That your dog is comfortable in a travel crate is one of the most important things you have to teach him. It is very helpful in preventing him from feeling uncomfortable, stressed, or trying to run away. Keep in mind that the travel crate does not have to be a prison for your dog. It should be his burrow, the place where he feels comfortable and safe.
In this article we will teach you some tips to get your dog used to the travel dog crate, making your weekend getaways much more joyful and positive.
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Presentation of the cage and steps before the trip
It is totally understandable that you should not lock a dog in a cage if he has never been in one before. This can confuse him and make him think that he is punishing you. We must accustom the dog to remain in it progressively, for this we offer you this simple step by step:
1. Introduce the cage to your dog
Prepare the travel cage so that the door is open at all times. Some cage models allow the door to be removed, so this will be easy. If this is not possible with the cage you have, tie the door to another part of the cage so that the cage cannot be closed. This will help your dog feel safe when entering.
2. Make him feel attracted to entering the cage
Having removed the door, or having grasped it so that it cannot be closed, places some of your dog’s toys inside the travel crate. Also, throughout the day, leave a few bits of food inside. This will make your dog happy every time he discovers a little “treasure” inside the cage.
If you see your dog approaching the cage, or entering it, pet him and play with him. You can also give him a food reward. At this stage, you still don’t have to close the cage door.
Leave the cage always accessible, with the door open, and with a blanket inside. In this way, he will be able to go in to rest when he wants and will be able to leave without problem. Be patient if your dog is afraid of cages. Do not force him to enter. That will only increase his fear.
3. What to do if the dog does not want to enter
If your dog is very reluctant to enter the cage, feed him in front of the cage. Just put his plate in front of the cage when you give him his food. As he becomes comfortable, you can put the plate inside the cage: first in the front portion (near the door), then in the middle, and then in the back. Do this gradually.
If you had removed the top of the cage, you can put it back on when your dog enters voluntarily and feels comfortable in it. Of course, put the top on when your dog is not in the crate and repeat the above procedure (putting food and toys in the crate) for a while longer.
This whole process can take a few days with nervous dogs, but most dogs get used to entering the crate very quickly.
4. How to close the door
When your dog is comfortable in the crate, you can begin to manipulate the door of the crate. With your dog inside the cage, move the cage door a little, but do not close it. If your dog stays inside, throw him a small piece of food inside the crate.
Little by little, your dog will feel more comfortable when you move the door. Then, take the opportunity to close it (without adjusting it) and open it immediately. Each time you do this; throw a food reward inside the wooden dog crate if your dog stays inside. If your dog goes out, he simply ignores this behavior.
Later, when you can close the cage door for a moment, he begins to add some time before opening it. Just wait half a second before opening it. When your dog is comfortable with this, he repeats the procedure but wait a second before opening the door. Gradually, and in different sessions, extend this time one second at a time, until your dog is quiet for about ten seconds with the door closed.
5. Increase the stays of him in the Crate or Cage
Gradually increase the time he stays in the cage or crate, but don’t keep him locked up while you leave. Keep in mind that you do not have to confine your dog for a long time, since then the dog can associate this activity as a punishment. It is very useful that you incorporate blankets and towels as if it were a house. This will get you used to it faster.
The cage or crate is not a place to lock up your dog. Practice this exercise until you can get your dog to stay in the crate for a few minutes. Then you can easily increase the time because your dog will feel comfortable in his crate.
The maximum times that a dog can spend in a cage are:
- Puppies from nine to 10 weeks: 30 to 40 minutes.
- Puppies from 11 to 15 weeks: one to two and a half hours.
- Puppies from 16 to 17 weeks: three and a half hours.
- Puppies and dogs 18 weeks and older: three and a half to four hours.
The maximum time a dog should spend in the travel crate should never exceed five hours. Of course, this time is longer when the dog takes a plane trip, but that is a particular case in which nothing can be done. Never force your dog into the crate. If you force it, you will create an aversion to the cage.
Never leave your dog in the crate with a collar on. It doesn’t matter what kind of necklace. Of course, the exception to this rule occurs when you have to board it on a plane or other means of transportation. In that case, put a collar on it with an emergency release device and an identification tag.
Never leave small things in the crate that your dog could choke on. Ideally, you should only leave large toys that are not easy to destroy. Do not leave anything in the cage (not even a large toy) during trips.
- Never cage your dog if:
- He is less than nine weeks
- He has diarrhea
- Have vomiting
- You need to leave it longer than the maximum time indicated
- You haven’t done his needs before caging him
- He hasn’t gotten enough exercise and company
- The temperature is too high or too low