How to Choose the Right Travel Crate for Your Dog

Compact cars are great, but if you’re six foot three and with a bit of added girth, you might be a bit leery about buying one. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure the choice you make is a good fit for you.

Your dog’s traveling accommodations should get no less attention.

Why Buy a Crate?

Do you do a lot of traveling with your dog as a companion? Is it by car or by air? Or both? Are you looking at a crate purchase mostly for travel or also as a training tool to contain your pet when he’s home alone? Do you want one for those times when the guests you have over may not be so comfortable with your four-legged friend?

There are many reasons for buying a dog crate, and often they may be a combination of two or more of them. While a dog crate may be a necessary purchase for transporting your pet on a onetime airplane trip, it’s important to consider other times you may need to use it–and plan that into your purchase.

What Size Crate is Best for My Dog?

If you’ve never purchased a dog crate, you may not know what size is best. You don’t want him to be unnecessarily cramped when you’re traveling, but you also don’t want him to have so much space that he could get injured when you take a sharp corner while driving.

In general, your dog should be able to lie down, sit, and stand up comfortably without his head hitting the top of the crate. He should also be able to turn around in it. If you can’t bring your pet with you when shopping for a crate, take his measurements before you venture out.

Get a measure from the base of his tail to the tip of his nose and add four inches. This will provide a guide on how long your crate should be. A similar measure should be taken from the floor to the top of his head, adding four inches to determine the height of the crate you should buy.

Of course, that might be fine if you’re looking at purchasing a custom-made crate. For those with more modest budgets, you may only be able to choose from small, medium, large and extra-large sizes. If your pet is between sizes, it’s best to err on the side of a slightly larger carrier.

One other possibility–and especially if you’re buying for a puppy who still has some growing to do–is to consider purchasing a crate with adjustable dividers that will grow with your dog.

Traveling by Motor Vehicle

Stop at any traffic light and you’ll often find a fluffy-faced dog hanging his head outside the window beside you. Don’t be shy about sticking your tongue out at him. After all, he’s doing it to you.

Cute as he may look, however, it’s not really the safest way to transport a pet. If you can’t harness your dog safely in a seat or if you will need to transport your pet in a carrier once you get to your destination, containing him inside a carrier for car travel is the better option.

Solid-walled, hard plastic carriers that can be secured inside your vehicle are usually the safest choice for on-the-road travel. These carriers provide better protection in the case of an accident. And if your pet is prone to anxiety, the solid walls with their den-like feel provide an extra measure of security.

Many pet-lovers, however, prefer wire kennels, particularly for their versatility. For starters, they are easier to clean. They also can be broken down and folded up for quick and easy storage when you don’t need them. Wire kennels don’t have solid walls so don’t provide the same secure feeling that some pets require when traveling, but often a blanket placed over the top can accomplish the same goal.

Where you place your dog crate in your vehicle is also important. If you have an SUV or station wagon, then the best and most logical choice is to put it in the cargo space, safely secured to prevent sliding. The second best choice is to secure it in the backseat as a front seat location could result in risk of injury from airbags. If, however, the front seat is the only option, be sure to turn off the passenger seat airbag.

Of course, if your trip is a long one, be sure to make a few rest stops along the way. People aren’t the only ones who need to stretch their legs and, errr…. use the facilities. A fifteen minute break every couple hours should be sufficient, but adjust your stops as needed. You know your pet best.

Traveling By Air

When it comes to dog crates, if you travel with your pet in a motor vehicle, you have a lot more freedom of choice. Air travel, however, is a whole different bag of kibble.

Whether you’re taking your dog on a short domestic flight or an hours long international one, you’ll need to make sure your pet’s crate is one that is compliant with the recommendations of the Montreal, Canada-based International Air Transport Association (IATA).

According to the IATA, airlines that permit pet travel require stable, solid-wall carriers that will stand up to take offs and landings. As with travel carriers for motor vehicles, hard plastic crates are often best. Such crates should provide maximum ventilation with air holes on all four sides as well as easy visibility so flight attendants can see and address pet needs. Crates should also be properly lined with cushions and absorbant pads. And they should contain two separate bowls, preferably stainless steel, for food and water each of which can be accessed without having to open the kennel door.

One of the most important requirements is that travelers include vital information about their traveling companions affixed to the crate. Besides listing feeding instructions and any specific health issues or concerns about your pet during flight, it should also include the owner’s name, address, phone number and destination. That way, in the unlikely event the two of you become separated, the airline can get the two of you back together as quickly as possible.

Keep in mind that individual airlines may have other, more stringent requirements for pet carriers or the pets traveling in them, such as up-to-date vaccinations. This is particularly the case with international airlines. With that in mind, it’s always best to check with the specific airline before you book your flights (yes, Fido will need a separate ticket) to make sure your carrier–and your pet–are compliant with their policies.

Enjoy Your Trip!

No matter how long or short, every excursion by car, truck, plane or boat is a new adventure for your dog. How comfortable he is in his travel crate will make a huge difference in your comfort on the same trip. With a bit of foresight, you can ensure both your journeys are a pleasant one.


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