10 tips for for flying with your dog including bag recommendations
Not only is Wendy Rea a frequent flier, so is her Scottish Terrier Haggis. They’ve crossed the U.S. together several times, mostly in the air.
At 25 pounds and tall for his breed, Haggis is a tight fit in his carrier, but Rea says she “couldn’t stomach checking him. I don’t trust those handlers for love nor money, and I’d rather cram him in a bag and know he’s ok.”
Rea, who lives in Los Angeles, uses the large size of the popular Sherpa-brand bag. To get Haggis used to it, she started by putting him in the carrier just before going to bed and now, she says, he curls right up to sleep.
“I used to travel for a living three to four times a week, so I’m a bit of a plane pro,” she says. “I’ve chatted and sat with dog owners on a lot of flights, and we all have had the same experience.”
Here are some of Rea’s flying tips:
- Do a flight simulation Take your dog around town and on drives with your carrier both zipped, and partially zipped to help him/her learn not to try to escape, to relax, and to mind you. I carted Haggis through department stores and walking down busy streets in the bag so he got used to it. It ultimately allows you to unzip the top a bit and let them pop a head out while in the terminal. I’ve found security will leave me alone as long as he’s on my shoulder in the bag, lap, or riding on top of my four wheeled suitcase. Dogs are supposed to be able to turn around in their carriers, and technically Haggis probably could if he panicked. However, I will tell you in all my travels, no one … has ever checked or questioned me once.
- Look confident My biggest piece of advice is to look like you know what you’re doing everywhere you go in the airport. Carry yourself and your dog with confidence, and you’ll get left alone and it will be over before you know it. Generally, the Transport Security Administration ( TSA) is completely confused by dogs, and when I have asked what to do they stare at me blankly and expect me to know. Don’t ask for help, advice, etc., just be casual and enjoy bringing your (fur) kid along. I do also recommend a four wheeled suitcase like the one pictured, it lets me wheel his heavy square-shaped bottom around instead of carrying him on my shoulder.
- Don’t worry about the scanner It’s really pretty simple, whether it’s a full-body scanner or a regular metal detector. Just take the collar off and your pup out of the bag. Send the collar and bag through with the other baggage, and carry your pup into or through the scanner with you, exactly as you would with a baby.
- Head for your gate Usually at the gate someone will notice you have a dog and check to see that you paid extra for the ticket, but several times I have flown and no one ever checked the manifest. Not at the gate, not in the plane.
- Book the middle seat Research the plane before you book the flight to make sure it does not have a smaller underseat storage area if you are flying coach. Middle seats, sadly, are often your safest bet for ensuring there’s good space under the seat and not some silly box/retrofitted electronics. Aisle and window are often much smaller. Use a bag with a side that can be zipped or velcroed shut as planes can have vents at the floor level which can make things cold as well as stressful.
- Upgrade if you can It guarantees a larger underseat area and, in general, less drama. It’s definitely helpful and put me more at ease the first few times I flew.
- Research any layover airports If I have a layover, I book through an airport like Dallas, as opposed to Denver, where you have to take a long train ride to get to the outside for a potty break.
- Consider (legal) drugs If all else fails a benadryl (check with your vet first) will make dogs sleepy and relaxed.
- Make sure you have your papers My sister brings both full veterinary records and a current health certificate just to be safe when crossing borders. She never had trouble getting her Jack Russell in and out of the States.
- Do it all again Haggis is a traveling champ, and usually gets a ton of attention while traveling. He’s such a ham, he now loves to fly and gets excited when we break out the Sherpa bag.