Friday Feature: Crate Acclimation
Yesterday, we addressed the most basic issues involving a domestic relocation for a single pet. A big part of preparing for pet relocation is ensuring that pet anxiety from seperation and uncertainty is kept at a minimum. Crate acclimation is the process by which dog and cat owners gradually introduce their pets to being comfortable and alone in their new crates. Proper crate training not only aids in the travel process, it also instils in the dog a lifelong affinity for the crate. Crate trained dogs with a foundation of other learned behaviors enhance the pet owning experience. What follows is a comprehensive guide concerning acclimation and other crate related issues.
Type of Crate
As per IATA guidelines (International Air Transportation Association), if you’re obtaining a travel crate from the pet store, then it must be one of the two-piece, hard plastic variety. There are several manufacturers of this crate type that are acceptable, both by country and airline standards. We recommend Marchioro or Pet Mate, as these brands build durable, adequately sized crates that can easily be adjusted or modified for international relocation. Marchioro crates are secured by 5 sets of nuts and bolts, in addition to an overlapping 7 point set of hard plastic fasteners. If you obtain your travel crate through PPR, then you can also rest assured that your pet will have adequate ventilation on all four sides (PPR customizes crates as needed i.e. for extra large dogs and international destinations). PPR agents are also able to customize almost any IATA approved crate for travel to Australia and New Zealand as well!
Size of Crate
Selecting the right size for your dog’s crate is vital, in that it should be neither too big, nor too small. A crate that is too big will softly encourage your dog to use the excess space to go to the bathroom. As it pertains to travel, a larger crate sustains considerably larger cargo fees, since these fees are calculated using the container’s volume. On the other hand, a crate that is too small will not only leave your pet feeling cramped, but it could also cause your pet to be denied flight accomodations by the airline company.
For dogs, in order to be the perfect size, the crate must have a width that measures slightly more than double the width of the dog’s shoulders (at their widest point). Pertaining to crate height, the dog should be able to exhibit normal posture while standing with its head at normal level, with 1 to 2 inches of space between the top of the dog’s head and the ceiling of the crate. The length of the crate should be the combined measurement of the dog’s length (measured from nose to base of tail) plus about half the length of one of the dog’s legs. The illustration is from IATA’s website.
Acclimation & Crate Training
Now that you have gotten the difficult part out of the way, the fun can begin! Well… it might not seem like fun at first, especially with the looks or sounds you’ll get from your pet as the training begins. However, crate acclimation, whether for travel or for lifetime discipline, can result in a calmer, more obedient, and ultimately more manageable dog.
If your dog or cat has never been crate trained before, try to obtain the correct crate as early in advance as possible. Once you have your crate, remove the door from its hinges, fill it with comfortable bedding, and place it in a corner or up against a wall of a family room or bedroom. Cat owners may spray a natural, calming product such as Feliway or another brand pheromone in order to gently coax their pets into the crate. Pet owners may also place an article of worn clothing over the bedding as an additional incentive.
Once your pet has frequented the crate a few times, consider feeding your dog or cat in their crate. Structuring a pet’s feeding in this way is not only helpful in creating a positive association of the crate for your pet. By eating twice a day in their crate rather than free feeding, pets are less likely to develop health problems from being overweight. Many owners relegate their pets to crates at bedtime, which most pets surprisingly appreciate. Pets that have more structure and attention from their owners are happier, better-behaving pets.
The Travel Experience
It’s sometimes hard for pet owners to envision how their animal might react to air transportation. Many pet owners are unaware of how pets travel when they fly unaccompanied (a requirement for much of international travel). When animals do not fly with a passenger, they travel in temperature and pressure controlled compartments. The only significant difference between this area and the passenger area is the dim lighting, as animals typically exhibit a calmer demeanor in a dark, comfortable place.
For the extreme worrier, it’s best to simulate the travel experience for your pet before the actual day of travel. This can be accomplished by a simple trip to the car wash. Following proper crate acclimation, load your crated dog or cat into your vehicle and purchase a wash at an automated car wash. As the rollers and sprayers clean your wagon or SUV, monitor your pet’s reaction. The sounds and vibrations from the wash will be similar to the sounds and vibrations during take-off and landing. This simple process is the closest thing to actual air travel that a pet can experience with their owner. It’s a great way to both foster peace of mind in the owner and desensitize the pet to strange noise.
If you choose to move your pet with Premier Pet Relocation, then our staff will guarantee that your pet travels in the appropriate crate, satisfying the appropriate standards depending on the situation.
Please contact one of our specialists if you’re interested in learning more about our travel crates or if you have any questions about your pet's relocation.