General Travel Tips:Long Haul Flights

It is so good to have your Assistance Dog by your side when you fly, but we all know that flying with our dogs can be stressful too.

Here is a list of things to consider, regarding factors before and during your journey:

Regulations for plane travel with an Assistance Dog

If you are travelling internationally on a foreign airline, contact the airline to establish what their regulations and procedures are.

 

Share your experiences in our TravelPaws Facebook Group.

Visual description:

Guide Dog Nixon in Narita Airport, Japan departure lounge April 2019

Airlines

Check regulations with your specific airline as far in advance as possible.

Before you travel

Take your dog for a long walk or free run the day before or morning of travelling to help them relax.

 

Give your dog the latest opportunity to go to the toilet on their preferred surface.

Check list of items needed on board

Here is a list of items to consider taking for your dog when you fly:

  • Short leads and seatbelt harness (minus buckle) to secure your dog

  • Traveller bed and familiar toy

  • Kibble or whatever you choose for balancing your dog’s ears

  • Wipes if you choose peanut butter for ear balancing (avoiding the mess!)

  • All quarantine papers

  • Dinner and a bowl if you will feed your dog when you land (extra food in case your bag is lost)

  • Emergency dog kit -we recommend you keep this on you at all times (photo of your dog, list of their food requirements, medication needs and vet history, and any of their actual medication needed)

  • Scented garbage bag and absorbent mat in case of a toileting accident

  • Whole seatbelt harness if you are getting picked up when you land

Airport security

There is a lot of variation, regardless of policy, on security procedures. Airport security seems to vary from occasion to occasion, and airport to airport. Sometimes you get the pat-down, sometimes not, sometimes your dog gets it, sometimes not.

 

This seems to be regardless of how creative the handler is with their approach (e.g. using non-metal leads). This can be a highly emotive issue for travellers with an Assistance Dog.

 

  • For me personally I handle security in the calmest way I can. This helps both Nixon and me

  • Feel free to share your experiences in the TravelPaws Facebook Group

Preparation before boarding

Keep as calm as you can throughout your travel because your dog will pick up your vibes.

 

  • I like to put on Nixon’s seatbelt harness (minus buckle) under his normal harness before I board so there is less for me to do onboard to secure him - a flustered me is a flustered dog!

  • I announce myself at the gate so that I can board first. The more time I board before take-off the more relaxed I am.

Settling in on-board

Some people are surprised to know that Assistance Dogs can travel in the cabin with you (not underneath in cargo thank goodness). On Australian airlines, only Assistance Dogs are allowed to travel on-board.  In some other countries, pets are allowed to travel on-board, which I imagine causes added stress for Assistance Dog handlers, as well as airline staff and passengers. It would be great to get your experiences in the TravelPaws Facebook Group.

 

  • Walk on board with your dog’s harness /coat on as normal so that they are identifiable as a working dog

  • When you arrive at your seat, take the harness off and give it to the flight attendant to put it in the overhead locker

  • Different airlines have different policies on where the dog is to sit and how it is to be secured. I think we are lucky here in Australia. I know Qantas allocates a free seat (no cost) for your dog to sit on the floor next to you. I am sure our TravelPaws Facebook Group would be keen to know of others’ experience 

  • In Australia, we must have the dog near the window, so people don’t have to climb over them in an emergency (although many staff don’t know this). Different airlines have different rules on this it seems

  • Put down your dog’s traveller bed and familiar toy and ask them to lie on their mat (some airlines provide an absorbent pad where the dog lies in case of accident)

  • If your airline policy states that you only get one seat with your dog, ask your dog to slide under the seat in front of you backwards so he/she is facing you (that way they can see you, you can apply an oxygen mask to them in an emergency or a vomit bag if required)

  • I secure Nixon to the base of his seat with two short leads clipped to the car harness ring on his back (not to his neck collar which is dangerous). The jury is out about the view to tether or not tether. Ask your instructor and refer to your airline policy. In my view, it is safer to tether. I use two short leads about 8 cm long, so that Nixon does not have room to be flung about in case of strong turbulence

  • Be prepared to be a novelty as not a lot of people will have seen a dog on board.

In the air

  • Give them three or four of their normal kibble on take-off and landing to balance their ears if they are looking unsettled (if your dog can handle and enjoys peanut butter it makes them constantly lick which is great for balancing ears I believe)

  • Don’t give salty food that makes them thirsty and increases their need to pee

  • Give them ice cubes rather than water (to decrease their chance of needing to pee but keeping them hydrated)

  • If your dog stands up at any stage, encourage them to lie - be firm but nice (Pandering to their anxiety, only reinforces it -I learned this the hard way!)

  • I am very lucky with Nixon he is a good traveller. Dear Walter (my first Seeing Eye Dog) struggled!

  • If your dog is anxious, you could try distracting them with a game that involves incentives for them! Be relaxed yourself as they will pick up your vibe.

When you arrive

  • I wait until I finally arrive at the hotel before I feed Nixon, because I have more time to look after his post dinner toileting needs -that was polite wasn’t it?!

  • You can feed them on board too if you can’t take meat products through customs otherwise feed them at the airport

  • Have an absorbent pad and deodorised garbage bag at the ready the other end of the flight just in case of  toileting accident

  • Give your dog an opportunity to wee as soon as you can when you arrive

  • Be prepared for a tired puppy at the end of the flight.

Visual description:

Guide Dog Nixon flat out asleep after a big flight from Australia to Japan

Toileting

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