Tamar Geller
Photo: Courtesy of Tamar Geller
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

  • 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."
Tips for while you're at the airport and during the flight

Dog in carrier
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
  • Check in earlier than usual. Give yourself at least an extra hour to check in with your dog, Geller says. For example, if you'd normally arrive one and a half hours before your flight's departure time, plan to get to the check-in area two and a half hours prior. This time also allows your dog to eliminate anxieties it might have and get it acclimated to the commotion of the airport.
  • Don't make a fuss when you say goodbye to your pet. "If you're behaving differently, you're raising red flags to your dog," Geller says.
  • Make friends with the flight attendants. "You want them to be emotionally invested," she says. "Reach out to them for helping you with your dog." Offer a monetary tip or positive reinforcement to show the flight attendant that you care, Geller says.
  • Ask the flight attendant to check the temperature. The temperature in the plane's cargo area can fluctuate, so politely ask the flight attendant to ask the pilot to check the temperature to make sure your dog is safe and healthy, Geller says.
  • Tip the baggage handler. Geller suggests a tip of at least $25 and says to ask him to please look after your dog. This is particularly helpful in the case of a delay.
  • Keep your dog well-mannered. If your dog is barking in the cabin, spray it with water to quiet it down, Geller says. You might also consider a bark collar that is remote controlled and voice activated.
What to do when you get off of the plane

Happy woman with dog
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
  • Get your dog. If your dog is in cargo, it will not come out with the other luggage. Go to the designated cargo area, where the skis, golf clubs and surf boards are brought, and retrieve your pet, not your luggage, first.
  • Take your dog to the bathroom. Depending on the size of the dog, you can bring him outside or to the nearest restroom to set up his pee pad, Geller says. It's at this time that you can gush over your dog, but you don't want to overdo it and build a sense of separation anxiety, she says.

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