Updated: Apr 29
Flying with your dog doesn’t need to be stressful
The mere thought of flying our pets down to our vacation spot for a few weeks or months is daunting. Truth be told it’s much easier than it sounds. We humans are easily distracted about all the things that can and won’t go wrong. On the odd occasion we will read about the odd mishap that has happened with a family pet flying.
For the past 20 years I have been guiding people along the most logical and simplest way to prepare your dog to be crated and in the belly of a plane. Today I will share a vast amount of knowledge about the MUST DO’S to prepare your pet and the absolute DO NOT DO’S. I hope you find this information as useful as my past clients.
Ease your dog's travel experience, follow these steps
Crate conditioning is vital, follow these tips to help you with crating a dog.
1. Two weeks before your departure flight start introducing the dog to the crate for night-time sleeping.
2. Put your dog in the crate at random times for up to an hour throughout the day.
3. Take the dog for car rides with the dog inside the crate.
4. Load the dog in the crate and have two people pick it up and carry around the house. This will ensure your dog becomes comfortable with strange movement when the baggage handlers handle the crate.
Two days before you take your flight to your dream destination you must keep your dog awake as much as possible.
1. Increase exercise, take your dog to the bank to have money exchanged, include your dog during packing, hire a dog walker if need be to assist in exercising your dog. Keep your dog awake and busy with limited sleeping during the day. This will ensure your dog will want nothing better to do then then take a much-needed nap in the crate.
2. Have your travel documents printed off in a separate folder for your pet. Vaccinations etc. Speak to the airline for details and read all of the fine print about crate or kennel style. Don’t forget to book an appointment with your veterinarian.
3. Loading your dog is easiest by guiding the dog in backwards into the crate if the dog has a nervous issue. Give the crate a name, see examples. “Go to your Parlour”, “Go to your Man Cave” or “Go to your Gondola.”
4. No food 8 hours before traveling and no water 4 hours before traveling.
5. Inside the crate do not use a fleece blanket. Fleece is too warm for the dog and it is much better to have a dog bed or cotton bedding.
6. Leave an extra 30 minutes in your airport time to check in your pet. Your stress will be felt by your dog so be as stress free as possible.
7. Once you have arrived at the airport most people go directly to check in DO NOT DO! What you do instead is find a place for your dog to go to the bathroom. Do not rush this process!
8. Keep your dog on leash when walking your dog into the airport and use the crate at the latest possible time.
9. This is very important, and it can make or break your dog having a terrible experience or a comfortable experience. DO NOT DO! baby talk to your dog. Minimize giving your dog more attention than needed. If you are suddenly spilling all over the dog and the dog is not familiar with this behaviour. Your dog will become more stressed, more anxiety will be created by your actions and behaviour. This is not what you want to cause for the pet you love and care for.
10. At the ticket counter introduce your dog to the CSA - Customer Service Associate. Pass them the documentation for your pet.
11. After you have checked yourself and pet in you will be instructed to drop your dog off at a separate location for oversized and pets. As soon as you arrive ask how long until your dog will be picked up to be taken to the plane. This is the last time you have with your dog before you zip tie the crate closed. Take your dog to an outdoor area to pee one last time. Do not rush this process.
12. Loading time and time to say, “enjoy your flight.” This is where you give your dog a kiss and a hug. Most importantly it is the place where you load, and zip tie your dog door to the crate closed. *Bonus tip – Take a couple extra zip tie’s, the reason is no scissors or knives permitted on the plane. The zip tie is your tool to cut the zip ties off of your dog crate door when you land at your destination. Slide the unused zip tie in the fastened tie pull back and forth causing friction and the tied zip tie will break.
13. The one tip I have not mentioned, and this is the most special and important tip of all tips, is the power of a doggie note. Introduce your dog to anyone who will be handling the crate. Make them a part of your dog’s good vacation flying experience. Please look at the example of a client flying from Canada to Mexico. Attach two notes, in two languages, and include some calming dog treats like Brad Pattison Pet Wellness Hemp Calming soft chews, so the baggage handlers can give your dog a snack during departure and arrival.
Baggage handlers, in my experience, are amazing. And we should let the airlines know of the good experiences our pets get when flying.
14. Once you land, if you are travelling with friends or family, designate one person to go to oversized baggage arrival area. Fetch the dog. At the earliest time, cut the zip ties and get the dog outside as soon as possible to go to the bathroom. Adhere to the rules of the airport.
Locate a veterinarian at your destination just in case
Happy travels, enjoy your stay and make sure you know where to locate a veterinarian in case of an emergency at your final destination. Repeat the above steps when flying home.
Written by Brad Pattison, Dog Behaviourist & Professional Dog Trainer Vancouver
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