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Air travel revisited


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Hi All,

I've read back through all topics about flying, but still have a couple questions I hope some of you who are experienced in flying with a dog can answer. I am planning a cross-country move, and we will be doing the move by plane in about 6 weeks. I am very nervous about taking Currey in a carry on, because he's a pretty big boy and he tends to let out very loud "yips" when he is crated around people and wants to play. I've already begun researching airlines that I can take a non-stop trip on - none fly between my current and future homes, so I plan to rent a car or have someone pick us up from a major airport that is about 3 hours from our destination.

This question is for anyone who has a "bigger" cairn. We just purchased a Large Sherpa bag. Many of you have mentioned flying with a medium Sherpa bag, but does anyone have experience flying with a large one? The medium was rated up to 16 lbs, 10" tall and 16" long, while the large is 22 lbs x 11" tall x 18" long. Currey is a pretty tall little boy at about 17 lbs and 12" tall and 16.5" long. Because of his weight and height, we got the Large bag. He can easily turn around in it. Of course, on the bag it says airline approved, but at 20" L x 11.5" H x 11.75" W (vs 18" L x 10.5" H x 11" W for the medium) it is clearly bigger. So the question is, do we risk it, or return or large for a medium and have him quite cramped? If you have experience with the large bag, please do let me know which airline allowed it.

I'm going to see my vet this week for annual vaccinations, so I'll ask her about sedation, but I was wondering if anyone could share your experiences? I understand why it is a very bad idea if the dog is flying as cargo, but am still unsure about the issue of flying in the cabin with a sedated dog. I've read that the reduced air pressure combined with the sedative can be a dangerous combination, but would be interested in hearing your feedback about sendating or not, and if you did sedate, what sedative did you use?

Thanks so much! Jodi


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We took Haggis to Montgomery one year in a large Sherpa. I believe the airline was American. The dimensions of the large bag can exceed the 'posted' limits, but the thing with Sherpas is they are flexible and can squish into place. If you run into someone who is bound and determined to be a butthead, there is almost nothing you can do. However, in over a decade I have only ever met one person who had that sort of experience, and even she was eventually able to browbeat the butthead's manager down on the subject of what being able to "stand and turn around in the carrier" means.

Most times we've traveled with a dog in a Sherpa they have been very quiet, if not totally silent. They mostly just slept. On the return trip from Montgomery it was very hot and we were delayed for a long time taking off - it was one of those days where they chose NOT to keep the A/C running either. Worse, we were seated way in the back, right next to the engines and it was unbelievably noisy. So we were hot and of course Haggis got hot in his bag (which being a big boy, he rather filled) and so he became quite restive and whiny. He was fine as long as I fed him small bits of string cheese every few minutes, though. As the flight wore on, and the cheese started to run out, I was practically feeding him molecules of cheese. Finally we ran out and begged ice from the flight attendant, which helped a bit, but was not as effective as the cheese. Moral of the story: Don't run out of cheese.

I'm not sure if a sedative would have helped. I definitely see the advantage if in cargo. I guess I would still not sedate on the premise that if push comes to shove and I was for some reason unable to bring my dog aboard as carry-on, then I would not want the dog sedated for Plan B (cargo).

bis6.jpg<-- I think that's a medium, but he doesn't care.

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Would a little Benadryl count as sedation? It would certainly calm them down and make them sleepy. We've never flown with Packy, but anytime he's in his soft crate, he is calm & quiet and usually just sleeps. I think Brad's got the right idea -- stock up on string cheese!

Jandy and my Cairns, Kirby & Phinney 
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I don't have any suggestions as I have all the same questions as you! Let me know how it works out for you, I'd love to take ours to Florida but I always wonder about the airline situation and would definetely not put them in as cargo. A while back someone wrote about babies that don't pay for flying and can cry the whole way, the dogs are paying customers so maybe they're entitled to a little noise....???

I have to say that is a very cute picture!

Good luck!


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I have spent so much time investigating all of this too. The Sherpa web page has a ton of info. So much seems to be up to the Airline. I would not sedate or even give a benedryl. I think if you bring some snacks and have a tired dog you may be ok. Brad, if you read this, I am curious about your comments on flying them as cargo as plan B. Everything I have read about sending the dogs cargo is full of risks. You are relying on the attendants to make sure the dog is loaded properly, that the flight is not grounded. So much can and has gone wrong with cargo dogs. My husband and I have planned on moving to Ireland for so long and it came to a crashing halt when we realized the only way Ireland will allow transport is cargo. No cabin flights allowed. That flight is too long for me to even contemplate. I would not be afraid to take mine in the cabin on any trip. If you have Delta skymiles, and enuff miles, you can put them in business class (they allow one in business class) and there is so much room and enough space that I would not worry about a few whines or yelps. American Airlines seems to be pet friendly too.

Good luck

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I can add a little bit of info on the flying the animal outside of the cabin. Animals are loaded with the luggage which is pressurized, the Cargo hold on the other hand is not. I worked for about 8 years in domestic/international air freight & at a Custom Broker- I shipped Rats and Frogs out of the US, all traveled with the luggage and arrived safe and sound at the destination. So that is the wealth of my knowledge.

Tracy, Brattwrust & Mettwurst a.k.a The Gremlins
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As brad said, most dogs just sleep. I've taken an 11 1/2 inch cairn in a medium sherpa without problem. He slept the entire time.

We crate most of our dogs at night. and always crate them in the car for their safety, so they are quite comfortable in crates, and have

figured out that there isn't much to do in the crate but sleep, so they sleep. Because they're always asleep in their crates, they actually

prefer the smaller sized crates for a more 'snug' sleeping space. It is hard to keep the adults out of puppy crates when we send them

to bed because they like the smaller size! (Our adults actually shove past the puppies for the right to sleep in a 100 size crate instead

of the 200 size crates!) Most of ours are asleep before we hit the end of the driveway when we put them in the car.

When we're going to take one on a plane, we switch their nighttime crate with the sherpa about 2 weeks before the trip so they get used

to it, and use it for their car trips too (a little harder to strap down, but good solid handles to strap in place). By the time they get on the

plane, its just another place to sleep.

No airline person has every asked to have the sherpa opened up to see the space the dog has inside - only when shipping a dog by freight

did they ask to look in the crate. (When they accept the dog into their custody as freight or checked baggage, they are required by law to

verify that the dog has enough room - when it is carry-on, you have that obligation)

The hard part is getting through the security line.

If you haven't done it before, the new security system is a little strange with dogs. Most airports don't allow the dogs outside of their sherpa

at any time, but they can't go through the x-ray machine! So, while you're busy taking off watches, shoes, etc at the x ray machine, you also

have to take your dog out of the sherpa (the sherpa must go through the x-ray machine), remove any collar on the dog (put that with your

shoes!) and carry it through the metal detector in your arms - so many people to see, so exciting, the tail wags a mile a minute, and if it

brushes close to the frame of the detector, it'll set it off. 2 tries through the walk-through detector, and its wand time.... Just try holding

your arms out to your sides to be swept with the handheld metal detector while also restraining a collarless dog in an exciting environment!

Try really, really hard to keep the dog to the centerline of the detector as you walk through - don't carry it off to the side! I carry mine straight

out in front of me where the tail can't reach either side of the detector.

If you think you dog will get thirsty on the trip (and most will), take a tiny bowl, and ask the flight attendant for some ice - put it in the bowl for the dog.

Doesn't spill as easily, easier to clean up if it does, etc.

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Thanks for all the advice. I will definitely be switching out the nighttime crate with the sherpa before the trip - that's a great idea. The security line sounds like it can be quite an adventure!! I just visited the vet today and got her feedback too. Regarding sedatives, she gave us some diazepam (valium) and her suggestion was to give it to him once or twice before the move and see how he reacts to it, and then to take it on the plane "just in case" but do not give it to him unless it is really needed. She also recommended a D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Phermone) collar. I've never heard of this, so was wondering if any of you had experience with it.

We are going to stick with the large Sherpa, as it is really not that much bigger than the medium, but he seems to have so much more room in it. He can turn around in it, but didn't seem able to without great difficulty in the Medium. Currey is crate trained and chooses to sleep in his crate even when it is not closed, but does not like to be in it when new people are around because he wants to greet everyone, which will likely be teh case on an airplane and in the airport. He has not yet accepted the Sherpa as "his" and will not go into it on his own. He also spends his first 5 - 10 minutes in it each time attempting to dig his way through the mesh before he gives up and goes to sleep. I'm going to continue to use it daily to get him accustomed to it.

It looks like America West is my best bet for getting cross-country non-stop. Anyone use them with a dog before? I think the are a subsidiary of US Air now.


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One last tip - Ask the agent at the gate counter if you can pre-board (with infants, etc) since you need a little more time and have a little more trouble stowing your PAID carry-on dog (as well as just carrying it down the aisle without bashing into seats or other passengers). If asked nicely, most will allow it. (Not all, I've been refused occasionally) This lets you get the dog in, under the seat, and your regular carry-on in the overhead before the overhead

fills up! It also means, if the dog settles down quickly, that nobody else on the plane will even know you have a dog! We've done this and not even the flight attendants realized there was a dog under the seat. Similarly wait until the plane is empty before pulling the sherpa out. It is much easier to walk down the aisle with a sherpa where then is nobody else around - you have to hold it straight out in front of you (try walking that way sometime - really hard to balance correctly if you also have a real carry-on), or high enough to clear the seats on the side(also hard - handles are about even with the top of your head).

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tomg - Thanks so much - that is such helpful advice. I will certainly give it a try. I never even thought about carrying the dog through the narrow aisles! I just hope my husband can arrange to fly back to transport the dog with me...it would be a real challenge completely on my own. Just in case, I better get to the gym and start building up those arm and back muscles!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Booked a flight on Delta. 5 hours, 19 minutes, non-stop red-eye coast to coast, then a 3 hour drive to final destination and we are residents of the state of New York!

The representative told me that the large Sherpa is beyond their allowed size. GRRR! They said only the medium (18 inches long max) is allowed. The large is 20 inches long. She said if the bag exceeds regulations, the dog can be refused from the flight, even though its squishy. I'm not a big risk taker....but we already have USED the large bag, and so its unreturnable, but 60 bucks more spent might be worth it to actually be allowed on the flight.

Advice? Wisdom? Please do share!

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