Here are some travel tips from a seasoned JRT and her travel companion about how to fly in-cabin. For many dogs, this is a time for high anxiety. For me, flights are a time to catch up on sleep.

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Gezi the JRT dog traveling in her flight bag
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How Can I Prepare My Dog for Their First Flight?

Either I have the easiest going Jack Russell Terrier on the planet, or I have taught her well.  My guess is a little of both.   JRTs have the reputation of being hard dogs to train and hard dogs to manage and travel with.  Gezi, my JRT, is not.  She is a dream travel companion.  Partly due to being run so often that she is usually tired.  As I write, she is sleeping by my side.

I picked a JRT because I wanted a running and travel companion.  More on this topic here. To me, traveling is a lot of hikes, bikes, cars, buses, boats, flights, and trains.  So when I decided to bring my JRT home, I needed a plan to make traveling with my dog easy and manageable.

Google provided a lot of flight information, mostly geared to in-hold, in the belly of the plane pets, or unruly pets.  I have neither.  I just needed to know how to get my dog ready for her first in-cabin flight.

Gezi is an easy-going JRT who likes to travel, and now to fly.  So much so, that when I pull her bag down off the shelf, she gets ready to go.  Gezi is a smart JRT.

When Planning a Flight With a Dog, It’s Better to Start Early

If you plan to travel with your dog, especially by air, it is best to start with a puppy.  You get to control your dog’s knowledge and interactions from day one.  This means you will have a better chance, when you get on your first flight that your dog doesn’t freak out, start barking, and cause you and everyone else anxiety.

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A sleepy Gezi the JRT after a long run
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These are the steps and training I found to work well with Gezi, my JRT to prepare her for travel and in-cabin flights:

  1. Start early.  They say there is no better time than the present, and with training and preparing a dog for their first flight, this is true. Try taking your dog on short trips in the car in the pet carrier to get used to it.  If every time the dog gets in the carrier, and awakens in a foreign place, with an unfamiliar smell, or gets a needle in the butt, he or she may not associate the carrier with anything pleasant
  2. Pick a suitable dog carrier.  I use a Sherpa Pet Carrier for flights.  It has worked perfectly now on 20+ flights fitting my JRT in the pet carrier and the pet carrier under the seat.  I can’t imagine getting to the airport to find that my carrier is too big.  Not a problem I want to experience firsthand. Sherpa carriers are built to airline specifications and are made of the highest quality.  We are actually on Sherpa number two.
  3. No animal likes to soil themselves.  One trick I taught my JRT was to pee on command if she has to go.  We practice every night so that at hotels or before a flight, all I need to say is ‘Gezi go’ and if she needs to, she leads me off to a place that’s private or to a bathroom and goes.  It’s great.  Airport custodians are amazed that my dog pees in the airport bathroom and gets a kick out of it to boot
  4. Run your dog before leaving for the flight.  Tired dogs, especially my JRT, need rest to recover.  If your dog feels like the bag is a safe place, then sleep will come easy
  5. Leave your dog alone. If the dog is sleeping or relaxing, let it be.  If you are constantly worried the dog will sense this and act accordingly, leading to the dog barking
  6. Train to redirect your dog each time s/he barks. There are few sounds more frustrating when trying to sleep or relax than a barking dog.  Dogs bark for a myriad of reasons, including protection, hunger, and anxiety.  I use the command “leave it”.  Gezi will sit on the patio chilling and suddenly be barking crazily at a dog below.  I tell my JRT to ‘leave it’ and ‘come’.  When her barking stops, I reassure her and tell her it’s okay

Gezi, my JRT, and I are seasoned travelers. I can pull her flight bag off the shelf and she will go right in each time.  Our learning curve was easy.  She rarely pushed back on getting in the flight bag and now never does.

Start Short Before You Embark on a Long Flight With Your Dog

I know that not all dogs are like this.  So the best advice I can give is to start with brief trips and if you can, a short flight. Start small if your dog is unruly. Maybe start with your dog in the back of the car while you redirect him or her. Then make sure you take your dog somewhere they want to go. It will probably take some time.  And if my tips don’t work, my last recommendation would be to visit your veterinarian for an alternative. Maybe a medical solution, like a sleeping aid that relaxes your dog on the flight.

To date, Gezi, my JRT, has flown to France a few times, Italy, Switzerland, and all over Turkey.  She’s my perfect flight and travel companion.  

PS: Don’t forget to call your airline and book your dog on the flight.  Only two pets are allowed on most flights so best to book early.

PPS: Don’t forget to leave a comment in the section below. We always love to hear your pet stories.