12 Do's and Don'ts for Flying With a Dog
What to do and what not to do for a happy and safe flight with your furry pal
You want Rover to accompany you on the vacation but aren't sure how he'll handle the flight. Dogs thrive on routine and breaking from it can put even the most laid back pooch on edge. Here are some do's and don'ts for flying with a dog.
- Check for Pet-Friendly Airports
Airports now offer pet services like designated animal relief areas at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Boston's Logan International Airport, according to Pet Friendly Travel. Use them to your advantage when you travel.
- Decide How Your Pooch Will Fly
Depending on your dog's size, she can fly as carry-on (in a carrier you take on board with you) or as checked baggage (in a crate that you hand over when you check in, to be put in the cargo hold of the plane). Opt for a window seat to separate your pup from the commotion of the cabin. Sitting toward the front or back of the plane separates you from other passengers, so you're less likely to cause a disturbance.
- Choose Travel Days Carefully
Some airlines, such as American Airlines, won't carry animals if the ground temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit or drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit along the route. Avoid flying with a dog on holidays, when airports are busy and personnel is overwhelmed.
Instead, plan your trip during the off season and fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. "Those are lighter travel days, and the less airline employees have on their plate, the more they're going to be focused on your pet and keeping it safe," says Susan H. Smith, the president of Pet Travel.
- Prepare Your Dog for the Flight
The sooner you start, the better. Leave the crate open and invite your dog to explore it, offering plenty of rewards when he does. Use the crate to transport your dog to his favorite places so he associates it with something fun.
- Microchip Your Pup
A microchip is a tiny tracking chip your veterinarian will insert under your dog's skin. If you're traveling internationally, most countries require it. Even if you're not, microchipping is the smart way to make sure you and your dog are reunited should anything happen. Just make sure to register your dog's chip information.
- Tell the Airline
Airlines limit the number of pets both on board and in the hold. If Rover doesn't have a reservation, you may not be flying with him after all.
- Use Medication Wisely
A light sedative or motion sickness medication could take the edge off for pets who don't travel well. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication, and try them at home first.
- Remind the Flight Crew
They can check to make sure your dog was boarded and "notify the pilots just to be sure the message was passed along that their furry friend is below," says Meghan Hemingway, a flight attendant for a major airline and an editor at The Flight Attendant Life. The pilots can then double check the correct temperature is set in the cargo hold.
- Use the Wrong Crate
Your dog must be in a crate. Each airline has its own requirements, so check with yours to find out what you need. For carry-on canines, Smith recommends a soft-sided carrier that compresses to fit under the seat in front of you.
Cargo-bound pooches need a hard plastic crate with the top and bottom bolted together and the door tied shut with a cable. Also, ensure that your crate is still in good shape -- that all the latches, handles, and doors are working.
- Forget Fido's Paperwork
Your dog will need a health certificate from your veterinarian to leave the country or fly in the cargo hold. You may also have to show vaccination records.
- Let Your Dog Out of the Crate
Besides being against airline rules, it could result in a lost or hurt animal, not to mention angry fellow passengers.
- Let Your Dog Get Dehydrated
Flying and dehydration go hand in hand, so make sure your dog has plenty to drink. Offer him ice cubes through the slots in his crate throughout the flight. For dogs in the hold, freeze water in their attachment bowls prior to the flight so it can gradually thaw without spilling.
While you know fun times await you at your destination, your dog doesn't. The more you do to take the stress out of flying, the easier it'll be for Rover sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.
And check out these Tips for Traveling with Dogs.
Tiffany R. Jansen is a freelance writer covering parenting, design, business and health. Daughter of a pilot and wife of a Dutchman, she's no stranger to air travel, and neither is her four-legged travel buddy, Turner.