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International travel with an aggressive dog: Is it possible?

Dogs come in all sizes and temperaments; some are friendly and love human company, but some others may not be as friendly to strangers. The noise and stress of the travel can be intimidating for some dogs and bring out aggressive behaviour.

Aggression is a serious behavioural issue which could hamper a dog’s international travel. Airlines have the right to refuse to fly a dog that is aggressive and can cause bodily harm to itself and airline staff. Though the process of international travel with an aggressive dog is complex, it is not impossible.

There are several things you can do to make your dog comfortable during international travel. Most dogs are violent or aggressive only when faced with situations that bring them out of their comfort zone. If you are contemplating travel with an aggressive dog or a dog that is uncomfortable with unfamiliar people, here’s what you should do:

What are aggressive behaviours in dogs?

An aggressive dog is one that is prone to growling, biting and snapping at people and other dogs. Dogs can display aggressive behaviour for several reasons – fear, territorial, protective, defensive aggression and more.

An aggressive dog is a danger to itself and airline staff who come in contact with the dog during travel. Therefore, several airlines such as Qantas and Emirates do not accept dogs that demonstrate violent behaviour on board.

Some large breed dogs have the reputation of displaying violent behaviour and are difficult to manage. Such breeds need to undergo training and must travel in a specially reinforced and labelled crate.

Small dog breeds such as Malteses, Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus can sometimes demonstrate fear-based aggression. Such dogs are not comfortable around strangers and are known to attack and bite out of fear. If your dog displays aggression based on fear, canine training with an expert can help your dog get accustomed to strangers and strange situations.

Get help from a canine expert

Many large dog breeds are aggressive due to improper training and handling, whereas small dog breeds usually display fear-based aggression. If you are planning to travel with a dog that does not respond well to unfamiliar situations and people, make sure you begin your plans well in advance with a visit to a canine expert.

Enlist a dog behavioural expert to help your dog overcome their issues with fear and aggression before their travel. A good dog trainer will be able to pinpoint your dog’s behavioural triggers and work with you to address them. While there is no permanent cure for aggression in dogs, it is possible to manage the aggression by limiting your dog’s exposure to triggers. This process may be time-consuming, but it is the best recourse, and it will help your dog in the long run.

The right crate and crate training

Big and strong dog breeds such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are considered dangerous breeds and will require specially reinforced crates when they are flying. There have been incidents of dogs escaping out of their travel crates by chewing the plastic sides with their powerful jaws resulting in danger to the dogs and damage to the aircraft.

In light of such incidents, IATA recommends big breeds to be transported in reinforced crates called CR 82 crates. These crates are built to stringent safety standards and virtually indestructible. When your dog is travelling, make sure you or the pet travel agency assisting you with the pet transport clearly labels the crate explaining that he or she is wary of unfamiliar people and can get aggressive. Only trained professionals who are capable of handling ferocious dogs will be assigned to help your dog during the travel.

Buy the travel crate weeks ahead of your date of travel and acclimatise your pet to the crate. Crate training is an essential step in international pet transport; the more comfortable your pet is in the crate, the easier the travel will be for your pet. The crate must be IATA compliant and large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lay down comfortably. Begin crate training as early as possible so that your dog associates the crate as a safe and positive space.

Pet travel for aggressive dogs

International travel with a ferocious or aggressive dog is possible only if there is honesty and transparency from all the parties involved. Pet parents must understand that they are responsible for their dog’s behaviour, and it is in the best interests of the dog to disclose any behavioural quirks to the pet transport agency before the travel.

The pet travel agency will then work with the owner, the airline officials and the quarantine officials to make sure the relocation is successful. When everyone is in the loop, special care will be taken to ensure nobody comes to harm, and your pet makes the journey without stress. Here’s what a pet parent can do to ensure a smooth relocation:

  • At the origin: The pet parent must be present through the entire process, right from the vet visits until the pet boards the flight. Usually, aggressive dogs respond to their owners and are comforted by their presence. Dogs that display fear-based aggression are known to run away due to fear. Make sure you stay with your pet during all the vet inspections to mitigate harm to your pet and the handlers. On the day of the journey, you will have to be present at the airport until the flight takes off.
  • Upon arrival: In some countries such as the UK and USA, owners are allowed inside the airport to be present during the inspection by the quarantine officers. Organise your travel so that you will be present at the airport when your dog is being deplaned.
  • Honesty and transparency: It is not impossible to relocate an aggressive dog safely if all guidelines are followed. Pet parents will have to be transparent about their pet’s behavioural traits and work with the pet travel agency to relocate their pet successfully. Most airlines have the right to refuse to board dogs that display violent and ferocious behaviour. That is why it is necessary to disclose their behavioural quirks in advance, so special care is taken by everyone concerned.

If you are planning on relocating your aggressive dog to an international destination, reach out to Petraveller for advice on how to manage your dog and the best relocation plan.