Dogs are great pets that are part and parcel of many families. As a result, many families prefer taking their dogs with them whenever they are traveling instead of leaving them behind. This is because a dog will make your vacation more exciting, especially if the traveling is planned thoughtfully and carefully. Before flying with your dog to a far holiday destination, however, there are things you must know before you make a decision.
For instance, enough preparations are needed, especially if it is the first time you’re traveling with your dog by air. This is because you will need your trip to be less stressful and dramatic. Here is everything you need to know when flying with your dog.
Has Your Dog Air Traveled Before
Taking a flight with a dog that has not flown before over a long distance is not an ideal thing to do. According to Annie Grossman, a pet behaviorist and School for the Dogs founder, the biggest mistake dog owners do is expecting too much within a short time from dogs. She believes that it is important to test the waters by flying with your dog over small distances to see whether he or she is fit for a long flight.
Moreover, it is important to introduce your dog to air travel when it is still a puppy. The best time would probably be when the dog is below 12 weeks old. Dogs under this age cope with flying easily as compared to older dogs since their window of socialization is still open.
Health Status of You Dog
Your dog might have existing health conditions that can pose severe complications during your flight. The Air Travel Consumer Reports from the Transport Department show that the respiratory and heart problems are the leading causes of pet deaths in the air. In case your dog has a medical condition whether a temporary illness or injury, it is advisable to leave him or her at home. Otherwise, visit your veterinary for health checks to ascertain the health status of your dog before taking a flight with it. Additionally, make sure that all the vaccinations are updated. Don’t forget to take a health certificate with you since it is one of the requirements when traveling with pets.
Inform the Airline
Not all airlines accept pets while others have set a limited number of dogs on a flight even as cargo. As a result, carry out a research to know which airline allows traveling with pets and particularly dogs. Once you get one, talk to them and let them know that you will be traveling with your dog. Ensure you are furnished with the airline’s pet policies and see whether it’s comfortable with you. By doing this, you will avoid the inconveniences of finding out that the airlines don’t accept pets when you already have a ticket with you.
Prepare Your Dog for the Flight
Before you even think about the possibility of flying with your dog to your destination, be aware that there is no shortcut when it comes to the size of the dog you intend to fly with. In fact, the size of the dog is the leading limiting factor under which your dog is prohibited onto a flight. Nonetheless, different airlines have their own dimension requirements for kennels as well as the soft-sided carries.
For instance, we found that some airlines accepted a maximum carrier height of 11 inches and a minimum of 7.5 inches. However, the dimensions for the width as well as the length of the carrier varied too in different airlines. While the maximum carrier width ranged from 11 to 19 inches, the maximum length ranged from 12 to 19 inches.
Besides the limitations of the carrier dimension, we established that some airlines also have a weight limit for both the pet and their carrier while other airlines have capped the weight separately. JetBlue Airline, for instance, has a requirement that the total weight of your dog and the carrier should not surpass the 20 pounds mark.
Is your Dog’s Carrier Comfortable?
The kind of carrier you prepare should be spacious enough to allow the dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down in a stress-free manner. Just like you will want to be more comfortable when flying, comfort also matters a lot to your dog. Your trip can be a lot stressful if your dog’s carrier is too small for the dog to stand and turn around comfortably.
The best way to ascertain whether the carrier is the perfect choice for your dog is to let it sleep in it at home to see whether it can move, stand, and turn freely. Don’t wait until the travel day to cage your dog. Making the carrier familiar to the dog right from home can help you a great deal!
Breed of Your Dog
The breed of your dog will also determine whether it will accompany you or not. Short-nosed dog breeds, for instance, are not allowed to fly in most airlines. Furthermore, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation advises against allowing them to fly. According to statistics, over half of dog deaths during flights in a period of the past five years have involved short-nosed breeds.
The breeds of dogs that are at risk during flying include boxers, bulldogs, Pekingese, some mastiffs, Boston terriers, Shih Tzus, and Lhasa Apsos. According to Tracy Thompson, restricted dogs are often mixed breeds.
How Old is Your Dog?
As much as you want to fly with your dog for a holiday, the United States Department of Agriculture has set requirements that pets must be older than 8 weeks old for them to fly. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to fly with an old dog. You certainly won’t want to handle the stress of flying with an old dog.
Buying Your Ticket
In most airlines, you will book your flight and then proceed to inform the airline that you will be traveling with your dog so that they can make reservations for your dog early enough. Since the airlines have a maximum number of pets per flight, it is advisable to inquire about their pet policies before buying your ticket. To avoid such inconveniences, book your flight early enough so that you can have space for your dog.
Getting the Dog Ready for a Flight
As mentioned above, it is wise to buy your ticket and make reservations for your dog days to your flight. This gives you an ample time to prepare your dog for a few experiences that it will be subjected to on the day of travel. You wouldn’t want to see it miserable during the flight.
One of the most important things to do is to familiarize your dog with its carrier. Let it subjected to different environments and noises that are almost similar to those experienced during flying. It is imperative to note that slightly older dogs are not the same as the young ones since the young ones are more likely to cope with the flying experience with ease.
If you have an averagely older dog, however, you will need some exercising and desensitization as fast as possible before the actual flying day. Since it is going to be in the carrier for quite some time during the flight, it is also important that you train your dog to conquer separation anxiety before you actually fly. This will be a great deal at making tour trip less stressful. To help the dog overcome the anxiety, let it be in the carrier for some time to familiarize with it when you are still at home.
You should also train your dog to stand up in the carrier, turn around, and even lie down before the actual flight. Moreover, make sure to make necessary adjustments as fast as possible to ensure the dog will be comfortable during the actual flight.
Day of Flight
On the day of flight, make sure your dog has an ID around its neck with your formal present contact information like the cellphone number. If you microchip your dog, then ensure its registration is up to date.
Usually, it is advisable not to feed your dog six hours to the flight. This will ensure your dog does not defecate, urinate, or vomit in its carrier while on the plane – which will be helpful in the long-run. Nonetheless, this advice may hold water only if you have trained and conditioned your dog well on how to act when staying in the carrier.
This is because a comfortable dog that is well-trained on how to spend a long time in the carrier won’t urinate or vomit more than usual. On the other hand, a dog that is not well-trained, is not familiar with flying, and is not used to being in the carrier for long is more likely to be nervous, will urinate, and vomit more than usual.
Most importantly, let your dog walk a bit to allow it eliminate just like it does on any other day. When at the airport, give your dog another chance to eliminate before putting him back on the carrier and boarding the plane.
Don’t Compromise Travel Condition Changes for Your Dog
Imagine it is time to board the plane and you have your dog carrier in your hand only to be informed that a mistake was made and that your dog will have to fly in the cargo room and not in the cabin. If this kind of situation befalls you, we advise that you calmly decline the offer, especially if you had been made a reservation for your dog at the cabin. In most cases, the airline will have to honor its promises. Alternatively, you can accept re-ticketing – though without incurring extra costs – on another flight that allows your dog to fly with you in the cabin area.
The reason for this is that you trained your dog to be comfortable in a carrier that will be next to you during the entire flight. You, however, can make an exception for your dog to fly in the cargo area if it will be comfortable traveling without seeing you and the cargo conditions are great.
During the Flight
Before the plane takes off, check and ensure that all the fasteners and zippers on your carrier are closed and your dog won’t easily open either with its nose or paws. Some carrier bags feature double zippers and tabs that can be clipped together to ensure the bag isn’t unzipped without snapping off the tabs first.
Moreover, make sure you have trained your dog to lick water through a small opening, especially if the weather seems hot or he is panting. If you are certain that you won’t have trouble if you bring him out, however, you can gently unzip the carrier’s door and let him lick water with ease.
Don’t bend the rules and let your dog out of his carrier during the flight. It will be much safer and comfortable for your fellow travelers if the dog is securely contained in its carrier. Moreover, if your dog has eliminated in the carrier, letting him out only complicates the situation by creating a big mess and stench. You will need to wait until you alight before you can try to make the situation better for the dog.
Should You Tranquilize Your Dog?
Veterinaries often advise against tranquilizing your dog for air travel. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, they have a Traveling with Your Pet FAQ page on their website with a statement that discourages you from tranquilizing your dog or any other pet during air travel. This is because tranquilizing is associated with increasing the risk of respiratory and heart problems for your pet.
According to Dr. Patricia Olsen of the American Humane Association, an animal’s natural ability to strike a balance and maintain the equilibrium is affected by sedation and when the carrier is moved, your sedated dog won’t be able to remain steady and avoid injuries.
If you are worried about your dog’s behavior and anxiety on the forthcoming flight, it is advisable that you start training him and getting him familiar with being confined in a carrier for an extended period of time. This will work better for the both of you instead of tranquilizing him!
Once you alight, you can ask the gate attendant for the nearest pet relief station so that you can have your dog relieve himself. You should also consider making arrangements to get a ride that allows pets. Uber and Lyft are among the firms that allow clients to travel with pets.
Moreover, consider finding lodging prior at your holiday destination that allows dogs. Most hotels and motels don’t have or have restrictions based on dog sizes. If you are allowed to stay with your dog in a particular hotel, it is important to show respect to other guests, staff, as well as their belonging.
It is also important to keep your dog as quiet as possible. Never leave your dog unattended because it will bark and destroy people’s properties, especially when everything looks strange to him. Inquire from the management designated places where you can walk your dog. Don’t leave any mess behind.
Bear in mind that a bad experience with your dog is likely to prompt the hotel management to ban dogs in and around their premises. As such, be considerate to others and ensure you leave your room and the hotel ground in as good a condition as you found them.
It is important to keep in mind that when going for a vacation with our dog, traveling can be hectic. It is also wise to note that a composed dog owner usually owns a composed dog. This is because pets often pick up on your stress, which means that if you are nervous about the whole flight, your dog will certainly show the same stress and anxiety.