Success Story: Lydia and Mackey
In September 2008, me and my four-year-old Terrier mix, Mackey, flew to NYC from L.A. to visit Mackey's "aunt" (my sister.) Mackey did so well on that 5.5-hour flight -- he was happy and calm both on the departing and return trip. I was thrilled to know that I could travel with him anytime and anywhere.
Two months later, I took him on a 2.5-hour flight to Seattle, fully expecting him to do just as well, but he suffered a full-blown anxiety attack that lasted for the entire duration of the flight, both going and coming. He was trembling uncontrollably, drooling, and gasping for air. I was devastated and very concerned. I didn't want to jeopardize his health, safety or emotional state, but I knew I couldn't stop traveling, either.
I did extensive research to see what kind of aids or calming tools were out there for me to try out on Mackey. I bought him a Thundershirt, Mutt Muffs, and I also tried various natural calming remedies like Bach's Rescue Remedy, Dr. GoodPet's Calm Stress, etc.
A little over a year later, I took Mackey on a short one-hour flight to San Francisco, hoping he would be relaxed and calm like he originally was on his first flight to NYC. The Thundershirt, Mutt Muffs and natural calming aids did nothing. Mackey was stressed and panicked to the point that he was completely shut down. I really believed that I would never be able to fly with him again.
I travel a lot for business and leisure, and Mackey is my certified Service Dog, so leaving him at home is not an option. I had an event to go to in Texas last month (I'm involved with Dancing with the Star’s Derek Hough’s fan site, so I attend most of Derek's appearances. And I took Mackey to Derek's event in Texas) and I was determined to find a way to help Mackey revert to his calm state of mind when traveling by plane.
I talked to Mackey's holistic vet about this situation, but he told me there was really nothing else I could try short of using sedatives to help Mackey relax. I was totally against that idea. I try to only use natural products on Mackey, and I'd also read about the dangers of drugging pets during air travel.
I talked to many more people, including a few more professionals. I scoured the Internet for every bit of information I could find on this subject. I couldn't find any answers. I knew that I couldn't officially give up, though, until I tried one last thing. I asked Cesar. (Read Cesar’s full response to Lydia here.)
As we all know, Cesar is a genius. He told me to try a scent-association technique using lavender oil. When I read his response, I knew immediately that it would have a positive outcome -- I remembered Cesar saying on his show that "60% of a dog's brain is controlled by his nose." Of course. Use the nose to influence the mind. So simple.
Several times a day, I would have Mackey smell some lavender essential oil. As soon as he picked up the scent, I'd immediately reward him with praise, high-value treats, (string cheese!) a massage, etc. Cesar said that by building this positive association with the scent of the lavender oil, Mackey would be calm and relaxed on the flight. And he was!
I still used the Thundershirt and the Mutt Muffs as backup—even though I hadn't had any luck with them before. Mackey only showed a quick minute or two of nervousness on the plane, but as soon as I brought out the lavender oil for him to smell, he was happy and calm and curled up for a nap. (We made it to the Texas event and, as expected, Derek Hough and Mackey were smitten with each other!)
Cesar, thank you again for taking the time to help me. Your suggestion was truly priceless. I'm so happy and relieved that I can now travel with Mackey anytime I need to. Thanks for making this area of my life enjoyable and worry-free. The only thing I'll have to worry about now is choosing our next destination!
Los Angeles, CA