Perfecting Flying With Dogs

Dogs on planes can be a mess. As I have written before, flying with a dog is stressful at best and cause for a cancelled flight at worst. But it doesn’t have to be this way: I have cracked the case, my friends.

Last week, I travelled to and from Portland for family items and a little fun and decided Scooter would be a great road dog to come with me. It would be he and I, little dude and big dude, dog and human: we were going to Thelma and Louise the Pacific Northwest and I was, frankly, terrified that my longing for canine companionship on this journey was going to explode in my face. It did not. It was easy and, in some ways, fun.

But it requires work — and time. I had previously said that this matter requires more than one person and teeters toward abuse but that was a premature reaction to a traumatic trip. My views have fortunately changed — and all you need is a week and a half in advance of your journey to be similarly prepared. Here’s what you need you need to know, all you aspiring flying dogs.

Get Them Crate Trained
This should be your top priority. Be it by a true crate or what the dog will fly in, your dog needs to understand being in a confined space is not the end of the world. Yes, this involves a lot of suffering through whines and cries and dog moans as your heart breaks but you just have to fucking deal if you want to dog fly. This training guide was quite effective and the key is to entice your animal in with the good stuff, getting them to see the space as equivalent to dog treats. It works. There is whining but it works. I also highly recommend practicing taking your dog out in their traveling crate in advance of travel, walking with them while they are crated, going to public spaces or dining out as they are confined, and ultimately driving with them encased too. It all helps simulating the flight experience — I promise!

Exercise Them
Good and bad news: you need to exercise your dog’s pee pee off. I took Scooter for intense runs leading up to his flight, a mile and a half run on a Monday followed by a day off followed by a two mile run followed by a day off then a three mile run, day off, and three mile run. In the interim, he was walked for a few miles to the mall and stores and elsewhere to get him as tired as possible at all times. There was even a play date! This pre-trip work is important but it does not end once you board your flight: you need to maintain this in some regard during your trip. Scooter went swimming several times and for long walks, ultimately tuckered out from nearly two weeks of intense activity. This is what you need to do: maintain a general feeling of exhaustion.

My Friend Trazodone
As a reminder, before dog flying you must call your airlines to reserve your carry-on dog since there is a finite amount of in-cabin dogs allowed. Moreover, you have to get a travel certificate from your vet, certifying that your pet is in good health for travel. This latter item — The vet. — is a vital sounding board. I spoke with my vet about how Xanax totally failed Scooter and she recommended Benadryl (Ehh.), a holistic pheromone collar (EHHH.), and “trazadone.” And what is this strange word? A “serotonin receptor antagonist and reuptake inhibitor.” And that means? A drug for dogs “used in situations in which there is an identifiable stimulus, such as thunderstorms, or before an owner’s departure in separation anxiety cases.” Is that so? Interest piqued, my vet explained that this medication could be a good alternative since the Xanny bars had no effect on Scoot. And? Worked like a god damned charm. He took a half a pill the night before traveling with his dinner and then the other half with a treat three to four hours before flying. These pills were also given after any long drives to the airport as those pre-trips can get him a bit juiced and render the meds useless. The result left him very high and very, very, very sleepy. It was heart wrenching and a bit adorable but ultimately: silent. It was the secret weapon in this ordeal.

Cover Their Cage
Another big tip! Bring an extra flannel or similar, opaque big top to cover any part of the crate when under the seat on the flight. Like a bird, this ceases crying and puts them to sleep. This worked out fantastically as it made Scooter invisible to sight and sound.

Ignore Them
What comes with covering your dog is the stress that they may die as you are unable to see them. Let that go, friend. If they are too distressed, they will cry. If you must, a single check eased my nerves but awoke a stressed and high Scooter since he was always content, zoned out a mile high.

Time & Money
The biggest secret to this is clockwork and cash. Because I work from home and am freelance, I’m super fortunate to have been able to take on this pet project (Ha!) but I understand not everyone has this luxury. Moreover, carrying on a dog costs at least a hundred dollars — each way. You also need to arrive at least two hours beforehand to check the dog in with the airlines, like a checked bag that isn’t. Moreover, you have to get that vet certification which costs a couple hundred as well. So, even if your dog can fly, this shit costs you time and money. It’s no simple task by any means.

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