We love our dogs. They’re a part of our family, and their welfare is important to us.
So if you’re planning on traveling with your dog, here are some tips on how to make the trip an enjoyable and safe time for you and for them. Be sure to take into consideration their health and well-being prior to travel and put on the necessary ID tags. Include their name and your cell phone number (and home address, if you so choose), along with a temporary travel ID that has the address and phone number where you or a contact person can be reached (for example, your hotel or family/friends that you are visiting).
Check with your vet about microchipping your dog. Microchips are about the size of a piece of rice and are injected with a needle. The chip has a unique number that can be picked up and read by a scanner used by veterinarians or animal shelters through a national database. If you get separated from your pet during your travels, you stand a better chance of getting reunited.
Road Trips with Your Dog:
Traveling with your dog in the car is a fun and safer method of travel (for them) over air travel. Even dogs can get motion sickness, so plan on making some stops along the way to take them for a walk. The day of your trip, feed them a light meal and take them for a quick walk to expend some energy so they’ll rest easier.
Even though most of us may not secure our dog when driving in the car, according to the Humane Society, that’s not a good idea. “The safest way for your dog to travel in the car is in a crate that has been anchored to the vehicle using a seatbelt. Dog restraints or seat belts are useful for preventing your dog from roaming around the car and being a distraction to the driver, but they haven’t been reliably shown to protect dogs during a crash.”
There are ways to help your dog feel comfortable being in a crate. A couple of weeks before your trip, leave the crate open and put toys in it. When your dog goes inside, reward them with a treat. This will help them to view it as a safe haven.
When temperatures outside are warmer, do not leave your dog alone in the car. If the temperature is 80-some degrees outside, even if you have the windows cracked open, the temperature in the car can get over 100 degrees in just 10 minutes. Dogs left in a hot car can experience organ damage or worse.
Packing for Your Pet:
- Pack supplies for clean-up (baby wipes and plastic bags) after “accidents”. Even the most well-trained dogs can get stressed in a new environment and may have accidents.
- Bring your dog’s favorite toys, blanket, pillow, bed, or whatever else they enjoy at home to reduce their stress.
- If flying, pack your pet’s food and bottled water in checked baggage. Bring a can opener and spoon if you use canned food, and keep a day’s worth of sealed food and treats in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets delayed.
Dog Safety in Hotel Rooms:
It’s not a good idea to leave your dog unattended in a hotel room. Even the most docile and well-behaved dogs can cause damage, bark nonstop, or scare the hotel staff. Your dog could also run out the door when the maid opens it to clean your room.
Check with the hotel to see if they allow dogs to be left in the room if they are in their carrier.
Flying with Your Dog:
Stress and changes in altitude can cause many dogs to have an adverse reaction to air travel. Some breeds are affected more than others. Check with your vet to ensure your dog will be up for traveling, especially if they will be traveling in the cargo area. Dogs flying in cargo are at risk, and outside temperatures will determine if they are allowed on the plane.
Planning ahead is key to transporting your dog safely. Before booking your ticket, make sure your dog will be allowed on the same flight. Airlines can only transport a specific number of animals per flight (on board and in cargo). Many airlines will not allow certain breeds of dogs, and they will not transport animals during summer or winter months to locations known for extreme temperatures.
When traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Many airlines monitor the temperatures hourly. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer, and afternoon flights are better in the winter.
Book a direct flight and try to avoid connections. Any layover or delay would be hard on your dog and could subject them to mishandling. You’ll feel the stress as well. Be aware that if there’s an adverse temperature change at one of the connecting points, the dog could be removed from the aircraft and held until the temperature is safe again. If you decide to stay with your dog, you’ll most likely lose the money you spent on the remainder of the flight and will have to rebook a new flight.
In June of 2018, United Airlines implemented a new Petsafe Pet Transport System in partnership with American Humane. They’ve hired professionals who are trained to care for the animals throughout the entire journey. They offer climate-controlled compartments in cargo for pets on board the aircraft.
The cargo fee charged by many of the airlines is typically based on the destination and weight of the dog and carrier (estimate around $200 on up each way).
Plan to arrive at the airport earlier than normal. Pets are taken on a first-come basis. You don’t want to risk arriving at the airport only to be told that your dog cannot fly with you.
Your dog will most likely need a health certificate from the veterinarian and proof of rabies shots.
Look into Travel Insurance:
Since weather conditions will determine if your dog is allowed to fly in cargo, you may be forced to cancel your flight. If the trip is an expensive one, you may want to look into purchasing an insurance policy that offers “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage. Make sure that it will provide the necessary coverage in regards to pets.
Dogs Flying in the Cabin:
Many airlines will allow pets (small cats, dogs, rabbits, and domesticated birds) that are typically under 20 lbs. to travel in the passenger cabin in a pet carrier for an additional fee. Estimate around $125 each way. Check with your airline for specifics. Larger dogs have to fly in the cargo area of the plane as checked baggage.
Most airlines will accept either a hard-sided carrier or a soft-sided one (which may be more comfortable for your pet), but only certain brands of the soft-sided ones are acceptable to certain airlines. Make sure your carrier is airline-approved. Check on the size restrictions for carriers that are allowed in the cabin. They may need to fit under your seat.
If traveling abroad (or even within the U.S.), find out what the requirements are for dogs. You don’t want to find out after the fact that your pet is not allowed in that country, or that it has to be quarantined for a lengthy period of time (like in Hawaii).
Dogs Flying in Cargo:
Before deciding to have your dog fly in cargo, be aware of the risks. Dogs have been injured, lost, or have even died while flying in cargo. Fluctuation in temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling are some of the problems your dog may face.
As mentioned, book a direct flight so your dog doesn’t have to be transferred from one flight to another.
Being away from you and flying in cargo is already stressful enough for your dog. With some pre-planning, you can make it a little easier on them.
Take your dog for a walk prior to checking them in. This will help them to rest a little easier on the flight.
Label the carrier with your name, home address, and telephone number (include your cell), final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
Give your dog a bone or toy to help occupy their time and put ice cubes in their attached water tray. According to the Humane Society, you should not feed them four to six hours before the flight.
Some experts suggest you affix a brightly colored note to the front of the cage with your dog’s name and a message like, Hi…my name is Fido, and this is my first time flying, so I am kind of nervous. Please treat me with care. Thank you! This may encourage baggage handlers to treat them with more care.
Pack a sturdy leash in your carry-on bag.
Trim your dog’s nails, so they don’t get hooked in the carrier or any other crevices.
Breeds Requiring Special Precautions:
Brachycephalic animals are more susceptible to increased risk of heatstroke and breathing problems when exposed to stress or extreme heat. Some airlines may restrict these types of animals or may limit them from flying during the summer months.
This includes Bulldogs, Boston and Bull Terriers, Boxers, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Spaniels, and Pekinese. Elderly or overweight animals or those in poor health are more at risk of experiencing health problems while flying as well.
Your dog will be very thankful that you were concerned about their welfare during your travels together.
For insightful travel ideas, check out my book:
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad