Taking a bite out of the Big Apple: Flying internationally with your dog

I’m lucky that I get to travel a lot.

I’ve been all over Canada and the U.S., as well as overseas to countries in Europe and Asia. One of my favourite places to visit is Vancouver and I’ve always wanted to bring my dog Ziggy, an American Eskimo, with me since it’s such a beautiful city that is surrounded by wildlife (and some of the freshest air I’ve ever smelled).

Last year I felt the same way when I went to New York City since there was so many dogs and the city in general just seems way more pet friendly than Winnipeg. I saw dogs everywhere, indoors and out, and with all the walking I just knew that Ziggy would love it.

Anyways, when I found out that my boyfriend was moving to NYC for a year I instantly got really excited to come visit him lots, and since I would be gone for weeks or a month at a time, I decided that Ziggy would come with.

Girl and American Eskimo dog in Times Square, NYC Girl and American Eskimo dog in Times Square New York City Balto statue in Central Park, NYC

Ziggy has never been on an airplane before and since he’s too big (29 lbs.) he would have to fly in the cargo hold, AKA underneath the airplane. I’m very attached to my dog, so naturally I had dog mom anxiety. Would he be okay? Would he be scared? Will he think I was deserting him? Will he be too hot?

Turns out I had nothing to worry about as he got here safe and sound and seems to just love being an urban dog in the Big Apple.

Now if you’re like me, I tend to research anything and everything. I look up places to eat, things to visit, I do my research on stuff I want to buy, etc. So naturally, I did a ton of research on flying with pets and what the process is like. When you’re travelling with your dog, it’s very important to be prepared prior to flying, and I mean like months prior. Since I was flying internationally from Canada to the United States, that means there is even more preparation involved.

First things first, when flying with a dog internationally (and even across land border – of which Ziggy has gone for car rides to the U.S.), it’s very important that you have their vet records and a list of their up-to-date vaccinations. When I took Zig for this annual check-up in April I made sure to get the vet to give me a printed and signed copy of this so if the border agent asked for it I could easily hand it over. I also had a signed document saying that he was healthy and safe to fly. This second document isn’t necessary, but it was good to have just in case.

American Eskimo dog in front of crate at Pet Valu American Eskimo dog shopping at Pet Value Petmate Travel kit and dog

Second, you’ll want to get all supplies early to get your dog accustomed to the method of how they will be getting there. For me, that included an airline-approved crate. When dog are flying in cargo hold they have to be in a hard kennel. The crate we got was the Essentials Plastic Carrier from Pet Valu, which is an airline-approved pet carrier available in a multitude of different sizes.

Although Ziggy could have fit the medium size, we ended up getting the large one (they have to be able to stand and turn around in it). He hasn’t been in a crate since he was a puppy (he’s 10 years old now), so it did take him some getting used to. I also figured having more room to spare would make him more comfortable.

The Essentials Plastic Carrier includes wing-nut fasteners for safety, an easy-to-use door catch, a moat in floor that catches liquid to keep pets dry, and has a water dish that is removable. To make Ziggy’s first plane ride even more comfortable, we picked up the Essentials Sherpa Crate Mat in grey to put inside the crate for maximum comfortability.

Finally, the last item we picked up for the crate was the Petmate Complete Airline Travel Kit, which includes basically everything you’ll need for travel. This kit includes a spill-resistant food and water cup, an absorbent kennel pad, two Live Animal stickers to put on the crate, a temporary pet ID tag, a shipping ID sticker, 12 zip ties, 12 one-and-a-quarter-inch bolts, five one-inch bolts, 12 washers, and 12 nuts. Petmate says that many airlines do not accept crates with plastic nuts/bolts or nuts that hold the top and bottom together, so this kit includes the metal ones as options (I didn’t have an issue about this with WestJet).

American Eskimo dog at Winnipeg airport American Eskimo dog in Winnipeg airport Dog inside Essentials plastic crate from Pet Value

Truthfully, I don’t think we actually needed the airline travel kit since WestJet supplies the Live Animal stickers and zip ties (plus we already had the water cup from the crate), but since this was his first time, I figured I would be safe rather than sorry.

Anyways, once we had all our supplies, I made it priority to get Ziggy to adapt to the kennel, which he was actually quite stubborn about. I left it in my living room with the door open and put his food dish near the crate and his treats inside so he could get used to it. I also put a sweaty sports bra (TMI?) in it so it would have my scent. By the time we got to travelling, although he wouldn’t go in by himself he didn’t mind being put in and didn’t cry or bark or anything when we closed the door, so that was a relief.

So when it came to the actual day of travelling you want to arrive at the airport at least two hours ahead of time (regardless if it’s international or domestic) to do paperwork. As mentioned, we flew WestJet, so there is a Live Animals form that you need to fill out, which they put on the crate. After all the paperwork is done you take the crate to the oversized baggage area and they scan the crate (same as you would do when you walk through security). Then you put him in, zip-tie the door shut and away he goes. You also have to zip-tie the top and bottom of the crate together as well just in case for whatever reason it comes apart.

We had some time to spare as we got to the airport super early so I let him run around in the Winnipeg airport animal relief area and gave him one of the Head-to-Tail Calming Supplements, also from Pet Valu. These calming supplements include essential vitamins, minerals, and superfoods in a wheat-free chew that pets can have every day. These help to keep pets calm without affecting their energy levels and can be used daily or as needed. They say that they start to work in 20 to 30 minutes and can last up to four hours. These are great for travel, training, grooming, anxiety, thunderstorms and fireworks, and more. I had given Ziggy these treats a couple times before the trip and definitely noticed that he was more calm, so I knew that these would be a good supplement to give him prior to the flight.

Once you board the plane, the WestJet flight attendant will actually find your seat and give you a slip of paper saying that your pet is on board so you don’t have anything to worry about.

Head to Tail Calming Supplements from Pet Value

Once we landed in Toronto we had to clear customs and then board our one-hour flight to NYC. There was some confusion at this point in our travels since I had called WestJet previously and asked if I could see him between flights and if I would have to get him and re-check him in. They said that his crate would just show up on the screen with my baggage and that I could visit him in a room with the luggage. That was not the case for either. Once we got off the flight we had to go through security again and then wait in a room for our bags to clear. After waiting for at least 20 minutes my boyfriend asked what was taking so long and the WestJet agent said that I would have to go back out to the WestJet counter and ask about the dog. After some confusion, we found Ziggy and he was smiling in his crate and looked great. All they wanted to do was just swab the crate again for security and luckily I got to take him outside. From there, it was business as usual and he went back in the crate and we zip-tied it back up and away he went.

Going through U.S. customs was a breeze and they didn’t ask to see any of his paperwork. I did have to claim that I had meat products on me (I had brought some of his dog food) and this wasn’t an issue at all (honestly, it was one of the smoothest customs experience I have ever had.. knock on wood!).

As was the case with the Winnipeg to Toronto flight, once we boarded the plane to NYC the WestJet agent came up to my seat and handed me the piece of paper saying he was on board and once we touched down in NYC he came out of the oversized baggage area.

Truthfully, I probably had way more anxiety than Ziggy did (he did so much better than I thought!), but overall the whole experience was great. It definitely helped having the right items to travel with and doing lots of research ahead of time.

I love having Ziggy here with me in New York since my boyfriend is working a lot and he’s here to keep me company. We’ve done so many walks and met so many dogs (in 2012 it was reported that there are over 600,000 dogs that live in NYC, that’s almost as many people that live in Winnipeg!), and overall the city is so dog friendly that it’s nice that I can take him practically anywhere.

Dog in crate in New York City Dog at Rockefeller Center in New York

If you’re planning on travelling with your dog and you have to put them in the cargo hold, it’s very important to do your research ahead of time and be prepared. WestJet will not fly animals in cargo parts of the year, and some breeds are not allowed at all in cargo (those with squishy faces since it makes it hard for them to breathe).

Huge thank you to Pet Valu for teaming up with me on this post and for supplying Ziggy with everything he could possibly need for this first plane ride. I’ve been shopping at Pet Valu ever since I got Zig so I knew that it was a one-stop shop for all the supplies I could ever want when it comes to airline travel.

Have you ever flown with your dog?

Please note, this is a sponsored post with Pet Valu. All opinions are my own.

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