Training Your Dog to Get Into a Carrier

fearful dogs Aug 17, 2021
dog next to carrier

If you enjoy hiking with your dog, road tripping, flying, or just need to get them to the vet safely, there’s a good chance you’ll need them to get into a carrier, pack or crate.  This week we covered the first steps in carrier training: how to teach your dog to get into a carrier on their own. 

Our dog Pancake is a chihuahua mix and only has 3 legs, so he has trouble keeping up on long hikes with our larger dogs.  We trained him to get into his hiking pack on his own, so he can catch a ride when he gets tired. Here are the highlights of this week’s video, on carrier training: 


Choose a Carrier That Makes Training Easier

There are so many options when shopping for a crate, carrier, or pack. Some details, like size or material, might be dictated by your mode of travel. A travel crate has to fit in your car; a carrier for use in air travel might have to fit under the seat. Aside from these constraints, do your best to find a an option that will make carrier training easier. For example: 

  • A carrier or pack a dog can walk into on their own gives you more “loading up” options than one that required you to pick up the dog and place them inside;
  • A carrier that is big enough for your dog to turn around in comfortably will likely be easier to introduce to your dog, and training your dog to get in will be simpler;
  • The material, shape and size of the crate or carrier can make training much easier, or more difficult.  Some dogs prefer wire crates, others seem to prefer solid-sided crates.  Some dogs will prefer a carrier with multiple “windows” they can look out of, while other dogs might be more anxious when they can see what’s going on around them. 


Plan Your Carrier Training Ahead of Time

As much as you can, write out what your dog’s “getting into the carrier” behavior needs to look like at the end of the training. Details that you might need to incorporate into training include:

  • In what locations will your dog need to “load up”?
  • What position(s) will you typically be in relative to the carrier, when your dog gets in?
  • Will your dog be wearing a harness, leash, and/or collar when they get in and out of the carrier?
  • What items will you want in the carrier with your dog? Bedding, toys? 


Break Down Carrier Training Into Small Pieces

There’s almost no limit to how finely you can break down a training task.  Your dog will let you know if you need smaller steps than you start with.  The general breakdown we used with Pancake was: 

  • Approaching the carrier;
  • Poking nose/head into carrier;
  • Front half of body into carrier;
  • Entire body in carrier;
  • Zipping up the carrier
Of course, the actual use of the carrier- carrying it around with your dog inside it- isn’t included in this list. The next training video installment will cover moving from “get into the carrier” to actually lifting and carrying the carrier around. 

If you have a sensitive pup and would like a trainer on hand to guide you and answer your questions, join our monthly training membership, or sign up for private training, and get the support you need.

If you try these tips and have success, or trouble, we want to hear from you.  Join our Facebook group and post your questions or comments there, or reach out to us by email at [email protected]!