The summer travel season is upon us, and if you own a dog, it’s time to consider how you’ll be traveling with your dog. You could have someone watch your pooch at home for you, but if you will be gone for an extended period of time, or you have a service animal you need to travel with, you’ll want to know and understand what the best way to bring them along is.
How you travel with your dog will largely depend on how far you plan to travel and how you plan to get there. Whether by plane or by car, traveling with your pet is possible if you follow these tips and guidelines.
Airline Policies for Traveling with Your Dog
First, we’ll start out by saying that not every dog can travel by plane, nor is it advisable. If you have a larger dog, even if they are a service animal, they may have to travel in the cargo hold. Not all airlines will even offer you this option, and it can be a stressful trip for your pup both physically and emotionally.
While rare, pets have died on airline flights when in the cargo hold, and if your pet is older or in poor health, their risk could be greater.
So how do you bring them with you in the cabin? Well, almost every airline has its own restrictions, but there are a few common ones.
- Pets must generally be in a carrier and remain there for the trip.
- The pet must fit and remain comfortably under the seat in front of you. You cannot buy them a seat of their own, and they cannot be in the aisle.
- Pets are not allowed in exit rows because of safety concerns.
- Service animals generally fly free. For all other pets, there is a fee involved.
- You must notify the airline in advance if you are bringing a pet.
- There are a limited number of pets allowed per flight, usually four to six depending on the airline.
Your dog also must be well trained. If they misbehave on the flight or are disruptive, it can result in both of you being removed.
Each airline has its own fee for each pet that flies with them. Here are some examples:
- American: $125 each way for pets in the cabin, $175 each way in the cargo bay.
- Delta: Varies by destination
- Southwest: $95 in the cabin, no pets allowed in the cargo hold
- United: $125
Without exception, service animals fly for free. However, due to an unfortunate trend of online certification programs and service animal policy abuse, most airlines have tightened their rules considerably. You need to check the airline’s website and submit the proper paperwork to them at least 48 hours ahead of your flight.
For emotional support animals that do not perform a physical service for the owner, you’ll need a doctor’s note, less than a year old, that states the purpose of the animal and identifies your need for the dog. Some airlines will also want to see the training your dog has received.
Don’t try to fake this process. There are only so many pets allowed per flight even if they are service animals, and the more individuals who abuse the system, the tighter restrictions will become.
Prepping for the Flight
Of course, if you just follow your normal routine and get on a plane, your dog may have a miserable flight, and you might as well. Here are some tips for getting them and you ready for your trip.
- Get a vet health certificate and a check-up before you go. Some airlines will require a travel health certificate.
- Stop feeding your dog about five hours before the flight. Potty breaks are tough in the airport and on the plane, and an accident could make you really unpopular.
- A little water is fine, but stop even that about an hour before the flight. However, if your pet will be traveling in the cargo hold and not the cabin with you, place a bowl of water inside their crate. Add a bag of food that flight attendants can use for them if there is a delay.
- Speaking of crates, get a crate that accommodates your pet well, and work at getting them used to it before the trip.
- Arrive at least one hour before you normally would when checking in for your flight.
- Keep your dog active. Some airports have a pet play area--take advantage of it if you can, and if they don’t have one, walk your dog around and work of some energy so they are more likely to sleep through the flight.
- If your dog is not chipped, do this before you fly. This will protect your pet even in a strange city.
- Be courteous to other passengers and travelers.
Remember, traveling by plane can be stressful for everyone. The smoother you make the flight for your pet, the better it will be for you and the passengers around you.
Traveling by Car
If you plan to travel with your pet by car, some of the same preparations apply as when you are flying with a few exceptions.
First, while you do not have to put your pet in a crate, it is a good idea to restrain them somehow. Every year, several dogs die in car accidents because unlike humans, they are not strapped in. There are companies that make seat belt harnesses that are comfortable and allow your dog to move but will keep them safe in case of an accident.
But you can crate your dog, and some dogs actually prefer this method. For many of them, their crate or kennel offers them a sense of security and “home.” This is especially true of larger dogs and dogs who are kennel trained. This will generally keep them safer in case of an accident, and it may keep them quieter as well.
Speaking of quiet, another tip is to practice driving longer distances with your dog. Some dogs get anxious in the car or may associate a car ride with things like a trip to the vet or the groomers. Practice some longer drives where there is something pleasant at the end, and offer them treats when they behave well and even obey commands in the car.
Plan Your Car Trip When Traveling with Your Dog
To travel by car with your dog, you will want to do some key things in the planning of your trip. Here are a few of them.
- Plan to drive shorter distances per day, and stop more often. Your dog may need more regular potty breaks and exercise breaks than you will.
- Book pet-friendly stays. From Air BnB to hotels, there are almost always pet restrictions and policies. Plan your trip around them. This is one time when going without reservations is not the best idea.
- Pack food and bottled or purified water. You can’t be assured that you will find your dog’s brand of food or even clean water for them on the road. Just like you bring road snacks for you, bring them for your dog too.
- Get a vet check before you go. No, it isn’t a requirement, but it can help give you peace of mind. Do bring shot records and other vital information just in case.
- Be sure your pet is chipped. Even dogs that don’t usually run away can end up panicking and fleeing during a road trip. Be sure ID tags and chip information is up to date.
When traveling with your pet this summer, you will have to think some things through. Whether by air or by car, taking your dog with you can be a great idea. Follow these tips to make sure both of you are prepared.