I used to do a great deal of air shipping as an active dog breeder and a professional handler. Preparing your dog for the flight is the same today.
Tips On Cargo Shipping A Dog
Not all the people working at the air freight offices (where you go to ship a dog by air) are knowledgeable. You have to work around the possible (or probable!) "Dummy Effect". For example, if the air freight agent on the day you are shipping knows more about written rules than the reality of dog anatomy, he might say that there needs to be space above a standing dog's ears because someone wrote the regulation.
The live animal regulation (since airlines and their partner Petmate at United now sell airline-approved crates) states your dog must be "able to stand and sit without its head and ear tips touching the top".
In the case of an alert prick-eared dog like a Doberman or GSD, that broad regulation might mean a shipping crate built for a Borzoi or baby giraffe. Here’s shipping tip #1. Teach your dog to "Platz!" ("Down/stay!) before loading him into the crate. Bring the crate to the weight scales or wherever directed, and THEN get the dog out of the car and quickly whisked into the crate and given the “down” command.
Your dog will feel more assured by a familiar command and he won't look as tall if comfortably curled up. If possible, stand casually in front of the crate door to minimize curious "inspection" and distract the official with small-talk. After the paperwork is done, get out and drive away immediately to avoid any confrontation on size when they load him onto the baggage cart to go out and load the flight. Do however make sure they have your cell phone and home phone number.
Another tip: Check frequently with the agents at the desk if you are flying with the dog. When boarding, ask the pilot (not just the steward) to make SURE the dog has been loaded before take-off.
I frequently judged in exotic countries and I once had a Boxer "marooned" in Indonesia (NOT a dog-friendly country!) I was not told he had not been loaded onto my flight until I got to India. He was not shipped for another 12 hours.
When he arrived, he had to be put on intravenous fluids because of the dehydration, as none of the freight handlers in that Muslim country would deign to even water, much less exercise the dog. Fortunately, there was a happy ending.
After a day recovering at the veterinarian, he was given to me in time for the big FCI-Asia show in Chennai, and we got first in Group.
If you are shipping the dog but not flying with him, check in with the folks at the Air Freight Cargo terminal. You will have become friendly with someone in charge and gotten their direct phone number. It may cost you a $10 or $20 “tip” but the dog’s kind treatment and your piece of mind is worth it.
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