Helpful Tip for Flying with your dogs

by Kathy Stewart

Many of us have considered flying to dog shows and taking our dogs with us. From past experience I have put together a few ideas, which might be useful to others.

If your dog is not used to loud noises you may wish to take him to the airport a couple of times prior to his flight, so that he can hear the noises. Give your dog lots of reassurance if he seems upset by them.

I start my travel preparations several days ahead: First of all I go to the vet's and get a tube of Nutri-CalŪ, which is a high energy, low volume food supplement, but more about that later. This can also be purchased from some mail order catalogs, such as Foster and Smith.

I then take two food bowls that snap onto the door of the crate, fill them with water and place in the freezer. I also go to the butchers and buy a beef leg bone (marrow bone). I scoop the marrow out and place it in the fridge. It will be put in the crate with the dog and some of his/her favourites toys before it gets left at the airport. This will give him something exciting to look forward to. Do not cook the bone, as I have been told that after it is cooked, it becomes brittle and could splinter.

I find some absorbent bedding to throw in the crate. If I am traveling with a young dog, I will look for things that have my scent on them that may provide some comfort for them. I am sure people wonder when they see me pull nightgowns out of my dog crates, but that's the reason why.

My husband has made me a tabletop that will fit into and on top of the Vari-Kennel. It has a non-slip surface on the top and 4 round discs on the bottom that fit into the grooves on top of the crate. The idea was that I could put it into the crate when we were traveling and take it out when we got there. I have since decided that this may not be such a good idea. My fear is, that if the crate were overturned for whatever reason, my dog's leg and/or foot could get crushed. Now, I just use bungee cords and tie it to the top of the table.

We purchased a Doskocil Kennel Cart (dolly), which can be adjusted in size to fit any crate size. I took off the ridged plastic handle and added a rope one. I put the tabletop on top of the crate and the dolly on top of the tabletop and bungee them in place. The dolly wraps around the tabletop and the crate and stays beautifully. It is wise to use permanent markers to put large arrows on the crate showing which end is up. It is also wise to make sure that everything is well identified, in case they become separated while en route.

To the top of the crate, I have detailed instructions, which include: the call name of the dog, the owners' name, address and phone number, the destination, feeding instructions and in big letters, OPEN ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. On the side, I have a tag with my name, address and phone number.

I often tape one or two Ziploc freezer bags with dog kibble to the top of the tabletop - just in case the dog gets on a wrong flight and ends up overnighting somewhere.

Beside the door latch of the crate, I drill a small hole. Once the dog is inside, prior to boarding the flight, I will put a nylon tie (the kind where you feed one end into the other and it locks), through this hole and around the door latch. This prevents the door from being opened accidentally or on purpose. This will have to be cut off, at your destination, with scissors or a sharp knife. I have a small pocketknife in my purse for this reason. Mind you Pocketknives are not longer allowed to be taken on board, so I guess I would ask an airline attendant for their scissors or knife.

The day before the flight, I will feed my dog with a high energy, low volume food so that he will have a small stool the next day. Eukanuba has such a product. It is called Veterinary Diets - Nutritional Recovery Formula. It comes in a can - the size of a cat food can. My only problem with this food it that it contains Ethoxyquin. I do not feed my dog on the day of the flight, but I do provide plenty of water.

On the day of the flight, before leaving for the airport, I take out the bowls with ice and put them on the door. (Two food containers are required for International Flights.) I take the nylon tie and Nutri-Cal and put them in my purse. I put a collar and leash in a travel bag that I will keep with me. You may also wish to include: garbage bags and paper towels - just in case you arrive and have a present waiting for you in the crate. A plastic lemon containing lemon juice is good to have to squirt into the dog's drinking water once you get there. I get my dog and away we go.

It can be a stressful event, so one of the things I do, is give the dog an electrolyte solution to eat or drink about 1 hour before the flight leaves. (Nutri-Cal) This will give them that little bit of added energy needed to combat the stress of flying.

I never give sedatives. The reason is that the dogs find it very disorientating, and therefore frightening when they start to come out of it. I think it is better to try and make it a pleasant experience for them, and try to get them to cope with what is happening. Some airlines do not allow the use of sedatives, so if you wish to go that way, you should check the the airline ahead of time.

After we check in, I find out what the latest time is that they need to have the dog, and where I am to take him. Just before that time, I walk the dog and give him about 2 tbsp. of Nutri-Cal and a big hug. Due to tightened security restrictions, you may be asked to take your dog out of the crate and remove all bedding etcetera, so that it can be inspected. Once they have done the inspection, you will be asked not to open the crate again. That is when I lock the crate door with my nylon tie and say good-bye.

While waiting to board the plane, I suggest that you tell the attendant that you have a dog flying with you and describe the crate, so that she can check to make sure the dog is actually waiting to be boarded. I have heard attendants tell me not to worry, that the dog will make it, and then they did not make it. So, even if you have to sound like a hag, insist that they take a few minutes out of their hectic schedule to check.

A hint: Do not take your grooming tools on board with you. Scissors can be taken away because they could be considered to be weapons.

If it is very hot or very cold outside, I watch to make sure that the dog crate is not left on the tarmac. The crate should be left in the airline building until the very last minute. The animals are supposed to be the last things loaded on board.

These new cooler packs are a great idea, to put below the bedding in the crate, to keep the dog cool on hot days. I will give instructions on how to make these, in a separate article.

Once I am on board, I watch to make sure the crate is loaded on. If it is not, I go up to the front and ask that they radio down to find out where the dog is. If the dog does not make it, I get off. Plain and simple. It has happened to me twice, and is very upsetting when it does. One time we were in Dallas and instead of being loaded on a plane for Edmonton, the dogs were loaded on a plane for Los Angeles. Fortunately, the flight had not left and because I got off the plane and insisted they find my dogs, they stayed with me in Dallas overnight, rather than fly to LA and be stuck in crates until the next available flight to Edmonton.

When we reach our destination, and get our dog the first thing I do is cut the tie and walk him. Then I put him on a sit stay, step on the leash while I undo the bungee cords and put the dolly under the crate. Often I stick my luggage and other loose items in the crate and walk with my dog on a leash beside me. If your dog will not walk quietly on a leash, you may wish to put him in his crate and your luggage on top. Either works. But, I find the dog is usually happier to be out of the crate and walking, rather than being pulled along in the crate.

At the show site, I lock the dolly wheels and leave the crate on top of the dolly as it gives a little more height, which makes it easier to groom.

This is the way I travel with my dogs and it generally works for me.

All rights reserved. © 1998 - 2012 Klompen Keeshonden. This and subsequent pages may be reproduced, but only with permission from Kathy Stewart.

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Kathy and Bruce Stewart
Summer location: Alberta, Canada
Home phone: (780) 987-4456
....................... Winter location: Arizona, U.S.A.
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