The Making Of Our Family – Travelling 2000 km With A 12 Week GP Puppy

This article is a walk-through of our experience receiving a puppy from a registered breeder. It was our first flight with a new puppy (12-week-old German Pinscher) across Eastern Canada.

It was a cold and windy day outside when we set out to gather our German Pinscher puppy. We were eager to meet our new puppy in person after having found out only days before which one was selected for us by the breeder.

The Journey

A mapped-out flight route to pick up a puppy German Pinscher. Find out more at GermanPinscher.Dog.
Not a bad little journey for the weekend.

Our journey home with the twelve-week-old German Pinscher would consist of an hour’s drive from the breeder’s home to our hotel in Halifax. We would spend the night and fly back to Ontario in the morning via a WestJet airplane. Once at Pearson Airport in Toronto, we would gather our car and drive the remaining hour to get home.

We set out on a Friday morning for the first leg of our journey. Choosing to drive, park, and fly, we gathered the necessary soft-sided carrier and our weekender backpacks and headed out the door.

Arriving at the paid parking by the airport, we quickly found a spot in one of the massive paid parking lots. Naturally, I had pre-purchased my parking online, so it was a breeze to scan our ticket and park.

My wife and I grabbed the closest shuttle bus to the airport departures terminal, and masks abound as we entered the airport.

Security was relatively chaotic in the airport, with the pandemic raging and all. It was about an hour and a half in lineups until we finally made it through for our domestic flight. No connections and domestic, yet it still took an hour and a half to get through security. I suppose that was good, all things considered.

Our flight out to Halifax was aboard an Air Canada jet. I was quite pleased with the jet’s quality, the flight’s comfort, and the airline’s professional nature. It was a much better experience than other flights. A few years ago, I had a nightmare flight on Delta that ashtray signs on the jet and felt like it was making my ears bleed when cabin pressure was all screwed up. I recommend Air Canada, and no, I am not affiliated with them in any way, nor am I being paid to write this. It was just a decent flight compared with other airlines.

Jeremy's view out the jet window on his way to pick up Tucker, the German Pinscher dog.
Airplane window view.

I had booked all flights, rentals, hotels, and similar in advance. I just thought I would point that out. I would never attempt to get a dog without crossing all my ‘T’s and dotting all my ‘I’s.

After a short two-hour flight, we arrived in Halifax at a seemingly deserted airport compared to Pearson. The people were friendly, and there was a real community feel to the way people there interacted with each other. The standoffish Ontarians never gave me such warm societal feelings through interaction. Ergo, seeing such friendly and kind people in my own country was a warm and pleasant surprise. Kudos to the Halifaxians and Nova Scotians in general. Cheers to you!

We picked up our rental SUV at the airport, and they upgraded us to a rather large black SUV like that which you’d expect in an FBI movie – quite the beast but smooth as butter to drive. Chevy Tahoe. Great SUV to drive. Not as bad on gas as I would have expected. However, I still wish it were electric. Again, no affiliation here, and I don’t own nor have owned a Chevy in any sort of recent history (I had a “beater car” from the same maker about 20 years back). I merely thought it was a comfortable ride and enjoyed the driving experience.

Speaking of experience, it’s pretty interesting if you haven’t been to Nova Scotia before. Being from Ontario, I felt that it was more desolate than Ontario. I mean to say that the vegetation there was more reminiscent of what I would have expected much further north. Coniferous trees were abundant, and a swamp-like landscape was dotted with rivers, lakes, ponds, and the like. Rocks and coniferous trees abound. On the other hand, Southern Ontario has much more deciduous trees, and I feel like in Southern Ontario, it is more of a warm, more lush leafy greenery in nature than what I saw in Nova Scotia. Albeit, my visit there was extremely, excruciatingly brief.

Christine Valitutti is happy to be travelling to pick up Tucker, the German Pinscher.
Someone’s happy to be on their way to see our new puppy!

We started from the airport and found a grocery to purchase a few necessities to eat and drink. Due to the pandemic (and my sensitive digestive system), we chose to forego any sort of restaurant adventure and get wholesome and healthy eats we knew would be relatively safe.

We drove for about an hour across Nova Scotia to a small town of only 8,000 people, if memory serves, heading out on further adventures. It was quaint and relatively peaceful, although the weather was cold and rainy – about what I expected of the Atlantic coast, to be quite honest.

The breeder had arranged for a rental hall for us to meet our puppy and have a bit of a play/training session with the puppy before heading back to the breeder’s house for the necessary paperwork. It was a great experience. We were able to coordinate, so two of the other new puppy owners were also there simultaneously, and we met the rest of the puppies as well, of course.

After our hour of semi-training (more like dogs taking advantage of us for a bunch of treats), we left to meet the breeder back at their home. Moving through the signatures and paperwork, a tearful goodbye, and the warmth of meeting new good people, we gathered up Anchor (his breeder-given name) and left for our hour drive back to the hotel.

The Puppy

Christine Valitutti is practicing some training techniques with the German Pinscher puppies. Find out more about training a German Pinscher at GermanPinscher.Dog.
Masked up for the pandemic. Fun times.

Our new puppy, whom we renamed Tucker, was 12 weeks old when we gathered him up from his mom and littermates. Being a German Pinscher, he was already brilliant, although a bit of a momma’s boy, truth be told. And he was exceptionally well behaved for our drive.

With only a bit of whimpering, Tucker settled into his cozy bed in his carrier for the entire hour-long drive back to the hotel.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was dark out and had dropped to below freezing. The wind was brutal, and the rain had exchanged places with snow. Did I mention German Pinschers have shorter, tight-packed hair? It isn’t the sort of coat that keeps a dog warm. Well, not a puppy in below-freezing temperatures. And although we had a little jacket for him provided by the breeder, he was not enjoying being outside to do his business but did it anyway.

Tucker, the German Pinscher, is shown in the first hotel he destroyed with diarrhea. Find out more at GermanPinscher.Dog.
Up to no good? Off to a good start!

Speaking of business, I must mention that the puppy started having blasting diarrhea almost as soon as we entered our hotel room. Yes, inside the carpeted hotel room. And my goodness does treat override, stress-induced puppy diarrhea ever smell. And naturally, our room was on the ground floor, being a pet-friendly room. So that meant no windows could open. And our bathroom fan was broken. So we were stuck with the lingering smell.

After many hours of cleaning up the mess the poor puppy had made all over the carpet, side of bed, wall, molding, wardrobe, tiles, and door, we babysat the puppy in the bathroom. Because there was no way we could let it back to the carpeted side of the room. And, of course, the puppy was freaked out being away from its mother and littermates for the first time. I think neither of us got more than forty-five minutes of sleep that night.

Early in the morning, we checked out and returned the rental. The puppy was much better behaved than the night before, probably exhausted from a night of stress and diarrhea. He had been somewhat challenging during the night. After all, he was a brilliant puppy testing the waters with new humans he had only known for that day and only a part of the day, to be specific.

We walked Tucker before coaxing him into his carrier for the airport adventure. He was glad to curl up in his carrier, being so tired and that it was freezing out. Let me tell you; I would have liked to curl up in a cozy bed myself!

Let’s talk for a moment about the flight and carrier we chose.

The Airline Safe Dog Carrier

The large, soft carrier made by Sherpa that Jeremy Shantz used to pick up Tucker, the German Pinscher.
Here’s Tucker in the Sherpa Large per carrier. Another couple of weeks, and he wouldn’t have fit anymore, but for a pup, it was perfect.

I must admit that it was the first time I had flown with a dog. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The airline documentation on the website spoke of specific carrier size requirements. Remember that I took the puppy as a carry-on instead of checking a carrier with the rest of the baggage. I wasn’t going to let my new puppy out of my sight!

The airline specifications for the soft-sided carrier were rather precise and oddly sized. Although the dimensions are suited to the underside of an airline seat, the small odd size makes sense from that perspective.

I was concerned that the carrier would be subject to measuring tapes and sizing guides and that I would be scrutinized for its size. After all, I had purchased the size of a carrier that met airline size requirements and returned it to buy the large one. Why? Because the small carrier that fits the WestJet requirements would only work comfortably for a kitten or dog breeds like Chihuahua or even a Yorkshire Terrier puppy or similar sized breed. It would have been way too small for our German Pinscher puppy, Tucker.

Jeremy purchased the large Sherpa soft pet carrier to pick up Tucker, the German Pinscher. Find out more at GermanPinscher.Dog.

The brand we decided on was the Sherpa brand. Although manufactured in China (I typically prefer supporting industry from my own country, it’s nothing personal), the carrier is decent enough and worked well for our adventures. You can see the carrier I bought here from Amazon.

Need a flight carrier?

I used the Sherpa to bring Tucker home from Nova Scotia on a 2-hour plane flight. It worked great and has my recommendation.

The first picture shows the first Sherpa I bought – the smaller size. This carrier looked good on paper, and although adequate for a kitten, as mentioned, it wouldn’t fit the bill for a larger puppy.

The second picture shows the large-sized Sherpa carrier. Although this carrier was more significant than the airline’s carrier size maximum for carry-on carriers, it worked well. See, here’s the thing about the sizing the airline gives you: First, no one ever checked the size. The airport people didn’t seem to care in the slightest. 

The second fact that I encountered was that as long as the carrier is soft, it can usually fit under the seat with a bit of help. Now, you must remember that you don’t want your pet to be uncomfortable, so if squishing the carrier a bit will enclose the pet too much, it won’t work out for you or your pet. In my case, the puppy was small enough that a bit of squishing of the carrier made little to no difference.

I mentioned that the airline did not check the size of the carrier. However, that is not to say they didn’t recognize the carrier and understand at a glance that it was acceptable. Perhaps the WestJet agent had so much experience dealing with pet carriers that they could recognize the well-known and used carrier type and size with a mere glance. That said, don’t assume that the agent won’t pull out a measuring tape if you have an unusual carrier.

The Airline, Airport, And Airplane Experience

Jeremy Shantz's plane window photography.
Note to self: A slightly smudged window makes for blurry photos.

The journey home was a lot of cleaning and a lack of sleep. We were going on about two hours of sleep each when heading back to Ontario. It was arduous, to say the least. That’s why we were so happy to have a great carrier and a sleepy puppy.

We loaded up, and after returning our rental at the airport car rental desk, we proceeded to check in for our flight. We took our puppy out for another outdoor bathroom break and then settled into some seats for our thirty-minute wait until boarding. Our puppy slept the whole time.

Our vehicle to get home was a Dash 8 airplane. I initially thought we’d be getting a flight on a jet, similar to the one Air Canada took us out to the East Coast in the first place. However, we were to fly in smaller aircraft of different propulsion technology.

The plane was small and uninteresting because there were no movie screens or other such entertainment devices to keep us entertained during the flight. However, I was so tired I didn’t care.

Our seats were pretty much right beside the airplane engine and prop, so it was a little noisy. 

Here is a view between Jeremy Shantz's legs. Shh, don't think that!
Here’s little Tucker… Well, here’s the travel bag he’s inside of, on the plane.

Tucker didn’t seem to care too much about the noise of the flight. He had almost as little sleep as we did the night before, with all diarrhea he had and a new family and new adventures.

The flight lasted just over two hours, and we were back in Toronto. All of us were thoroughly exhausted and happy to get off the jet. Although Tucker was still pretty sleepy, he couldn’t help but look around with all the excitement and new smells. When I say look around, I mean from the safety of his carrier.

He took the puppy outside before jumping on a shuttle to return to the car. He had a very long pee and more diarrhea, but we returned to the car unscathed and then drove the 45 minutes to get home. Tucker whined more on the car ride than on the airplane flight but again was really well behaved, all things considered.

Overall Experience Flying With A Puppy

Tucker, the wonder German Pinscher. Find out about Tucker and German Pinschers at GermanPinscher.Dog.
Here’s the little rascal, Tucker’s taking over the sofa already!

My overall experience with flying with my puppy was positive. I ensured that I had all the arrangements addressed ahead of time, but really it wasn’t any more difficult than flying without a pet, except that I had to check in person rather than do it online or at the check-in vending-like ATM at the airport. So, if there were long check-in lines, I could see how it could be more tedious. Similarly, I was on a domestic flight too, so I avoided the issues of traveling with a pet across a national border.

However, I imagine that flying (internationally) would be similar as long as you have the proper veterinary paperwork. However, I would anticipate a much more intricate off-boarding process if traveling to another country with a pet.

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