For most pet owners, the initial thought of being thrilled that you can take your pet along with you in-cabin on the flight is almost immediately followed by visions of a nightmare scenario – fearing how disastrous that endeavor might actually be. Going through security gates and check in process can hold anxiety if traveling without a pet. Trying to imagine all the usual issues while finagling a pet can be a daunting thought to say the least. Then there are the worries about getting that pet carrier neatly and snugly under the seat in front of you in a manner that is both comfortable for the pet and not offensive to other passengers. Lastly, there’s that tendency for the pet to be particularly squirmy and anxious when the plane is on the runway taxying for takeoff. The solution can be found by making the carrier as comfortable as possible. Let’s discuss how.
Make the Carrier a Friendly Place
The worst scenario is springing a carrier on the pet for the first time on the day of travel. Since the pet can’t ride on the owner’s lap, the carrier needs to substitute as the next best thing. The noises, movement and experiences on the plane will naturally be a very unsettling experience for the little critter. Every step should be taken to make that all important carrier a familiar and reassuring place to be. To the degree possible, the carrier should have a positive affiliation to the pet as a new travel home.
Making the Carrier Familiar
Using the pet carrier on the day of a scheduled flight should be one among many experiences the dog has already had in his/her carrier. It will make the carrier all that more alluring if it is associated with places that are favorites and experiences that the pet adores – like taking her to a favorite store and getting extra dog treats or an outing to an off-the-leash park. To add positive associations, try tossing favorite treats into the carrier, taking opportunities to give her special loves and tickles while inside the carrier and making certain to include the carrier in game time. Making the carrier a non-threatening and safe place to be will make it a calming factor on the day of travel.
Soft, Comforting Smells, Tastes & Textures
Beyond getting the carrier to be a source of comfort and connection, the items inside the carrier can also increase comfort and lessen anxiety. Any toys or favorite items can serve as a distraction to help curb the canine’s nerves. If the pet is a chewer, be certain to provide a rawhide bone or favorite item to chew. Smells can also be crucial. Since the pet will be on the floor in the seat in front of the owner, a soft garment- even a worn-out t-shirt that smells like the owner can reassure the pet. And in the absence of the owner’s arms, sneaking a few fingers inside the pet carrier to give the critter a few reassuring strokes will go a long way to calm anxious nerves.
Preparations on the Day of Travel
Make certain to give the dog a long walk before you leave for the airport. If you want to give an extra measure for relaxation, consider a spritz of lavender spray. You might also consider other sprays to relax your pet during flight (Comfort Zone with DAP or Rescue Remedy Pet). Quite often, the dog is anxious just before takeoff. Once in flight, most dogs become calm and fall asleep.