Preparing Your Dog for Air Travel

Woman on an airplane traveling with a pet

While many people have put off air travel recently, it is still sometimes necessary. For some people, travel includes their pet dog. Here’s what you need to know about preparing your dog for air travel.

6 Steps to Preparing Your Dog for Air Travel

Even for humans, there are a lot of things you have to think about when you travel. There is even more to think about when you fly. You need to get through security, get to your gate on time and deal with the stress of flying. Preparing to fly with your dog is just one more complication.

Fair warning, air travel with your dog will always be stressful – for you and your pup. So, here’s a reminder for alternatives to taking your dog with you on a trip:

  • Find a dog boarding facility near you
  • Ask a friend or a family member to dog-sit
  • Hire a dog-sitting service
  • Get a professional house-sitter to stay in your home and watch your dog, plants, and property

If you decide that your dog should be with you on this trip, there are some things you should do to prepare beforehand.

Be Sure to Check with Your Vet First

The first thing that you should do before preparing for air travel with your dog is to take them to the vet. While doing this, make sure the vet double checks all your dog’s vaccinations and gives them a thorough physical. If you have any concerns about flying with your dog, be sure to bring it up to them.

It can be very important to discuss health concerns if you think your dog won’t handle the flight well. Your vet may help put you at ease, or if they think your dog will be stressed too, they may prescribe a medication to help them relax during this stressful time.

Don’t Book Your Flight Online

Booking your flight online is so easy to do. You simply put in your information and get your ticket. But if you book your flight online, you don’t get the chance to talk with a real person.

You’ll want to talk to the sales representative about bringing your dog and what they recommend to make the process as simple as possible. They may offer suggestions on what type of carrier to get or what special services they offer to those who travel with pets.

Look for a High-Quality Dog Carrier

And speaking of a dog carrier, make sure you get one that is high-quality. Your dog’s carrier should be large enough for them to turn around comfortably. You’ll also want the carrier you choose to have enough ventilation as many airlines put pets in with the cargo. You should also label your carrier very clearly. Put your contact information on the crate as well as a copy of vaccinations and medical history. It’s probably not going to be necessary, but better safe than sorry.

Make Sure Your Dog Is Comfortable in Your Carrier

Prior to leaving for your trip, be sure to let your dog get comfortable with their crate. If you only use the crate when you are headed to the airport, your dog might be confused and not know what’s going on. In this circumstance, they may become stressed or have anxiety.

It’s a much better idea to get your dog used to their carrier. Just like with crate training, it can take days, weeks or even months before your dog becomes comfortable in their crate. The same can go for a new carrier. If your dog is not used to it by the time they have to fly, you may be introducing a lot of anxiety and make your flight much worse.

Be Early to Your Flight

Most airlines ask you to arrive at your flight an hour or two early to make sure there are no delays. If you are traveling with your dog, you should arrive an hour earlier than the recommended time. This will ensure you have plenty of time to talk to airline employees and work out any kinks if they arise.

Avoid Food and Water

When flying with your dog, you’ll want to restrict their food and water about five hours before takeoff. Doing so can help you avoid potty breaks at the airport or accidents in their crate. Of course, it seems cruel to restrict your dog’s water for so long. If they seem parched, absolutely let them have some, but try and keep it to a minimum.

You should also tape a serving of food to the outside of your dog’s crate. This will be useful if there is a delay and flight attendants need to feed your dog. You can also consider throwing a toy or two in your dog’s carrier so they have something to occupy themselves with while waiting.

Traveling is complicated and stressful and traveling with a dog can be even more so. Use the tips above to help make your travel day as easy as possible.