I’m sure there are plenty of people who would like to take their pet on holiday with them, but they’re afraid of it or don’t know how. Honestly, I had no idea until a few weeks ago either, but since we were taking our two dogs with us to Madeira, I’m a little wiser now, and I can send my knowledge into the world – maybe make life easier for someone else. First thing I learned about flying with a dog is that it’s not so bad.
I’m certainly not going to please everyone, of course, because a lot of people see flying a dog as abuse, and they don’t see any reason why they should put their dog under this much stress for a week of vacation. We can only speculate about what our doggies think, however, I certainly wouldn’t take a dog on every holiday. In my case, Madeira was a big exception, because our babysitter went with us. So there was no one who wanted to spend Christmas with our dogs. At the same time, our dogs are serious addicts who can’t manage a day without us, so I bet a dog hotel would be a lot more misery for them than two four-hour plane rides.
0 Flying with a dog – is it for every dog?
The first thing to consider is the personality of the dog. Bob had flown on the plane about 20 times, it was the premiere for Gin, so I was so worried about how he was going to handle it. Luckily, he’s incredibly calm, and he doesn’t get upset – and that’s half the job done. So there are questions to be answered such as:
- how does your dog handle a lot of noise?
- how does he handle cooler spaces?
- is he used to the crate you want to transport him in?
- how does he act when he’s in an unfamiliar environment?
1 On board or in the baggage compartment?
If you think your dog could handle it, great! Let’s move on. Now the next question is how much the doggy and the shipping box weigh together. If you’re under 8 kilos, it’s easier again, because you can take it on board with you (but check the weight limit with the airline). If above 8 kg, he must fly in the luggage section. Our dogs weigh 13 and 25 kilos plus the crate, so we couldn’t bring either one on board. The important thing to note is that in both cases you have to have a travel box for the dog, you have to report it to the airline and pay for it.
Choosing a destination is a crucial issue when traveling with a dog. If you can, book a DIRECT flight. If there is no direct flight, choose one with a transfer maximum of 2 hours. Should the transfer be longer, the dog is taken to an airport hotel with a guard, where he is taken for a walk. Either way, it’s unnecessary dog manipulation that only adds to the stress.
If this is your first time flying with a dog, I strongly recommend some shorter flight within 3-4 hours. After all, this is something completely unfamiliar to a dog, so bear that in mind. When he’s familiar with the plane, then you can, of course, visit more distant destinations.
3 Ticket and flight bookings for dogs over 8 kg
Not all airlines transport animals. You can exclude low-cost ones. At the same time, not all flights on a particular airline are designed to carry animals – some aircraft simply do not have the option of pressurising the luggage compartment. That’s why you need to call the airline and ask if the flight is carrying animals. If so, it’s best to book a ticket for you and the dog by phone. Web-based reservation systems do not allow for the choice of animal transport.
The animals are transported for example by Lufthansa, Czech Airlines, Smartwings, British Airways or KLM. We flew Smartwings to Madeira.
A ticket for a dog costs EUR 120 per flight in the EU on most airlines. Often the price for the dog is as expensive as your own ticket.
4 What to bring?
The box must be certified for flight transport. We have a box by Trixie called Guliver and there was no problem with it. A few lines up, I was writing about how a dog should be used to a travel crate. We use the crate for the car as well, so our dogs know them very well.
Be sure to stick a label on the box with your contact details – your name, dog name, address, phone, email, where you’re going.
Yours and the dog’s. All necessary vaccinations should be included in the passport. Some countries require special vaccinations, but around EU you get by only with rabies vaccination. All dogs that have a passport should have a chip, but you usually don’t have to worry about that, because it’s inserted under their skin shortly after they’re born.
Crates are generally sold with a water bowl that hooks onto the metal part. Of course, it’s a complete nonsense to fill the bowl with water, because it spills out immediately. Fill it with water the day before your flight and freeze it for the night. Install it just before departure and the dog will have water throughout the whole flight.
Favorite toy or something to chew on
To make the flight more pleasant for the dog, drop a treat that lasts a long time (i.e: pig’s ear) into the crate before the flight.
It doesn’t have to be a T-shirt, but just something you were wearing. The dog can smell you from that t-shirt and it’ll make him/her feel safe and know you’re not far away 🙂
5 Put them to sleep?
Definitely not. It’s a little under 20 degrees in the luggage compartment, and if you put the dog to sleep, your dog is in danger of getting cold. He/she is not capable of proper thermoregulation. It’s better to wear your dog out naturally, so you better jump in the park with him/her before the flight so he/she can get a good run.
Plus, your goal is to make sure the dog can fly in peace. The first flight will probably be a little stressful, but they need to learn how to handle it. If you put him to sleep, he/she won’t learn anything and will be useless for another two days.
6 On the airport
Perhaps you are used to travelling light, and you only need to arrive at the airport an hour before your flight. If you have a doggy with you, expect to be at the airport really two hours before your flight. There is a lot of paperwork to do. The same applies on arrival. Oversized baggage are usually the last to arrive, so there’s no rush. Although, ironically, in Madeira, they were out before the regular baggage. But in Prague, we waited at the oversize baggage for more than 45 minutes before the dogs arrived.
Online check-in is not possible, so you always have to go to the counter. Inform the check-in worker that you are transporting a dog. They will ask you for his passport and weight (figure out the weight of the box in advance, the worker always asks for the total weight of the dog and the box).
Once you have your tickets, head to the oversized baggage, where you’ll say goodbye to the dog. There, the crate (without a dog) runs through the X-ray. After that, there’s nothing left to do but keep your fingers crossed.
When boarding, inform flight attendants that you have a dog down there. During the flight, you can ask them if everything is okay, as the pilot can see the pressure and temperature in the luggage compartment.
On arrival, you pick up the dog again in oversized luggage, and that’s it! Our dogs recognized us by a voice fifty meters away, so they started barking. They seemed to be glad to see us.
Flying with a dog these days is a common thing. There were two more on the plane with us. That doesn’t mean it’s not stress for the doggies. But there are ways to relieve stress and make their journey a little more pleasant. And don’t worry, they’ll make it!
It’s important to bear in mind that if you are flying with a dog, everything takes a lot more time than flying solo and light. The time spent at the airport (departure + arrival) was close to four hours.
So hopefully I’ve covered everything, if you’re interested in anything, feel free to ask! 🙂
P.S. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, which also full of helpful tips.