Tips For Flying With Your Dog

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Traveling with your pet can be an exciting but nerve-wracking adventure, particularly when airplanes are involved. Mark Muir, a dog trainer and disc dog competitor, frequently travels with multiple dogs to competitions across the US and has a few tips for making your trip fly smoothly.

Before buying your ticket…

  • Make a short list of the airlines you are thinking of flying with and then find their policies on flying with a pet. Airlines usually provide this information on their website and most have pages dedicated to traveling with pets.
  • Once you’ve decided which airline works best for you and your pet, make sure you follow their guidelines to the letter. Each airline has their own set of rules, so prepare for their specific regulations and requirements.

When booking your flight…

  • Look for a direct flight. While finding one is not always possible, each transfer means your pet will have deal more unfamiliar locations and more unfamiliar faces.
  • Make your reservations early. Many airlines offer cabin spots for pets on a first-come, first served basis, so the sooner you can secure your seat, the better.
  • Tell the airlines that you want your dog, if it’s a larger breed, listed as checked baggage when you reserve your flight. This will ensure that your dog will meet you where you pick up your other baggage instead of at a separate cargo area.

Once you have secured your tickets…

  • Make sure your travel crate fits the airline’s standards. If it doesn’t, there are great pet-friendly air travel crates you can buy.
  • Label that crate correctly and put your cell phone number and other contact information on the crate as an extra precaution.
  • Acclimate your pet to being in that crate. Traveling can be stressful and familiar surroundings will help to ease their anxiety.
  • Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian close to your departure date. Most airlines require that your pet’s clean bill of health be no more than 10 days old, so don’t make it too early. Documents your vet will probably need to sign include:
    • Rabies Vaccination Certificate: Hawaii has a particularly stringent animal air travel policy. Be sure to check with your state and the state/country that you are flying to well in advance of traveling.
    • Certificate of Veterinary Inspection: The CVI is also called a Health Certificate. This is a signed document from a veterinarian that states he or she has inspected the animal for diseases and overall health. These documents usually are only valid for a certain time, so check with your state to make sure yours doesn’t expire before you fly.
    • Acclimation Certificate: Most airlines require this document which features regulations about hot and cold weather extremes. Animals who are not accustomed to extreme cold can be harmed by a sudden burst of cold weather while waiting to be placed in plane storage or while on the plane.
    • There may be other documents that your airline, state, or destination(s) require, so make sure you know what they all are before visiting your veterinarian.
  • Check your paperwork again and again. You never want to be separated from your pet for lack of proper paperwork. Create a travel portfolio that includes all of your pet’s documents, a photo of your pet, a list of medicines your pet uses, the name and number of your veterinarian, and if possible, references from managers of hotels where you have stayed.

Before takeoff…

  • Hydrate your pet extra well the day before, but limit their food and water a few hours prior to the flight.
  • Pack your pet with a toy (like a KONG) or piece of your clothing to reassure your pet while you are separated.
  • Arrive two hours early. It is important to have extra time when traveling with a pet.
  • Check only your bag when you first arrive at the front desk.
  • Take your dog out for one last bathroom break. Then check your dog in for the flight.
  • Don’t make a huge fuss about separating from your pet. They will react to your reaction. Stay calm, and they will feel more secure in the situation.
  • Let the flight crew know as soon as you are on the plane that you are traveling with your pet and that you would appreciate knowing as soon as they have been loaded on the plane.

Safe travels!