Travels with Charlie – First Plane Ride


Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

We planned Charlie’s first plane ride to Arizona for May. Then, we cancelled it. Then, the storm hit and off we went. This is the photoessay story of his big adventure.

Spoiler alert: Charlie did fine and absolutely loved Sedona.

But, like any big event with a dog, it took planning. I followed my three rules:

  • Train reliable and predictable patterns of behavior. For Charlie’s trip this included getting in and out of a small carrier on cue.
  • Set your dog up to succeed. We trained daily, primarily so we had a solid working relationship that I hoped would withstand the pressure of travel.
  • Keep your dog below threshold. This is dog trainer lingo that basically means help your dog stay calm and not freak out. Having taught Charlie to self-soothe with conditioned relaxation really helped a lot (see cover photo of him chilling out at the Phoenix airport).


Video of Charlie learning to get in his carrier

Charlie was a bit nervous waiting for our flight to board in Houston. This was a brand new experience for him and he had no idea what was going on. It’s okay to reassure your dog. Let him know you’re there and you’ve got his back. No, you are not reinforcing fear.

Charlie under the seat in front of me. I helped him through this part with some yummy snacks and petting. He trembled and panted turning taxi and take off. We did the best we could. Once in the air, Charlie fell asleep (in his carrier) on my lap.


Waiting for the rental car at the Phoenix airport.

Dogs (and people) make strong associations with places. Charlie, like Stella and Stevie before him, loved Sedona (see Charlie’s first hike below). I hope that pane rides become connected with fun trips for Charlie. The trip home was actually better than the trip out, so maybe it’s starting to happen already.

Charlie at the Phoenix airport before the return trip. Notice the relaxed down.

Hydrating before the flight is a good idea.

As fun as the trip was, it’s always nice to get back to your own bed.


Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, TX. You can follow Charlie on Instagram to see his future adventures.