Whether you are travelling for business or leisure, you may feel tempted to bring your beloved dog along, but the idea of flying your dog may appear to be too daunting. There is a lot of information to retain and the whole task may appear overwhelming. You may also feel frightened by some horror stories you may have heard on the news. Don’t give up. Consider that breeders ship their precious puppies on a routine basis and they wouldn’t continue doing so if flying them was too dangerous. Military personnel who are often stationed overseas also frequently fly their dogs with them. If you are considering flying your pet with you on your next travel date, read on for some basic information.
Under the Seat or Checked Baggage?
Depending on the size of your pet and airline policies, your dog may be allowed to travel in the cabin with you or inside the plane’s belly. Generally, small pooches that can fit in a carrier, which can be stowed comfortably under the seat, are allowed inside the cabin. Larger dogs instead must travel as checked baggage in the plane’s belly. This may sound scary, but consider that your dog won’t be treated as a piece of luggage. Airline personnel are specifically trained in handling your dog and the compartment is ventilated, pressurized and temperature controlled. It’s a good idea to research the airline that you are considering flying with and looking for reviews left from other dog owners travelling with their pets.
It’s very important to adhere to the strict crate requirements. These may vary based on whether your dog travels in the cabin or plane’s belly. The most important features are that the crate is leak-proof, sturdy and well- ventilated. Look for a crate that meets or exceeds these features. A good place to check when it comes to requirements is the IATA website and the airline’s website. Make sure you are well-informed to avoid last minute surprises. An airline may refuse to fly your dog if the crate doesn’t meet the safety requirements!
In order to fly, your dog needs to be healthy. Most airlines require a health certificate not older than 10 days. Your vet will perform a physical check-up. Make sure your dog is current on required vaccinations when crossing borders. If your dog is microchipped, this is also a good time to check if the microchip is readable. Your vet will issue a health certificate which comprises the temperatures he can withstand. Embargo rules will not allow a pet to fly if it’s too cold or hot. Dogs with snub noses may be unable to fly or there may be restrictions. While you may feel that flying your pet is stressful, consider that airlines may be reluctant to fly pets that are sedated. Check with your airline and vet.
Preparing your Dog
The airport and flying may be a scary experience if your pet hasn’t travelled before. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to spending time in the crate before travel day. Place toys, treats and blankets it in during the day so your dog associates being in the crate with positive things. Keep the crate open so your dog can visit it and nap in it when he feels like it without feeling trapped inside. After some time, you may lock him with a stuffed Kong or bone for gradually longer periods of time. You may also want to get your dog used to some common airport noises. Let him listen to recordings of airplanes taking off, speaker announcements and other common airport noises. If you live near an airport, it may be a good idea to let him visit the areas nearby so he can habituate.
Your airline may have precise feeding instructions to ensure the welfare of your dog during travel. Most airlines require that you offer food to your dog and water within 4 hours of travel. It’s a good idea to offer food the earliest you can so your pet doesn’t travel on a full stomach. It’s also a good idea to offer water frequently to ensure your dog stays hydrated up until boarding time. Your airline may require that you supply food in case there is a layover so airline employees can feed your dog.
On Departure Day
Arrive at the airport early. Check with your airline to see when they recommend checking in. It’s a good idea to exercise your dog before placing him in the crate so his needs for exercise are met and he may feel less stressed. Make sure you bring your leash and carry it with you so he can eliminate before going in the crate. Be ready to present all documents and fill out forms asking when you have fed your pet last and other pertaining information. Once your pet is checked in, make sure you ask the cabin crew that they are aware your dog is travelling in the plane’s belly. It never hurts to be overly cautious.
- Attach to the crate your dog’s picture with your contact information in case your dog gets lost or loose on the tarmac.
- Look for carriers with handles so employees do not have to put their fingers inside the crate and risk being bitten.
- Check on the airline’s policy on flying banned breeds. Some airlines will not fly dogs of certain breeds or may require a specific type of crate. Some breeds now must use crates that adhere with IATA CR82 crate rules.
- Place “live animal” stickers on the crate and also add directional arrows so airline employees know in what direction to handle the crate.
- Consider that airlines may refuse to fly a dog that looks ill or appears to be a threat to airline employees.
- Check the weather at the departure airport and destination airport. Airlines will refuse to fly dogs if the temperatures are too hot or too cold.
- Book early as most airlines allow only up to 2 dogs per trip. Even if you are booked, it’s a good practice to check with the airline and confirm your pet’s spot is reserved several days prior to travel.
- Choose direct, non-stop flights so your dog will not have to board multiple planes.
- Fly your dog on a week day so the airport is not too hectic.
- If you are travelling in the summer, choose flights that depart early in the morning or late in the evening.
- Consider keeping your dog’s food and water bowl handy. Airlines may want to feed or provide water in case of delays.
- Keep that leash handy! Security may request that you take your dog out of the crate so they can check the interior to ensure you are not shipping banned products.