Flying with a dog has got to be one of the most stressful experiences to go through – for us and for them.

First, consider the impact on your canine companion – is it really worth putting them through all the stress of airline travel for a short break? Try to limit it to longer term moves or extended trips of a month or more. Actually flying with a dog puts them under a huge amount of anxiety – they will be put into a busy, noisy environment with the added complications of temperature changes, cabin pressure and no toilet access, all without you there to reassure them. 

All that said, it’s sometimes unavoidable and for permanent moves and adoptions it’s a must. Lots of rescue dogs are adopted internationally, a better life waiting for them on the other side. Or life demands that we relocate and it would be unthinkable to leave our pups behind. So how can owners take some of the anxiety out of this very anxiety-inducing process? Let’s find out.

Find out how to fly with a dog

Flying with a dog can be complicated, and expensive. Before you embark on the journey, be sure to gain knowledge about the process from a reputable source, and be realistic when it comes to budget. If you can afford it, it’s often advisable to enlist the services of a pet relocation company who will generally offer different packages which can include everything from vaccinations to crates to export paperwork depending on your budget. Regulations vary country to country and hiring a pet relocation expert can take the worry out of the process and the chance of missing minute details.

If you opt to take care of the process yourself, be sure to read up very carefully about flying with a dog out of and into your desired countries. Of course, if you’re flying domestically this process tends to be simpler. Be meticulous. Between the export/import regulations, the airline’s rules and procedures and the emotional and physical strain on your pet, it can get overwhelming. Only consult official sites and triple check everything.

Pre-departure considerations for flying with a dog

First priority – talk with your vet. A vet can give you important health advice about flying and the preparations involved. Second priority – do some crate training. Invite your dog to spend time inside their temporary home that will accommodate them through this journey. Try to make sure they have positive associations with it by placing familiar smelling items inside as well as toys and treats.

Don’t assume that you will be travelling with your dog. Some airlines permit small dogs to travel in the cabin or alongside you as an assistance dog but you will need medical certification for this. Certain breeds of dog cannot fly in the cargo hold due to their facial structure not allowing them to breathe normally. Try to book in advance if you’d like to travel on the same plane as your dog because most airlines will have a maximum number of animals per flight. Of course, even with the best planning things can go awry – temperatures at the departure or arrival airport could dictate whether your dog can travel – if it’s too hot or too cold, airlines can pull the plug on your itinerary. 

Flying with a dog: departure day

If you’re being supported by a pet relocation service, they may offer assistance with airport checkin. If not, get there early so that there’s no added stress in the mix – this could be anything up to 5 hours before flight departure for international flights, but usually less for domestic. You might have to go to a separate area of the airport so be prepared for this.

If your dog is travelling with you in the cabin, be smart about how you approach security and how you navigate the airport. Make sure you are able to handle your luggage as well as your dog’s needs. Be attentive and recognise if they’re feeling stressed, and check if there are any pet relief areas.

Cargo is a different story – you will be separated from your dog so ensure there’s a photo of them attached to the outside of their crate and that you provide food and water in case of delays. The airline might have rules about bedding but make their crate comfortable for them and put in an item of clothing that smells of you to comfort them. Check with the airline regarding rules about sedatives – a lot of airlines don’t allow this at all in case of health complications. The official advice on sedatives for pets during flights is unclear.

On arrival at the destination, there will be a waiting period until your dog is ready for collection. Be ready for them – a walk should be first on the agenda as well as plenty of encouragement, reassurance and some food and favourite treats.

Post-flight

Following a journey by air, your doggie could be feeling unsettled or unsure of their new surroundings. Make sure you have their familiar bedding, toys and routines ready to build their confidence up quickly in the new place. Be present in the period following the trip and notice any behaviours that seem out of the ordinary.

Being prepared for this transition can take a lot of the mental and physical stress out of it – the more equipped you are to navigate it smoothly, the less nasty surprises you’ll have and you can be a better dog parent to your furry friend so that they bounce easily into their new life.

 

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About the author

Vaila Erin is a writer, lover of animals, and a bit of a nomad. For her, life is about stories — observing yourself and others so that you can laugh, cry and entertain each other with its absurdities. Connect with her at vailaerin.com or via LinkedIn.
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For every animal saved, countless others are still suffering.

By donating, you can create a future where animals no longer have to suffer. 

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