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Avoid Dog Travel Drama, Here's How to Prepare Your Pet for a Flight

Released: Friday, April 13, 2018

Kelli Bender April 11, 2018 04:26 PM - It’s only been a few months, but 2018 can already be called the year of travel drama.

Pet deaths, missing dogs, prohibited emotional support peacocks — all of these issues and more have been plaguing the supposedly friendly skies this year.

While must flights involving animals are uneventful, especially when airline staff and passengers follow the rules laid out by each individual airline, it’s always better to go in prepared.

If you are planning to travel on a plane with your pet for the first time, there are several things you can do before you even leave the ground to make the trip less stressful for both you and your furry friend.

PEOPLE talked to Neil Gill, CEO & President of Dogtopia, a dog daycare, boarding and spa facility, about the steps you can take to make sure your pet is on their best behavior when they fly and that they stay safe for the entire trip.

What does your pet have to be comfortable with before flying on an airplane?

Your pet should be comfortable in whatever airline crate or carrier you will use for the trip. We want the crate to be the “safe place” during travel. It is also helpful if your pet is used to being around strangers. If they are flying in the cabin, other passengers/strangers will be around them. If they are flying cargo, then workers/strangers will be handling your pet’s cage. It’s helpful to socialize your dog on a consistent basis so that they are comfortable with unknown situations. Taking your dog to doggie daycare, the dog park, dog-friendly restaurants all help to develop your dog’s socialization skills for any new situation. When your dog is comfortable around strange people and environments, it reduces their stress levels during travel. Being familiar with different sounds and loud noises is also important. Planes and airports are loud! If your pet is used to loud sounds, then they will be calmer and more relaxed on the flight.

What behaviors should a pet parent know before flying?

Since your dog is flying as a pet, they will need to be in their carrier for the entire flight. They should know how to calmly and quietly relax in their “safe place” without consistent attention from you. Your dog should also know how to potty on command AND in a variety of environments (like the Pet Relief Area at an airport). Remember, you know you are getting on a 5-hour flight, but your pet doesn’t. You want to make the most of the last potty break.

How can pets learn these behaviors?

Patience and repetition! Learning to relax in a crate/carrier for long periods of time can be tough for some pets. Start slow by making the crate a happy place. Feed your pet in the crate. Sprinkle treats in the crate so that your pet discovers them when they explore the space on their own. Slowly increase time, as your dog gets comfortable in their space. You want to train your dog to settle in their crate/carrier for the length of the flight plus 2 hours (to account for security/boarding/etc.). Have them practice settling the same time of day as when the flight is. If your pup learns to calmly lay in their carrier from 8am-2pm, then a 2-hour flight at 9am is a piece of cake!

At Dogtopia, we utilize home-style crates for a two-hour nap during the day. This is also where we administer lunch and/or medications when applicable. This not only provides some much-needed rest time, but also prepares them for travel as well.

Having her potty on command also takes time. Start by saying “go potty” (Or whatever word you choose) as they start to potty. Over time, you will be able to say go potty to help them know what they should do. Also, have your dog potty on command in a variety of areas and surfaces such as fake grass, pavement and around other people and traffic.

How long should you start preparing your pet before flying?

As soon as you know you’re traveling (the sooner the better)! And you should prepare too! Make sure to check with the airline when you book your pet’s ticket. Airlines have different requirements for pet travel so you want to properly prepare you and your pet for a flight on the airline you booked. You may also want to look at several different airlines. Find an airline with a pet policy that works best for your situation and has the most ideal route to your final destination. This is especially important for dogs traveling in cargo.

Why is it important to prepare your pet before air travel?

Preparation of your pet reduces the stress levels for both you and your pet. If your pet is flying in the cabin, we also want the other passengers to have a smooth trip without having to deal with the vocalizations or behavior of an unruly dog. A well-socialized dog is a great travel companion.

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