6 tips to prepare your dog before flying

The thought of flying in an aircraft might be exciting for some, but it can be a nightmare for a dog who doesn’t know what’s happening to him. Behaviourist Alyson Kingsley-Hall shares some very valuable tips on how to prepare your dog for air travel.

 

1. Crate training

Unless your dog is a guide dog, most airlines will not allow him to fly in the cabin with you. He will be required to spend the flight in the baggage compartment in a crate. This can be a terrifying experience for your dog if he hasn’t been well prepared. Therefore, crate training in advance is extremely important.

Make sure that you have an airline-approved crate that is big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down with his paws outstretched comfortably. Place the crate in an area of your home where your dog enjoys spending time. Remember to never force your dog into the crate – allow him to choose. Be patient and calm. Some dogs will take longer than others to get used to the crate.

Keep the door of the crate open and secure it with a cable tie or string so that it doesn’t close by accident. Allow your dog to investigate at his own pace and make the crate a comfortable place with blankets, a favourite toy or an old, unwashed item of your clothing, but don’t put anything inside that could be a choking hazard.

At first, cover the crate with a blanket or sheet to help your dog feel more secure. Toss or hide some tasty treats in the crate in a rolled-up blanket inside the crate. Praise and reward him whenever he goes into the crate.

Smear some dog-safe peanut butter, liver paste, yoghurt or something similar inside the walls of the crate if your dog is reluctant to go in, or place a licking mat inside the crate.

Start feeding your dog near the crate and gradually move the food bowl closer until your dog is comfortable eating his meal inside the crate – still with the door open.

Once your dog is happy to eat a meal inside the crate, start closing the door for a minute or so and gradually increase the time he spends inside with the door closed. Sit nearby at first to make sure he is coping. Gradually increase the time that you are out of sight or away from the area. Begin with a few seconds and work up to a longer duration.

 

2. Simulate travel movement

When your dog is confident and comfortable spending time in the crate, gently move the crate around with your dog in it. Then progress to putting the crate in the car and start by going for drives. This will help your dog get used to motion while inside the crate.

 

3. Desensitisation to noise and sounds

Download and play sounds of aeroplanes, airports, forklifts and other noises that may be heard at an airport and the cargo area. Start playing these sounds at a low volume once your dog is familiar with the crate and gradually increase the volume, pairing it with positive reinforcement like treats, praise and calm interaction.

 

Would you like to read the rest of this interesting article? Get the November/December 2023 edition of Animaltalk magazine now from retailers, or order a printed or digital version from www.coolmags.co.za.

 

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