Hot air balloons and dogs: It doesn’t seem a likely combination, does it? But people who love their dogs tend to want to take them everywhere.
Dogs are snuck into restaurants, movie theaters and all manner of public and private buildings. So it isn’t surprising that people would want to take their dogs on a hot air balloon ride.
Look, I love dogs. If I could have a dozen, I’d be thrilled. But there are some places dogs shouldn’t go, and hot air balloons top that list.
The Mechanics of Flight
Much like when riding in a car, a dog is not capable of understanding the mechanics of a hot air balloon flight. We know that as long as we stay safely in the basket and obey the pilot, we will be fine and have a fun ride.
It is impossible to make a dog understand this. All he will know is that he is in a strange place with strange smells, strange people and that the “ground” is moving in an unknown way.
He could try to escape by leaping out. Remember that his line of sight is beneath the edge of the basket. The last thing he saw was the ground. He may jump out in an effort to return to the stable ground — with fatal consequences.
Many dog people report that their dogs have a fear of hot air balloons, even when on the ground. An online search for “dog hot air balloon” nets a number of results of people asking for advice because their dogs see a hot air balloon and react fearfully.
Watch this dog react nervously as he tracks the progress of a hot air balloon from his backyard:
It’s not usually the sight of the balloon that elicits fear — it’s the sound. When the pilot releases the gas from the blast valve to make the balloon inflate, it’s pretty loud. Dogs’ hearing is much more acute than our own, and to a dog that sound is akin to thunder or fireworks.
If a dog in a hot air balloon basket has to endure the continual sounds of the blast valve, this can scare him into trying to escape. In the air, this is dangerous for everyone. Trying to subdue the dog takes the pilot’s attention away from his job — flying the balloon. Not to mention, the dog could damage the equipment in trying to escape.
Companies Generally Don’t Want the Risk
I called several hot air balloon companies to get their take on flying with dogs. Here are some of the responses I received:
- “People ask all the time, but we just can’t allow it. It’s too dangerous.”
- “Dogs are usually scared of the sounds of the balloon; trying to take a dog up would really scare him, putting the pilots and passengers at risk.”
- “Dogs bark at us from the ground constantly. I can’t even imagine having one in the basket.”
- “Are you crazy? Absolutely not.” (This woman hung up on me before I could explain that I’m not a terrible person and that this was for an article.)
- “The sound of the blast valve is just too loud for a dog. It sounds like fireworks, and that scares them.”
And my favorite:
- “This is not the land of Oz, and your dog is not Toto.”
Clearly, many of the pilots and their companies are unwilling to risk having a dog in their hot air balloons, and for very good reason: It’s dangerous.
Let Your Dog Have Fun — On the Ground
If you’re hankering for a hot air balloon ride, check out some of the great companies in your area. It’s a thrilling experience.
But remember, what’s fun for you is not always fun for your dog. He’ll be much happier if you leave him on the stable, safe ground.
- Dr. Jeff Nichol, DVM: My Dog Has a Phobia of Hot Air Balloons
- U.S. News: 7 of the Worst Hot Air Balloon Accidents in Recent Memory
- Ashville Hot Air Balloons: Frequently Asked Questions