Friday, March 27, 2015

Dogs on airplanes: Training starts early!

In May, little Sinead will head to Nashville with me to attend the 2015 BlogPaws conference. It's a long trip, and she'll have to travel by air. That's something she's never done before, and I'm doing my best to help her prepare.

Short-snouted pets like Sinead just can't travel via cargo holds. She can't regulate her body temperature as well as dogs with big sniffers, so she can't handle spending time in spaces that aren't climate controlled. So she'll be in the cabin with me (which I prefer anyway). But it'll still be an unusual experience for this small dog.

Sinead is a lap dog, and she's accustomed to spending most of her time sitting out in the open on the tops of my legs. She just can't do that in an airplane. She'll need to be confined at all times, and she'll need to stay at my feet, not on my lap.

Plus, the carrier she'll call home during this trip is smaller than the crate she uses at home. She has plenty of space in which to stand up and turn around, but she can't really sprawl out in this carrier. She will need to stay somewhat tucked under and still. That will be new.

So, I bought her carrier early, and we've been doing some training.

Sinead is crate trained, so she knows all about going into a box-like enclosure when I ask her to do so. And she knows common commands like "sit" and "down," so I can work with her as she is inside the carrier.
Every day, we run through a few simple commands with her in the crate and all of the vents open wide. She can pop her head out of the top, and if she gets really frightened, she can run right out the door. Every day, I close things up just a little more. In time, she should be able to handle herself with the whole thing shut tight.

Training like this will make the trip a little less stressful for her, as the crate won't be a new and unusual environment. And it should make the trip easier for me, too, as she'll be more likely to behave when she doesn't feel frightened.

If you're coming to BlogPaws, we'd love to see you! Leave me a note in the comments, so I'll know who you are. Then, you can see Sinead in action in May!