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Traveling with Your Dog by Jet Plane

The time may come when you want to take your dog with you when you're flying somewhere. Although all you have to do to fly is buy a ticket, pass through security, and get on the plane, things get a lot more complicated when a dog flies the friendly skies.

Whatever the reason for your airline trip, don't just show up at the airline counter with your dog and expect to jump right into your window seat. (Generally, you should plan on checking in your Pug (or any other breed) at the airport two to three hours before your departure.) Airline travel with dogs isn't a spur-of-the-moment thing. The airline industry and individual airlines have conditions and rules that may not be so friendly to dogs who want to spread their air wings.

Before you decide to take Puggy on a plane, find out what the airline's transport rules are and make plans to comply with them before you buy your own ticket. After hearing the regulations, you may decide that you don't want to take Puggy with you on a plane, after all.

Understanding what airlines require

For starters, your Pug needs a separate reservation to travel on the plane. In fact, the airline charges an extra fee for your pet. The amount depends on whether she rides in the passenger area of the plane or down below in the cargo section. (Every airline charges a different fee.)

Generally, you can take a toy dog on the plane with you if she's small enough to fit in a soft carrier and stowed beneath the seat in front of you during takeoff and landing. (Be sure to ask the airline you're flying how big the space beneath the seat is.) She can't wander in the aisles, and no, she doesn't get her own movie. Keep in mind, however, that if your Pug puppy is staying with you in the main cabin, she may get fussy, and you may have trouble calming her down on a long flight.

If a Pug is too large to fit in a carry-on bag beneath your seat, she must fly in an airline-approved pet carrier with solid sides in the cargo section beneath the plane. The pet carrier must be properly labeled with your identification and final destination information. It must be tall enough for your Pug to stand up in without hitting her head and wide enough for her to easily turn around in. The carrier needs to have two plastic dishes attached to the inside of the carrier door — one for food and one for water. Some airlines require that a small bag of food be taped to the top of the carrier as well and that some type of padding — a newspaper, blanket, or doggy pad be put inside the crate.

Because Pugs overheat easily, it's also a good idea to secure a portable fan to the front door of her carrier. The airlines appreciate this extra precaution you're taking for your pet.

Dogs in solid pet carriers are checked in as excess baggage and placed in the cargo section of the plane. This section beneath the plane is pressurized and is the same temperature as the cabin. By the way, a change of planes isn't a good idea for dogs riding in the cargo section. Baggage handlers can get busy or forgetful, and there's always a chance that your Pug may not get transferred to the connecting flight in time. Try to take a direct route whenever possible.

Getting a health certificate

Before the airline can accept your dog for transport, a representative must see a recent health certificate supplied by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian is required to examine your Pug in her office before she can fill out the certificate. The exam determines whether your Pug's in good health and if your veterinarian thinks she can make the trip safely.

Check the airline you wish to travel on for the latest rules on how far in advance you can get your health certificate.

Put your health certificate in a safe place — maybe with your airline ticket — so you don't forget to take it to the airport. You can't fudge on this one. If your dog doesn't have a health certificate, she stays home.

Preparing Puggy for planes

Airports are loud and noisy places, and your Pug may feel frightened by all the different sights, sounds, and smells she encounters when getting on and off the plane.

To prepare her for these new experiences, here are some things you can do:

  • If your Pug has never spent the night in a solid-sided carrier before, begin training her at least a few weeks before your flight to get her accustomed to being in there. When she's comfortable in her carrier, she can relax during the trip because it's her familiar comfort zone.
  • If your Pug hasn't visited many noisy places before, take her walking in front of the airport a few times or go for a quick stroll in and out of the terminal.
  • If your Pug has never been inside her carrier while it's being moved, try simulating the experience for a few days before her departure. Put Puggy in the carrier, place it on a cart, and roll it around. She needs to get used to the idea of being moved around because that's what happens at the airport.
  • If Puggy is leaving on an early morning flight, don't feed her for a few hours before departure. Even the calmest Pug will be nervous, and having food in her stomach can make her sick. Feed her a little more the day before she leaves, if you have to.

Factoring in the weather

Before they accept animals for transport, all airlines want to make sure that the weather is not too hot or too cold before they take off and when they land in another city. This precaution is for the dog's safety. Often, planes have to wait on the tarmac before taking off, and the temperature inside the plane and the cargo section isn't controlled during those times.

When you make your reservations, check the airline policy on the weather restriction because airlines frequently change their policies. They don't take dogs if they decide it's too hot or too cold where you're landing. Take this into consideration when you schedule your flight. It may be safer in the long run to take a red-eye, or late-night, flight so that you can travel in the coolest part of the day.

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