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Dog Whining on a Plane? 10 Helpful Tips (+1 bonus) to Calm a Nervous Pet

Hopefully, this finds you before you are in the airport with a stressed-out dog who can’t quiet down and relax. But just in case you need something right now in the middle of a busy airport, we wrote this to cover every step of the way, from home to touchdown. We hope this will help you to prevent your dog from whining or barking on the plane.

Depending on where you are in planning your trip with your dog, we have organized it so you have some ideas to handle each situation, whether you need it for your dog right now, if your flight is in a few days, or if you have the luxury to get ready for your trip well in advance.

Need to prepare to fly with a dog who will fit under the seat? Read Flying With a Dog Under the Airplane Seat: The Ultimate Guide

Need to prepare to fly with a dog who will NOT fit under the seat? Ready Flying with a Big Dog: Travel Tips For Ease & Safety

How do I stop my dog from crying on a plane?

If your dog has not traveled much, it is hard to know how it will behave on the plane. The good news is there are a number of things to help you and your dog at the airport and on the flight.

Let’s walk through what you can do to prevent your dog from whining or barking on the plane.

There are 2 strategies you can do around the home to help get your dog ready for the crate and flight

If you are getting ready in advance, then you have one of the most valuable things to work with. TIME. You will have the time to work with your dog in ways that can help them be comfortable with their travel crate and also be relaxed in unfamiliar situations.

These strategies can make a huge difference between your dog being a confident travel companion or a nervous, noisy wreck. Continue reading the post. Or, if you are in a hurry, click here to jump to these two strategies.

Crate train your dogs from an early age. They will sleep calmly in their crate.
Our precious senior jack saw crates as a safe space. Her crate was her home away from home during all our adventures

3 things to do on the day of flying to help your dog feel comfortable and calm

It is best for your dog to be ready well in advance, but whether your dog is on their maiden flight or is a globe trotter there are a few things to do on the day of your flight that will almost always help your dog have a more comfortable journey. Continue reading the post. Or, if you are in a hurry click here to jump to these 3 strategies.

5 ideas you can do during the flight to help your dog handle stress and stop whining

No matter how much any of us prepare and work with our dogs, there will be something that will surprise, scare, excite or bother our dogs so that they start whining or barking. There are things you can do in the moment to help your dog calm down and stop whining if they become upset. Continue reading the post. Or, if you are in a hurry click here to jump to these 5 ideas.

World traveling Beagle is prepared for his flight

Only have one or two days to prepare before you and your dog fly?

If your dog has not flown before and the flight is tomorrow, there is still a little time for your dog to feel more ready than just crossing your fingers and heading to the airport.

Here are the most important things you can do to get ready

Why do dogs whine and bark on planes?

If you have spent most of your time at home with your dog, then it might be a shock when they start acting very differently when you get to the airport. If we think about what is going on for our four-legged companions, they are overloaded with new experiences…new smells, loud/weird sounds, tons of strange people, really huge, strange buildings…it is a lot.

Depending on your dog’s personality, it can range from super exciting to super terrifying. But one thing is for sure, it is different. So they will want to tell you about how different it is and how they are feeling about it.

The key for both you and your dog is to be able to move past these surprises and changes so you can sit back, relax and have a good trip.

And THAT is what this post is all about. Let’s get into it!

Prevent Your Dog Whining Before Ever Leaving Home

You can use simple routines at home and in day-to-day activities to help your dog get ready for the flight. They may seem obvious, but doing them often will help your pup be familiar with and feel calm with things that they will encounter in the car, airport, and plane.

The work you put in with your dog before your trip will have infinitely more success than anything you can do during the flight.

Tip 1) Crate train your dog to get used to the carrier before the flight

Check out Denver having a great time learning to love his soft crate

If your dog is going to fly, it will be traveling in a crate.  It might be a soft crate at your feet or it might be a plastic crate in a pet-safe environment under the plane.

It works best to crate train your dog from the time they are a puppy. However, if you haven’t started yet, the second best time is now.  Crate training will likely take a little bit of time, so if you know you will be flying, include this bonding time with your pet ASAP

Crate training is great even after the flight for your dog to be safe, healthy, and happy.

Benefits of crate training

Think of your safest, most comfortable space. For me, it is sitting inside with nice warm blankets bunched up around me, my hands wrapped around some hot coffee or tea while it pours down rain outside. The crate can be the same for your dog.

Crates can be a safe space

With their crate, you can create that comfortable, familiar, safe place for your dog. And then, like magic, you can carry that with you as a literal “home away from home”!

It might take time and patience to teach your dog to love its crate, but it is really important. It should not be thought of by you or your dog as a punishment.  Crates should be a place dogs feel safe and secure.

Dogs who are crate trained tend to be better behaved in general and, importantly for flying, better able to cope with anxiety.  When traveling, the crate is the place where your dog will feel safe and secure. It stays constant and familiar while the world changes around them.

Here are following the recommendations from the book, Training the Best Dog Ever: A 5-Week Program Using the Power of Positive Reinforcement by Larry Kay

Step-by-Step Crate Training Guide

STEP 1 – Getting Used to the Crate

  • Throw a few treats around the crate opening. Give a reward for any interest in the crate
  • Don’t give your dog any verbal directions. Just let the placement of the treats show where you want your dog to focus their attention
  • If it is going well, throw a few treats into the crate
  • Repeat as needed over a few days until your dog is comfortable both in and around the crate.
Pug crate training so he doesn't whine or bark on the plane
Leaving the door open helps this Pug get used to his crate

Step 2 – Positive Associations with the Crate

  • Put part of your dog’s food in its bowl or kong and put it inside the crate
  • Leave the DOOR OPEN and back away once your dog is inside munching

Step 3 – Give it a name

  • Say, “Crate” as your dog goes inside. say, “Good crate” and close the door 
  • When your dog looks at you, open the crate door. Give your dog a few treats through the crate door and tell your dog how good it is.
    • Let your pup out. Practice this regularly throughout the day

Step 4 – Building Endurance

  • Say, “Crate” and once your dog is inside, put down their food. Then close the door
  • Take a step or two away from the crate, then return and give a high-level treat through the wires. Do this a couple more times. Each time increasing the distance and/or time 
  • Add in some extra good treats like a kong and then walk a little further away.
  • When you open the door to let your dog out be very calm and neutral.
  • When your dog can be calm and enjoy time in their crate with you still in the room, it’s time to move to the next stage.

Step 5 – Reducing Separation Anxiety

  • This is when you teach your dog to enjoy its time in the crate even if you aren’t in the room.  
  • Say, “Crate” and once your dog is inside, put down their food. Then close the door
  • Leave the room just for a few seconds and then return and let your dog out.
  • Build up how long you leave the room over time. It may only take one or two tries or it may take a few weeks of practice, but eventually, your dog will catch on

Power Tips

  • Train when your dog is hungry.  Since food is used as the reward, it will have a stronger effect. 
  • Make training fun, but be careful that the reward is given for going into and staying calm in the crate not when being released from the crate
  • If your dog whines or barks wait patiently until they are calm. If you let them out, that will become a reward and will increase the whining in the future. 
Banner encouraging people to tell their story. Two dogs in the photo

Tip 2) Train your dog to get used to a variety of situations before the flight

If you are considering getting a dog, choose a breed that will work best for plane travel.

Your dog usually whines when it is stressed or nervous about what is happening.  If you regularly introduce them to unusual situations and work with them in feeling “okay” in those situations, they will be much more ready for new experiences that happen on a trip.

Even though they might never have been in an airport or a plane, when your puppy feels safe with you in different types of activities (especially with crowds and noises) then they will be more relaxed and might be interested in this as just another new adventure.

  • The easiest way to start is just to find ways to include them in day-to-day activities outside of their normal environment. Find places that are busy with people, have unusual noises and have different animals – Inside, outside, you name it. One great option is to take your dog to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Practice taking your dog to busy, loud and crowded environments
How would your dog do in a busy and crowded environment like this?
  • But take it slow, make it fun and pay close, relaxed attention to your dog.
  • Similar to crate training, use lots of positive reinforcement and treats.  Go slowly. Only stay for a short time in the beginning and work your way up.  In no time, you’ll start noticing your dog is no longer whining, barking, or trembling. Instead, they will be calmer.

If something new does startle or upset them, you will be right there to help them process this.  This practice will pay off even if you are separated on a flight because your dog is in excess baggage or cargo because they will have lots of positive experiences with encountering new things. 

Good Canine Citizens – a time-tested method to help your dog handle most situations

So you might be looking at your dog right now and thinking “relaxed, calm, quiet…right…”. These are skills that can be taught, and pretty much any dog can learn them. AKC has a list of 10 things dogs need to be “Good Canine Citizens”.

Each Good Canine Citizen skill is simple to teach and together the 10 skills cover the most common experiences your dog will run into out there in our human world. They help dogs with their interactions with other people and animals and teach them to be responsive and attentive to you.

Lots of organizations and trainers teach classes to help your dog learn these skills.  See a list of locations on the AKC website. You can even take the test and get a certificate for your pup.  That might help with finding pet-friendly accommodation upon your arrival as well.

Four ways the Canine Good Citizen class prepares your dog for flying

  • You will have to talk to lots of people including people at the check-in desk, security, and flight attendants.  Good Canine Citizen skill one teaches your dog to stay calm and not whine when you are approached by a friendly stranger.
  • Various people might handle your dog including inspectors doing health checks once you land in another country. Good Canine Citizen skill two and three teaches your dog to feel comfortable with being pet and having strangers handle their paws or look in their ears.
  • While your dog will spend much of their travel time in a crate, there are times it can get out such as in the pet relief station and during pick-ups and drop-offs.  Airports are very busy and crowded, so that can be overwhelming to a dog who isn’t used to it. Good Canine Citizen skill four and five teaches your dog to walk calmly beside you and be comfortable moving through a crowd.
  • If you have a medium or large dog, they will probably fly separately from you. Many people worry about their pets being separated, but you can prepare them for being apart without whining or getting too distressed.  Good Canine Citizen skill ten teaches your dog to stay calm when you leave them with someone else
It is important to prepare your dog for inspections from health officers when arriving in a new country
Health inspectors may examine your dog during an international arrival

Prevent Whining on the Day of Your Flight

Tip 3) Make Your Dog’s Crate as Comfortable as Possible

This golden retriever is too big for this crate. This will cause discomfort that can cause whining or barking
This crate is too small for a full-grown golden retriever
This border terrier is the right size for the airline approved crate
Tracey Anscombe found a proportional crate for her border terrier, Riker 

Select the right size crate/carrier. Don’t be tempted to go too big or too small

Your dog needs to be able to stand up, turn around, sit erect, and lie in a natural position. Airlines can be very strict with this and will not allow a dog to be cramped in a crate with no room to stand up or turn around.

The crate needs to have ventilation on all 4 sides

Here are two crate options that receive top ratings and are airline approved. While there are other options as well, You pretty much can’t go wrong with the recommendation based on your pet’s flying location.

Read more about other carrier options for flying with medium and large dogs here

There are some countries such as Mexico that have strict requirements about not putting things in crates, so always check the regulations for your destination.

Assuming there are no rules against it,

  • Put down absorbent material such as a pee pad on the bottom of the crate in case there is an accident or something spills
  • Provide a soft comfortable base to lie on
  • Don’t pile in blankets. That may cause the dog to overheat
  • It might help to put in one non-choking comfort object especially if it smells like you
  • Try including a kong or safe chew toy, but know they might also ignore it.  
  • I have never personally used them, but some people swear by calming pheromones and/or thundershirts.  This probably isn’t the time to experiment.  If you want to use something like this, try it out ahead of time to see if it works for your dog

Tip 4) Limit their food and water intake for 4 hours before the flight

While it might seem counterintuitive, this helps prevent bathroom accidents because it reduces the dog’s need to pee or poo. 

It can also limit potential nausea due to motion sickness.

Don't feed the jack russell before flying. This will reduce its need to use the bathroom which is a common reason it might whine.
Don’t give in to the puppy dog eyes

Tip 5) Tire your pup out and provide one last opportunity to use the bathroom

This may be less necessary if you have a red eye or you are flying during a time your dog is naturally going to sleep a lot.

If you have a daytime or lengthy flight, play catch, tug, go for a jog whatever your dog loves to do that will get out its energy before heading to the airport.  

If you have a long drive before you even get to the airport, you may want to get out some energy before and after the drive.  I use google search to find “parks near the airport” to see if there is a convenient park to visit just before heading into the airport. 

Prevent Whining During Your Tripeven on a 10-hour flight

Tip 6) Pick your seat ahead of time and board early

There are often rules about which seat dogs are and are not allowed in.  They can’t go in bulkhead, or exit rows. They often can’t go in the long-haul premium classes either. 

 Each airline has slightly different policies, so check about yours.  Some people prefer to get window seats because they tend to consistently have the largest space underfoot and don’t have other passengers passing by all the time. This will prevent some of the potential whining or barking that comes with strangers passing by and prevent your pup from relaxing. 

When the gate attendants call for families and people who need special assistance to board, see if you can join that group to get your pup settled under the seat before getting into the aisle traffic jam.  That avoids a common time for the dog to whine during boarding.

Try for early boarding to get your dog situation before the plane gets full
It will be easier to get your pup situated during pre-boarding

Tip 7) Leave Your Pet Alone

The saying, don’t wake a sleeping baby definitely applies here too.  It is tempting to be an attentive pet parent and check on your precious cargo, but that keeps them from settling down and sleeping.

Since the crate keeps us from being able to see them clearly, it can be tempting to want to look inside regularly.  If they are calm and quiet, check on them once or twice to make sure they are comfortable, but otherwise leave them alone.

What to do if your dog is whining, barking, or showing signs of stress

Tip 8) Give them something to chew on

Sometimes dogs don’t want any of their kongs or chew toys, but it can be helpful for them to chew especially during take-off and landing.  It’s like chewing gum for humans, it gives them something to do and might help with those uncomfortable pressure changes.

This Dalmatian is is chewing on a kong. Chewing might help dogs not to whine during take-off and landing

Tip 9) Don’t take your dog out of its crate

While some people on some flights are able to get away with taking their dog out of its carrier, it is against the rules. You might be lucky, but you shouldn’t count on it as a strategy for calming your dog if it is whining.  You may be able to take your dog out of its carrier inside the plane bathroom, but obviously, that is not a solution that can last for more than a few minutes. 

Pets are required to be under the seat in front of you during take-off and landing. While en route, you may be able to put the whole crate on your lap. Some flight attendants are more strict about this than others.

You can talk to your dog with a soft soothing voice.

If they really need extra love, you can try to unzip the bag a little and put your hand inside to give your dog some pets, but be careful. If your dog is really stressed, it might take advantage of the situation and try to escape.

Tip 10) Consider a calming medication with vet approval

Airlines don’t recommend sedatives, especially for snub-nosed dogs since the medication can impact their breathing. It can also be problematic if your dog is lethargic (or loopy) when being inspected by the health officer if you are flying internationally. 

However, you know your dog best.  Talk to your vet about options and under what conditions to give the medication. 

Bonus: If you are relaxed, your dog will be less likely to bark or whine during the flight

Part of the reason we love our dogs is that we have such a strong bond and connection.  They often seem to intuit our moods and try to offer comfort and solace.  

If you are stressed and showing your own anxiety, your dog can smell it.  That may increase your dog’s stress and desire to be close to you.  

When you stay calm. Your dog is more likely to stay calm.  I see tons of dog parents in group forums who are very stressed about flying with their pets.  Once it’s over, most of them say that the bureaucracy was hard, but everything turned out okay in the end.

If you want to know more about what our community members have to say about their experiences traveling with pets to specific places, check out our ever-growing Countries page.


Are flights traumatizing for dogs?

Flights are cramped, uncomfortable, and can be stressful for us and our dogs. It is a little more extreme and confining than a long car ride, but similar in nature. Just like with traveling in a car, there is a lot you can do to help your dog relax and travel calmly.

Do dogs freak out on planes?

Yes, some dogs definitely freak out! However, even if your dog is easily excitable or nervous they can learn to relax and stop whining or barking. If you are flying for the first time with your dog and are worried about how they will act there is a lot you can do to build those doggy life skills for being comfortable in the carrier and confident in new places.

Does airplane pressure affect dogs?

It was strangely hard to find any official vet resources to confirm that changes in altitude cause dog’s ears to pop like ours. However, with changes in altitude and pressure affect what we are feeling in the cabin, so even if it is not exactly the same as our dog it will definitely be different from anything they experience.

Because of that, they might feel nervous and want to whine and tell you what they think about it.

Wrapping up: Preventing Your Dog From Whining on a Plane

The best way to prevent your dog from being noisy and stressed out on the plane is to practice those life skills ahead of time. Tips number one and two will by far be the biggest bang for your buck.

In short, the skills that they will need most on the flight are:

Feeling comfortable and at home in their travel crate

How to relax while alone in their crate and to be separated from you for hours

Having confidence in new situations and the ability to relax in strange places

These are timeless skills that are simple, they can be learned by most dogs of any age and they are definitely worth practicing over time to keep your dog ready for any journey, whether at home or abroad.

We hope you found these tips useful and wish you and your dog a great flight and the adventures that await beyond. Best of luck and safe journeys!

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