Make sure you call the airline and check the availability. Most airlines have a limit as to how many animals they fly per plane (in the hold and in the cabin).
First of all if you have a small dog and can get your dog in the cabin in a bag do it! Get the bag weeks in advance or even better months, and carry your dog places so he gets used to it. When you book your flight, get a window seat so you don’t have people climbing over you and him mid flight. Even though the sherpa bags claim to fit under the seat, unless you have a 6 pound poodle, and you are in first class they very rarely do…you just kinda push the first bit of the bag under and that works fine, the rest of it will be sticking out, put a blanket over your lap and let it drape down, no-one will ever know that the bag isn’t all the way under the seat. Also a lot of times aisle seats have a box of some kind (probably electronic stuff for the TV in the back of the seat in front of you) under the seat in front of you, so this is another reason to get a window seat.
Just be prepared not to have a huge carry-on along with your dog in a bag, as it all gets a little crazy carrying everything. I just flew back from Mexico City with a 17lb Pekingese under the seat and let me tell you he got heavy after a while! Hopefully you have got your dog used to being in a bag before you fly. When you are on the flight you want him to settle down and go to sleep…If you keep opening the bag to check on him every five minutes, you will create a fussy dog who is probably more anxious than calm. You don’t need to administer water every half hour either – your dog will survive a 5 hour flight just fine without, the least amount of interaction with your dog (or cat) during the flight, the better behaved he will be for that flight and future flights. I used to fly everywhere with Gidget the Taco Bell dog – 99% of the time people had no idea I had a dog in a bag under the seat, she had no expectations of getting out of the bag, so she was quite prepared to hunker down and go to sleep.
Flying your dog in cargo requires a few more steps. Sometimes you will check your dog at the check in counter, other times you will have to drive to cargo and do the check in there…it all depends on the airline and whether you will be on the flight or not. Please be prepared and allow extra time when flying your dog through cargo – it is usually in a completely different section of the airport. There are restrictions for flying in the winter and flying in the summer, so be aware of these ahead of time so you are not in for any surprises. Also, book a direct flight if at all possible, having to change planes just adds the worry that your pet will not make the connecting flight and you end up at the final destination and your pet does not.
If you have to fly your dog in the hold, Get a plastic Vari Kennel as they seem the strongest. Again, purchase the crate ahead of time and have your dog sleep in it at night and for short periods of time during the day. The main reason flying a studio dog in a crate does not stress out the dog is because they are used to being in a crate…Whether its in the home, in the car, in a van or on the set. If its Winter, outfit it with a nice thick plush bed that he can sink into the middle of. If its summer do not put anything thick or plush – if for some reason he gets too hot you want him to be able to push aside the bedding so he can lay on the cooler plastic – the equivalent of a tile floor if you were at home…Attach the plastic crate cups, but don’t put anything in them. It spills within the first 10 minutes after they leave you and who wants a wet Frenchie? Write in magic marker on the front/top of the crate “DO NOT OPEN” and “DO NOT FEED/ON SPECIAL DIET”. Also write this on the paperwork they have you fill out at check in. You will always have someone who thinks the dog looks starving and gives it food, unless you have this written on the front – trust me, before I did this, my cats or dogs would arrive with strange looking food in the cups. Your dog can go without food or water for most domestic flights, its better than a wet dog bed. For international flights you have to be a bit more creative. I fashion a non spill water bowl that attaches to the crate, but that’s a whole other story! You could purchase the thicker plastic, screw in cups (like in the picture above) and freeze water in them if you like, but again, to me its not worth the chance that your dog will be sitting in a pool of water when you pick him up.
If its winter, you have a small dog and he is used to wearing a sweater put it on – the hold is climate controlled (also remember to check with the airlines where you are flying as some planes holds are not climate controlled and they do not allow animals to fly in them) but only put on a sweater if he is not the kind of dog to wriggle right out of a sweater and maybe get it caught up around him. Put a couple of laminated luggage tags on crate to identify it. And make sure he has a snug fitting collar and tags with the correct info. Worse case scenario – should your dog get out of its crate for any reason and someone reaches for his collar to grab him, the last thing you want is a loose collar that he can slip out of. If you are going to a really cold climate, in the past I have padded the inside of the crate with carpet scraps, and put flaps over the ventilation holes and gate to keep him warmer. Do not fly a dog wearing a choke chain!
Okay, so when you get to the airport, I ALWAYS get a skycab. Nine times out of ten, they will get you to a separate line or to the front quicker. You will be asked for Health Certificate and Rabies Cert, sometimes they won’t ask you for any paperwork. You will fill out the sticker or paperwork that attaches to crate – don’t forget to write (as there is no option to check off) DO NOT FEED/ DO NOT WATER on the paperwork. Depending on the airlines you may be asked to take your dog out of the crate while they put the crate thru the baggage x-ray (where you drop off your suitcases) so be prepared with a leash. And finally, and here is the most important part TIP the skycab at least $20.00. He is the one that takes (or if for some reason they switch – tip the person who takes the dog away on a cart as well) the dog down to the area where they put them on the trolley to the plane. You want him to move your dog around with care and $20 or more has an affect on them! I think!
Again in 20 years I have not had a serious problem flying a dog, a cat, squirrel or a duck.
Do remember in winter each individual airline has their own regulations as to the temperature that they will allow a dog to fly. So to be safe in the winter do not fly early in the morning or late at night as the temp may be too cold. Try for flights in the middle of the day when it has warmed up. I once had a midday flight in January from Des Moines back to L.A. The guidelines if I remember correctly, stated that the temperature on the tarmac be 8 degrees…It was about 2 degrees. We had to wait for another flight to see if it warmed up. Which it barely did. It was just at 7 degrees and they allowed us on the flight because we had big sturdy dogs (a Labrador and a German Shepherd) that could handle the colder temp. Also, in the summer the opposite applies – they will not fly a dog if it gets too hot. So flying at night or early morning is best. They are going by the temperature on the tarmac, because at some point your pet has to be taxied out on the luggage trolley to the plane and will be fully exposed to the elements.
I hope this helps – some dogs handle it better than others, most actually handle it okay, its usually the owner that doesn’t!
Don’t hate. Jackson was flown in the first class cabin because he was working on a movie. A nice perk.
FYI if you fly internationally – use an animal broker to handle all your paperwork such as PacPet based out of Los Angeles (most major cities have them, if you cannot find one in your area contact PacPet for help) that way you’re not missing anything and they handle everything so its much easier. And if you know you may be flying to Europe then contact PacPet http://www.pacpet.com at least one year before your trip as there are some requirements that take that long…