Hoo-mom here: I decided to share some of my experiences travelling to get my puppy; a lot of “travelling with dogs” posts are related to car trips, or flying with an adult dog, but not so many about flying to pick up your 8 week old puppy that you don’t know. These are my tips and recommendations on what to do and what to bring when you have to fly to pick up your puppy, to hopefully make your experience as smooth and painless as possible!
When I looked into getting a Westie in December, I found out quickly that there is only one Westie breeder in my province, and the next available litter was a whole year away. I didn’t want to wait that long before getting a dog, so my brother helped me find another breeder- the single downfall being that they are just outside of Toronto. If I had gotten Agnes from a later litter, in the spring or summer, we probably would have driven there to get her. However, it was the end of February, and we flew to make things easier. My dad was amazing and flew out with me so I wouldn’t have to worry about driving in unfamiliar territory, and to make sure the flying back with her part went smoothly.
What to Do Prior
1. Confirm Allowed Puppy Age
Before you book any flights, confirm what age your puppy needs to be before you can bring them on the flight- we always fly with Air Canada but unfortunately puppies need to be 12 weeks old before they can fly with them, so we had to go elsewhere. If you are having trouble finding an airline that works for you, ask your breeder- ours was able to tell us which airlines would allow us to fly with Agnes at 8 weeks.
2. Book Flight Over the Telephone
I know that most airlines want you to do everything online, but it seems that most pet reservations are still done over the phone. You can book your flight online and then call to have your puppy added, but you run the risk of there being too many dogs on the plane already (there is a limit for how many dogs can be in the cabin, it seems to be 4 for most airlines). If you call the book both at the same time, you will avoid this issue and probably save yourself a little time. Sidenote: a lot of people will say on message boards that they never have a problem booking an animal onto the flight they want, but our flight had three puppies and a cat, so we were full up on a random Tuesday afternoon flight.
3. Have Space Ready at Home
Ensure that their space is set up and ready to go at home! You will both be tired after a day of flying, and you will want to be able to put them right into their space as soon as you get there. Unless you are a dog whisperer, it’s probably not best to give your puppy free range of the house just yet, so you really only need to make sure that a few select spaces are ready. (This includes having food and a bed ready- they will be both hungry and sleepy!)
What to Bring
If you are flying to pick up a puppy, you will most likely need a soft-sided carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you. Dogs under a certain weight have to go in a soft carrier that goes under the front of the seat, and over a certain weight in hard carrier that goes in the cargo area. Ensure that your carrier meets your airline’s standards, so that you won’t be turned away.
2. Pee Pads
We are not doing pee pad training but if you are picking up a puppy, realistically, they may have an accident or two in the airport or when they are flying. Lining the carrier with pee pads allows you to simply pull out the pad and put in a new one so they have dry space to stay in. Bring a ziploc bag to put pads in if you have to change them out during the flight.
3. Food Samples
I would recommend asking your local pet store for food samples- it might not be the food you will be feeding your puppy, but you may need to show it to security, and having that ingredient list on the back will make your life much easier. Agnes didn’t eat at all that day (it’s a big day, so many dogs won’t) but it is nice to have that option handy. Bring a collapsible food bowl to use.
4. Gulpy/Dog Water Bottle
If you have a dog, I would recommend owning one of these for any walks, trips to the park, or car rides that you have, but these are imperative for a plane ride. Obviously don’t fill it until you are through security, but give your puppy a little bit of water to avoid dehydration. I wouldn’t give them a ton of water, to hopefully avoid accidents.
5. Hand Towels/ Pet Blankets
You want to make their carrier/kennel as comfortable and inviting as possible, so a hand towel or a pet blanket will make a big difference. They don’t need to be anything fancy, I just grabbed some from the dollar store and they work perfectly! Make sure you find the balance of making them comfortable without cramming the carrier full. You can use the pet blanket to drape over the carrier during the flight to ensure they sleep.
6. Squeaker-less Toys
Agnes LOVES squeaky toys, as I’m sure that 98% of dogs do. However, you will kind of be a huge jerk on a plane if you give a dog a squeaky toy to squeak through the entire plane ride. I was very lucky in that Agnes slept the whole way and didn’t bark once, but there is a good chance that your puppy may bark throughout the flight- do you really want to add more noise to that? Kong makes stuffed animals for dogs that have removable squeakers, and rope toys are usually sans squeaker as well (if you are looking for a cheap option).
If you have to fly to retrieve the puppy, there is a good chance that you didn’t get a chance to spend any time with it before you picked it up- that means that you are a brand new person to this puppy. It can be a very overwhelming day for both you and the dog, so remember your patience and know that things like accidents might happen but it is totally okay! Agnes hadn’t been outside before we picked her up, so in the span of 6 hours she went outside, in the car, and on a plane for the first time. three BIG firsts for anyone. We had an absolutely perfect travel day thankfully but we could have had some mishaps and that would have been okay. (Also remember that even if you have owned several dogs, this is a new and different dog, and you still don’t know what they will do.)
I hope that this guide is helpful for anyone flying to pick up their new puppy! It’s exciting and stressful and a big adventure for everyone involved- with a bit of planning and forethought, it should be smooth flying for everyone 🙂
Have you ever flown with a pet before? What is your best tip for it?