Getting the right dog crate while perusing the many styles of dog carriers can be daunting. As you plan for travel with your dog, two ideas should influence your choices: first, sturdy construction is critical and second, comfort inside will make your pet safe and secure. A rule of thumb is to choose a crate or carrier that exceeds the requirements for safety, construction and comfort set down by the IATA (International Air Transport Association). Since these features are often under review, check for the latest updates at www.iata.org before shopping. One of the best features of dog-friendly travel is that airlines have established safety guidelines to help you do your part to make your pet’s journey successful.
Dog travel crates should be big enough for your dog to stand in the carrier and should feature access to a well-secured water reservoir. The bottom should be padded. The sides should be sturdy and ventilated. Interior seams should be well joined and neither sharp nor movable so as to pinch. The door should latch securely. Dogs have been known to escape in the hold to tragic ends. Do not buy a carrier with a flimsy or pliable locking system. Some crates feature locking wheels for easy movement. Some have climate control features for heat and cold, which might be advisable if the rating system for reliability in the carrier of your choice is high. When selecting the crate, imagine your dog using all his strength to escape over 8 hours and choose materials accordingly.
While many dogs find airline travel a nice interlude for a nap, some dogs can become rambunctious at a time when they are unsupervised in the hold. Your crate should feature comfortable-grip, well-placed, strong handles to assist airline staff in moving the carrier to cause the least jostling to your dog.
In-cabin airline carriers, frequently soft-sided, should also conform to IATA guidelines. Generally in-cabin travel is restricted to pets under 15 lbs who can be slid under the seat in front of you. Carriers that have many areas for ventilation, zippered exits in the front and top, flat pockets for paperwork and pertinent materials, a fluffy washable pad on the bottom and are well sewn make for comfort for your pet. A covered or padded strap will make pet travel and transport most comfortable for you. Designer bags with style and flash rarely conform to as many dog-comfort features as the more pedestrian bag brands do. Chose durability, safety and comfort for your dog and buy yourself a slick briefcase, bespoke backpack or stylish pocketbook instead.
When you reach your destination, instead of using your soft-sided airline carrier, there are many ways to carry a small dog about when his paws need a rest. Many companies make stylish totes, backpacks, front packs and slings for dogs who go sightseeing in new destinations. These present an opportunity to enjoy style in your dog carrier since stringent regulations in construction do not apply as rigidly. If the tote is ever to be closed on the dog, however, apply the same rigid standards for ventilation and high quality zippers as you would in an airline carrier. On hot days, a sports cold pack or frozen water bottle slipped into a sock can ease heat in a tote and create a cool micro-climate.
Expensive, designer pet totes send out the word that your dog is expensive and, thus, a desirable commodity. In some travel destinations, logo items invite purse-snatchers and opportunists. Choose your dog’s travel totes wisely and travel safely near and far.
Also, see our section on Dog Travel.
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.