Whether you’re hitting the slopes, looking forward to a relaxing vacation at the beach, or you’re moving to a new city, traveling by plane with your protection dog requires a bit of extra preparation. After all, your furry companion is an important member of the family and you naturally want them to come with you.
If you’re wondering if you’re even permitted to travel with your dog by plane or need some guidance on how to go about it, then the following resources will help you get started.
Protection Dogs Aren’t Service Dogs
First and foremost, according to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA):
“…protection from danger is one of the key functions that service animals perform…the Department recognizes that an animal individually trained to provide aggressive protection, is not appropriately considered a service animal. Therefore, the Department has decided to modify the “minimal protection” language to read “non-violent protection,” thereby excluding so-called “attack dogs” or dogs with traditional “protection training” as service animals.”
Yes, this language is fancy and a bit extensive, but the main point you can glean from the ADA’s statement is that a service dog is not the same as a trained protection dog.
However, don’t let this discourage you, as many airlines have policies in place to accommodate customer requests for traveling with their protection dog.
Now that this distinction is made let’s go over how you can travel with your projection dog by plane.
How to Travel on a Plane with Your Protection Dog
#1. Check with Your Airline First
Policies can differ drastically from one airline to the next. Don’t get caught off guard – plan ahead and familiarize yourself with your airline’s rules and regulations. They may require health certificate information, an added fee, and have weight/size requirements.
Delta, for example, allows both support and service animals within the aircraft cabin. Those who are traveling with a trained service animal, such as a protection dog, are encouraged to provide vaccination records prior to travel.
Most commercial airlines have crafted dedicated website pages to discuss their policies and regulations as it relates to traveling with pets. These resources usually include how to go about making arrangements for either in-cabin or cargo transportation. Here are some links to help you get started with the airline research process:
- JetBlue Airways: JetPaws Program
- Delta Air Lines: Delta Pet Policy and Other Information
- United Airlines: United Airlines Travel for Pets Information
- American Airlines: American Airlines Pet Travel Information and Policies
- Spirit Airlines: Spirit Rules for Pets Onboard
- Southwest Airlines: Southwest Pet Policy and Pet Reservation
#2. Provide Advance Notice
Many airlines have rules implemented that require any passengers traveling with a service or support animal to provide notice at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled flight.
However, the sooner the better so you can ensure you are fully prepared and that the plane you are traveling on can accommodate your protection dog. They also ask that you arrive early and check-in a minimum of an hour before your flight’s departure.
#3. Check Destination Requirements
This is especially true for those traveling internationally. Your destination may have mandatory requirements, such as specific vaccinations or quarantine regulations that you MUST meet. The moral of the story: you don’t want to get caught off-guard…in a foreign country…you catch my drift?
#4. Schedule a Pre-Trip Check-Up with Your Vet
Once your travel plans are officially booked and you’ve done your homework regarding any rules or regulations you must adhere to, you’ll want to make an appointment with your vet. If your destination requires a certain vaccination, for example, it may take several trips to the vet in order to fully complete the vaccination process.
#5. Prepare a Travel Kit
Just as us humans typically pack a bag specifically for the plane ride (headphones, a book, and snacks are a must), you’ll want to put together a little care package for your four-legged companion as well.
You should include a collapsible water bowl, a small amount of food, favorite toys or blankets to help them feel comfortable and safe, vet-related documentation, medications (if needed), and, of course, treats for your face-licking loved one.
Make the Trip an Easy One with These Tips
#1. Walk Your Dog Before the Flight
Before you board the plane, give your protection dog the freedom to walk or run around a bit before they’re confined inside the cabin for a few hours. Connect with airport personnel to inquire about any ideal outside areas you could use for a quick round of exercise with your pooch.
If that option isn’t available, find a place outside of the airport where they can run prior to checking in.
#2. Comfort Is Key
You want to ensure your protection dog is as comfortable as possible during the flight to alleviate any anxiety they may have. To do this, simply place their favorite toy or blanket from home inside their crate to help put them at ease. The more “at home” they feel with familiar belongings, the better.
#3. Purchase a Quality Crate or Carrier
When you hit the stores to shop, make sure you are crystal clear on what the airline’s approved size requirements are. Pro Tip: your crate or carrier should be spacious enough that your dog is able to stand, turn around, and lounge with ease.
#4. Tackling Airport Security
Ahhh…airport security. Isn’t that everyone’s favorite part of traveling? All kidding aside, both you and your pet’s carrier will have to pass through security screening.
You have two options available to you during this process.
First, you can keep them outside their carrier while it’s being x-rayed – but make sure you’ve securely harnessed your pup and can safely contain them. Or, you can elect to request a secondary screening, which will allow your dog to remain in their carrier through the security process.
Whenever you’re traveling with a pet, it will no doubt require a bit of extra planning. However, it’s not impossible. Mom’s travel with newborns all the time – think about how tough that must be. When it comes to traveling with your protection dog, there’s nothing to worry about.
As long as you heed the above advice and begin the preparation process early, you’ll find traveling with your pup is a breeze.