Taking a Trip by Air With Your Dog

When dog owners need to travel and they need to bring the dog, most often they will travel by car.

But sometimes you must fly and your dog must go by plane as well. If you have a very small dog, you may be able to have him with you in the cabin. But if you have a medium to large dog, he will probably travel somewhere in the cargo bay.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind when flying with your dog:

Check With the Airline First

First and foremost, check with airline you will be taking and get their rules and regulations for traveling with a dog. If you will be flying with more than one airline, be sure to get the rules from every airline. The rules may differ and the last thing you want to do is to get halfway to your destination and find out your beloved dog can’t travel the rest of the way there.

Visit Your Veterinarian

Take your dog to the vet and make sure he’s physically able to take a trip by air. Very young puppies and some older dogs may not be healthy enough for air travel. If your dog is a nervous traveler, your vet may want to discuss medication or other things you can do to ease your dog’s distress.

Also, make sure your dog has received all the vaccinations the airline requires. Make sure you get a vaccination report from your vet verifying all vaccinations are current.

Consider Microchipping

If you haven’t had a microchip implanted in your dog, this may be the time to do it. Not only will it help reunite the two of you should you get separated, it’s a failsafe way to prove that the vaccination records you have are for the animal you’re traveling with.

Get an FAA-Approved Dog Crate

Make sure the crate meets all FAA requirements. It should be large enough that your dog can stand, easily turn around, and lie down comfortably. Also make sure the inside is smooth with no rough edges.

Get your dog used to being in his crate before you leave on your trip.

Your dog is going to be surrounded by unusual people, noises, smells, changes in air pressure, and countless other things during his trip. Make sure he’s comfortable in his crate: at least that will give him something familiar in a very strange situation.

dog plane

©istockphoto/JodiJacobson

Get Him Accustomed to More Time Between Bathroom Breaks

Dogs like schedules. However, they’re very adaptable. Make sure his bathroom schedule is compatible with your travel. If you’re looking at an elapsed time of 8 hours between the departure of your first flight and landing at your destination, try to get your dog on at least a 10-hour between potty breaks schedule. Dogs can have incredible bladder control, but if he’s already used to a 10 hour wait between outdoor breaks, it will make his travel more comfortable for him.

Get Tags Up to Date

Be sure your dog has a snug (not tight) collar. Be sure to have his current rabies tag on his collar. Also, be sure he has a tag with his name as well as your name and contact information.

Label His Crate

Be sure to label your dog’s crate. Follow the airline specifications, but at minimum you should have “This Side Up” arrows, your name, your contact information, and also your dog’s name on the crate. It can help calm your dog if the airline personnel can address him by name.

Make Travel Day as Relaxing as Possible

Leave for the airport in plenty of time. Try to keep the car ride to the airport as comfortable and relaxing as possible for your dog. Have a toy, familiar bedding, and water in your dog’s crate.

Give Him One Last Comfort Stop Before You Crate Him for the Flight

Be sure to let your dog have one last potty stop before you put him in his crate for the duration. Some larger airports have relief areas for service and guide dogs, and most will allow pet dogs to use those areas as well. If not, let him relieve himself before you go into the terminal.

Traveling internationally with your dog can present additional issues. Be sure you have a complete understanding of all the requirements needed for your dog to get through customs.

There’s a lot of red tape and some extra expense involved in flying with your dog. It can be stressful and taking your dog on a two-week vacation might not be the smartest move. But if you’re going for a summer, the rewards of having your furry friend with you at the end of the trip far outweigh all the inconveniences of air travel with your pet.

Also, the rules for service dogs and guide dogs are different from those for pet dogs.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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