How to Calm A Dog Before a Plane Flight

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Does it seem like every other person in the airport these days has a dog on a leash — or a cute pup zippered into a designer bag? Indeed, some pampered pooches have more frequent flyer miles than the average businessperson, yet many remain fearful flyers. Luckily, if you're looking for how to keep your dog calm on a plane, there are many safe travel approaches to take. Keep calm — and fly on!

Crate training is useful for flying.

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Try crate training

Just as crate training your puppy helped him find comfort, this same box can teach your animal that flying in a crate is also completely normal. Since airlines require that pets be crated while in the air, it's wise to make your dog's container a great place to be several weeks before you depart. Keep the crate door open and make it very inviting by filling it up with soft blankets, some treats, toys, or stuffed Kongs inside. You want to create as many positive experiences with the crate so that the day your dog must travel, he'll feel calmer since he's already accustomed to it (and it even smells like home).

Drive with the crate

As your dog learns to love his crate, the next step is to get him used to traveling in it. Try to mimic what will happen on the day of the flight, which means a car ride to the airport. You might get a friend to drive you while you sit next to the dog carrier and keep an eye on your pet. As your dog gets used to traveling in it, add some challenges such as keeping the car windows rolled down while on a highway or driving through an old-fashioned car wash to simulate the loud noises on a flight. Make sure you are there to reassure your pet as needed and provide treats.

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Visit the airport with your dog.
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Visit the airport

Another idea for how to calm a dog while traveling is to make the airport a regular destination. If you live near one, consider a visit or two in order to acclimate your dog to airport noises, sights, and smells — and maybe the place will appear less intimidating. The more you take him, the less likely he is to panic on departure day. Remember to bring along some high-value treats you can feed your dog every now and then so he learns that airports are great places. Don't have an airport nearby? You can recreate similar noises by using recordings of planes landing and taking off.

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Consider medications for your dog.

While you may have practiced a lot, there are many things that are impossible to rehearse, so it's normal for your dog to be a bit on edge or anxious on flight day. If you're tense too, most likely your dog will feel that things are different. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, sedation for dogs who need to fly isn't recommended in most cases, but tranquilizers for flying may be beneficial. For more natural calming aids, ask your vet about a pheromone collar to lower anxiety. Or you might dress your dog in a Thunder Shirt, which is a tight-fitting top that hugs your dog and may offer comfort when he's feeling stressed.

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Tucker out your pup

Plan to exercise your dog before boarding the plane.
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Everyone knows that a tired dog is a good dog, so plan to exercise your dog before boarding the plane. If he's wiped out, he'll naturally feel relaxed — and this could make him a better flyer. Make time to take him on a nice long walk before heading to the airport since this may release some pent-up tension. Also, another brief walk at the airport will allow him the opportunity to relieve himself and feel calmer.

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