I have a 2-year-old Bichon Frise mix named Mitzie who is petrified to fly. We have even taken to private charter flying, and it is no better. We’ve tried keeping her in a traveling bag inside a small crate, and finally had her sit on our laps, but she is still frightened. Any suggestions?
– Jan, Columbia, Md.
I feel for you, since you want the dog to be with you but the trip is a nightmare for her, and for you. One thing we must be aware of when interacting with our dogs is their uncanny ability to “read” us like a large-print book. So your reaction to her fear must remain minimal if not downright non-existent. Much like fear of thunderstorms or fireworks, if the humans cringe, the dog’s fear seems justified. Help your dog associate flying with the good things in life with a few trial runs. Take her to a local airport in her carrier. Park the car, take her inside, and find a seat. Pull out the cooked chicken bits or mild cheese bits that you have packed (not dog treats, the real deal), and toss a couple into the crate. Relax and read a magazine or just people watch, but ignore the dog completely. If she eats the chicken bits, she is not as stressed as you thought. Pop in a few more and then take her directly to a nearby park for a leash walk before going home. By adding the walk in the park, she will have something other than the airport trip to remember.
These steps should be repeated a few times a month until you see less stress from the dog at the airport. Since the most stressful parts of flying are not happening, including the take-off, she should soon start to relax