Travel carriers or crates can be a cozy, safe haven for dogs or cats to retreat to. Both dogs and cats can be taught to sleep quietly in their crate at night. When comfortably accustomed to their crates, most pets will travel more calmly. Dogs that are trained to spend extended time in the crate alone are less likely to develop separation anxiety when their humans leave.
Conditioning pets to enjoy their crate is a simple process that generally takes only a few days and involves their regular meals and some treats. Begin by feeding your pet his meals just outside of the crate. Once he is comfortable eating near the crate, move the food bowl for his next meal just inside the door of the crate. For pets that are really jumpy, it may be useful to remove the door of the carrier for the time being. When your pet is willing to eat his entire meal with his head inside the crate, begin to move the food dish farther inside the crate with each meal.
Once your pet is eating his entire meal inside the crate, begin giving him several treats in a row all the way inside the crate to stop him from immediately darting out (being careful to not mistakenly encourage him to come forward to get the treat, rather reward him for pausing or staying there). Initially, you will feed the treats in rapid succession then gradually slowing the rate of positive reinforcement by feeding a treat every 3-5 seconds. If your dog reaches outside of the crate for a treat, he doesn’t get it. Alternatively, you can toss the treats into the crate, being sure to not accidentally lure him out of the crate. When your dog is calmly waiting for the treats inside the crate, treat him another 5-10 times.
Throughout the day, hide a tasty treat well inside of the crate for your pet to find, or affix a frozen food/treat stuffed Kong™ toy to the inside of the crate. This will help the pet learn to enjoy the comfort of the crate even more. Continue the positive reinforcement (treats) as you practice closing the door of the crate in order to prevent him from bolting out. Periodically toss treats into the crate when your dog has been quietly in there. Gradually increase the time between the treats. A MannersMinder™ can be used to reward the pet every at few second intervals (gradually increase the interval to five minutes) providing that he is quiet. If your pet is barking or whining, do not give treats until there is a lull or he is quiet again. A MannersMinder™ can also be set so that you can deliver treats by remote control when your pet is quiet. While crate training, remember to let your pet out before he is anxious or full and no longer interested in food.
With time, you should be able to teach your pet to get into the crate on a cue word. Some pets will be easier to train using attention such as scratches or patting in place of treats as the positive reinforcement. Time spent crate training your pet is invaluable. Making the crate a comfortable and safe environment for pets to travel, sleep, or spend time away from their owners will reduce their anxiety.