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How to crate train your pet for travel

The pet crate plays a crucial role in facilitating your pet’s international journey. Choosing the right crate is essential to ensure your pet’s safety and comfort in the cargo hold during air travel. The crate should meet the International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines for transporting live animals, or your pet will not be allowed to board the aircraft. Airline guidelines might seem strict and excessive, but they are necessary for your pet’s safety and well-being.

Crate training is crucial for a pet travelling to a different country. Your pet’s comfort on the flight depends largely on how comfortable they are in the crate. It is best to get the crate early and acclimatise your pet.

If you plan to travel overseas with your pet dog or cat, here are some guidelines to help you choose the right crate and train your pet to feel comfortable in their crate.

The right size

IATA-approved crates come in standard sizes, so choose the right one for your pet’s height and length. Tall breeds can travel in custom crates that meet IATA requirements. Your pet should be able to stand up and turn around inside the crate, lay down comfortably with extended paws, and shouldn’t have to duck to see out of the crate. 

Use a measuring tape to record four measurements of your pet to determine the correct size crate:

  • A: The tip of the nose to the base of the tail
  • B: Height from the ground to the elbow joint while standing
  • C: The width across the shoulders
  • D: From the top of the head to the ground when your dog is standing. If your pet has erect ears, measure from the tip of the ears to the ground.

With these basic measurements, you can easily choose the correct-sized crate for international travel. The crate’s length must be not less than A+B, the width should equal C+1in x 2, and the height should be D+3in.

Learn how to measure your pet




Strong and safe material

Your pet’s crate must be strong enough to withstand the rigours of air travel without compromising the safety and comfort of your pet. IATA guidelines suggest that the crates be made of fibreglass, metal, rigid plastic, or wood. Rigid plastic crates are most often recommended and widely used for air travel. 

The crate must have ventilation on all three sides, and the inside must be smooth with no sharp edges. The door must be metal with an all-around locking system with pins extending at least 1.6 cm above and below the door. The door must be strong enough to keep the pet inside securely. It should not have jagged surfaces that can injure your pet. The floor of the crate must be solid and leakproof, and the crate should not be collapsible.

Collapsible crates and crates made from metal wire are not IATA-approved, and your pet will not be allowed to travel internationally in these crates. Crates with plastic doors and side clips should be avoided. Crates with wheels may seem convenient, but airline officials usually remove the wheels before boarding. Used dog crates are best avoided for hygiene reasons; unvaccinated pets may have used them before, putting your pet at risk for disease.

Labelling and accessories

The pet crate must be clearly labelled with live animal stickers in the correct colours and include specific information in a globally recognised format. The crate must display the owner’s and the animal transport company’s contact information. All relevant permits, certificates and documentation must be attached to the crate.

An absorbent pet pad should be laid on the floor for your pet’s comfort. You can keep an unwashed t-shirt or an old blanket in the crate; your pet will be comforted by its familiar smell. Do not include hard toys or other accessories, as the airlines will remove them. 

Petraveller Sky Crate

Petraveller ensures every pet travels in a brand new, IATA-approved crate that prioritises comfort and safety. It is a prominent red colour, easily identified by airline and customs staff and conforms to all international airline standards. The crate is manufactured from non-toxic, rigid plastic and is well-ventilated with a secure metal door and lock. Every crate comes with an ultra-absorbent and anti-slip Petraveller Sky Bed for your pet’s comfort during the flight. 

Crate training your pet

Crate training is crucial for international pet travel. Your pet’s comfort on the international flight depends mainly on how comfortable your pet is in the crate. Getting the crate early and acclimatising your pet to the crate before the travel date will go a long way in making your pet comfortable during the flight.

  • Make the crate comfortable for your pet – Before you begin crate training, make the crate comfortable for your pet. Put your pet’s favourite blanket and treat bowl inside. You can also use your old T-shirt to bring a sense of comfort. Place your pet’s favourite toy inside the crate to lure them in. When you begin crate training, start with the door off so your pet can get in and out whenever they wish. Place the crate in a quiet place so your pet associates the crate with a calm and safe place.
  • Gentle introduction to the crate – Cats and dogs are naturally curious and will explore the inside of the crate on their own. Once they enter the crate, praise them and give them treats. Associating the crate with happy and positive memories is essential. If your pet is reluctant to get into the crate, do not force them. Instead, sit by the crate and encourage them with treats and toys.
    Continue praising your pet every time they get into the crate independently, and don’t forget to reward them. Your pet will soon get comfortable entering and staying in the crate on command. Remember to make it fun for your pet in the crate; give them attention, treats and praise to motivate them to return to the crate.
  • Increase crate time gradually – The next step is to increase your pet’s time in the crate. Proceed with caution here because if you move forward before your pet is ready, you might have to go back a few steps to get them comfortable again. Do not reward them when they are whining; repeat the process till they are comfortable.
    When your pet is comfortable, try feeding their meal in the crate. Let them out only after they have finished their meal. Remember to always be within their sight during crate training; the chances of your pet getting distressed are higher when you are not in sight.
    The best way to increase crate time is to put your pets in the crate after a walk or exercise. Lead them into the crate and close the door for a short period. Gradually increase the number of times and the amount of time in the crate.
  • Crate your pet during the night – Progress to crating your pet during the night only after you notice that your pet is comfortable in the crate even when you leave the room. Keep the crate near your bed so they know you are around. Slowly move the crate further and further away from your room to another room. If you can get your pet to spend at least five consecutive nights in the crate without distress, your pet will be comfortable during the flight. Ideally, your pet must be able to stay the flight duration in the crate without distress.

  • Crate training tips Firstly, do not use the crate as punishment. Your pet must regard the crate as a happy and safe place; punishing your pet in the crate will make them more anxious and stressed. Do not let your pet dog out of the crate if they are barking or whining; wait till they are completely calm before letting them out. If you let out a whining or barking dog, your dog will assume they just have to make enough noise to be let out.

Planning an international pet relocation?

If you are planning to move your pet to another country, there are several factors to be considered, and crate training is just one of them. Get expert advice by contacting a pet relocation agency to assist with your move.

Petraveller is Australia’s most caring and comprehensive international pet travel specialist. We believe your pet is an important part of your family, and we are committed to reuniting you with your pet safely and with great care. If you plan to travel with your pet, contact Petraveller for travel itineraries, crate training advice and a free pet travel quote.