Traveling with Your Dog by Airplane
Flying with your pet should be an easy nap for him. Learning how to travel with your dog in an airplane helps you to create a safe, predictable and calm passage for your dog when the fur flies.
Prepare Well In Advance: For small dogs that will travel in-cabin, buy an airline-approved airplane pet carrier. The best carriers for airplane travel are durably-sewn with lots of air vents, a zippered top and side exit door, a soft, removable bottom pad and several flat, internal and external pockets. The best carrier is discreet and light. Resist the temptation to buy a "designer" carrier: the flash draws undesirable attention to the valuable contents and comfort yields to style in most fashion models.
For larger dogs that will travel in cargo, buy a sturdy, airline-approved cargo crate with a good latch on the door. It should have detachable food and water receptacles.
Both carriers should have an attachment for paperwork and name tags. Use the airplane pet carrier to transport your dog to fun destinations prior to flight. Gradually increase the duration of the time in the carrier, taking longer journeys to the fun destination. Include a toy in the carrier, but avoid food since dogs generally should not eat on airplane rides. (Water may be advisable for dogs traveling in cargo on longer flights.)
Keep the bag open in the house and put enticing toys in it to make your dog happy to enter the bag. Never use this carrier as a day crate.
When Booking Flights: Make sure to choose an airline that permits pets; clarify if your pet will travel in cabin or cargo. Cargo is restricted during some times of the year for some airlines. Most importantly, when booking, obtain a locator number for your dog that is associated with your seat number.
Starter Trips: If an itinerant lifestyle is part of your plan for your dog, take a short flight of one hour to a nearby destination as a starter flight. Your dog will learn that the long wait ends in a happy walk outside the airport and will be better prepared for an upcoming long flight.
Food And Meds In Flight: Feed at least 5 hours in advance of travel and avoid water for your dog within 1 hour of flight. (Water may be advisable for dogs traveling in cargo on long flights.) For dogs traveling in cabin, you may offer ice cubes or a sip of water toward the end of the flight as needed. Avoid giving a rawhide chew stick as it could get stuck in your dog's throat and assistance would be difficult.
If your pet regularly takes meds, schedule the doses according to the travel schedule. Remember that you will have to show up at least an hour before the flight and from the point of entering the airport, your dog will be in the carrier.
Unless your vet says otherwise, tranquilizers are not advisable for high altitudes. Train, don't drug, your pet into being a good traveler.
Walks: Give your dog a good walk before the flight near the airport and another quick walk at the airport. Deplaning and waiting in baggage claim for your luggage, you may walk your dog outside the airport doors. ALWAYS make sure your dog is leashed and does not bolt out of the bag, desperate over his full bladder. Keep his ID collar or harness on in flight (minus extra easily-snagged charms and ornaments) and reach inside the carrier, with the door mostly shut, to secure the leash before you let him out. Hold tight. Traffic around airports is intense and extremely dangerous. At this point your dog may want a drink and snack.
In The Airport: Flying with dogs is less worrisome to airline personnel than security. For dogs traveling in cargo, the check-in counter will advise you where to deliver your dog for transport. For dogs flying in cabin, you will carry him through gate security and you must remove him from his carrier and personally carry him through the metal detectors, allowing his bag to go through the x-ray machine. NEVER allow your dog to pass through the x-ray machine when going to the gates. It is not permitted and is highly dangerous.
Documentation: When traveling, make sure your dog's rabies inoculations are up to date and keep a vet's health record in your travel paperwork. You may not be asked to show it, but you should have it.
On The Plane: Slide your carrier under the seat in front, check on your dog now and then but avoid exciting him to make him feel he will be let out. For dogs traveling in cargo, you will be advised where to pick him up when you check him in.
About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, "The Journey of the Shih Tzu," Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.