Flying With Your Dog

Flying in general can be stressful. There are many things to consider when planning a trip. “There’s a real need to be ready for any number of situations when flying.  Add flying with your dog, and you’ve made everything a lot more complicated.” says Kristina Owen of Below are 7 pro tips for flying with your canine companion.

Before diving into these pro tips, it’s important to know if flying with your dog is necessary. Many vets don’t recommend that you fly with your dog unless it’s an extended trip. This is due to cost, logistics and stress on your dog.  Unfortunately, dog injuries and deaths have occurred in aircraft cargo holds. Despite what airlines may say, their focus is on moving passengers and cargo as efficiently as possible.  The best advice we can offer is if your dog can travel with you in cabin, do it. Otherwise, if your dog is larger, seriously consider your alternatives. So let’s dive into the pro tips!

Pro Tip #1 Start Planning Early

Planning early is critical. Airlines limit the total number of pets per flight and you can’t buy an extra seat for your dog. This does not apply to service dogs. Emotional support animals no longer enjoy this exclusion. It’s also a good idea for in cabin travel to acclimate your dog to a pet carrier, which is required to be in your seat foot space. Bring a backpack with dog necessities – blanket (extra padding in the pet carrier), dog treats, collapsible water bowl (get water at airport), any medication, plastic bags, dog food for longer flights and dog toys. It’s important to keep your dog hydrated. Take potty breaks before boarding and after deplaning. Try to get a nonstop flight. If you’re buying a new puppy and you’re a busy professional, a dog travel nanny is something to consider. 

Pro Tip #2 Know Your Dog

If your dog has separation anxiety or other dog behavior issues, you may want to reconsider flying until this is under control. But, if you’re dog is generally well-behaved, consider providing them some basic dog training before your flight. There are few things more uncomfortable than dealing with a poorly behaved furry friend in cabin. 

Pro Tip #3 Research the Airline’s Dog Travel Policies

Generally, airlines will allow pets under 20 lbs to be in cabin in a pet carrier in your seat foot space. They also require a dog to be at least 8 – 10 weeks old and they must be up to date on their vaccinations. A vet health certificate is also required. In cabin pet travel fees range from $95 – $125, with pet cargo fees being $200 – $300+. Some airlines won’t put pets in the cargo hold at all. Certain brachycephalic breeds (snub-nosed dogs) are only allowed to travel in cabin on most airlines. Some airlines prohibit them from flying. Other breeds, such as pit bulls and some other bully breeds are banned from flying. Keep in mind, the same airline may have different requirements for international travel.  Also, these change all the time, so we’ve provided links to many of the major airline pet travel policies below.

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Air
  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • United Airlines

Pro Tip #4 Know the Health Requirements

Regardless of what airline requirements may be, it’s a good idea to check with your vet to make sure your dog is healthy enough to fly.  A health certificate from a USDA-accredited vet is required.  The base certificate is $38, which includes a rabies vaccination. If more blood work is needed, that can run $121 – $173.  If you’re traveling with multiple dogs, sometimes you can save a little money by including them on one certificate. The health certificate is valid for 30 days and needs to be obtained about 7 – 10 days before travel. Some vaccinations need to be obtained well ahead of time to fly, so check with your vet.  For international travel, this may possibly involve a quarantine. Do your research as requirements vary by country.  

Pro Tip #5 Confirm Flight Directly & Re-Confirm

When you book your flight, make the reservation directly with the airline. Be sure to confirm there is space for your dog, due to previously mentioned per flight limits on traveling pets. About 24 – 48 hours before your flight it’s a good idea to re-confirm your flight plans with the airline (including you’ll be traveling with your dog).

Pro Tip #6 Travel Logistic

On the day of the flight, prepare your dog by feeding her about 4 hours ahead of flight departure. Also keep her hydrated and offer a few potty breaks ahead of the flight. When traveling through the airport keep her in the pet carrier or on a collar/harness & leash.  If the airport isn’t particularly busy, security may allow you to get her through the scanner with just a pat down.  However, often TSA will require you to remove the collar, harness and leash before passing through the scanner. As mentioned, your dog will need to be kept in your seat foot space inside the pet carrier for the flight. When they’re not sleeping, be sure to keep her occupied with attention periodically (zip open the carrier to pet them) and access to a toy, if need be. 

Pro Tip #7 Arrival Logistics

Flying can be stressful for dogs.  Some more than others. Keep this in mind and seek to comfort your dog upon landing (if in cabin) or after you pick them up from the cargo hold. Many airports have pet relief stations.  These can be useful for many pets but if you’re dealing with a new puppy that doesn’t have all their vaccinations, it is recommended to avoid these stations.  Have your puppy wait to relieve itself outside. Get your dog hydrated and fed as soon as practical. 

To Sum It All Up

You can make flying with your dog more manageable with appropriate planning and preparation.  Decide early on if your dog is cut out to be your flight companion.  If not, there’s no shame in getting a pet sitter for your furry buddy.  Both of you will be less stressed. Knowing what is required ahead of the flight and using a compliant pet carrier is crucial.  On flight day, make sure to load up with all the dog travel necessities as well. 

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