Traveling With Your Dog? Here’s What You Need to Know, According to Canine Educator Tom Davis
Bringing a dog on a plane in 2022 is not for the faint of heart
In April 2021, I joined ranks of the nearly 23 million other American households to acquire a pet during the pandemic, after adopting a mini dachshund puppy from Ohio. In the time since, I, a first-time dog owner, have dedicated a great deal of time — nearly an entire calendar year’s worth — to exposing said puppy to new things in hopes that it will make him a more well-rounded and better-behaved adult. That said, there are a lot of aspects of my former life that I have yet to experience with my dog, Link, at my side — travel chief among them.
And that’s not only because I haven’t been traveling much over the course of the past nine months, either. Thanks to a relatively recent ruling from the CDC, it is now extremely difficult for pet owners to fly in and out of the country with pets in tow. The ban, which — according to a report from The New York Times — went into effect on October 14, aims to prohibit animals at high risk of rabies from entering the country. As an extension, dogs from 113 different countries are now barred from entry — including dogs looking to re-enter with American owners.
Per the CDC, the rise in dog adoptions over the course of the pandemic has also led to an uptick in falsified health documents from international pet importers. In fact, there were close to 500 dog importations involving falsified or incomplete rabies vaccination certificates in 2020, where the CDC was forced to intervene. And although they have since started issuing permits in small batches to dogs coming into the U.S. from what they’ve deemed “high-risk” countries, obtaining one is no easy feat.
Further — as a byproduct of staffing shortages and a seemingly never-ending cycle of operational meltdown — many major airlines (i.e. United and Delta) no longer permit the shipping of pets in the cargo area. Of the ones that still do (i.e. American and Alaska), many have banned flat-faced dogs, over fears surrounding lack of oxygen and temperature control. Some (i.e. Spirit and Southwest) never did in the first place.
That’s left travelers with few options other than to bring their furry companions into the cabin with them — the caveat being that they must fit into a soft- or hard-sided kennel that’s easily stored under the seat like any other carry-on item. Of course, that assumes that the dog is small enough to fit into a kennel that can be stored under the seat. (Generally, any dog in excess of 20 pounds isn’t going to.) It’ll cost you, too. Most airlines currently charge around $125 per in-cabin pet.
And if you think you can get around all of this by having your dog registered as an emotional support animal? Guess again. Largely due to animals misbehaving during flights, the Transportation Department gave airlines the green light to ban emotional support animals (not to be confused with service animals) in cabins last year.
All of this to say that traveling with a dog in the year 2022 is a hassle. And even if you are able to successfully navigate all the rules and regulations, there’s still the matter of flying with your dog. My dog, for example, isn’t flat-faced and weighs just 10 pounds, but in addition to being very packable, he’s also an absolute menace in the way that most puppies are. The thought of bringing him on a plane is nothing short of nightmare-inducing.
That said, there are some things you can do to prepare. Tom Davis, widely known as America’s Canine Educator, specializes in rehabbing aggressive, reactive and anxiety-ridden dogs, ultimately through their owners’ behaviors. In addition to owning a training facility based out of Upstate New York, Davis serves a global network of clients — even some of the celebrity variety (most notably Patrick Mahomes’ dogs, Steel and Silver) — both virtually and in person. Due to the nature of his work, he winds up on the road for the better part of the year, often accompanied by his own dogs. He knows exactly what traveling with pets entails and how best to prepare both parties (dog and owner) in advance.
Advance being the operative word.
That’s because, according to Davis, you should ideally be getting your dog ready weeks — if not months — ahead of your flight. In addition to a preemptive visit to the vet to eliminate the possibility of any underlying issues that might present themselves while in the air, Davis also recommends that you start getting your dog acclimated to its carrier and mimicking the motions, as soon as possible.
“Many of us don’t have access to [private] jets to practice, so the next best thing would be to take them in the car,” he says. “After you’ve conditioned them to being in the carrier, take them for a little [drive].”
Similarly, Davis recommends utilizing CBD to help ease nerves (CBDMD has a lot of good options) and something to keep them busy during the flight (his go-to is a frozen, natural peanut butter-filled kong), though both of those things should also be introduced no less than a month ahead of time to ensure no adverse reactions.
When the time comes to actually travel, pre-flight exercise is key. Even layovers — typically less than ideal — should be viewed as an added opportunity to exercise your dog and burn off any residual energy. “A nice long walk — or a game of fetch — will be very beneficial in helping them unwind,” Davis says. “Also, be mindful of how much food and water you give them the night before and the day of.”
Davis also makes one important point that you might not want to hear: At the end of the day, not all pets are cut out to fly. Understanding your dog’s limitations is paramount where travel is involved.
“A polite dog in an airport is an absolute must. If you have a dog that struggles with anxiety, stress, fear or aggression towards strangers — walking that dog through an airport full of hundreds if not thousands of people may not be all that good of an idea,” he says. “Weigh the pros and cons. Is your dog trained well enough? We’ve all seen the TikToks of people not behaving, getting kicked off a plane and fined. Don’t be the person who brings an out-of-control dog on the plane — it’ll be a headache for you and other passengers, and a liability, too.”
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