Wednesday, 19 April 2017

12 Tips for travelling with your dog

By now, I think I'm allowed to call myself an expert in the subject of travelling with a dog. After all my dog, Leo, has more stamps in his passport than a lot people I know. From the island of Capri to several of the Greek islands, from Lebanon to Los Angeles, this pup has put his paws on almost every continent of the world. 

Leo has become my preferred travel companion and everywhere we go we are met with curiosity and questions on how we do it. Here are a few tips and important information on how to bring your four-legged friend on a flight.

1. Know your dog
Do you think your dog will be able to handle the potential stress that comes with flying? Not all dogs are fit to travel and might be better off staying at home with a dog sitter while you are out exploring the world. If Leo wasn't such a happy globe-trotter I would never bring him with me.

2. Make sure your dog is the right size for bringing in-cabin and that you have the right pet carrier

For safety reasons airlines have strict regulations for bringing a pet in-cabin which include a weight restriction and maximum pet carrier dimensions. These rules may differ between airlines but the weight limit is usually between 8-10 kg (weight of pet carrier with the pet inside) and the dimensions of the carrier should not exceed 55 x 40 x 23 cm. I use the Sherpa original deluxe carrier in size small. Sherpa carriers are collapsible and guaranteed on board by most major airlines, although I have to say United should not be on their list. United might throw you off their flight even though they state that Sherpa bags are guaranteed on board... Speaking from personal experience... But then again, you could be thrown off a United flight for no reason what so ever.
You can find more useful information on dog carriers on . They have listed 15 of their favorite dog carriers, they also have a lot of other useful information for dog owners on the site.  

3. Make sure your dog is comfortable with the pet carrier

I always keep Leos pet carrier out and open, even when we're at home. It has become his "safe place" and he goes there when he wants to relax and be alone. If your dog is not familiar with the carrier he/she might get anxious and stressed while being closed inside it during the flight.
Keep in mind that in some airports dogs are not allowed outside of the carriers at all.

4. Study the airlines

dogs are allowed in lufthansa business class on transatlantic flights
Pets are allowed on Lufthansa business class on transatlantic flights
Does the airline you are planning to fly with accept pets in the cabin? Some low budget airlines, like Ryanair, do not accept pets in cabin due to the fact that there is not enough room for a pet carrier under the seat. Before buying your seat or upgrading, be aware that some airlines do not accept pets in business or first class, especially on transatlantic flights. 
How much will it cost you? It's not free to bring your dog on a flight (unless it's a certified service animal). You'll have to pay on both the outbound and inbound flight and on some airlines, like SAS (Scandinavian airlines) the pet carrier will count as your "carry-on" piece. The price varies depending who you fly with and your destination. For example, when we fly from Florence / Italy to Lebanon we prefer flying Lufthansa or Air France, even though Alitalia would be the faster option. The reason being Alitalia charging 200 euro for a pet in cabin (each way) and Lufthansa / Air France only 70 euro. 

5. Certificates, vaccines and pet passports

This is probably the most important paragraph in this blog post. Never plan or book a flight before getting information about vaccines and documents your dog might require to enter a new country and also for returning into your own country. If your dog does not have the right documents or vaccines you might be denied to board the flight, or worse, your dog might be placed in quarantine at arrival. A health certificate with proof of rabies vaccine, shots and that states that the dog is in good health to travel is usually required by airlines. When it comes to this matter, it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

6. Reserve a space on the plane
If it's not possible to do while booking your ticket, call the airline right after to reserve a place for your dog. There are restrictions to how many animals can be brought in-cabin and there might already be an animal booked on the flight. If you call within 24 hours of booking you'll be able to change your ticket free of charge. I highly recommend asking for a confirmation email that states the reservation of the pet in cabin. You probably won't be able to chose your own seat or check-in online but unless it's a full flight the airline will leave the seat next to you free.

7. What to pack

Pack some of your dogs favourite toys and line the inside of the bag with pee pads if you think your dog might have a little accident. Since the aircraft might be cold, bring along a small blanket or scarf, but don't over fill the carrier, you'll want your dog to have as much space as possible to feel comfortable. Even though I try not to feed Leo during the flights (on long haul flights I'll give him small treats) I still bring some of his food with me since there's always the possibility of flight delays, lost luggage etc. Make sure to bring some water as well or ask the flight attendant for some, since the air inside the plane can be very dry.  

8. Before departure
I always try to book evening flights and red eyes, that way I have a full day to take Leo for long walks and give him plenty of exercise before departure. Don't forget to pack your dogs passport/health certificate! 

9. At the airport

The pet relief area at LAX
Try to arrive at the airport in time, at least 2 hours before take-off for international flights, you'll need the extra time to check-in and pay the "pet in cabin - fee". Before heading through security, take your dog for a last walk outside the airport, unless you know that the airport has a "pet relief area". Leo, who is a veteran when it comes to travelling, knows the deal and will do his business within a minute.
Going through security can seem stressful but it really isn't that bad. You'll have to scan the carrier through the x-ray machine and hold your dog while going through the metal detector. Some TSA agents might ask you to take your dogs harness or collar off and some let you go through leaving it on. 
I've read some articles claiming that the dog has to be inside the carrier at all times inside the airport, but I won't put Leo in his carrier until it's time for boarding and I have never been told to either. 

10. On the plane
On most airlines you are only required to stow the pet carrier under the seat in front of you for take-off and landing, after that you can place it on the floor by the seat next to you (if it's unoccupied) or in between you and your fellow passenger. You are not allowed to let the dog out of the carrier or place the carrier on the seat. 
Remember that dogs can sense your own energy so if you feel nervous or stressed chances are it might rub off on your dog. 
Leo is usually a great passenger and sleeps the whole flight but he get more affected by the air pressure and turbulence in smaller planes. Therefore, I always pack a bottle of Australian Bush flower essence in case he gets stressed. It's a combination of flower essences that help lessen the stress and anxiety level in dogs and cats and makes them feel more comfortable
I've never used sedatives and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

11. Layovers

Enjoying a meal at Munich airport during one of our layovers
Try to plan your trip with as few layovers as possible. However, if you're not lucky enough to find a direct flight to your destination don't worry. You can always fold out a pee pad in a restroom and let your dog use it. If possible, let your dog walk to the next gate. 

12. Arrival at destination
If you are flying internationally then you'll probably have to declare that you are bringing in a pet at customs. Usually they will just ask for your pets documents. The dog should remain inside the carrier until passing customs unless they ask to scan the microchip.

Hope this post has been informative for anyone thinking of bringing their pooch along for a nice vacay! 

OH! I almost forgot! My last super important advice! 



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