Tuesday , 16 January 2018

When Pugs Fly

Image manipulation courtesy of J. Harpur

The Pug is a real trooper when it comes to traveling. She is great in the car and on the plane (in-cabin, only, please) – less great on boats (wet = bad) – and not so great on public transit.

I do my best to take Lo with me to as many places as I can, and I think she has more frequent flyer miles than most people – if only the airlines had such a program. (Are you listening, airlines?)

Now, we all know that pugs should be transported as royalty, but HRH makes do with her little airplane bag and, at 14 pounds, she fits quite comfortably under the airplane seat.

Our inaugural pug flight was a short hop from Toronto to Montreal. I figured a 45-minute flight with a screaming pug wouldn’t be as bad as a 2+ hour jaunt. But the worry was all for naught. She was thoroughly bored by the whole experience.

We then ventured into places farther abroad, and Lola eventually met the West Coast: http://lolapug.com/2011/04/19/528/

She seemed no worse for wear after a 4+ hour flight – with a long walk after, of course. She discovered a whole bunch of new and exciting places to sniff and pee on.

The Pug and I regularly travel by air these days, and while not vet or transport professionals, we have racked up a lot of miles, so we thought it might be helpful to pass on a few, basic tips on flying with your pet, in-cabin:


  • Call your vet and get their approval to fly with your pet. Don’t assume all animals can or should fly. It is a noisy, strange and potentially stressful experience, and some pets just aren’t up to it, medically or emotionally.
  • Call the airline and make sure they accept pets! WestJet, for example, has approved up to 2 pets in-cabin, and up to 3 kennels in cargo for each flight, but not all airlines allow animals on board. Most airlines also have holiday and hot/cold weather blackout times. The rules are always changing, so make sure you check ahead of time.
  • Your pet’s in-flight travel bag must be big enough for them to stand up and turn around in (and have a bit of stretch room), and small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

There are many bags on the market now. Take your pet with you to the store, and see which one they prefer, or you’ll never get them in and out at the airport! Get them used to the bag BEFORE you get to the airport.

  • Expect to pay a fee. Lola’s ticket is a reasonable $50, each way on WestJet (even though she counts as one of my two carry-on baggage pieces.) Many other airlines charge more – so be sure to ask.
  • Direct flights only, please.
  • If traveling outside of the country, get all of your pet’s vaccination papers up to date. For instance – when traveling from Canada to the US, a minimum proof of rabies vaccination is required.  Again – the rules are always changing for this, so get the full story from your vet.
  • Book your flight time to coincide with your pet’s nap schedule. This is usually a few hours after mealtime and after your pet has exercised and emptied their bladder, etc.

The sad truth is that many pets die in transport every year, mostly due to heat or stress. As a result, there is a trend now afoot for airlines to ban certain breeds (like pugs and bulldogs) from pet cargo transport and some are doing away with pet transport all together. Again – be sure to check well ahead of time, as pet travel policies seem to change on a dime these days.

Terminal and In-flight

Truthfully, Lola is so calm and collected when flying, she doesn’t really have very many extra needs. She’s too busy giving me the hairy eyeball to think about anything other than revenge for sticking her in a bag for a few hours.

Your dog might not be so calm, though, so here are a few things to consider packing:

  • Treats to entice your furry beloved back into their bag after the security check.
  • A battery powered portable fan, just in case it gets warm – remember your pet must be inside their bag for the entire flight!
  • Wet naps and a facecloth – in case of accidents.
  • Small water bottle and small bowl in case thirst strikes. If you are traveling in-cabin, do not put these in the bag, as any spillage will just make your pet wet and uncomfortable.

I have typically found the in-flight crew (at WestJet, at least) to be so totally amenable to having on-board dogs, that I needn’t worry about bringing extra water or ice chips. They frequently offer them to me for Lola during the flight.


  • Your pet needs to stay inside their bag while checking in and waiting in the terminal. (although I pretty much always have Lola on my lap in the lounge – as long as she is super quiet – and I wear all-black (stealth pug) it works out well)
  • Passing through security, take your pet out of their bag, and remove all harnesses, collars, leashes, etc. The bag goes through x-ray, and you walk through the metal detector with your pet lovingly cradled in your arms.
  • NEVER let your pet go through the x-ray scanner, and opt for the pat-down, if you are pulled over – the body scanners are dangerous for both you and your small animal.
  • Keep your pet’s collar/harness ON! Too often, pets escape from their kennels, and are lost as they run away in a panic from the commotion of the airport. I remove Lola’s leash to avoid tangling, but her harness is on at all times.

And never forget. When you travel anywhere with your pet, you are being an ambassador for all other pet owners.

Lola pulled a Houdini on me once, and I caught her trying to sneak down the aircraft aisle for a little constitutional. The cabin crew thought it was really funny, but I was lucky that I was surrounded by dog lovers. One loud and unhappy passenger can raise a stink that might make airlines rethink their pet policies.

Please know your pet’s limits and keep them calm and happy so they won’t lash out in fear or stress, and please – always – stoop and scoop.

There are, of course, alternatives to commercial travel, including Pet Airways (US Only for the moment) and, of course, the old standby… chartered private jets.

Jets are actually a good option for those who are moving (pool your resources and fly together, folks!), or those who simply have the means to spoil themselves and their animals rotten.


Fido never had it so good!

I can’t let Lola see this, or she’ll never get into her travel couchette again.

Happy trails from The Pug!

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