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How to Accustom Your Dog to a Travel Carrier

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 23, 2017
How to Accustom Your Dog to a Travel Carrier

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Having your dog feel comfortable in a travel cage or carrier is one of the most important things you will have to teach them. It is very useful to prevent them from being uncomfortable, stressed or trying to escape. Note that the travel carrier need not be a prison for a dog. It should be their den, the place where they feel comfortable and secure.

In this AnimalWised article we will share some advice to accustom your dog to a travel carrier, making your weekend getaways much more cheerful and positive.

You may also be interested in: Recommendations for Travelling by Car with a Cat

Introduction and steps previous to the trip

It is completely understandable that you should not lock up a dog in a cage if they have never been in one before. This may confuse them and make them think they are being punished. We must accustom the dog to stay in it gradually, for that we offer this simple step by step:

1. Present it to your dog

Prepare the carrier with the door remaining open at all times. Some models allow you to remove the door, so this will be easy. If you cannot do this with your model, you must tie the door to a part of the carrier so it cannot be closed. This will help them feel safe when entering.

2. Make them feel attracted to entering

Having removed the door or having attached it so that it cannot be closed, place inside the carrier some of the dog's favorite toys. Also, through the day, leave some bits of food inside. This will make them feel happy every time they discover a small 'treasure' inside.

If you see them approach the carrier or enter it, pet them and play with them. You can also give them a treat. At this stage you should not close the door of the carrier.

Let them always have access to the carrier with the door open, and a blanket inside. This way they can come to rest when they want and leave without any problem. Be patient if your dog is afraid of carriers. Do not force them in. That will only increase their fear.

3. What to do if they do not want to go in

If your pooch is very reluctant to enter the carrier, feed them in front of it. Just put their plate in front of the carrier when you give them their meal. As they begin to feel more comfortable you can put the dish inside it: first in the anterior part (near the door), then the middle and then deep inside. Do this gradually.

If you have removed the top of the carrier you can put it on again when the dog enters voluntarily and feels comfortable in it. Of course, put the top on when your dog is not in the carrier and repeat the above procedure (putting food and toys inside) for a while.

This whole process can take a few days with nervous dogs, but most dogs get use to entering the carrier or cage very quickly.

4. How to close the door

When your dog is comfortable in the carrier you can begin to manipulate the door. With your dog in the carrier move the door a little, but do not close it. If your dog stays inside, throw a piece of food inside the cage.

Gradually, your pup will feel more comfortable when you move the door. Then close it (without locking) and open it immediately. Each time you do this, if your dog stays inside, throw a treat in the carrier. If your dog comes out simply ignore this behavior.

Then, when you can close the door of the carrier, start to add some time before reopening it. Just wait half a second before opening. When your dog is comfortable with this, repeat the procedure but wait a second before opening the door. Gradually, and in different sessions, extend this one second at a time, until your dog stays quiet with the door closed for about ten seconds.

5. Increase their stay

Gradually increase the time they remain in the carrier, but do not leave them locked up while you are gone. Keep in mind that you should not lock your dog in for long because then the dog may associate this activity with punishment. It is very useful that you add blankets and towels as if it were a booth. So it will get use to it faster.

How to Accustom Your Dog to a Travel Carrier - Introduction and steps previous to the trip

Advice to accustom your dog

The carrier is not a place to lock up a dog. Practice this exercise until you can get them to stay in the carrier for a few minutes. Later you can increase the time easily because your dog will feel comfortable there.

The maximum time that a dog can be caged for:

  • Puppy dogs to nine or ten weeks: 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Puppy dogs between 11 and 15 weeks: 1 to 2.5 hours.
  • Puppy dogs between 16 and 17 weeks: 3.5 hours.
  • Puppy dogs of 18 weeks or over: 3.5 to 4 hours.


The maximum time that a dog should stay in the travel carrier should never exceed five hours. And this should only be rarely. Of course, this time is greater when the dog travels on a plane, but this is a particular case in which nothing other can be done. Never force them to enter the carrier. If you force it you will create an aversion to the carrier.

Never leave a dog in the carrier with a collar on. No matter what kind of collar. Of course, the exception to this rule occurs when you have to ship them on a plane or other means of transport. In that case, use a collar with an emergency release device and an identification plate.

Never leave small things in the carrier with which your dog could choke. Ideally, only leave big toys that are not easy to destroy, such as a Kong or Nylabone® bones. Do not leave anything inside the carrier (not even a big toy) during travel.

Never cage a dog if:

  • They are less than nine weeks old
  • They have diarrhea
  • They vomit
  • You need to leave them for a longer time than the maximum stated
  • They have not went to the toilet before being caged
  • They have not received enough exercise and companionship
  • The temperature is very high or very low
How to Accustom Your Dog to a Travel Carrier - Advice to accustom your dog

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