Only recently, we were asked by a student who was about to relocate overseas for two years if it was advisable to bring his dog along. After a lengthy chat, we realised what he wanted to know was how to train and prepare his dog for air travel. And it was that chat that inspired this blog post…
Know the Paperwork
By this we mean you will need to familiarize yourself with the Singapore dog export requirements as well as the import requirements of the destination country. As we are not experts in pet relocation, this is one area we cannot advise. However this post on how to relocate your dog overseas by movers Singapore is both informative and helpful. Alternatively, the AVA website is another good resource.
Training and Preparing Your Dog Mentally for Flight
Equally important is you taking the effort to train and prepare your dog mentally for air travel. It is very likely that your dog will be crated in his pet carrier, alone and in the cargo holding area of the plane. If your dog is shy or anxious, he may panic and injure himself while trying to bite his way out of his crate. Even if yours is a calm dog, the stress of separation plus being locked up for many hours, may leave a psychological scar on your dog. To prevent this, before travelling, you will need to get your dog to:
Love being Inside his Crate
Believe or not, dogs can be trained to love their crate and stay created for hours without feeling frustrated or anxious. However, for this to happen, they will have to go through a systematic crate training process involving the use of treats and toys to introduce them to their crate and condition them to love it. The steps to properly crate train your dog can be found here.
Please do not physically force any dog into his crate; this is the surest way to make him feel trapped, frustrated and isolated.
Be Desensitised to Noise and Movement Outside his Crate
Once you have successfully crate train your dog, it’s time to get him used to noise and movement outside of his crate. This is important because in the cargo holding area of the airport, it is likely that your dog will experience having strangers moving around him while crated. During take-off and landing, while crated in the cargo compartment, he may be subjected to loud noises or sudden drop due to turbulence. To help him cope with these environmental stressors, you will want to crate him and take him outdoors often. Take him to the noisiest part of the park or beach. Take him on car rides and let him witness the world going on around him, while inside his crate. Over time, this will desensitise him to most types of noise and movement outside his crate and allow him to relax better while left alone in the plane.
Accept being Handled by Strangers while Inside his Crate
Next you will want to train him to accept being moved by strangers while inside his crate. This can easily be achieved by having two friends whom your dog has not met (i.e. strangers) carry the crate, with your dog inside, from point to point. Start by having them lift the crate, one on each side, for about 3 seconds, with you standing next to them. Reward your dog handsomely once they put down the crate. Slowly increase the distance the crate has to be moved before treating the dog. Next, move out of sigh while your friends lift and move the crate. Initially move aside for just a few seconds and slowly increase this duration till your dog is perfectly relaxed and comfortable with two strangers moving him in you absence.
Once this is achieved, you will need to generalize this exercise by having a few more pairs of strangers moving the crate, On relocation day itself, the cargo handlers are going to be strangers; you will want your dog to be fully relaxed when being moved around by them.
As can be seen, the process of training and preparing a dog mentally for flight can be quite lengthy. Hence, its best to start as early as possible to ensure your dog is adequately trained and prepared. If you need expert guidance, our trainers at dog training Singapore will be glad to help.
On Flight Day
On departure day itself, if you have done the necessary work above, your dog should be mentally ready for air travel. However, you will still want to make him as comfortable as possible. As such, it is good to note the following:
Feed your dog at least 7 to 8 hours before flight departure. This includes his water intake. There’s nothing worse than sending your dog with a full stomach and bladder onto his first flight. Feeding him early gives you the opportunity to let him potty just before boarding.
Exercise your Dog and Allow him to Potty
Its also a good idea to exercise him well just before crating him for flight. This will tire him and help him relax better while inside his crate during flight. After exercising and before crating him a final time, remember to let him relieve himself.
Make his Crate Comfortable
It’s always a good idea to place in his crate, items like his favourite chew toy, blanket or even a piece of your clothing. This is to provide him a familiar and inviting environment while crated inside. And don’t forget to line his crate with a pee pad. If it’s a long flight, he may be forced to relieve himself; you certainly don’t want him wet and uncomfortable.
As far as possible do not sedate your dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend it as it can be dangerous for dogs to be sedated during flight.
Use Direct Flight if Possible
This is to minimise the time your dog has to remind crated and separated from you and lessen his overall stress level from flying alone.
Check That Your Dog is Onboard
Each time you board the plane, have the crew check that your dog is also on board. This is especially important if you are taking connecting flights.
This completes our comprehensive guide to training and preparing your dog for air travel. If you have friends who are relocating overseas with their dogs, feel free to share this page with them via social media. If you have tips of your own, do feel free to comment below.