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Why A Well-Trained Pet Finds It Easier To Travel

Published on: July 14, 2015  |  Author: Starwood Animal Transport

Getting Ready to travel with your pet? Make it easier with training! http://www.starwoodanimaltransport.com/blog/why-a-well-trained-pet-finds-it-easier-to-travelA well-trained pet can learn to accept travel as “just another day” rather than a Scary Big Deal, and that can make everyone’s travel experience far less stressful.

Training is the process of becoming familiar with something and adapting behavior accordingly. Your dog gets this. He likes learning, because he has a sense of adventure and is eager to please. Your queenly feline, on the other hand, probably doesn’t subscribe to the “training” concept. She’s plenty curious, but only on her own terms. Nonetheless the more you can do to make travel seem normal to her, the more relaxed she will be.

Pets look to you for direction and assurance, so their trust in you can help when it’s time to travel. The more time you spend with your cat or dog leading up to their travel, the more you’re reassuring them that you’re in it together and it’s all good. 

Obedience classes

Training your dog to consistently sit, stay and come on command boosts safety in the event he ever gets loose, especially in an unfamiliar, confusing environment. It builds his confidence and your peace of mind. Training time, whether in formal classes or informally on your own, is also a form of playful interaction that strengthens your mutual bond.

Airlines won’t accept openly aggressive dogs, but sometimes pets can act aggressively out of fear.  Because training builds confidence, it helps alleviate fear.  

The travel kennel as safe haven

The single-most important training you can give your pet for travel is to teach them that their kennel is “theirs” and that it’s a safe place to be no matter what. Cats and dogs must travel in an airline-approved kennel, so the key is to purchase that carrier weeks or even months in advance.

If your pet has never spent time in a crate, they may see it as a “trap.” Start them off slowly by letting them get used to the bottom half of the kennel, without the top. (If your dog is too wary to even step foot in it at first, sit in the open bottom section yourself and have him sit near you on the outside. Or just sit next to it with him. Pet him and speak positively, so he focuses on you instead of the kennel and associates being near it as a good experience.

Have your dog stand or sit in the bottom kennel section -- a position that enables him to easily maintain his view of the entire room so he don’t feel enclosed. Use plenty of treats and positive reinforcement. Eventually, have him lie down. You can actually teach your dog (or cat) to enter the kennel and curl around to lay down by using a leash and a treat concealed in your hand just in front of their nose to lead them. It’s easier to do this with the top off.

Your cats is naturally curious, so she may explore the carrier on their own, but you can encourage her by placing food or one of her favorite toys inside. If she associates carriers with a trip to the vet – ugh -- show her travel isn’t always a hideous experience by taking her for some car rides that don’t result in a treat rather than poking and prodding.

For both cats and dogs, playing inside the kennel helps them see it as a positive, pleasant environment.

Even if you plan to carry your kitty or purse-sized pooch on board with you, they’ll have to remain in their carrier under the seat in front of you. You’ll be right there to reassure them, if necessary, but they will be most calm if they’re comfortably familiar with that carrier.

Potty training

Even the most reliable pet can have an accident when they’re under duress, which is why you should place some absorbent bedding in the carrier. It will be more comfortable, too. You can use paper, but not newspaper.

Understanding your pet’s “digestive timing” will help you plan ahead. Experts suggest reducing food intake the day before travel, but water is always a necessity. Just before loading your dog or cat into the travel crate, walk him so he can relieve himself and start off with an empty bladder.


Many animals are sound-sensitive, some intensely so. You can’t very well replicate an airport or airplane, but you can train dogs to get used to noisy, chaotic environments.

Take him to lots of places where he can encounter new situations safely, with you at his side. Sit in the bleachers at a local ball game where there’s plenty of noise and strange people and smells. Use treats and praise to reward him for successfully meeting these new challenges. You can also consider enrolling your dog in pet-therapy classes where he will learn to calmly cope with all sorts of unusual situations. 

Motion sickness

This is much less likely on a plane than in a car, where pets are often made queasy by the sight of objects moving rapidly past the window. There are things you can do to help your pet gradually get used to movement, but if he has a significant problem with this you should speak with your vet.

Teach by example

As you’re going about your business making arrangements for moving and travel, bear in mind that disruption and change can trigger anxiety in pets. If you’re frazzled and jumpy, they will be, too. If you’re calm and confident, your demeanor will train them that things may be different, but all is well.

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