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✈ Flying with Dog for the First Time

Dutchie and I had prepared that someday we might have to (temporary) leave the Netherlands to pursue one’s career. Thus, when the opportunity came, the first thing we did was extensive search on the best company to fly our Labrador-mix dog, Dante, from Rotterdam (the Netherlands) to Minneapolis (USA). Since his weight was 25 kilograms (55lbs), he could not join us in the cabin. We had to check him as “baggage” or as cargo.

Really, I will fly?!

Really, I will fly?! ᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ ✈

Our choice went to a recommended and reputable company specialized in flying pets overseas via cargo. To my surprise, the company did not take our questions seriously, and we were disappointed by their ignorance. The next and our only option then was to fly Dante directly with an airline without additional extra assistance and assurance. I was not happy by this. If you searched online, there were hardly airlines known to have an excellent reputation in flying pets. The more you read the online reviews, the more you got worried. It was not easy especially for the first timer like us. In the end, we decided to focus on preparing things in positive thought instead of worrying all the time.

Dante was traveling with us as checked baggage. It was a choice when you wanted to arrive with your dog at the same time with you. If you choose cargo, then there is a possibility to travel your dog at a different time than yours.

Based on our experience flying with Dante, I can suggest the following tips to ensure your first time traveling with your dog goes well, especially if you wish to fly your dog as checked baggage or cargo with the same flying date with you.

Choose the shortest flight

The shortest the flight, the better it is. If possible, took a direct flight, and if it was not possible then arranged the flight with a limited number of stop or layover. Luckily there was a direct flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. The direct flight took us 8 hours. However, the overall travel time, in reality, was almost 14 hours from our door in Rotterdam to the destination “door” in Minneapolis. Do calculate the extra hours such as the passport control, customs, and waiting time.

Just an additional information, if it were your first time entering the USA with your temporary working and residency visa, then be prepared for another extra hour for immigration check to verify your documentation.

Check carefully the regulation by the airlines 

Dante and his pet carrier

Dante and his pet carrier

This is obvious, but it is necessary to pay attention to the airlines requirement as they have the right to refuse to transport your dog. KLM with Delta partnership, for instance, has “no fly” list for specific dog races such as English and French bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs.

Important things to check on the airlines’regulation: (1) the type of pet carrier (kennel); (2) dog’s races allowed; (3) dog’s health certificate that stated the dog is healthy to fly; (4) the room temperature where the dogs would be located on the plane; and (5) tranquillizing matter. Usually, the airlines would advise not to tranquilize the dogs. I would not tranquilize my dog for flying purpose, do check my following tips to avoid this.

About the pet carrier, we used one size bigger to ensure comfort for our dog. A friend commented that Dante had more space than humans have in economy class.

 Train your dogs to stay calm inside their pet carrier (kennel)

Tranquilizing a dog for flying aimed to calm the dog when they are inside a pet carrier during the transport. The dog does not need it if they feel safe inside the carrier. Tranquilizing is not the solution for a dog with an anxiety issue.

Dante puppy love inside his kennel

Dante-puppy loves his kennel

If your dog had a crate training during puppyhood, then it would be easier to make your dog get inside to a pet carrier and make it as their safe zone. If not, you might have to train your dog for a longer period. Take at least one to two months of training to ensure the success. Patience is the key.

The rule of thumb is: never force your dog to enter the carrier. Your dog should enter the carrier by itself. Put your dog’s favorite toys or snacks inside the carrier. If necessary, place your used clothing with your smells (the smelliest the better) to leave familiar smells. Then let your dog sleep inside the carrier every night until the Flying Day.

Prepare all paperwork as required by the country of destination

Dutch Pet Passport

Dutch Pet Passport

Some countries require dog quarantine while others require the dog health history with proofs of rabies vaccines or other certain vaccines. When bringing dogs to the United States, you might also have to check the policy of the state where your dog will arrive. Each state may have different regulation.

Luckily for us, there is no quarantine required for transporting a dog from the Netherlands to Minnesota State (USA) but our dog has to obtain specific vaccines months upon arrival.  All information should be made available in his dog’s passport and of course, in English. Can you believe, a dog has its personal passport? 😉 

Checklist for the “Flying Day”

Although we prepared our suitcases and documentation cautiously, we still had a bit of stressful situation on the D-Day. We had four big bags plus a huge pet carrier and a dog who had no idea what’s going on with him in the next coming hours. I made check-list what to do near to the Flying Day. It was a shortlist but helpful:

 Don’t forget necessary paperwork for your dog’s immigration and put the dog nametag on the collar.

☑  Reduce the food consumption before the flying time (I gave Dante just one-third of his regular consumption.).

☑  Make the dog tired before flying (We took him for a long walk a day before then we walked him for an hour before driving to the Airport).

☑  Freeze the drinking water for the carrier  (prepare this couple day before the flying day, this is to ensure the water would not spill out during the transport).

  Bring an empty drinking bottle and poop bags, placed them in your cabin’s purse that easily to reach. As arrived, you can fill the bottle with water for your dog to drink in case he/she needs it and to avoid dehydration. Your dog might want to relieve themselves soon after the flying; thus having the poop bag might help you to clean them up quickly.

After Flying News 🐶

Dante arrived safely in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He was in good shape after the flying. His pet carrier was placed next to baggage belt area. It was convenient for us to pick him up directly without having to go to the cargo area.

Today he is coping well with the Minnesotan’s winter and loves the snows. He finds the snows as new exciting grass!

ᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ Do you fly with your dog? Please leave us your tips and thoughts!

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114 Comments »

  1. Oh what a beautiful post which made me remember our travels with our lovely German Shepherd. Thankfully no international travel but long train journeys within India. We had to avoid air travel as he was huge big fella 🙂

    Cheers and regards.

  2. Glad to read everything went smoothly for Dante! Me too, I have a dog, that’s one of the reasons I don’t travel by plane anymore. But after reading this maybe I will reconsider

  3. Having worked for an int’l airline handling animals (on freighters & passenger planes) from dolphins to cats, your post brought it all back to me. We used to stow the animal in an area that had air and heat connection with the passenger area. The one animal that you didn’t place where there was a connection to / from passengers on B 707 was monkeys – they stink, and you didn’t want passengers suffering an ‘unusual’ smell for a seven hour trans Atlantic flight :-o)

  4. I flew from Ohio to Arizona with my 2 cats and it was definitely stressful for all of us! Thankfully they were small enough that I was able to have their carriers under the seats in front of me and my SIL. It’s not something I would want to do again- it took both cats quite a while to recover (moving to a new home didn’t make things easier!). I don’t know if I could (emotionally) handle checking my dog as baggage- I’d just be so worried about him! I’m glad Dante did so well and is happy in his new home 🙂

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