10 tips for travelling with your dog

By: Martha Uniacke Breen

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©


10 tips for travelling with your dog

By: Martha Uniacke Breen
This summer, many Canadians will be taking to the skies for their vacations. But is it alright to take your dog on vacation too? According to veterinarian Dr. Michael Belovich, who runs Yonge Street Animal Hospital in Toronto, travelling with a dog in a plane is a much different proposition than going by car, and not every dog's temperament is well suited to it.

Dr. Belovich notes that there are certain behavioural traits that could indicate your pet is better off staying home with a sitter when you take to the skies. For example, a dog who has a tendency to become very stressed in unfamiliar situations, suffers from separation anxiety or has a phobia about noise, is usually not a good candidate for the stress of long-distance travel.

Dr. Belovich also warns against travelling with a very aggressive dog, or one that tends to become aggressive when stressed; if the dog were to accidentally get loose from his carrier, he could quickly become a dangerous situation for all involved -- including the dog. "Also, dogs that are very vocal [i.e., barkers or whiners], especially if the airline allows you to take the carrier on-board with you, could cause a problem for other passengers." In any of these situations, Dr. Belovich advises that you consider boarding your pup at the vet or hiring a pet sitter, for the sake of his nerves as much as yours.

Travelling with a dog: Is your pup up for it?
If you do decide that your dog is ready to make the friendly skies even friendlier, Dr. Belovich offers the following pointers for a safe and trouble-free trip. In a nutshell, he says, "It all comes down to trying to think of everything that can possibly go wrong, and to be prepared for that."

Before you take the skies and start travelling with a dog, heed these helpful hints to make the trip more enjoyable for you, your dog … and the other passengers on your flight!

1. Buy a dog carrier
Make sure you purchase a really sturdy, top-quality dog carrier. A less robust one may be fine for trips to the vet or across town, but for air travel, it should be able to stand up to rough handling without coming apart. If it isn't brand-new, be sure to check it over thoroughly -- well before departure day -- to make sure it's still in top condition.

2. Get a strong lock
A good-quality dog carrier should have a sturdy lock or closure and door hinges that won't pop open unexpectedly; but it should also be designed so that in an emergency, it can still be opened by human handlers (such as a vet).

Page 1 of 2 -- Is your pup accustomed to being inside a dog carrier? Find out why you'll want to acclimatize him to being inside his carrier on page 2.
3. Get your dog used to being in his carrier
Especially for a long flight, it's a good idea to acclimatize your pet, over several days or weeks, to being inside his carrier. Place him in the carrier and take him for short car rides, gradually extending the duration of the trip.

You can also try leaving him alone in the carrier in a safe, but not necessarily familiar, place for short periods, always reassuring him with lots of affection when you come back. Ideally, you want him to feel that the carrier is a safe, positive place, a source of comfort and familiarity during the stress of the flight.

4. Have a doggy ID
Make sure your dog carrier is well marked with your pet's name, your name, your home address and the destination address.

5. Complete the necessary paperwork
Find out well in advance what special paperwork and requirements you'll need to transport your pet, particularly if you're crossing an international border. In some cases, you might need special stickers that should be affixed to the dog carrier.

6. Calm your dog
Your vet has a number of safe and effective remedies for canine jitters, ranging from mild tranquilizers to "dog-appeasing pheromone," a special spray that you can apply to the interior of the carrier to help calm him.

7. Get your dog vaccinated
Make sure your dog's shots are all up to date, and ask your vet if there are any special vaccines that your pet either requires or would benefit from having in the destination you're travelling to.

8. Don't set your dog free immediately
When you arrive at the airport, resist the urge to let him out of his carrier, even if it's just for a quick kiss goodbye. All but the coolest canine customer is probably already under some stress by this point, and he could take off.

9. Find out if you can take your dog with you
Confirm with the airline whether you will be able to take your dog in the cabin with you, or if he will be travelling by himself in the hold of the plane. If by himself, make sure he has plenty of water and food, in containers that are securely attached to the sides of the carrier so they don't spill. If he's travelling with you, bring a supply of absorbent paper towels and bedding, and disposable bags for accidents; it's more pleasant for your dog, and for your fellow travellers too.

10. Get your dog a pet microchip
Make sure your pet has a microchip, just in case he does escape from his carrier. A microchip is an excellent backup to a collar tag with the pet's address or other identifying info, since it can't get lost.

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10 tips for travelling with your dog