The stress of traveling keeps many pet owners from taking their dog with them. The best way to beat stress is to be prepared. We put together a simple checklist to make sure you and your pup are ready to go.
Traveling stress-free with your dog
Two to four weeks in advance
Book your dog an airplane ticket.
Most airlines only allow two pets per cabin and charge a one-way fee. That means those pet seats book up quickly. Also, be prepared to pay for and check luggage since your dog counts as one of your carry-on bags. If your dog is too big to fly in the cabin, you may want to consider leaving them behind or going on a road trip instead.
Related Article: Why you should never fake having a service dog.
Buy a carry-on bag that is approved by the FDA.
Your dog should be able to stand up and turn around when inside the bag. But the bag also has to fit under the seat in front of you. Generally speaking, dogs over 20lbs probably will not fit comfortably.
Get the bag at least 3 weeks in advance. This will give you time to desensitize to their new carrier.
Update your dog’s vaccines & get a health certificate (if needed).
If you are traveling overseas, you will likely need to have a credentialed veterinarian fill out form APHIS 7001, which verifies that your pet is travel-ready and up-to-date on all their vaccines. The health certificate needs to be issued within 10 days of travel.
Most veterinarian are able to provide this service and if they can’t, they will recommend someone that can.
Brush up on dog training.
If you have an anxious pup that is fearful of strangers, noises or crowds, we recommend sensitivity training prior to your flight. Fitdog’s Partner Trainers have worked with a number of dogs to get them airport ready for an anxiety-free trip.
Day of your trip
Exercise your dog prior to the flight.
Some people like to book their dog for a half day of daycare or a hike the morning before they take off to make sure they are good and tired come travel time. Exercise also eases nerves and will make your dog less restless during the trip.
Don’t feed your dog.
It is not recommended to feed your dog prior to a flight or to give them water directly before the flight. You want your dog’s bladder and stomach to be empty for maximum comfort (since he won’t be able to potty for a long time). And just like humans, the gas in their stomachs expands causing even more discomfort and increases the chance for accidents.
Stop at the airport potty stations before check-in and security.
If you’re lucky, the airport may have a fancy new indoor potty station. To be safe, potty your dog outside before you go through security, and then again if they have an indoor potty area.
Finally, make sure your dog is tagged.
Definitely make sure your dog has their collar and tags with up to date information. Traveling is stressful for lots of pets, and if they decide to bolt in the airport or at your destination city, you will be thankful to have your cell number on their tags.
Still not sure you want to take your dog with you? Give them a staycation at a boarding facility instead.
Originally published on November 21, 2016.