9 expert tips for preparing your dog for air travel

Traveling with your furry friend can be a bit of a challenge, especially when it comes to air travel.

The biggest difference is preparation.

Preparing your dog for air travel isn’t just about packing their favorite toy or ensuring they’ve had their walk before the flight.

It’s about making the experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible for them, while also satisfying airline regulations.

As a seasoned traveler and dog parent, I’ve picked up some expert tips on how to make this happen.

Here are 9 foolproof tips to prep your pooch for that upcoming flight.

1) Visit the vet

The first port of call before traveling with your dog should always be a visit to the vet.

Your furry friend’s health is paramount, especially when it comes to air travel.

The change in altitude, pressure, and confined space can all potentially stress your dog, not to mention the unfamiliar surroundings and people.

This is why a pre-flight check-up is crucial.

Your vet can give your dog a thorough examination, make sure they’re up to date with vaccinations, and provide you with health certificates if required by airlines.

But it’s not just about ticking boxes for airline regulations.

It’s about ensuring your dog’s wellbeing during the whole journey.

Your vet can give you advice tailored to your dog’s breed and temperament, which can be invaluable in making air travel less stressful for your canine companion.

2) Get them used to their carrier

A little preparation goes a long way, especially when it comes to the carrier your dog will be traveling in.

When I first traveled with my Golden Retriever, Charlie, I made the mistake of introducing him to his carrier on the day of our flight.

The unfamiliar environment coupled with the stress of travel made him anxious and restless.

After that experience, I learned my lesson.

Now, weeks before any trip, I start getting Charlie used to his carrier.

I leave it in the living room, put his favorite toys inside it, and even have him sleep in it sometimes.

This way, by the time we need to travel, the carrier is not a foreign concept – it’s his safe space.

This simple act of getting your dog used to their carrier can make a world of difference.

It transforms a potentially stressful situation into one that feels familiar and secure.

3) Limit food and water intake before the flight

While it’s crucial to keep your dog hydrated and well-fed, overdoing it right before a flight isn’t the best idea.

The reason?

Dogs are susceptible to motion sickness, just like humans.

And a full stomach can make this worse.

So, it’s recommended to limit your dog’s food and water intake a few hours before the flight.

This can help prevent any discomfort or accidents during the journey.

As always, make sure to consult with your vet about the best feeding plan for your dog during travel.

4) Exercise your dog before the flight

A tired dog is a calm dog. And a calm dog makes for an easier flight.

Exercising your dog before the flight can help burn off excess energy and ease any anxiety they may be feeling.

A long walk, a vigorous game of fetch, or some playtime at the local dog park can do wonders in keeping your pooch relaxed during the journey.

But remember, don’t overdo it.

The last thing you want is an exhausted dog that’s too tired to adjust to their new surroundings.

Balance is key here.

Enough exercise to tire them out, but not so much that they’re uncomfortable or stressed.

Once the exercise is done, allow some downtime for your dog to rest and relax before heading off to the airport.

This will ensure they’re in the best possible state for their travel adventure.

5) Pack their favorite items

Just like us humans, dogs appreciate the comfort of familiar items, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.

When packing for your dog, don’t forget to include their favorite toys, blanket, or even a t-shirt with your scent on it.

These familiar objects can provide a sense of security and comfort for your dog during the flight.

While it might seem like a small detail, it can make a big difference in helping your dog feel more at ease.

After all, if you had to spend several hours in a confined space, wouldn’t you want something comforting and familiar with you too?

So, when you’re packing for your dog’s air travel adventure, remember to pack a little piece of home for them too.

6) Shower them with love and reassurance

Air travel can be stressful, even for us seasoned human travelers.

Now, imagine how it might feel for our four-legged companions.

This is where your role as a loving pet parent comes into play.

Before, during, and after the flight, it’s crucial to shower your dog with love and reassurance.

Speak to them in a calm and soothing voice, reassuring them that they’re safe and everything is okay.

Your presence and your voice can be a significant source of comfort to your pet in an unfamiliar environment.

Remember, you’re their family.

Your reassurance can make the world of difference to them in a stressful situation like air travel.

After all, at the end of the day, our pets look to us for comfort and security.

It’s our job to make sure they feel loved, especially during challenging times like these.

7) Bring familiar scents

Scents play a significant role in a dog’s world.

They use their sense of smell to understand their environment, more so than us humans.

When I had to move overseas with my dog, Daisy, I was worried about how she would handle the long flight.

It was then when a fellow dog-owner friend recommended bringing along something with a familiar scent.

I ended up packing Daisy’s favorite blanket and one of my worn t-shirts.

And it worked like magic!

She was significantly calmer during the flight and adjusted better to her new surroundings.

So, when you’re preparing your dog for air travel, consider packing items that carry familiar scents.

It can be their favorite toy, their bed, or even something that carries your scent.

This simple step can go a long way in providing a sense of comfort and familiarity to your dog during the journey.

8) Consider a pet sedative

If your dog is particularly anxious or fearful of travel, you might want to consider a pet sedative.

These are medications prescribed by your vet, designed to help your dog relax during the flight.

It’s not the first choice for every pet parent, but it can be a suitable option for dogs that don’t handle stress well.

This should only be considered after consulting with your vet.

It’s crucial to find the right dosage and medication suitable for your dog’s breed, size, and overall health condition.

While a pet sedative is not always necessary, it’s an option worth considering if your dog experiences high levels of stress or anxiety during travel.

But always keep your pet’s comfort and safety as your top priority.

9) Arrive at the airport early

This is perhaps the most important tip of all.

Arriving early at the airport allows you and your dog to have a stress-free start to your journey.

Rushing through check-in and security checks can be stressful for both you and your dog.

But arriving early gives you ample time to handle all the necessary processes calmly, take your dog for a walk, and allow them to get accustomed to the new environment.

It also gives you some extra time for unexpected situations, like last-minute bathroom breaks or dealing with any travel paperwork for your dog.

Your calmness can influence your dog’s behavior.

So, make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to keep everything smooth and stress-free.

It’s all about understanding

At the heart of preparing your dog for air travel, lies a fundamental truth – understanding your dog’s needs.

Dogs, like humans, have their own unique personalities, preferences, and fears.

And understanding these can make a world of difference in ensuring a smooth and comfortable journey for them.

Whether it’s packing their favorite toy, reducing their food intake before the flight, or helping them get used to their carrier – all these tips stem from understanding your dog’s needs and behaviors.

American author and dog trainer, Pat Miller once said, “The more we understand about our dogs’ behaviors, the better we can communicate with them in language they understand.”

So as you prepare your furry friend for their air travel adventure, remember that understanding their needs is the first step towards making the journey as comfortable and stress-free as possible for them.

After all, at the end of the day, they’re not just our pets – they’re our family.

And they deserve nothing but the best.

Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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