Ask The Trainer with Brad Phifer

Bark Tutor School of Dogs

Q: I’m taking my dog on her first airplane trip. Luckily, she’s small enough to fit under the seat so I can take her in the cabin with me. Is there anything I can do or should do to prepare her for flying? And one other thing: Is it OK to give her a sedative before the flight? Is that recommended?

A: Riding on a plane can be an overwhelming experience for a dog. It is important for her to be completely comfortable in her carrier prior to her first trip. Dogs who have previously been crate trained typically do well.

Begin by leaving the bag out in a neutral area of the house. Hide treats, toys, and bones inside the bag to entice her to want to explore inside. Three to four times per day say “go to your room” or some other short phrase, pick her up, and place her in the bag for short periods of time. You will want to begin with 30 to 60 seconds at first, and build up time as she becomes comfortable. This process is very similar to crate training a puppy. I recommend you begin feeding her meals and only allowing her to chew bones or stuffed Kongs inside the carrier.

If she is relaxed at home, begin taking her for car rides while in the bag. With a little practice, she should be comfortable and you will have a relaxing flight.

Brad PhiferABOUT the Trainer:

Bradley Phifer, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, began his career in 2001 as the Director of Animal Behavior Programs for the Humane Society of Indianapolis. Brad offers private behavior counseling and coaching to the clients and patients of many veterinarians in central Indiana through his role as the Director of Pet Behavior Services for the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic & Wellness Center. He is also the creative mind behind Bark Tutor School for Dogs, an innovative dog training center in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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