Traveling with your dog can make any experience a more memorable, interesting adventure! If you’ve never done it before, we understand. The thought of putting your dog on a plane is enough to cause anxiety in any pet parent.
But rest assured, it can be done and it’s not as difficult as you may think! With just a bit of preparation, both you and your dog can arrive at your destination safe and sound.
Here are 5 tips to make your first flight with your dog an easy one.
#1: Cabin or Cargo Hold
Some airlines allow small dogs to travel in the cabin with their owner, as long as they’re properly crated.
Depending on the airline, you may be able to keep your dog’s crate with you and place it under the seat in front of you. Others will want to keep them separately, but still onboard the plane.
Most medium or large dogs will need to go in the cargo hold, unless they’re service dogs. You’ll need to find out which category your dog fits into so you can plan accordingly.
Do your research on the airline as well as the dog breed. What you consider to be a small dog, they may class as a medium pup.
You don’t want to be caught expecting to have your dog with you in the cabin, but end up having to check them in to the cargo hold.
#2: Choose A Direct Flight
A dog’s first flight can be traumatic. They’ll be in a crate, handled by strangers, and away from the human they love.
Choosing a direct flight can minimize this trauma by exposing them to fewer people, and avoiding a whole extra stop-and-switch experience.
On a direct flight, once they’re in the plane, they’re there until it touches down again and their owner comes to fetch them.
A direct flight is likely to be more expensive than one with stops. But it will make a big difference to the welfare of your pup.
Of course, it will go a long way towards your own peace of mind as well. Imagine having a couple of hours layover and sitting worrying about what was happening to your dog!
With a direct flight, you can rest assured your pup is safe, and have a more pleasant trip because of it.
#3: Get the Right Size Crate
Whether your dog is in-cabin or in the cargo hold, they’ll need to be in a crate. The crate needs to meet the requirements of whichever airline you’re traveling with, so it’s essential to check these out beforehand to avoid being held up if your dog crate is incorrect.
Generally, wire or mesh crates are not acceptable. If that’s what you have now, you’ll need to invest in something more robust, that can withstand air travel and more frequent handling.
You’ll also need to remove or lock any wheels that may be on a crate. You don’t want your dog rolling around the cargo hold!
To get the right sized crate, measure your dog from paw pad to tip of ear, and from nose to tip of tail. Then add 2 inches, and that’s the size crate you’ll need to go for.
#4: Kitting Out Your Dog’s Crate
You can’t just stick your dog in their crate and drop them off! Make sure your pup is comfortable in their crate. You can’t go all out, as per airline restrictions, but you can make your pup feel comfy.
A soft blanket is generally a good idea, and perhaps a small item of your clothing (like a hat or glove) with your scent on it, to comfort them.
Most airlines won’t allow dog food or water in the crate with your dog if they’re in the cargo hold. If your pup is in the cabin with you, you can take a few of their favorite treats and perhaps a chew toy to soothe their anxiety.
Also, if your dog wears a collar, remove it before putting them in their crate. It can become a choking hazard.
#5: Preparing Your Dog
We understand what a flight entails. Your dog doesn’t! You’ll need to prepare them as well as you can for this experience.
If your dog is used to being in a crate, they should be easy to work with when traveling. If they’re not, we advise spending some time getting them used to being in it.
Start a few weeks before your flight, do a short excursion every week with your dog in their crate. Make these outings longer each week, and be sure to reward your pooch when they get out of the crate afterwards.
If your pup is naturally anxious, it may be worth looking at a calming remedy. Some dogs will happily eat calming tablets or lick a few drops of calming drops such as CBD.
If your dog won’t, you might have to consider slipping calming drops into their water, perhaps disguised by a few drops of breath freshener water additive. Make sure to check with your vet before mixing things, though, and read the ingredients thoroughly.
Wherever you’re traveling, it’s perfectly possible and safe to take your dog with you! With just a bit of preparation, family holidays can truly include the whole family, and solo trips can become a little less lonely.
Mike Powell is an enthusiastic dog-lover and avid traveler who enjoys sharing his knowledge and passion about pups, dog nutrition, accessories, and health over at Dog Embassy.