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Check the airline’s regulations for flying with dogs and don’t forget to book a spot early - only so many pets are allowed on a single flight. (Gayle Martz/CP)
Check the airline’s regulations for flying with dogs and don’t forget to book a spot early - only so many pets are allowed on a single flight. (Gayle Martz/CP)

How do I make my dog comfortable on a plane? Add to ...

“The biggest thing is to make sure your dog’s carrier or crate is a happy place,” says Jennifer Nosek, editor of Vancouver-based Modern Dog magazine. “The minute my dog Esther’s carrier comes out, she tries to climb right in – that’s the key to a relaxed journey.”

But what kind of carrier works best? “It needs to be comfortable, well-ventilated and your dog needs to be able to stand up and turn around. Sherpa and Sleepypod both make excellent soft-sided, airline-approved carriers,” she adds.

You also need to research the rules. Air Canada charges $50 each way for domestic flights, while in-cabin carriers are size-restricted and must weigh no more than 10 kilograms (pet-included). WestJet has its own regulations.

Nosek cautions that travellers need to book in advance. “Only so many pets are accepted per flight – and not all airlines allow them,” she said.

Expert dog travel blogger, Mary-Alice Pomputius (dogjaunt.com), has flown many times with four-footed partner Chloe. She has several tips for making your pet’s carrier a favoured haven long before the trip kicks-off.

“Leave the carrier out all the time and encourage her to consider it a cozy and desirable spot. Pad it with a T-shirt you’ve worn so it smells like you; feed her in it; and use treats and praise to teach her to enter and remain there for ever-longer periods,” she says. “Next, accustom her to it being zipped closed and walk around the house with her in it. Then you can take her for a short drive to a splendid place like a park or pet store, followed by a longer drive next time.”

On the day, Nosek adds, it’s essential to remain calm, since any nervousness will be reflected in your dog’s behaviour. “Your dog should have a good walk or play session before heading to the airport – a tired dog is a relaxed dog. And make sure she has time to do her business preflight.”

Clearing security will be unfamiliar territory for many pets, but Pomputius says this is where your calm demeanour will be invaluable. “Your dog will be in her carrier inside the airport until you remove her at security. Her carrier will go through the X-ray machine while you carry her through the metal detector. Toss treats in the carrier beforehand to lure her back in afterward.”

Then comes the flight. For Nosek, the trick is to not overfuss. “I get Esther settled in her carrier at my feet and then I leave her be – I want her to nap. I sneak some peeks to see how she’s doing but she’s usually a relaxed traveller.”

Some pooches, says Pomputius, aren’t quite so relaxed. “Some owners tell me they poke a foot into the carrier to provide comfort. Others play music to their dog by tucking a phone into a carrier side pocket. And while preflight walks will encourage them to sleep, you could also take a red-eye flight so you’re travelling during your dog’s normal down-time.

“Generally, the stressful time is once you’ve taken your seat but before takeoff,” Nosek adds. “The dog is now zipped into his carrier and beneath the seat and may bark or yip in protest. There’s not much you can do – and they quiet down after takeoff – so you just have to just ignore it and adopt a Zen attitude.”

Pomputius says the short-lived stress is worth it, she’s even written a tip-packed pet travel book, Bone Voyage. “Travelling with your dog is a joy: You already know she’s good company but you’ll also learn she’s a great ambassador. Folks will respond positively to your dog and that good cheer will extend to you. A dog can instantly make you feel like a local.”


See if you can find out if there are other pups on board – and make sure you’re not sitting in the same row @vnksmith

Check with a vet for a Gravol-type medication to make the dog calm and sleepy. Bring favourite blanket, toys and treats @jane4389

I give my dog herbal calming treats to curb anxiety. And I spritz his carrier with lavender aromatherapy spray. It works! He's usually super-chill on flights and barely makes a sound @AnyaGeo

Here is my advice: don’t. It’s obnoxious and narcissistic. No one wants to fly with your dog @_HunterParsons_

I can’t believe it is even allowed @martindunphy

My best tip would be leave your dog at home @GWMtravels

Honestly? Don’t. If it’s just a holiday and there’s a flight involved, then leave your pets at home – less stress for them. And the price of a ticket versus the price of a trusted sitter can’t be too different. Plus: what if they HATE the plane and howl the whole way there? A total nightmare for all. You can’t tranquilize them either. And yes. I have really thought this one through! @nikkibayley

I have a Great Dane, so all I can do is put her in a trench coat, fedora and sunglasses and hope for the best @DanMacEachern


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