Hunting > Upland & Waterfowl

Headache-Free Dog Travel Tips

Sure, driving or flying to the bird fields may not be as convenient as walking out your back door, but nowadays the West’s opportunities are worth it.


These days Western states are king when it comes to bird hunting. They’re home to five species of grouse, three kinds of quail and two different partridges, not to mention some of the country’s best waterfowl hunting. It’s also no secret that the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas offer the country’s best pheasant hunting, and that Montana and Idaho have a delightful mix of species and public land. With opportunities like these, is it any wonder why so many hunters are loading up their dogs and heading west? Road trips can be a lot of fun, but certain considerations must be made to ensure the comfort and safety of canine passengers.

Get a Good Crate
A travel crate makes sense for several reasons: the dog is protected from flying around during emergency braking or even crashes; your seats are shielded from dog vomit, hair, chewing and muddy paws; the crate doubles as a safe, clean place for the dog to stay inside hotels and friends’ homes; and an anchored, well-insulated crate is a warm, safe option for transporting a dog in an open truck bed.

Which crate is best? That’s ultimately up to you, but I like molded plastic ones with gentle curves and corners. I have found it’s too easy for pups to get paws or claws stuck in metal bar-style crates. If you own a chewer, however, you may need an all-aluminum crate with minimal holes, corners and edges.

Ease Pups Into Travel
Prepare pups for road trips by indulging them in short trips at first. It gets them used to the activity and helps pups with weak stomachs grow out of the car-sick stage. A few trips in the car to a play date will teach the pup that the command “get in the truck” leads to fun.

On long trips you may need to let young dogs out to stretch every two or three hours. Old dogs seem to kick back and sleep for six or eight hours. Food and water are rarely an issue. Stick to your regular feeding times, but don’t be surprised if your dog won’t indulge. Over the years many of my dogs refused to eat or even drink during short highway stops. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine.

Overnight Stays
Motels may welcome dogs, charge a small fee or outright ban them. I minimize the risk of accidental pet damage by crating my dog in the room or, more often, in the truck. My dogs feel safe in their crates, so why disrupt them with strange motel smells and sounds? Just provide adequate ventilation in the rig and make sure it’s not too hot. Cold is rarely an issue.

Flying with Dogs
If you must fly to a hunt, my condolences. I’ve flown hundreds of times to hunt most states and six continents, and I could retire happily without ever flying again. Flying with a dog can be especially nightmarish.

One problem is that each airline can capriciously refuse to board your dog for a variety of reasons. They may claim your crate isn’t adequate, or your dog isn’t healthy, calm or “nice” enough. Growling or barking could get him sent home. That’s rather inconvenient when you’re standing there holding a non-refundable ticket.

Your dog must be flown in an airline-approved crate with adequate food and water. A good trick is to fill the water bowl and freeze it overnight. That way the baggage handlers can’t spill your dog’s water, and your dog can drink it as it melts. You will also need to show the check-in agent a veterinarian’s health certificate no older than 30 days.

The biggest roadblock is temperature. The USDA has clear guidelines on allowable temperatures for animal-holding areas (jet cargo holds), which airlines must obey. Airlines are often more stringent than required. Typically they won’t accept dogs as cargo if the temperature at any point in the journey is predicted to top 85 degrees.

You’ll need to research your chosen airline’s website for all these details. In addition you should call a representative to confirm the Web information is current and valid. Some airline check-in agents confuse these regulations, so carrying a printed copy is wise. The same goes for advising your airline well ahead of time that you intend to fly your dog as cargo on the same flight.

Here’s a great alternative: If you have a friend at your destination, you can fly your dog as pure cargo on another plane a day or several days before your flight. This relieves worries over temperatures, delays, etc. If the flight is delayed/cancelled or the temperature suddenly climbs, no problem, just put your dog on a later flight. These cargo flights usually require a vet’s health certificate no more than 10 days old. Regardless how you fly the pooch, reconfirm all details with your airline 48 to 24 hours before the flight to correct any problems.

Sure, driving or flying to the bird fields may not be as convenient as walking out your back door, but nowadays the West’s opportunities are worth it. As long as you use a little common sense, get an appropriate crate and introduce your pup to travel slowly, both dog and hunter will arrive happy and ready to hunt.

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