping down every surface of the crate, both the inside and outside, as well as the door. This hopefully "supercharges" the crate to smell like something from home/you. If you still smell new plastic, wipe it down a few more times or find something riper.

Start with Half the crate - the bottom half of course

Place it in a well-frequented or travelled spot, such as where most family members hangout or the corridor. It has to be a spot where the humans can be observed not to be bothered by it or will even interact with it. Here we are attempting to introduce your pet to this foreign item, akin to their first meeting with the vacuum cleaner - most people hide this monster in a closet all the time and when it does show up it's just to terrorize the poor animals). Once he/she is done sniffing at it and avoiding it, then you can move onto the next step.

Getting your pet in it

At this stage your pet shouldn't have an issue being physically carried and placed into it. But you will want to progress from your pet bouncing straight out of it immediately to your pet naturally wanting to get into it. Here are a few tips to try depending on your pet's mannerism:

  • Placing it a spot your pet hangs out. Hopefully by this time they wouldn't be annoyed with it. If your pup prefers to be by your feet say when you're at the computer or watching the tv, consider putting your feet in it as a literally footrest.

  • Placing treats that take a long time to eat in it. Stop them removing the treat from the crate by attaching the treat to the crate.

  • Placing pillowcases or folded blanket with treats hidden in them. This will encourage your pet to spend a longer time within the crate looking for the treats and associating the crate to be the "blessed provider of goodies".

Adding the top half but leaving the door

You've just made the foreign object a lot bigger. You pet doesn't have a problem with your couch or bed because you're always on it. So, it makes sense that if you are around the crate a lot, your pet could learn to "invade" it just like they did the sofa and bed. Sadly, there's likely no opportunities for you to be in the crate with the top half on, so the best suggestion we have is to use the crate as a makeshift side table. Feel free to be creative; any human interaction with the crate would be helpful for this process.

Like before, you'd still want to encourage your pet actually going into it and spending some time in it, so do continue with the tips from the previous step.

Adding the door

This is the penultimate step. By adding the door, you've introduced a rather alarming item to the mix. With a little string or bungee cord, you can keep the door open if you want to get your pet used to it though the goal here would for your pet get used to it freely swinging and even possibly closed.

Keeping the door closed

Depending on how comfortable your pet is now with being inside the crate, the ultimate goal is to have your pet not bothered having the door shut and from there, having the door shut for long period of times. This is similar to "crate training", another well documented skill dog trainers are teaching. You are going to want to keep your pet inside for as long as they can bear but also be ready to let them out the before they completely lose their cool. The idea here is to have them learn patience but not to start associating the crate with a negative experience and refuse to want to get in again. For this step, it's just going to take a lot of time and patience.

0x Cargo sincerely hopes the above works out for you. We'd love to see the fruition of all your pet's crate acclimation training and to hear from you on suggestions and tips to improve this process for others.


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