The Ultimate Guide to Flying with Dogs

The Ultimate Guide to Flying with Dogs

So you’ve decided to take a trip, and you plan to bring Fido with you. Whether by necessity or for fun, bringing dogs on an airplane isn’t always easy. Fortunately, preparation and planning can help make the process much easier for both you and your furry friend.

There are a few important things you’ll need to do before taking your pup on a flight. Here are some tips to make the process easier.

Do airline prep

If you’re booking a flight and know you’ll need to bring your dog with you, check online to read the airline’s rules and restrictions regarding dogs. Some airlines don’t allow pets at all, some may allow dogs of a certain size in the cabin, some only put dogs in cargo and some may restrict pets based on breed.

Additionally, some airlines charge for pet fare, which you’ll want to add to your ticket purchase ahead of time.

Always fly direct if possible. Flights with layovers or flight changes can be stressful for your dog and could potentially result in your dog missing the next flight if it’s in cargo! Direct flights ensure you and your pet are together on the same plane 100 percent of the time.

Another useful tip for flying with dogs that will travel in the cabin with you is to upgrade your seat to one with extra legroom. This will allow for much easier storage of your pet so you can both be comfortable, as well as give you more flexibility when checking in on your pooch and giving it food and water.

Cargo or carry-on?

Some airlines may give you the choice between bringing your pet with you in the cabin as a carry-on or boarding them in cargo for the flight. Usually, this option is restricted by your pet’s size.

If you get the option, you’ll need to decide which choice is best for you and your pet. Most dog owners prefer to bring their pup with them in the cabin so they can attend to their needs. Dogs are typically more relaxed when they’re able to be near their owners, as well. If you’re bringing your dog as a carry-on, understand what type of carrier you’ll require (soft-shelled carriers are usually allowed) and what kind of rules the airline has for in-cabin pets.

However, if you do choose cargo, make sure you’re away of the rules regarding packing your pet. Inquire about what types and sizes of pet carriers are accepted and what kind of identification will be necessary on your dog’s carrier. Also, make sure your flight will not be during a period of extreme temperature if choosing cargo.

Visit your vet

In most cases, your dog will need to have an examination completed by your vet. After this visit, you’ll be given a health certificate which is necessary to prove to the airline your dog is fit to fly. The airline may also require health and vaccination records, so make sure to have those handy.

If your pet has a health condition and your vet says it is unsafe for it to fly, do not risk it. Always heed your vet’s advice to ensure the safety and well-being of your furry friend.

Pack pet essentials

As you’re packing your own suitcase, make sure to bring a carry-on bag of pet essentials, as well. You’ll want to bring extra food, just in case of unexpected delays or cancellations, as well as food and water bowls, treats, a collar and leash and poop bags. If your pet takes medication, make sure to pack those, too.

Additionally, don’t forget to pack a comfort item or two for your pup, such as its favorite blanket and toy. These items can make the carrier feel more like home. Put a puppy pad in the carrier in case of accidents.

And, don’t forget the health certificate and medical records!

The day of travel

On the day of your flight, feed your dog around four hours before the flight so it has time to digest, use the bathroom and feel satisfied until you arrive at your destination.

Consider purchasing a pheromone spray for your dog’s carrier or a calming supplement. These products can help calm your anxious dog’s nerves and make it more relaxed during the boarding and flight processes.

Arrive early to the airport to mitigate any potential delays that may be caused by caring for your dog. Check in at the airlines service counter and ensure your dog’s travel accommodations are all set. If you’re checking your pet, this is where you’ll say goodbye. Make sure your pet has everything it needs and give it a calm goodbye so it doesn’t get scared.

If you’re carrying your pet with you, bring your pup to your boarding gate and proceed as usual. Give your pup a toy to keep it occupied on the flight.


Dogs often take their cues from their owners, so if you’re stressed all day, your dog is likely to be, too. Keep calm while traveling and make sure you give your pup love, attention and reassurance so it knows it is safe as you head off together for your new adventure.