Words cannot describe just how nervous I was flying with my dog for the first time yesterday. I did everything possible to ensure she would have a safe flight and it certainly paid off. I’m sure little Carmen just snoozed the whole 4.5 hours aboard the flight, while I anxiously shifted in my seat, counting the minutes until I got to see her again. Everyone at the airport was incredibly helpful and had nothing but compliments about Carmen as she waited quietly and patiently as we checked in. “Is she always this good when you travel?” they asked and were completely surprised to hear that this was her first time in 4 years since flying – when she first arrived in Canada.
I decided to share my traveling secrets to a successful flight with all of you so you too can have a stress free flight with your pooch. Here are my 5 tips for safe travel.
1) Exhaust Your Dog
The absolute most important thing you MUST do is tire out your dog before you travel. Take time the day before to give them a really good romp. Using daycare is a great way to make sure they are active for a full day before they are cooped up in a crate for a long time. Make sure that the day you leave you also give your dog enough time to burn off some steam before shipping out. A dog with pent up energy will be stressed, destructive, and loud during travel if not given the opportunity to release some of that energy prior to boarding. You want your dog to rest while travelling to make for a more comfortable and relaxed journey for everyone.
2) Hello: My name is….
I came up with the idea of attaching stickers with important information about Carmen where attendants could see. Stickers with things like your dogs name, age, temperament and list of any allergies or health complications will be helpful to know should someone need to assist your dog. If never hurts to remind them to be careful with your precious cargo 😉
3) What to pack in the crate
Keep a few things in the crate with your dog: A bed or blanket that they are used to and not something new so that it smells like home and comforts them while they are away from you. An empty bowl in the crate so that if there is a hold up someone is able to give your dog water and or food. Dogs can get dehydrated especially if they are panting excessively so it is recommended by airlines to leave a bowl so someone can attend to the pet and prevent any medical emergencies. Also keep a short leash (folded or tied up so your dog doesn’t get tangled) in the crate. If it’s a long trip and the dog need be let out at some point having something available to leash the dog will prevent him from running away. I also recommend packing one in your carry on so you can quickly grab it to let your dog out once he is back in your care.
4) Make the crate fun!
Prior to going on your trip, get your dog used to being in his crate for long periods of time. Start with just a few minutes at a time and work up to overnight. Never force a dog into a crate or use it for punishment. The crate should be seen as a safe place; a nice comfortable spot for the dog to go and rest undisturbed. Once the dog is used to this without issue, try going for a drive with the dog in it’s crate to get it used to the vibrations and noises. Simulating what it may feel like to the dog to be aboard a plane, bus or train, but in a controlled and positive environment, sets them up for a more pleasant journey as it’s not too much of a shock. Having the owner present will keep the dog calm in these situations so that when a stranger goes to move the crate around the dog will be more relaxed.
5) Positive Reinforcement
Once you arrive at your destination, take your dog out for some fun! This reinforces the whole trip as a positive one. Rewarding your dog with play is the best way to keep their trust. They may have been under a bit of stress during their travel but once reunited with you and having a positive experience right after will keep them focused on the present and keep them happy.
I am so proud I am of my little Carmen and how well she did on this trip to California. I also want to thank everyone at Air Canada for taking such amazing care of her and making sure we got there safe and also for responding to my tweet before we left to reassure me. Janet, you helped this scared dog mom to relax and put my mind at ease that everything would be ok and I appreciate all you did for us. All in all, it was a great day and a fantastic start to our trip. Stayed tuned for more, the real fun starts tomorrow!
Very interested to read about your experience. We have often thought we’d like to fly with Finn, but I’m so nervous to leave him alone!