by Author: Emma Williams

Even though airports are much quieter than usual at the moment, dogs who need to fly will still feel stressed when exposed to the chaotic airport and flight atmosphere. However, not every flight has to turn into an anxiety attack, as there are nifty ways to help your pooch feel more relaxed when traveling in the air. Here are seven useful ways you can prepare your dog for all the restrictions and inconveniences you may encounter when flying. 

Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

Avoid the commotion if possible

Although it depends on the airline policy, there is a good chance you are eligible for early boarding because of your pet. If you are in the position to choose flights and airlines that allow this, consider this option seriously, as it can very much help your dog overcome the stress, avoid crowded spaces and you will get the chance to prepare everything and feel a little less stressed.

Visit the vet before the flight

The best possible advice when taking an animal on a longer trip is to do a routine medical check with your vet to ensure your pet is in a good health condition to endure the trip. Some airlines require a health certificate as a prerequisite for flying, but even if they don’t, do it just in case.

In fact, if your dog has had health problems before, or is approaching a certain age, it’s a good idea to check his heart, stamina and overall wellness. Some breeds, like the short-nosed pugs and bulldogs, are more prone to respiratory problems and are sensitive to air quality and temperature changes. In those cases, it’s just not worth the risk! Most airlines actually won’t let them on board either. You can find a full list of 44 dog breeds banned from flying in United Cargo here

Turn the crate or carrier into a welcoming space

An important thing to do before any trip is to acclimate your furry friend with the space he or she will be spending time in. Make sure to use your dog crate or airline-approved carrier beforehand by keeping the dog in for shorter periods of time repeatedly. It’s important for the canine to feel comfortable and safe in his new bed.

Also, most airlines don’t allow dogs in the passenger cabins, so you must consider leaving your dog in the cargo hold. In that case, your crate should be sturdy and spacious enough for your dog to lie down comfortably. Invest in an escape proof crate or carrier that has metal locks and steel hardware fasteners, just to be on the safe side!

Be prepared for doggy emergencies

Even on shorter flights, you’ll probably need to spend at least 3-4 hours on the trip, and that’s the best-case scenario. Most airports don’t allow dogs to be out of their carriers/crates unless they have a specific place for service dogs (usually just a patch of fake grass), which is not so common anyways. 

Just like you would equip the dog crate, you can “decorate” your dog’s carrier by putting in his favourite chew toys, blankets, or anything that will occupy his or her attention.  Arm yourself with all the goodies, squeakies, snacks and plenty of water if you want a tantrum-free trip. Another useful trick is to line your dog’s carrier with a water-resistant kennel pad that can be a lifesaver in emergency situations on long and exhausting flights. 

Consider a secure collar

Just as you would keep an eye on your luggage, make sure you know where your dog is at any time. The risk of losing a dog at the airport is real and best would be if you could take your dog in the passenger cabin, but in case that’s not an option, there are neat secure collars and ID tags to help you track your pooch. Also, always have a photo of your pet with you for faster identification in case he gets lost, and make sure they are microchipped too.

Photo by Mathew Janzen on Unsplash

A tired dog is the best-behaved dog

Do yourself a favour and don’t bring a highly-energised, excited dog on an airport full of new people and chaos. If there’s time and means. try incorporating a long and fast-paced walk before leaving. Also, make sure the dog is well fed and in a good mood to reduce any unnecessary restlessness and discomfort. The more you tire her, the better she’ll be prepared for a nice and long nap – just what you both need on an exhausting flight!

Similarly, if you are headed abroad, make sure to look up local laws and legislation around dogs. The following useful guide explains that a number of dog breeds must be muzzled in public areas. Likewise, in the UK, the Dangerous Dog Acts 1991 requires breeds such as the Pit Bull Terrier and Japanese Tosa to be muzzled while out and about in public places. This is to protect both the dog and owner from dog bite accidents which are more common than you might think. In fact, the average settlement paid by insurance companies for dog bites in 2017 was a staggering $33, 230.

Worst case scenario – maybe try natural remedies

This should really be used as a last resort, however, sometimes it’s best for both the dog and the passengers to calm the dog down with a plant-based natural remedy. If you know your dog will go through extreme stress, consult with your vet on safe and natural sedatives that won’t leave any consequences on the pet’s health. 

Final thoughts

The bottom line is if the turmoil of flying is just too much for your pooch, just don’t force it, it’s not worth the trouble. Keep in mind that your pet is going through a highly stressful situation when flying, so be the comfort and support they need you to be. Use these tips to help you achieve that.