10 Tips for Flying with Your Dog – In addition to these tips, make sure you are familiar with airline pet policies, U.S. pet travel restrictions, and any other international pet travel restrictions at your destination.
Before you book
1. Talk to your veterinarian
Is air travel a good idea for your dog? Flying may not be the first choice for dogs with serious health problems (such as breathing problems), and it can disrupt strict medication regimens (such as insulin for diabetic dogs) in unexpected ways.
We encourage you to discuss your dog’s health with your veterinarian and discuss any concerns they may have about taking your dog on a plane. When your veterinarian has given you all the clarity, it’s time to decide…
2. Is the dog in the passenger cabin or the cargo hold?
Before booking your flight, choose where your dog will stay during the flight. Smaller dogs (usually under 20 pounds) may be suitable for traveling with you in the cabin, but what about their temperaments?
Airlines may require dogs to behave well when traveling in the cabin (not easily disturbing passengers due to noise or smell) and reserve the right not to bring disruptive pets on board. It’s important to be honest about how your dog reacts to stranger travel and plan accordingly.
Also, keep in mind that stretchers you bring into the cabin may count as carry-on luggage.
3. Book your flight early
Most airlines only allow one or two dogs per flight, so it’s important to book your dog’s ticket in advance – but don’t hit confirm just yet! We recommend calling the airline directly to make sure your dog has a “seat”. Checking with the agent can help avoid possible uptime issues on their site. Once the agent has all the information for you, reserve both seats while you are still calling.
4. Select a direct flight
Book direct flights whenever possible. Fewer stops and breaks means less stress for your dog. Choose weekday flights if you can – airports tend to be less busy on weekdays. Flight time also matters when your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. For cargo hold travel, it is best to fly in the morning or evening in summer and midday in winter to avoid extreme hot or cold temperatures.
Pack and plan for your pet
5. Get a dog travel carrier
Variations with hard and soft edges on the shoulder straps. Soft-sided luggage racks are better than carry-on luggage racks and generally fit better under the seat (check the airline’s size restrictions to make sure), but they are only allowed in the cabin. Cargo hold travel requires a hard plastic pet cage with vents to help your dog travel safely.
Whichever carrier you choose, it must be large enough for your dog to stand, turn and lie down comfortably – otherwise the airline may refuse to pick you up.
6. Test drive
If animals can acclimate to their carriers ahead of time, they will have less stress to travel. In the weeks leading up to your trip, crate as much as possible for your dog to travel around town. This helps them understand that a stretcher is a safe environment to drive around without worry.
7. Go to the vet
Make an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy enough to travel, confirm all vaccines are up to date, and receive a dated health certificate within 10 days of your departure. Talk to your veterinarian about medication and ask if it would be a good idea to have some of the medication attached to the carrier if your dog is traveling in the hold. Stock up on any medications you need for travel and bring copies of any prescribing information you may need in an emergency. It never hurts to be prepared!
Health certification requirements vary by airline and region, so be sure to check the rules for your departure city, airline, and destination. Don’t forget: if you’re traveling back and forth, you’ll need the same details for your journey home!
8. Secure Puppy ID
Write your dog’s name and your home address and phone number on the carrier, as well as the address and phone number of someone who can be contacted at your destination. Make sure your dog’s ID tag is also up to date!
It’s a good idea to keep a recent photo of your dog with you – if something goes wrong during the trip, the photo will make it easier for airline staff or local authorities to find your pet efficiently and effectively. You may also want to consider permanent forms of identification, such as microchips or tattoos. If your dog gets lost at any point, this increases the chances of finding your dog again, not just when you’re traveling!
Ready to take off!
9. Food. drink. game. stern.
Because satiety (and its… sequelae…) can make your dog uncomfortable during travel, we recommend feeding them about four hours before your flight, if possible. Continue to give them water until takeoff (but make sure to empty the water bowl before check-in to avoid spilling water at security or during the flight).
10. Arrive early and check in
Arrive at the airport early, but not too early; most airlines recommend arriving two hours before departure when traveling with pets. Have a leash and a comfortable harness ready – arriving early is your last chance to exercise your dog before moving in. Passengers with pets must check in at the counter and allow time to accommodate long security lines.
Flying with a pet requires more planning than boarding without a pet, but prioritizing their needs and the airline’s requirements can make traveling with your dog in the cabin or cargo hold easier and more comfortable.
This policy is for pets, not service animals. Airlines generally allow trained service dogs in the cabin without a carrier. Remember, airlines are not required to accommodate emotional support animals (ESAs) that must travel as pets.