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Traveling by Air With Your Dog

Traveling by Air With Your Dog

Choosing Whether to Fly With Your Pup

As a dog parent, you’ve probably considered bringing your furry friend along on your travels. After all, what could be better than having your loyal companion by your side as you explore new destinations? However, flying with a dog is far from a straightforward decision. There are a lot of factors to weigh, and the potential stress and risks involved can make it a tough call.

I’ll admit, the first time I flew with my pup, I was a nervous wreck. The endless rules and regulations, the fear of something going wrong – it was enough to make my head spin. But once I got through that initial flight, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. With the right preparation and a little bit of luck, air travel with your dog can actually be a relatively smooth experience.

The key is figuring out whether it’s truly necessary to bring your pup along in the first place. Dr. Jerry Klein, the American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer, puts it bluntly: “Traveling by air can be stressful to people and to dogs.” Those strange sounds, sights, and smells of airports and new environments can be incredibly challenging for our four-legged friends. And let’s not forget about the potential health risks, from dehydration to disruptions in medication schedules.

So unless you have a pressing reason to take your dog with you, it’s probably best to leave them at home. That might be disappointing, but it’s likely the better choice for your pup’s wellbeing. You can always hire a pet sitter, have a trusted friend or family member look after them, or even consider a road trip if the destination is within driving distance.

Navigating Airline Policies

Of course, there are times when flying with your dog is unavoidable. Maybe you’re moving across the country, or embarking on a long-term adventure that just wouldn’t be the same without your canine companion. If that’s the case, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the regulations of your chosen airline.

The rules can vary widely between carriers, so it’s crucial to do your research well in advance. Start by checking the pet travel policies on the airline’s website – they’ll outline everything from size restrictions to fees and health certificate requirements. And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to a customer service agent directly if you have any specific questions.

One of the biggest factors is whether your dog will be flying in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Most airlines only allow small pets to ride in the cabin, typically those under 20 pounds that can fit comfortably in a carrier under the seat in front of you. Larger pups will have to brave the cargo hold, where they’ll be separated from you for the entire flight.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – the cargo hold sounds like the ninth circle of airline hell. And you’re not wrong. As Cond√© Nast Traveler puts it, “While airlines say they try their best to make dogs comfortable in the cargo hold, it’s bound to be an unpleasant experience for your pet nonetheless.” There have been far too many horror stories of pets being injured, getting sick, or even dying in the cargo hold.

So if you do decide to fly with your dog, I’d highly recommend booking them a spot in the cabin if at all possible. You’ll both be much more at ease with that furry face right by your side. Just be aware that cabin space for pets is limited, so you’ll need to reserve your spot early.

Preparing for Takeoff

Okay, you’ve done your homework, booked your tickets, and you’re ready to hit the skies with your pup. Now what?

The first step is making sure your dog is up-to-date on all their vaccinations and has a clean bill of health from the vet. Many airlines require a health certificate dated within 10 days of travel, so be sure to schedule that appointment well in advance. You’ll also want to double-check any import requirements for your destination – some places have strict quarantine rules that could separate you from your furry friend for the majority of your trip.

Next, start getting your dog comfortable with their carrier. Leave it out at home so they can explore it on their own, and try taking them on some test runs in the car. The last thing you want is a freaked-out pup trying to claw their way out of the carrier mid-flight.

And speaking of the carrier, make sure it’s airline-approved and meets all the size and ventilation requirements. The American Kennel Club has some great recommendations. You’ll also want to clearly label the carrier with your contact info and “Live Animal” markings.

Once you get to the airport, be prepared for a bit of a process. If your dog is flying in the cabin, you’ll need to remove them from the carrier and walk them through security. Depending on the airport, there may even be designated pet relief areas where you can give them a quick potty break. And for those pups in cargo, you’ll need to drop them off at a special cargo facility, usually a bit removed from the main terminal.

The key throughout this whole process is to stay calm and patient. Your dog is going to be picking up on your every emotion, so the more relaxed and confident you can be, the better. Bring plenty of treats, toys, and other comfort items to keep them occupied, and don’t be afraid to ask the airline staff for help if you need it.

Arriving at Your Destination

You made it! After what felt like an eternity, you and your pup have successfully navigated the chaotic world of air travel. But the journey’s not over just yet.

As soon as you land, your first priority should be getting your dog out of their carrier and giving them a much-needed stretch and potty break. Most airports have designated pet relief areas, so make a beeline for those as soon as you can. And if you had to put your pup in cargo, be sure to pick them up from the airline’s cargo facility – they’ll typically be available about 2 hours after the flight’s arrival.

Once you’ve given your dog a chance to decompress, it’s time to start exploring your new surroundings. But take it slow, and be mindful of any changes in your pup’s behavior or routine. The stress of travel can really take it out of them, so be prepared for potential digestive issues or disruptions to their sleep schedule.

And of course, don’t forget to shower your furry friend with all the love and affection they deserve. After weathering the storm of air travel, they definitely earned a few extra treats, snuggles, and trips to the dog park. Hey, they’re the real MVP of this whole adventure, if you ask me.

So there you have it – the ins and outs of traveling by air with your canine companion. It’s certainly not the easiest endeavor, but with the right preparation and a healthy dose of patience, you and your pup can conquer the skies. And who knows, you might even have a few fun stories to share when you get back home to

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