Flying can be a stressful event for anyone. The long wait times, the fear of what could go wrong, and the general anxiety often involved in taking off in an aircraft are all things to make even the most calm and collected person feel a little rattled.
It’s not just humans that can have this fear of flying, though. Your emotional support animal could also experience stress when going on a flight. Although your ESA may be there to help calm your anxieties, it’s important that you also take into account how they may feel when you travel. There are things you can do to help keep your ESA calm while you fly together, so let’s look at some tips on what to do if your ESA gets stressed when flying.
Flying with an ESA dog in-cabin
Every airline may differ a bit when it comes to flying with your emotional support dog in the cabin with you. There are some general rules that most airlines follow, though, that involve their expectations of passengers with ESAs.
A letter is required for an ESA to be approved for in-cabin flight
The majority of airlines will require some sort of written documentation, either from your doctor, your vet, or both, to help them establish whether or not your ESA is designated. They need this documentation to ensure that the animal is there to do a specific job, and not just there because the passenger doesn’t want them to fly below.
Your emotional support dog must be well-trained
This means that your ESA will have to be able to sit still on the flight without barking or jumping around the aisles/onto other passengers; they must also be able to keep their bladder under control. Your ESA will not be allowed to fly in-cabin if these conditions are not met.
The size of your ESA matters
Most airplanes are cramped for space. This means that your emotional support animal has to fit comfortably where you are. Some airlines prohibit dogs based on large size, while others will need confirmation that your dog will be able to fit on your lap or under your seat with ease. If your ESA is big and would likely span out across the aisle, they may not be allowed to fly in the cabin with you.
These rules are just the basics; you should research your specific airline prior to flying with your ESA to ensure that you meet all their eligibility criteria.
How to calm your emotional support animal
When it comes to flying with your well-behaved emotional support animal, it’s important to note that levels of high stress or anxiety can cause them to act out of character. Considering most airlines require well-behaved dogs on their flights, knowing how to calm your ESA is a first and foremost priority when flying.
Below are some basic tricks you can use to help calm your ESA while on the flight or directly prior so that they behave how you need them to.
Give them lots of exercise
A tired dog is a calm dog. While you’re waiting for your flight, be sure to give your dog as much exercise as possible. Active play with toys or walks throughout the airport (where permitted) will be a great help in keeping your ESA calm while the plane is in the air.
Give them lots of pets
If you’re already on the flight and your ESA is getting stressed, make sure they know you’re there for them physically. Petting them, cuddling them while they sit on your lap, and just showing them some love will help ease their anxieties so that you can both fly in peace.
Play some classical music
You may not be able to have loud music going on during takeoff or landing, but putting classical music on low while waiting to board or while flying could help ease anxiety in your ESA. Some research has shown that dogs prefer classical music, and it will help distract them from the loud noises of air travel, which may be setting off their anxieties.
Invest in a calming harness
If you’ve flown with your dog before and know that they can get anxious, investing in a calming harness or other type of calming device can work wonders on a flight. There are many brands of calming harnesses that work by applying light pressure to your dog’s torso, giving it the feeling of being cuddled or hugged, which has been proven to reduce stress.
Research other types of therapies
Another tip for preparation prior to flying is to learn about other types of therapies that can help calm your ESA. For example, many companies offer supplements that are proven to soothe anxious pups.
Tips for flying with emotional support animal
The first thing to do when flying with your ESA is know your rights and what’s allowed on your specific airline. This will take any guesswork out of what is needed from you and your animal, as well as what rights you have as a paying passenger.
You’ll also want to know what it takes to calm your animal, and this can only be done from a highly personalized approach. The above tips are good starting points, but may not work for every ESA, so it can be a bit of a trial-and-error situation.
There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for flying with an ESA that gets stressed, but knowing your companion and preparing for what might happen if the flight gets a bit too much for them can help you both cope with the stress of air travel.