Advancements in dog-friendly travel

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Advancements in pet-friendly travel

Pack your bags, pet parents! Whether you plan to travel by car or by air, traveling with your dog is more accessible, safe and convenient than ever before.

Car travel

Most dogs love to travel in the car. Regardless of your destination, they’re happy to come along for the ride. And, luckily for you, road-tripping with dogs takes much less preparation than it once did. Here’s why:

Restraint devices

These days, there are various seatbelts, harnesses, seat extenders and crates that keep your dog safe and secure in the car, so you can focus on the road.

Portable food and bowls

Travel-sized food packages and collapsible bowls make feeding on the road mess-free, and prevent opened food from spoiling. Even raw food comes in dehydrated form and individualized portions, so you can grab a meal of healthy, bioavailable “fast food” for your pooch.

Pet-friendly rest stops

Parks and pull-off areas along the highway make it easy to give your dog bathroom breaks. Some even have designated fenced areas for off-leash exercise!

Calming supplements

If your dog dislikes the vehicle or is prone to car sickness,  numerous treats, sprays and other products can soothe his nerves and settle his tummy. Look for a formula containing calming flower essences, or one with essential oils like lavender or lemon balm. (For more severe reactions, check out this article on car training your dog.)

Pet-friendly accommodation

Many hotels, campgrounds, vacation rentals and B&Bs are easing up on their pet restrictions. Websites like petfriendly.ca and bringfido.com are great resources for finding a place to stay with your pooch. Traveling the trans-Canada highway? Check out dogfriendly.com for a list of pet-friendly accommodation en route!

Air travel

Dogs make great travel buddies on the road. But what if you’re planning to fly to your destination? Airlines like Air Canada are making the entire process – from booking to landing – smooth and stress-free.

Plan ahead

As with all forms of travel, the first step is preparation. “Look into rules and regulations before you book,” says Claire Parsons, Air Canada Cargo Customer Service Agent. “Find out what is involved, and confirm that your pet can indeed travel before you purchase your own ticket.” In order to ensure pet safety, some restrictions apply when it comes to flying with companion animals (see below). Do your research to avoid unexpected hiccups.

Did you know? Some airports have onsite veterinarians in case of medical emergencies.

Decide on the best travel option for your dog

Service animals and dogs under ten pounds are usually allowed in the aircraft’s cabin. If your dog doesn’t meet these criteria, you’ll need to determine whether he should fly as baggage or cargo. Either way, he’ll travel in the belly of the plane, which is temperature-controlled. The difference is that animals flying as baggage stay on the same plane as you at all times and arrive when you do. The perk of cargo, on the other hand, is that your pet can be sent ahead or after you, providing someone can drop him off and pick him up.

Visit aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/plan/special-assistance/pets.html for more information.

Did you know? A boarding facility at Toronto Pearson called PetStop is available for animals travelling in cargo if they’re early for their flight, if last-minute complications prohibit them from flying, or if there is a connection and they require a comfort stop between flights.

*Photos courtesy of Brian Losito

Prepare him for the flight

After you’ve crossed all your T’s, it’s time to prepare your pooch. If he’s a nervous traveler, medical sedation isn’t recommended. Instead, invest in a natural product to soothe his anxiety. Whether it’s a spray, supplement or mini essential oil diffuser for his collar, a calming aid will help him relax. But keep in mind that training and behaviour modification are more effective than any remedy. “If you’ve never crate-trained your dog, do so,” says Claire. “If he’s familiar with his crate, he’ll be much more comfortable flying.”

If you’re buying a crate for travel purposes, make sure it meets the airlines’ requirements. Air Canada follows IATA standards to ensure every animal fits comfortably in his crate. As a general rule of thumb, your animal should be able to stand up without hitting his head: iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/live-animals/Documents/pet-container-requirements.pdf

Pack his bags

It’s time to pack! Gather the necessary documentation and keep it in a safe place. Most airlines require an animal to have an up-to-date health certificate from a licensed veterinarian that states your pet is healthy and free of parasites, its age and breed, as well as any vaccinations it has received.

While most of your dog’s belongings will be packed in your suitcase, a couple of things can go with him in his crate. His bed can go along for the ride, for instance, but leave toys and other loose objects out, as they present choking hazards.

What about food and water?

While you can’t put food items in your animal’s crate, water is essential. “We advise that people refrain from feeding their pets 24 hours before the flight to reduce the risk of vomiting and bowel movements,” says Courtney Parent, an Air Canada Customer Service Agent. Courtney works at the live animal intake department at Toronto Pearson, and says they started selling water dishes due to the number of pet parents who forget them. “The water dish has to be secured to the crate to avoid spilling,” she adds. Courtney recommends fashioning your own travel dish out of Tupperware and zip ties, or purchasing one designed to hook onto crates. “Hamster-style” water bottles are not permitted.

Did you know? If you want your dog’s food to arrive with him when he lands, an unopened package can be attached to the top of his crate.

According to Claire, flying with pets has become much more popular in the past five years. At Toronto Pearson alone, Air Canada receives 4,000 calls each month about animal shipments. In response, the airline has made pet travel a priority. “We understand that for many people, their pets are everything, so we do what we can do to ease their stress. I know if it were my dog, I’d want that peace of mind.”