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How to prepare your dog for flying

This blog is dedicated to Benny, Casper and Ella. (Right photo is of Benny)

Recently I have been thinking about some clients of mine.  Soon, they will be relocating from Australia to Germany and taking their three dogs with them.  Their dogs have never been in a plane before and so we are devising a plan to ensure that as much conditioning can be done with the dogs as possible to ensure a smooth flight for them. 

Generally, the advice given by dog trainers, vets and people who have flown with their pets before, is ‘DON’T’.  Don’t fly your pets.  There are horror stories of people’s pets eating through crates, becoming dehydrated, arriving ill and many have died whilst flying.

But what if you really have to fly your pet?

What can you do to get your pet ready for the flight?

CRATE TRAIN YOUR PET

If your pet is not crate trained, this is the first thing you should do.  This needs to be done some months in advance.  You may find crate training with older dogs is a little slower or if dogs have had previous bad experiences with crates, you need to really take time to do this properly.    I won’t go into the process of how to crate train your pet here, but I will say it needs to be a very positive experience for them.  Ideally, the crate your pet will be travelling in should be the crate you use to train your dog with.  If this is not available, try and get one that is very similar.  By the end of the crate training, your dog should feel extremely comfortable in his crate, eating, resting and sleeping in there.  

AIRPLANE SOUNDS

As early as possible, try and get a variety of airplane and airport sounds.  There are a few apps that you can download to do this.  Initially play them very softly and not at the same time you are crate training.  Try and play the sounds when something good is happening to your dog such as meal times, play times or even rest times.  Eventually you can increase the volume of the sounds and play them in different environments such as inside the house, in the backyard, out when walking and in the car.  You should get to the stage where you are playing the sounds when your dog is comfortable in his/her crate. 

CLOTHING WITH YOUR SCENT

I recommend when you start crate training, place your worn clothes in their crates too.  Since we know that dogs can smell up to 100 million times better than humans can, your scent placed in your dog’s crate via your worn clothes will give your dog familiar scent which means comfort and safety to them.  As well as doing this when crate training, be sure to place well worn clothing in your dog’s crate on the day you are flying out so your scent is nice and fresh for your dog.

TRIPS TO THE AIRPORT

As soon as you know you will be flying, start making trips to the airport with your dog.  Get out of the car and walk outside the airport, letting your dog hear and see the planes landing and taking off.  Only expose your dog for a few minutes at a time and gradually build this up.  On the day of flying, there will be lots of noise when your dog is transported through cargo, especially when waiting to board onto the plane and waiting to be taken off the plane so you need to get your dog use to some of that noise way before it actually happens for real.  I would suggest at least 3 trips (or more if you can) to the airport each week for several weeks prior to the actual day of flying.

CRATES BEING PICKED UP AND MOVED AROUND

Once your dog is comfortable in his/her crate, start picking up the crate and carrying the dog around in the crate.  This part also needs to be a positive experience for your dog so do it slowly and gradually and make it fun for your dog. 

Your dog will be subjected to this on the day of the flight where airport crew will put your dog in a van to transport them to the plane and then carry them onto the cargo area of the plane.  They will be jostled about and subjected to strange movement, so the more they can become use to this, the less stress they will experience.

ADAPTIL SPRAY

Adaptil is the pheromone identical in nature to the Dog Appeasing Pheromone secreted by the mum dog about 3 days after the puppy's birth to provide reassurance to her puppies.  Adaptil helps puppies and dogs to feel secure when experience new, unknown environments or stressful situations.  It is said to calm dogs and give a message or reassurance.  I advise people to spray Adaptil in the crates when initially crate training and then to spray it in the crate just prior to flying. 

SUMMARY

This is by no means an exhausting list of things to do to help conditioning your dog to flying because every dog is individual and may require an individualized program to help ensure flying is as smooth and stress free for the dog as possible.  Remember, you should never just put your dog on a plane without doing some substantial conditioning work beforehand.  You dog will not understand what is happening and may become extremely scared and frightened.  It is your responsibility to ensure you have prepared your dog as much as possible to cope with the flight ahead.

OFF TO GERMANY!

Benny, Casper and Ella are currently undergoing their conditioning training.  An update on their flight will be posted in May, when they leave Australia for Germany.

 

MAY UPDATE:  After almost 30 hours, Ella, Casper and Benny arrived safe and sound in Germany.  The three dogs coped extremely well with their long flight and are enjoying their new life in Germany.  All the best Ella, Casper and Benny!

Posted: 31/03/2016 9:08:02 PM by Eve McKenzie

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