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How to Crate Train Your Pet for Airplane Travel

Published on: August 30, 2021  |  Author: Nicole McCray

It may not be something that you’ve thought about, but if you’re planning to relocate at some point or do some plane traveling and you own a pet - you should learn how to crate train. It is an essential aspect of helping your pet to cope with long-distance moves or trips. When traveling by plane, crating your dog or cat is one of the safest options to ensure that your pet won’t be harmed, upset, or disturbed. 

Dogs and cats can develop anxiety, especially when in a new and unfamiliar environment (such as an airplane). Besides being aware of a few simple tips while traveling with your dog, helping your dog become familiar with a crate helps ease the tension and make it much less stressful when traveling or moving. It can also help with making trips to the vet easier too. 

There are some important techniques and steps you should take when working with your dog or cat to help them become accustomed to their crate to transition without any issues.



If you ever have plans to move in your future, relocate or go on an extended vacation, and you plan to bring your pet along, you need to purchase your crate and start getting your dog or cat used to it as soon as possible. Most likely, if your pet is a puppy or kitten, you want to be sure that you incorporate their full-grown size when locating a crate. 

It also helps if you do your research about airplane shipping policies for pets so that you are well prepared. It is crucial that you understand the correct size crate to have and whatever regulations go along with bringing crated dogs or cats onto airplanes.

Do not fear if your cat or dog is older and you don’t have a lot of time to crate-train them before your flight. If you have at least a few weeks and set aside time to work with them, it will still allow them to become used to the crate before the move.



Crates may seem more like cages, and dogs and cats may be less likely to initially want to go into them. You can start slow by just putting the bottom piece of the crate on the floor and having them sit in it, possibly in an area that they lay down often. 

When they become used to sitting on the bottom, you can add the top of the crate, and eventually, the door. This gradual putting together of the crate is a great way to introduce your pet to the crate and begin to develop a positive association with your dog or cat. However, you mustn’t rush the process - ensure that your dog or cat feels comfortable before moving to the next phase.



Owners have taken to putting toys, treats, even pet beds within the crates to create a safe, comfortable space. You can further encourage your dog or cat in a crate by doing this, but do not expect that they will immediately take it. You might have to go slow here, too, and place the treat outside the crate before actually placing it on the inside.



When you feel your dog or cat is comfortable enough within the crate, you can start to leave them in there during the day, and eventually, during the night. You can keep the crate near your bed if that is where they are used to sleeping so that your pet recognizes your presence. 

The goal is to have your dog or cat spend a handful of nights in the crate without feeling distressed. Once you have reached that objective, you can feel more secure knowing that your pet will be comfortable enough during flight. 



After your dog or cat has settled into the crate for more extended periods, you can do some test runs by taking your pet on drives in their crate. Taking a ride within the crate will help your pet to get used to the movement. Remember that it is vital to encourage and reassure your pet if you can sense its unease.  You can even try going to the car wash so your pet will be exposed to new sights and sounds, as they would on a plane. 



Just as it is a good idea to be prepared and know what steps to take when crate training, there are some things that you should be aware not to do as well:

  • Do not immediately let your dog or cat out of the crate if barking, whimpering, or whining. Instead, make sure your pet is calm before you open the door and not making noise, or else they can assume that they will be let out when they make enough noise.
  • Do not use the crate as a place for punishment. Your pet needs to associate its crate as something positive and good, and if you banish your pet there when it is naughty, it will feel more anxious and upset being there for a long flight.
  • You should not feed your pet before flying. You can feed your dog or cat if it is hungry but be cautious that you provide enough time to digest before being on an airplane. You can provide a ziplock baggie of food to attach to the top of the crate if your pet will be transiting or in case of delays.

Be patient when training your dog or cat with a crate. Your pet will take some time to adjust, and you do not want to rush the process. Always offer positive reinforcements to help reward your pet - a treat, pets on the head, and a soothing, happy voice will go a long way to aiding your cat or dog is feeling comfortable ready to be in their crate.


This article was written by Nicole McCray.

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.