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Flying with your Dog

Whether you are picking up a new puppy, moving across the country, going on vacation, or heading off the National Speciality show, you just may have to fly with your dog. Here are some pointers and tips:

Flying with your New Puppy
I flew to pick up my new puppy, Monty, in December of 2005. Here are some pointers for a safe and comfortable trip home with your puppy.

Sherpa Bag:
My puppy was 8.5 weeks old. I borrowed a Sherpa Bag from a friend to fly him in.

A Sherpa Bag looks like an ordinary gym bag, but on closer inspection, it has mesh windows and thick reinforced edges. It is a flexible bag that is approved by airlines to allow you fly your puppy or small dog in the airplane cabin with you!

Sherpa bags have pockets for storage, a top and side entry, a detachable strap, and a faux lambskin liner.

You can follow this link to browse and purchase the various Sherpa bag styles.

Sherpa Bag Tips:

  • Your puppy *WiLL* get hot in the Sherpa bag while you are on the plane. Bring a frozen or cold bottle of water that you can put inside the bag with him.
  • I had to change planes in Toronto. I bought a disposable puppy pee pad and let him pee and poop on the floor in the ladies room. He did it!
  • Bring a small dish so he can have a wee drink if it is a particularly long flight.
  • Bring some of those rolled up rawhides with you. He is too young to eat much of it, but it will give him something to knaw on if he fusses during the flight.
  • You must leave you puppy inside the bag and under the seat in front of you for the entire flight. Sometimes I stuck my hand in and petting him when he was a little fussy so he’d know I was there.
  • Even though Monty was only 11.25 lbs, carrying him from one end of the airport to the other in the Sherpa Bag was a lot of work!! I highly recommend finding a way to pull it, buy one of the Sherpa Bags with wheels. Or get an airport cart. Or a strong burly man.

Health Certificate:
It is a good idea to have your puppy checked by a vet a day or two before your trip. Your vet (or the breeder’s vet more likely), will prepare a Health Certificate for your puppy saying how much he weighs, what shots he has had, how old he is, and it will indicate that your puppy is healthy and fit for travel. Your airline may require this. Even if it doesn’t, you never know when you may get stuck in an airport, or have to transfer planes, or airlines – it is just a good idea to have the certificate with you in case any official asks to see it.

Flying with your Adult Dog

Airline Approved Kennel:

You need to have an airline approved kennel in order for your dog to travel on the plane with you. Unlike a puppy, your Golden Retriever can not sleep under your seat! One example of a crate that is approved by many airlines is the Petmate Deluxe Vari Kennel.

It is important to get your dog accustomed to his crate so he feels comfortable with his surroundings while he is being transported. Make sure the crate you select is large enough that your dog can comfortably stand up and turn around. Clip your dog’s nails before you travel so he is less likely to scratch at the door and cause any damage to the crate while in route.

Tips for Flying your Golden Retriever in a Crate:

  • When my first dog, Winger, flew with me so he could meet my parents, I printed up a label for the top of his crate that said his name on it, my name, and emergency contact information (your cell phone number for instance). You should get special ‘LIVE ANIMAL’ stickers and place them on each side. They often have an arrow to indicate right-side-up.
  • Use those plastic lock ties to secure the top of your crate to the bottom should your connector pieces break. You shouldn’t lock the door though – just in case the airline crew need to get to your dog quickly.

Health Certificate:
As with a puppy, it is a good idea to have your dog checked by a vet within 10 days before your trip. Your vet will prepare a Health Certificate for your dog saying how much she weighs, what shots she has had, how old she is, and it will indicate that your dog is healthy and fit for travel. Your airline may require this. Even if it doesn’t, you never know when you may get stuck in an airport, or have to transfer planes, or airlines – it is just a good idea to have the certificate with you in case any official asks to see it.

Make sure you have a Reservation for your pet on the flight you wish to take. Without it, there is no guarantee there will be a space reserved for your dog’s crate in the cargo hold of the airplane. You will have to pay an extra fee for your dog’s transportation – often more than $100. Avoid flying on holidays or other extra busy travel days. On these days the airline staff may be too busy to give you and your dog the attention you might want. You also run a greater risk of being bumped off your booked flight due to over-booking around the holidays.

There are periods of the year where you just may not be able to fly with your dog period. During the hottest days of the summer, and the coldest weather of the winter, the airplane may have difficulty keeping the cargo hold of the plane at a comfortable temperature for your dog, so they put in place a pet transportation ban for safety reasons.

Some airlines, including Air Canada, are limiting their checked baggage, including your dog, at 100 pounds per person. That means if your dog, plus the weight of his crate, is greater than 100 pounds, then you will have to ship him via the airline’s air cargo department. This may mean that your dog will fly on a different airplane and you will incur additional charges.

Unless your dog has some sort of extraordinary health problem, you want to avoid sedating your dog for the trip. A sedated dog is more likely to get injured while being transported because he isn’t able to properly brace himself against jarring movements. There are also reports indicating that a dog, especially snub-nosed breeds, may have problems breathing from the combination of the high altitude and the sedation medication.

The collar you leave on your dog while he is in the crate, should be a close fitting normal buckle or plastic clasp collar. Do not use a choke chain, prong collar, muzzle, or anything else that could get caught during transport. Make sure his ID tags are on his collar.

You can freeze a dish of water and place it in the kennel, if the airlines allows this, so your dog will have access to water during the trip. Make sure you line the bottom of the crate with an absorbent pad in case any of the water is spilled.

You should feed and water your dog about 4 hours before you travel. This will give him time to digest and take a bathroom break before he gets in his crate.

When you board:
Ask the airplane attendant to verify that your dog is safely loaded aboard the plane before you take-off.

If you have a long lay-over, speak with a representative of the airline ahead of time to see if you are able to let your dog out for a quick break.


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