Today’s guest blogger is Roger Wellington, an ultra bossy rescue Yorkshire Terrier from California who has been traveling the world since 2016. He teaches dog “pawrents” how to travel with their dogs and blogs about his nomadic canine life on Wet Nose Escapades: A Yorkie’s Guide to Healthy Dog Travel. To date, Roger W. has set his tiny furry paws in over 20 countries.
Woof, wanna travel with your dog? As a dog world traveler, I’ve hung out with Parisians at cafés in Le Marais, partied with hipsters at ruin pubs in Budapest, and snoozed on sandy beaches in Crete. I’ll be the first to bark that traveling with your dog is a rewarding bonding experience. However, strategic planning is key, especially if you’re flying with your dog for the first time. As air travel can be stressful for both humans and dogs, you must do everything to prepare for a smooth journey. So let’s see what not to do when flying with your dog:
1. Do NOT book a flight with multiple layovers.
Always get a direct flight, if possible. Sure, you can find ways to save money when flying with your dog (e.g., booking budget dog-friendly accommodations), but booking a cheaper flight with multiple layovers should not be one of them. The shorter the journey, the easier it’ll be for your dog. The fewer the layovers, the smoother the journey. If you must book a non-direct flight, please resort to a one-layover maximum and spend at least a few days to a week at the layover location before heading to your final destination.
2. Do NOT assume everyone likes dogs.
While you’ll meet many dog-loving passengers and flight staff who are smitten by your adorable furry traveler, you’ll also come across some who may glare in disapproval. Even though I’ve never made a peep on countless long-haul international flights, I’ve been stared down with disgust by more than several passengers.
In general, flight passengers are more tolerant of a screaming, snot-shooting baby than your dog, whether he or she is sleeping peacefully or barking up a storm. Hence, make sure your dog is well behaved throughout the entire journey, from airport check-in to the flight itself to baggage claim. It’s also best to keep your dog inside the carrier or leashed when walking through the airport. Be respectful of people who may fear (or just dislike) dogs or suffer from allergies.
3. Do NOT skip carrier training.
Arguably the single most essential step in flying your dog in-cabin, carrier training is not a step you should skip. Start at least two months before your dog’s very first flight.
From the moment you bring home the airline-approved carrier, place your dog’s toys and treats inside. Doing so at the beginning of each training session will entice them to go in to sniff around. Allow your dog to sniff for treats freely during the first few days of training. Gradually, zip up the carrier and increase their time inside 3-5 minutes daily. Work up to 60-90 mins or until they seem comfortable inside. Always stay right next to the carrier, so your dog knows you’re just right there.
After consistent sessions of uncovering goodies, your dog will eventually consider the carrier a happy, safe place. The more relaxed your dog is inside the carrier, the better he or she will fare on the flight. Find out how to choose the right carrier here.
4. Do NOT forget to exhaust their energy before the flight .
The best way to ensure an effortless journey is to exercise or tire out your dog before a flight. Of course, you shouldn’t force your dog into any extreme physical activity, but adding an extra 15 minutes or so of exercise and playtime will help them sleep through the flight. About 45-60 minutes after my meal, I’ll take an hour-long walk before heading to the airport. Upon arrival at the airport, I also sniff around outside before and after check-in.
5. Do NOT fly your dog on a full stomach.
Feed your dog at least 1-2 hours before heading to the airport to allow time for digestion and elimination. For longer flights (over 6 hours), you’ll have to be extra strategic with water and food intake before and during the flight. The catch is maintaining a balance between preventing accidents and ensuring that your dog has enough to eat. Feeding your dog light meals or small bites are better than full meals on a long-haul flight. I must have my treats to survive a long flight!
6. Do NOT get to the airport at the last minute.
When you’re flying with your dog, aim to arrive an hour earlier than usual. For instance, if you usually arrive at the airport two hours before an international flight, then you’ll probably want to get there 3 hours beforehand with your dog. Early arrival not only allows time to smooth out any potential mishap at the airline counter but also gives your dog time to walk around and eliminate after check-in.
7. Do NOT sleep through the entire flight.
Don’t pass out throughout the entire flight, especially if it’s your dog’s first time flying. Whether you have a 10-month-old puppy or a senior dog like me, be the responsible dog “pawrent” by keeping a vigilant eye on your dog to ensure its comfort and safety. As dogs learn best through positive reinforcement, don’t forget to praise your dog for remaining calm on the flight!
8. Do NOT give your dog sedatives.
Just don’t do it! Unless your vet strongly recommends or prescribes them for your dog’s flight, please do not give sedatives to your dog during a flight. Unfortunately, sedatives may have unpredictable outcomes, including respiratory or heart issues.
9. Do NOT allow your dog to struggle.
No flight is ever worth your precious dog’s life! We’ve all heard those horrific dog air travel stories, most notably the death of a French bulldog who was wrongfully forced inside the overhead compartment by a flight attendant. If you see your dog panting or struggling inside the carrier, take him or her out immediately — even if this means going against airline rules. Acting fast can save a life.
Like my human did on a flight from Madrid to Geneva, calmly explain the situation to the flight attendant if reprimanded. Most flight attendants are pretty lenient about having dogs out of the carrier, while others are stricter and by-the-book. Regardless, your dog’s health and safety always come first.
10. Do NOT assume your dog can “hold it” indefinitely.
As dogs may relieve themselves during stressful situations, it is not realistic to expect them to “hold it” until they can finally walk out of the airport. Even with advanced carrier training, accidents may still happen, as confined dogs (whether in a crate or carrier) are essentially trying their best to hold it for as long as possible to avoid soiling their beds.
Not only should you be prepared for accidents but you should also be empathetic if they happen. Although I’ve never had an accident on the plane in over four years of traveling, my human always puts a pee pad inside my carrier and comes prepared with hand wipes, dog wipes, and poop bags for easy cleanup.
Roger Wellington is an ultra bossy rescue Yorkshire Terrier from California who has been traveling the world since 2016. He teaches dog “pawrents” how to travel with their dogs and blogs about his nomadic canine life on Wet Nose Escapades: A Yorkie’s Guide to Healthy Dog Travel. To date, Roger W. has set his tiny furry paws in over 20 countries. Want more dog travel tips? Sniff Roger out here and follow his alpha paw prints on TNN, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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