Once upon a time, flying with dogs was a straightforward procedure. You simply popped the animal into a crate, made sure it had some air holes, and crossed your fingers. Dogs got treated like checked baggage, all the way down to placement in the cargo area of the plane. Obviously, this is problematic.
You don’t need the skills of a dog whisperer to guess that most pets probably hate this experience. Trapped in small boxes in an unfamiliar, dark, and cold area, soundtracked with the roar of engines and the yelps of other frightened animals, it’s easy to understand how flights frequently left marks of trauma.
Today, flying with animals is a completely different experience. Though not as easy as dropping Fido in a box and handing him over, flying with dogs has become much more pleasant on the pets, and less worrisome for owners.
In addition to revamped procedures for pets, airlines must contend with many more service animals that in the past. In regards to what gets to go into the cabin versus the cargo hold, airlines also have different policies related to breed, size, and temperament.
If you want to take your dog along for the ride, there’s a lot you need to know before you book your ticket.
Airline Policies for Flying with Dogs
The dog policies of airlines are so different that it seems almost willfully confusing. Some carriers allow dogs in the cabin, some don’t; others allow them in the cargo hold, while many refuse.
Weight restrictions are similarly all over the place. Air France, for example, allows pets up to 165 pounds. Other airlines would balk at this, as the standard weight limit stands at less than half this amount.
Many airlines have additional rules about the length of the flight, or the destination. Finally, some airlines refuse to transport dogs altogether, and will only place them on cargo flights.
Before you choose a carrier, make sure you are absolutely clear on the dog policy.
To save time looking up the regulations on several carriers, can instead visit either PetFriendlyTravel.com or BringFido.com. Both of these sites have gathered pet policy information from dozens of carriers, which makes it easy to choose the right fit for you and your pooch.
When it comes to airlines, all dogs are not considered equal. While you may assume that large or aggressive breeds are the targets of these distinctions, think again: short-nosed breeds like pugs, boxers, Shih tzus, bulldogs, and Boston terriers must play fetch with the short-end of the stick.
The airlines have actually done this for the good of the animals, or at least to avoid trouble from distraught owners. Short-nosed dogs cannot easily breath at high altitudes, and will sometimes die from the rigors of a flight.
Foreign Destination Concerns
Airline rules aside, your destination might have its own restrictions on dogs. Many foreign countries will confiscate dogs and place them in quarantine for up to two weeks. Performed as a precautionary measure against foreign diseases, the quarantine period is nevertheless highly stressful, especially if it surprises you.
Before you fly your pet to a foreign nation, make sure to check the embassy’s website for dog policies. Also, it’s not only international destinations that present this problem. Hawaii also quarantines animals in an effort to preserve its status as a rabies-free state.
Tips for Flying with Dogs
Learning whether your best friend can fly with you represents only half the battle. After you’ve secured your ticket, you must consider how you’ll actually pull the operation off. Most dogs do not take well to air travel.
Airline terminals are full of strange smells and people, their owner is likely stressed out, and they are forced to remain in a small crate for several hours. To make the experience as easy as possible, you’ll definitely want to prepare beforehand.
On the day of your trip, the last thing you want to deal with is an accident in the crate. To avoid this, do not feed your dog within four hours of the trip. Dogs can go up to 10 hours without food, so try to set aside concern for their comfort. Along these lines, do not change your dog’s food in the days leading up to the trip, as this can sometimes lead to digestive issues.
You’ll have an easier trip if your dog does not have a lot of excess energy. On the day of your trip, try and find time to take them on a long walk.
Once you arrive at the airport, take them outside for a stroll and bathroom break as close to departure as possible. Some airports have pet-friendly areas as an amenity for travelers. You can find a list of these at PetFriendlyTravel.com.
In previous years, sedation was actually recommended for dogs on planes. Now, this is not always the case. Many dogs struggle at high altitudes, and sedatives can further impair their ability to breathe. Sedatives can also make it difficult for a dog to regulate its body temperature. This can become dangerous, especially if the dog is bound for the cargo hold. If you feel like sedatives could nevertheless prove beneficial, talk to your vet to learn exactly whether they will put your pet at risk.
Your Best Travel Buddy
Many of us who own dogs cannot stand the thought of prolonged separation. Our beloved companions make each day a little brighter, and we typically know they’re unhappy when apart from us. For these reasons and others, it is perfectly reasonable to want to bring your dog on a flight.
If the thought of this leaves you nervous, consider that more people travel with dogs now than ever before.
Airlines and airports have grown accustomed to this, and the numerous regulations merely serve to protect the animals’ safety. The next time a trip threatens to separate you from your dog, simply purchase a crate, do your research, and imagine all the fun you’ll have when you arrive.