The big travel season is upon us, and if you plan on flying with your dog there are several things you should know before you board that plane. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that your puppy has special needs when traveling by air. Below is a handy list of crucial tips for flying with your dog.
1. Visit the Vet
The very first thing to do before flying with your dog is to visit the vet. Get your doggie a thorough check-up before your trip. Let your vet know that you will be traveling with your pet and ask for any tips he or she might have. If your dog tends to get angsty in transit, your vet may offer you advice on calming techniques or medications. One very important thing you’ll need to collect during your vet visit is proof of the check up. Most vets have this paperwork on file. It’s basically a sheet of paper explaining that your dog is in good health and was recently checked by a professional. It also states that the professional – a vet – sees your dog as healthy to fly. Many airlines will not let your pup on board without this documentation. Don’t forget to grab it!
2. Double Check Flight Details
Once you’ve bought your ticket, give the airline a call and let them know that you will be flying with your dog. At that point the airline should make a note with your reservation that you will be flying with an animal. During this high traffic travel season, it’s also a good idea to give the airline another call just a few days before you take off to remind them that you will be bringing a pet. At this time you can also update them with any other information you may have learned since making your original reservation.
3. Decide Where Doggie Will Ride
Will your dog fly in the cabin or in the pet sanctioned cargo area? This all depends on your pet’s size. Do some quick research online to understand the guidelines your selected airline has for bringing dogs on board. Don’t worry about your dog down in cargo. The area is pressurized and air-conditioned to keep your pet nice and comfortable. Plus there will probably be other dogs down there to keep your pet company. Keep in mind, though, that during winter airlines will not allow your pet to ride in cargo if the temperature will drop too low during the flight.
4. Comfort is Key
When selecting a carrier for your dog, your pet’s comfort is key. It would be nice for your dog to ride in the cabin with you, yes, but not if he can’t move during the entire flight! Sometimes flight attendants will allow you to remove your pet from his on-board carrying case at some point during the flight to sit in your lap, but it’s not something you should plan on. So be sure and select a carrier that gives your dog some head and breathing room. Most airlines will allow hard top carriers only up to a certain size on board, and some don’t allow them at all.
Your best bet to give your pet the most room on board is a soft carrier. For larger dogs that need to ride in cargo, a hard carrier is the only choice. Pick a carrier that gives your pup enough room to move a bit and to lie down. Lay a blanket or towel in the floor of the carrier so he has a soft spot to ride. Your dog’s carrier could be more comfortable for him than that center coach seat is for you!
5. Bring Water
Of course you can’t carry water in through security. But once you’ve passed through, be sure and grab a bottle of water for your pup. Pack a small bowl or two to hold his water and food should you need it (more about that coming up). If you’re ‘checking’ your pup to ride in cargo, tape a bottle of water to the top of his carrier with instruction to refill his bowl. Most large hard carriers come with food and water bowls that attach to the door of the carrier. It’s very easy to pour more water into these bowls without having to open the door at all. Flight personnel should be able to replenish your pup’s water with no problem.
6. Bring Food
If it’s going to be a very long flight, you may want to bring along food for your dog. If you’re not sure how your pet’s stomach will handle flying when full, only bring a bit and feed your dog a little at a time - just enough so that he’s not super hungry and uncomfortable. You don’t want to upset your dog’s tummy or you’ll have big problems on your hands during your trip! For dogs in cargo, your best bet is to feed your pet a full meal that will tide him over about an hour before you fly.
7. Handling Layovers
Layovers can be tricky when traveling with your dog. Again, a lot of details depend on whether your pet is riding on board with you or down below in cargo. When your pet is riding along with you on the plane, layovers are great. Airports generally allow you to let your pet out of the carrier as long as your dog remains on a leash. If he has an accident be sure and clean up after your pet. A number of airports have outdoor areas made for pets to take a potty break before, after and between flights. If your pet is being checked, things are a bit stricter. Call the airline beforehand to get as many details as you can. Generally a minimum amount of time is required between the landing of your first plane and your second flight’s boarding time if you’d like to unload your dog for a quick walk.
8. Arrive Early
This is common knowledge this time of year, but it’s a really good idea to arrive extra early if you’re checking a bag. Especially if that ‘bag’ is actually a pet! There may be a number of pets trying to fly, and there is a limited amount of space in cargo. Plus you want to account for any issues that may come up while checking your dog or taking your pet through security. It’s important to understand that even pets going into the cargo hold will be security checked and that this takes time. Be sure to allow enough time for holiday travel crowds, getting your pet and his carrier through security and boarding with your pet if applicable.
9. Calming Meds
If your pet gets anxious during travel, there are several medications you can buy to help make flying easier. When you talk to your vet, mention that your dog’s symptoms when you’ve traveled before. He or she can suggest some options. If this is your dog’s first flight, try to travel without medication. You might be surprised with how well your dog handles it. If your pup is pretty distraught when you land, pick up one of the meds your vet suggested for the return flight.
Holiday fun is even better when your four-legged friend gets to come along! Follow these tips and your dog will be ready for a happy and safe flight. Have you traveled with your pet before? What tips do you have?