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6 Uses for That Dog Carrier When You're Not Flying

Airline travel bags aren't just for traveling by air -- that nice, sturdy case has a lot of cool uses.

 |  May 2nd 2013  |   1 Contribution


My dog Raja loves his airline dog carrier for so many reasons other than flying. He doesn’t mind getting in it at all -- but sometimes I feel a little guilty about getting it out of the closet. When he hops in thinking he’s going to Bora Bora and then discovers he’s only going to watch TV with the neighbors, I feel it's a soul-shattering letdown. But he’s a stoic little thing, and he seems to shake it off. 

An airline pet carrier is designed to be roomy with good ventilation. The bottom is flat and the walls do not cave in. These features, which ensure that your pet is in a comfortable little private cabin while flying in the main cabin, also make for a safe space you can use when you’re not gaining altitude.

Here are five great opportunities to use airline dog carriers when you're on the ground:

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Raja and I in Rome. I think we were flying out that night but wanted to see the Colosseum again, so we took the bag with us.

1. When watching TV with the neighbors

Do you ever leave your pet with a sitter or loan him out to dog-loving friends for the evening? New environments can create a little stress, even for the most taciturn of dogs. But if you put your dog’s favorite blanket and a toy or a little treat (especially one that takes a while to eat, as a hard biscuit does for Raja) in the bag when you go visiting with your pet, he will have a quiet spot to hunker down in when the competition for holding or brushing him gets too heated. Avoid frayed tempers by creating a self-regulating time-out for your visiting pet.

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Raja in his airline bag in Montreal's airport. He got the rat at the City Museum's Pirates exhibit.

2. When going for a drive

In most states, dogs are no longer allowed to travel in cars without restraints. But for many dogs, strap-type harnesses aren't comfortable, with straps that can cut into the chest. And for small dogs, being grated in the cargo bay is simply dangerous, at all times. An airline bag usually has a lateral strap that a seat belt can slip through. The roomy and comfortable environment won’t let your dog hang his head outside the car and feel the wind in his hair -- but you don’t really feel secure letting him do that, do you?

3. When visiting the vet

Most dogs are a little ambivalent about visiting the vet, and most vets’ waiting rooms offer the possibility to share germs. Use the airline bag to carry your dog into and out of the office. You won’t share your pet’s germs, and you won’t pick up anybody else’s. The bag, again, creates a secure feeling for a pet who hates getting a shot. He’ll still hate the shot, but he’ll feel better about his visit before the shot.

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Raja in his travel bag with his plane toy. Continental was a primo airline for dogs before merging with United. (Sigh.)

4. When leaving your dog in your hotel room

I’ll be honest. I never leave Raja in a hotel room, and I never use a crate. Raja howls like the Hound of the Baskervilles if you even shut the bathroom door on him in a hotel, and I’m just not into crates. He’s a dog, not a hamster. But (continuing my candor) he doesn’t claw out the foam in hotel-room couches or rip up carpeting or pee on the drapes. (And thank God for that!)

If you are traveling with a wild poochie and the wild poochie is quiet in a crate (and you prefer not to eat at sidewalk cafes in winter), then why not use the airline bag for a temporary crate while you head out? Three hours should be the max, because a bag is small -- but it’s never uncomfortable when chosen correctly, and it's never unfamiliar.

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Sherpa, Raja's California cousin, plays in her airline bag with her toys when she's by herself at home.

5. When dining with other dogs

When Raja has guests, some of his friends can inhale their dinners and his before he even gets his napkin in his lap. When we have dog friends over who inhale food, Raja eats in his airline bag (unzipped, of course). I put the dish at the far end and he walks in and eats at his normal pace. Peace and decorum reign. Pass the biscuits, please.

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Raja's travel bag open and inviting in his hotel room in Aquas Calientes, Peru.

6. When there's an emergency

This is the most important extra use for an airline bag, but I hope you never have to try it. Since dogs are den-oriented, an airline bag left open with blanket and toys, made intriguing by the occasional surprise discovery of a little treat, becomes an important safety tool.

Leave it in an obvious place to anyone entering your apartment or home. Train your dog to run into the bag when loud noises or any random, strange event occurs. In case of a fire or other emergency, your dog will take refuge in the bag. Indicate on your door or window fire-safety tag where your pet can be located, and you will make the rescue or fire squad’s job that much easier. Write prominently on the door tag, “One dog, in travel bag in front hall.” Again, let’s hope you never use this one.

Do you use your airline bag for anything besides flying? Let us know in the comments!

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