1. Check, double-check, and triple-check your paperwork!
When traveling with your precious pup, you need to carry his latest shot records, a copy of his most-recent rabies vaccination, and any other important paperwork. Within the US, that’s likely all you’ll need to present. I keep a copy both in my purse as well as a digital copy on my phone, just in case.
If you’re traveling overseas, be sure to do your research ahead of time and know exactly what’s required for importation procedures for that particular country. Japan, for example, has no rabies and therefore requires a significant amount of paperwork and extensive testing for the animal. Be very familiar with all their regulations.
Additionally, confirm what the airline, itself, requires. Every airline has its own specifications. Here is a look at United’s requirements as an example.
2. Invest in the right crate.
We did a lot of research before purchasing the Sleepypod Air. We chose it, specifically, because it fits all TSA regulations regarding crate size, and because it has a flap that fits over the handle of a rolling suitcase, which makes airport movement much easier.
We also have a Soft Crate from Nature’s Miracle that folds down flat and only weights 2 lbs. This allows us to fit it into our rolling carry on. We use it when we stay at hotels or visit family so he has a crate that he’s familiar with, because the Sleepypod Air is a little small for daily use.
My husband made fun of me for buying two crates. He has since conceded that I was right, which truly makes all the hassle worth it 😉
3. Travel Accessories!
You can purchase anything and everything! I’ve had to stop myself from buying every pet-travel accessory on the market. But truly, you only need the basics. We have a water bowl that folds down flat and fits in the side pocket of his crate. In addition, we travel with a bag of treats, Purina Beyond’s squeezable food packets, poop baggies, and a couple of toys (usually a bone and a soft toy).
4. Pre-Travel Procedures
It’s important to make sure your pup is prepped for departure. We abstain from feeding him in the morning if possible. And we take him for a long walk. He also loves fetch, so we bring out the ball and try to wear him out. We want a sleepy dog for travel.
Additionally, we have found that Rescue Remedy helps to ease his anxiety. You place four drops on a treat and within 10 minutes he begins to feel a bit tired. It won’t knock him out or put him to sleep, but it takes the edge off.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Animals get nervous in new environments, so the more familiar they are with the whole procedure, the better. For instance, acquaint your dog with their new travel crate(s) months in advance so they are used to them. We took Hercules to and from exciting trips and long walks in his airline crate so he associated it with positive results.
If you know you have a long flight coming up, such as an overseas adventure, try them out on a shorter flight to visit family ahead of time. The more practiced they are at flying, they better they’ll behave.
6. Make Reservations
Yes, your little munchkin will need their own ticket! Most flights have a limit of how many animals can be on the flight. If they are traveling in cargo, then you’ll have to call and make a separate reservation. If they are small enough to bring in the cabin, you need to confirm that the flight isn’t booked for animal passengers. Locate the flight you want to take (either via the airline website or kayak, etc) and then call the airline prior to booking the flight to confirm they have space for your pet. Once confirmed, book your flight and then call them back with your reservation information and they will reserve your dog a ticket (not a seat – they still must go beneath the seat in front of you). When you pick up your tickets, there will be one for the precious pup, too!
Note: dogs don’t fly for free. The standard fee is $125 for a dog to fly in the cabin. If you have an airline rewards card, you can sometimes arrange to waive the fee or have it refunded by the credit card. It’s worth looking into if you fly frequently.
7. Arrive Early
If your animal is flying with you, you won’t be able to check-in the night before. You must arrive at the terminal and speak with a person at the airline desk (even the kiosks won’t confirm your tickets). So I suggest you come early. This will also give you time to water the dog, perhaps take him on a final walk prior to going through security, and acclimate him to the noise of the terminal.
8. Pack Light
Dogs are heavy! Even Hercules, who weighs 8 lbs sopping wet gets
cumbersome while I cart him around the airport. If you expect to haul him and a hefty backpack through the terminal, you might want to think again. Check a bag. I know it’s pricey, but it’s worth it!
9. Make Friends with your Flight Attendants!
Airline regulations state that the animal must remain in his or her crate for the entirety of the flight. For a two-hour hop, that’s not a huge deal. But for a longer flight, or an anxious dog, that can be very problematic. Frequently if you make friends with the flight attendant, treat them with kindness, and allow them to befriend the animal, they will be more lenient and allow you to hold and pet the animal during flight. Experiences vary, obviously, but it’s worth a try.