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How's my dog supposed to drink from this tiny bowl? DIY a bucket as a water bowl for your large dog.

Due to their size and relatively smaller market, manufacturing plastic travel crates is not a cheap endeavor, and most crate manufacturers don’t change their design by much since building their first mold. That includes the bowls they include as part of a complete kit they sell to the pet owner. If you’ve purchased a pet travel crate online, you would have noticed that they came with one or two bowls which are meant to be attached to the grilled door of the crate. 

These free bowls do, as far as regulations go, meet the International airline and transport association’s IATA set of guidelines. They can certainly hold water without leaking. 

However, you may have also observed that travel crates prepared by professional pet movers don’t use those bowls. The reason is simple: Agents with any sense for your pet’s welfare know that most of those free bowls are not well designed or adequate as a vessel to keep your pet hydrated throughout his or her journey.

Keep in mind that your pet’s actual time relying on that bowl to have water is longer than the duration of the flight. Not counting the time in the air, most pets spend about 4 hours before departure and about 1-2 hours after arrival still in their travel crates. There’s also the entire period of transit whereby we can only guess that the animal handlers at the transit stations, if any, have other bowls to use or even refill the one in your pet’s crate. The truth is, the only absolute confirmation that your pet will have water is from your pet export agent physically filling it up before departure. Some agents will send you pictures/video of that exact detail prior to handing your pet to the airline. Accounting for some spillage which would inevitably happen as your pet makes its way to the plane and gets loaded on, you’ll realize that there really isn’t much water left for your pet to drink from if he/she was using a small bowl.

While cats in general are known not to drink in unfamiliar environments, Experts have observed that dogs do drink and sometimes at larger quantities than normal, attributing the behavior to the stress of traveling. Coupled with the common practice for pet owners to reduce their dog’s water intake before flights in the hopes to avoid them soiling themselves during flight, the dog is very likely going to be thirsty sometime during the flight.

Free black pet crate water bowl

We’ve seen this particular design, besides being terribly small, also has the unfortunate notoriety of being easily dislodged. We’ve even seen cats pop it off the door by just leaning against it. At the very least, if you still want to use this bowl, you should try to secure them to the crate’s door better by drilling holes on the back and attaching zip ties (for your cat) 

For smaller dogs, we recommend tossing this bowl design altogether and getting something better. We recommend but you can also refer to this for a more comprehensive recommendation on what’s best for pet travel. 

For the larger dog, our recommendation is 1-gallon bucket. One should do nicely, but you can absolutely attach two buckets as well if your pup is the thirsty type. 0x cargo has been testing the use of gallon buckets on large dogs for many years and have these recommendations on how to modify and attach them to your pet’s crate to make them safer and more secure. The first point is often overlooked and very important! 

The designs of these 1-gallon buckets differ slightly. Most of them do pay some attention to rounding the lip at the opening. However, if you run your finger along the bottom edge, you’ll realize that the bottom lip is actually quite sharp. We’ve observed a number of noses being rubbed raw from dogs sticking their heads underneath the buckets. 

We used an electrical sander, but it’s possible with a coarse grit sandpaper, elbow grease and finishing off with fine grit sandpaper. You’ll basically want to get rid of the lip and round the corner. 

Dewalt sander and sanding discs

You may choose to remove the handle of the bucket or keep it on the side between the bucket and the door so your pet cannot tamper with it. 

We recommend drilling 4 holes as pictured - a pair spaced apart. 

gallon bucket with 4 holes drilled

This will allow you to loop cable ties through these holes with the open ends on the outside. After all, we don’t want anything on the inside of the bucket that would irritate, block and hence discourage your pet from drinking.  

gallon bucket with zipties attached

You can then attach the bucket to the door and secure it in place using the cable tie. Take note to position the bucket closer to the hinge as the opposite will cause you to prevent the door from closing. 

gallon bucket attached to travel crate

To avoid excessive spillage, we recommend only filling ¾ full. However, even then you’ll also realize that the 2 poor cable ties would be barely hanging on. Therefore, as the final step to secure the bucket to the door, we would have to use additional cable ties around the entire bucket. Depending on the length of the cable ties in your possession, you may need to connect and add additional support as pictured. You will loop them under the handles for additional support. Do not use metal wires (or even covered wires) as it will hurt your pet if he/she manages to bite it. Trim off the protruding excess cable ties that are within the crate. 

gallon bucket attached to travel crate with additional reinforcements with zipties
gallon bucket attached to travel crate with additional reinforcements with zipties
gallon bucket attached to travel crate with additional reinforcements with zipties

Have fun DIYing. We'll also be absolutely thrilled if you shared your own modification/improvements to solve this thirst issue for dogs. For now, here's wishing your pups a safe hydrated journey!

Dog drinking water from crate water bucket


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