Now that most countries have relaxed on quarantine rules, and many airlines (including Porter and Air Canada) even allow animals to fly at their owner’s feet, travelling with a four-legged friend isn’t the epic hassle it once was. There is a lot that a responsible pet owner can do to ensure a pleasant voyage. Here, some tips on travelling doggy style.
Set the date; get the crate
The most important thing a pet owner can do in the days and weeks leading up to travel day is to get the animal accustomed to its temporary digs. “People often run out the day before to get the crate, which leaves no time for adjusting,” says Rachel Farris, of PetRelocation.com. Ms. Farris recommends purchasing a crate as soon as you make the decision to fly and then slowly introducing it into the regular routine. You want your pet to have positive associations with crate time, so avoid locking them in the way you might when housetraining. Instead, leave the door open and fill the space with treats, toys and a soft blanket. “If the pet is comfortable in the crate, it will be far less likely to freak out when the time comes to travel in it,” she says.
Try a dry run
Take off and landing are often the most stressful parts of your pet’s travel experience. To prep them in advance, Ms. Farris recommends going for drives in the crate and ideally a trip to the car wash: “With all of the noise and visual stimulation and movement, it can be a pretty close simulation, and familiarity will definitely reduce anxiety.” Think of it as a sort of dress rehearsal, and offer up lots of positive reinforcement post-wash.
Book in a break
Two-legged travellers tend to put a premium on the almighty direct flight. However, when booking for man’s best friend, a layover is not a bad thing and may even be preferable. An 18-hour flight from Toronto to Hong Kong is best broken up into two nine-hour stints, so that a pet can exercise, eat and unwind in between. Just make sure to choose a pet-friendly airline and do a little research regarding puppy-pampering opportunities at the potential stops. KLM, for example, operates an animal hotel in Amsterdam, where pets get the VIP treatment between flights.
Many airlines will allow small pets to travel with their owner, so long as the crate fits under the seat ahead and meets any other size restrictions. This is great news if your furry friend fits in a teacup, but Ms. Farris cautions against stuffing your pet into a too-small crate because you think they will be happier having you close by. This is simply not the case, as animals have trouble breathing in restricted spaces and the consequences can be fatal. A proper crate size allows an animal to stand up with at least 10 centimetres between head and roof.
Get your ducks in a row
Prepping in advance is the best way to reduce your own stress on travel day and is also a necessity given the special requirements of animal air travel. “The last thing you want is to show up at the check-in desk and find out you don’t have the right certificate or that your crate doesn’t meet one of the requirements,” says Ms. Farris, adding that rules vary from airline to airline and also from country to country and even state to state. Did you know ferrets are illegal in California? To avoid being arrested for illegal mustelid possession and other headaches, consult with an airline representative in advance, then make a list of requirements. Ms. Farris cautions against relying on websites, which may not contain the most up-to-date information.
And don’t do this: Drug your pet to keep him sleepy. The effects at high altitudes can be dangerous and unpredictable.
Special to The Globe and Mail