Dogs in 'planes

If you're an aviation addict like me, there are bound to be times when you want to take your dog with you on a trip.

In some ways, it's very similar to car travel.  But dogs will be as sensitive as us to changes in pressure.  Plus there will be new smells and they won't understand why this car seems to be really high in the air.

As with car travel, acclimatisation is needed for all but the boldest.  If your dog is really nervous, start by feeding them near or in the aircraft.  Build up lots of positive associations before gradually encouraging them to sit inside, first with the doors open, then closed, then with the engine running.  Finally, move to short taxies then longer taxies.  When you think your dog may be ready to get airborne, pick a calm day when there won't be too many thermals.  Start with a circuit before trying a very short journey.  Make sure you have something dog-friendly planned for your arrival.  Lots of treats, fuss and a nice walk.  Ensure you have a back-up plan to get your dog home by another method if they're really unhappy.

As well as the animal, there are some things you need to consider as a pilot - not least the size and weight of the dog (remember to check weight and balance), and whether the carrier will fit in the 'plane and be secure.  The 'Dog Bag' is a good option, as they are flexible so easier to fit through doors.  For larger dogs, you could use a secure car harness.

If you take it one step at a time and don’t rush, your dog will soon associate the aircraft with exciting things and look forward to trips.

Things to consider

- Let your dog visit the toilet before you fly.

- Dogs have very sensitive hearing which can be damaged by exposure to noise.  Cotton wool balls pushed gently into your dog's ears are a good, cheap solution.  However, they're likely to get shaken out pretty quickly if your dog isn't used to them!

- It's really important that your dog is restrained so it doesn't interfere with the operation of the aircraft to come to any harm, in the event of turbulence, for example.

- Take a friend who is comfortable flying the first few times.  They can help load the dog and keep an eye on it during the flight.

- Remember to take water and food, just in case the unforeseen happens and you're away for longer than intended.


Dog-friendly airfields