Make sure your dog has the correct temperament for a long trip. While most dogs are comfortable in cars, flying is a completely different proposition with lots of confusing sounds and sensations, the most notable being the difference in atmospheric pressure once you’re cruising at 30,000ft. There’s no avoiding the fact that this might be a little too much for some dogs, so if yours is of an anxious disposition then maybe having them take a holiday at a kennel or with some friends or relatives is a better option.
Making a decision such as this can be difficult, but if you feel like it’s in the best interest of your dog’s mental well-being, then it could be the correct decision in the long run.
So, you’ve decided that your dog is traveling with you. Please pay attention to these next steps, as they could be vital to the success of your trip.
Secure the Correct “Dogumentation”
If you’re heading abroad, your pooch will need a pet passport to make sure there aren’t any nasty surprises for foreign dogs hiding under his or her fur. The bare minimum required by most nations is a certification that your dog is healthy and rabies-free, as this canine-borne disease is still a problem in some parts of the world.
If you’re heading across the Atlantic to a European Union country (including the United Kingdom), then you’ll need more formal forms of documentation. This will include:
- An Annex IV form (these vary from country to country)
- A USDA-endorsed APHIS health certificate for your pet
- A declaration of Non-Commercial Transport (to prove that you’re not selling your pet to someone abroad)
Stipulations from your destination country aren’t the only thing you should keep your eye on – make sure you’re adhering to the airline’s rules, too. Most carriers will insist that your dog has a valid health certificate and some short-nosed breeds such as pugs are not allowed in the cargo hold on United Airlines and others due to the difficulty they have breathing.
Beware the Perils of Pet Quarantine
Countries classed as rabies-free might quarantine your dog upon entry – especially if you’ve arrived from a nation where rabies is an issue. In some cases, you can avoid this by providing a blood titer test that proves a lack of rabies in your beloved pooch.
If you don’t provide this, or if you and your dog have moved countries more than once in the last six months, then your pet may be quarantined or even returned to the country of origin. It always pays to research these things before booking your flight to avoid a nasty surprise and the possibility that your pet will spend your holiday holed up at the airport.
If your pooch is in the cabin with you, then there are a number of strategies you can use to make sure he or she is as comfortable as possible. Firstly, you should make sure that the carrier that they’re traveling in is familiar to them – so make sure to introduce them to the home weeks before the flight, to allow for naps in it and generally make it part of your dog’s daily routine. This way, they won’t spend the flight cooped up in unfamiliar surroundings.
The next thing to do is to make sure your dog is in the right frame of mind for a long flight. A long walk on the morning of the flight should do the trick, with plenty of excitement and stick-chasing to really tire them out.
Having a sleepy dog is the best scenario for a fuss-free flight, so try to find a way to tire them out, especially if your dog is normally full of energy.
The last thing you want is for your dog to need to go to the bathroom during the flight. It’s bad enough for humans to use the cramped facilities on most flights, so you could be heading for high-altitude potty peril if you don’t follow these super simple rules.
Take away the water bowl two hours before the flight – dogs are fine going without water for a little while – and try not to feed pooch the morning of the trip. Once the flight is over, you can provide treats and water as a reward for good behavior on the airplane.
If your dog is too big for cabin travel, then the cargo hold is the only option. International standards state that the crate has to be big enough for your pet to stand up easily, and sturdy enough to withstand a few bumps along the way.
Be sure to line it with your pup’s favorite blankets and acclimatize them early by going on short trips in the car – you could even drive through a car wash to get your pet super-acclimatized to strange noises and sensations when inside the crate.
Be sure to reward good behavior in the crate with treats, as this will lead your dog to feel more at home within it when the traveling day comes.
Important Things to Remember
In addition to restrictions on short-nosed dogs in the cargo hold, there are also dog transit limits relating to the temperature in the hold. Dogs are prohibited from flights in the summertime to warm destinations such as Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Tucson due to the high outdoor temperature that will affect your dog’s health in much the same way as leaving them in a hot parking lot. Be sure to check this with your airline before flying as policies differ between carriers.
In addition, if you were thinking of tranquilizing or sedating your pet for the duration of the flight, then think again. It is very dangerous for your pet, typically because such drugs affect the respiratory system, which will mean your dog will be short of breath due to the altitude differences.
There have been no studies conducted on the effects of altitude on tranquilized pets, so in our eyes, it simply isn’t worth the risk.
Choose the Right Accommodation
Just like humans, dogs will be cranky after a flight, especially a long one – and nothing impacts on your holiday mood like substandard accommodation. Choosing pet-friendly accommodation is simple, as there are plenty of Airbnb options out there that allow pets – but for an extra special accommodation option, try to find a place with a garden where your dog can play all day.
A city-center hotel is simply a non-starter if you’re bringing a dog, as very few are pet-friendly and most will only provide for service animals.
Make It Exciting
Dogs are naturally inquisitive, so your holiday should maximize this. Whether its a beach holiday with plenty of opportunity for doggy-paddling, or a natural landscape with plenty of interesting sights, smells and sounds, be sure to stimulate your dog’s senses while you enjoy your trip.
Energetic pets may well enjoy scampering alongside you on your family trip and you can use cycling equipment like bike-friendly bags to store some treats for them. You should keep an eye on their stamina, though, as you won’t want to exhaust them while enjoying the great outdoors.
Respect the Local Rules
Especially relevant for holidays taking in a National Park or two, being aware of the rules regarding dogs in various locations is very important. The vast majority of National Parks are dog-friendly providing your pooch is on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet.
Parks that disallow dogs tend to do so because of the disruption your dog could unknowingly cause to a local ecosystem, so small islands such as the Channel Islands off the California coast and Isle Royale on the upper end of Lake Superior are closed to dogs all year round. Visit this page for a full rundown of pet-friendly parks.
Beaches also have dog-related rules that differ depending on where you are. Crowded, urban beaches are always going to be more difficult for a boisterous dog to negotiate, so instead opt for quieter stretches of coast where seaside games of fetch can happen to your heart’s content.
Respect these and any other local rules (always keep a lookout for dog-related signage) and you and Fido will enjoy a harmonious holiday.
Once you’ve absorbed all this information, you can start to plan your trip. Making sure your dog is comfortable with every step of this process is absolutely vital if a holiday of this type is to be enjoyed.
About the Author
Alex Jones is a features writer for Start Fitness – providers of running, cycling, gym, football, and outdoor products.