Traveling on an airplane has become a more daunting than ever with endless security lines, safety regulations and extra fees. Add a dog to the mix, and it can be a real nightmare if you're not prepared. Celebrity dog trainer Tamar Geller shares advice on how to make flying with your pet a pleasant experience.
Before You Get to the Airport
Tips for while you're at the airport and during the flight
- Book a direct flight. You may not get the best deal, Geller says, but it's the easiest on your pet. You also avoid any possible layovers and additional delays.
- Make sure your carrier is approved by airline standards.
- Put your contact information with your dog. Tape your cell phone number to the crate, as well as your final destination's address and phone number, Geller says. Your pet's leash and identification tags should also have your cell phone number too.
- Check to be sure your dog doesn't suffer from motion sickness. "Test it by taking your dog for a fun car ride months or weeks before your flight," Geller says.
- Teach your dog to love being in its crate. Traveling on its own is stressful, but if dogs aren't used to being in their carriers, it's even worse, she says. "You don't want to freak them out," Geller says. She recommends making your dog's crate its "bedroom." "Condition your dog to like the crate," she says. "If your pet doesn't have a lot of pleasure with the crate, [being in it] translates to pain." Also, make the crate comfortable with extra padding. "Don't put your dog in the smallest kennel possible, compromising your dog's comfort just to save money," she says.
- Pack toys. Toys make them feel more comfortable, she says. Give them what Geller calls "occupiers"—chew toys that they've shown interest in. Stay away from bones or rawhide treats, because you don't want your pets eating while they fly, she says.
- Put a piece of your clothing in the crate. "Sleep in a T-shirt, and put it in the cage with your dog to make it more comfortable," Geller says.
- Don't forget your dog's water supply. Geller suggests a water-drip container for your pet's carrier. "Teach your dog to drink from a drip water bottle that can be hung in his crate and won't spill," she says.
- Consider a pheromone collar or pheromone spray for your dog. The collar, which looks like a flea collar, produces the hormone pheromone that mother dogs produce to relax their puppies. The collar is a natural way to help keep your dog calm during this stressful situation. Or, you can spray your pet's carrier with pheromones whether it's traveling in cargo or in the plane's main cabin.
- Take your pet to the airport before you fly. "Desensitize your dog," she says. "Then they won't be afraid of everything. Let him get familiar with the noises and smells."