Everything You Need To Know About Flying With Your Dog
Travel With Dogs And Cats

Flying With Your Dog: Everything You Need to Know

Traveling with a pet can be difficult, especially the first few trips! There’s so much to keep in mind for a successful flight, and sometimes it can be hard just getting ourselves through the airport.

In this guide, we’ve compiled plenty of helpful tips and tricks to make travel easier for you and your pooch. From figuring out if your pup is allowed to fly in-cabin to symptoms to watch for after landing, we’ve got it all covered!

Table of Contents:

Can My Dog Fly in the Cabin?

Flying With A Dog in Cabin

There are a few restrictions to consider if you want your dog to fly in the cabin with you. The biggest ones are weight and height. Your dog has to be able to fit underneath the seat in front of yours in a carrier or crate for the entire flight.

This means they have to be under 7-12 inches tall, depending on the airline’s under-the-seat storage size. Weight restrictions tend to be around 20 pounds, although this will vary as well, depending on your airline.

We’ve listed the pet requirements for Southwest Airlines here, and American Airlines’ pet rules here.

For more information on height and weight requirements, check out our list of dogs small enough to fly in the cabin. Also keep in mind that airlines have other restrictions, such as age, health, and breed.

Young puppies aren’t allowed to fly, as their care requirements mean they can’t remain in the carrier for the entire flight. If your dog’s health doesn’t allow them to remain inside the carrier or makes flights risky for them, the airline isn’t likely to allow them to fly—in the cabin or otherwise.

Lastly, breeds with short muzzles are banned by most airlines due to the potential health complications they may have during the flight.

If your dog meets all of the airline’s requirements, they will most likely be allowed to fly in-cabin with you. However, there is a restriction when it comes to how many dogs can be in the cabin at once. If for some reason your plane is at capacity, your dog will not be allowed to fly with you.

Related Read: What to expect when flying with your dog in the cabin

How Much Does it Cost to Take a Dog on a Plane?

Cost of Airplane Ticket For A Dog

For all intents and purposes, airlines consider your dog to be luggage. In the cabin, they take the place of your carry-on—and you’ll also be charged an extra fee.

Whether you’re flying your dog in-cabin or in-cargo, bringing your dog along will cost you around $100-200, with in-cargo travel being more expensive.

We get more into the nitty-gritty of the costs of dog airline travel in our price guide.

That guide also discusses additional costs in-depth, such as the price of health certificates, microchips, and pet fees.

Preparing to Fly with a Dog

Flights with a dog can be stressful for you both! But, like most aspects of travel, it’s easier when you plan ahead.

Of course, your first step is to determine whether or not your dog can fly, and if they can accompany you in the cabin.

If you have questions, it’s best to contact your airline directly, since regulations can vary so much. Other ways you can prepare your dog for a flight include crate training and a vet trip.

You want to be sure your dog can stay in the crate for the whole flight, so if they don’t do well with this, or aren’t used to using a crate, it’s best to get them used to the idea beforehand. This will help you avoid behavioral issues while on the flight.

A vet trip is required if you need a health certificate to fly—but it’s recommended even if you don’t. Ensuring your dog is healthy makes travel safer for them and for any other pups you may encounter on your trip.

If you’re traveling internationally, you may also need a passport, vaccinations, vet records, or pet health insurance. To further prepare yourself for what to expect, read our guide to taking your dog on a flight.

What Should I Bring on the Flight?

Flying with Your Dog

When I go anywhere, I always feel like I’m forgetting something! If you’re the same, you’re probably doubly worried you’ll forget the essentials when packing for your trip.

No one wants to be stuck on a plane, remembering the important item they left on the kitchen counter.

But never fear—here’s a quick checklist for you to follow:

  • A crate or carrier that meets airline requirements and is comfortable for your dog to stay in during the flight
  • Comfort items such as blankets, toys, or clothing that smells like you or your dog
  • Something to keep them occupied, like toys, a stuffed KONG toy, or a chew
  • A cooling mat to help keep your dog cool if the flight is too hot. With so many people giving off body heat in a small space, it might get stuffy!
  • Extra blankets to keep your dog warm if the plane is too cold
  • A leash for letting your pup out of their carrier during layovers, potty breaks, or after landing
  • Treats to reward your pup for being good!

You’ll also want to keep in mind that you’ll need things once you’re off the plane as well! Pack what your pup will need after landing, but maybe not as a carry-on!

How do I Keep My Dog Happy on the Flight?

Keeping a dog happy on a flight can be rough. Similar to taking a young child on an airplane, they don’t know why they are there or what is happening. Everything is unfamiliar and possibly scary.

If your dog is anxious anyway, then being toted through an airport and onto a plane, only to arrive in a completely new location, can be even more stressful!

In order to handle the stressors of air travel, you first need to identify them. You probably know your dog and have a good idea of what makes them uncomfortable already.

The most common stressor during travel is the unknown, whether that be people, places, sights, smells, sounds, or some combination of these things.

Preparing Your Dog

Preparing for A Flight With a Dog

Sometimes, you can prepare your dog for these experiences. For example, if your dog is nervous around new people, you should already be working on socialization to make meeting strangers less terrifying for them.

Often, there’s not a lot you can do to prepare them. Sadly, your dog is unlikely to understand if you sit them down and explain the situation. So, what can you do?

The best thing is to comfort your pet in whatever ways possible. This can involve speaking to them on the plane so that they know you’re still by their side—though, for some dogs, this will only get them even more worked up, so you should do what’s best for your dog.

The best way to provide comfort is to add familiarity to their trip that’s full of scary, unpredictable things. You can do this by using a carrier or crate they already know and love, as well as providing comfort items like blankets, toys, or even a t-shirt inside their carrier.

The point is to provide something that smells like home, so make sure the item you choose is something that has yours or your dog’s scent on it!

For even more tips, you can check out our guide to flying with an anxious dog.

What if my Dog Can’t Fly in Cabin?

It’s easy to worry about how our dogs will react to a flight, especially when they have to fly in-cargo, where we can’t be with them to provide comfort and make sure they’re alright.

While you should avoid flying with your dog in-cargo whenever possible, sometimes it’s unavoidable. There are still ways to prepare your pup for the ride, even if you can’t be there with them.

The first and most important is to check your airline’s history with pets. I don’t say this to scare you, but some airlines do have a bad reputation with animals, including pets dying on their watch. You want to do your research to keep your pet as safe as possible and avoid tragedy.

When it comes to preparing your dog for the flight directly, be sure to allow them plenty of exercise before the flight to tire them out. It’s much better for them to be tired, and maybe even sleep on the plane, than it is to put a hyper, wound-up dog into a stressful situation.

You also want to avoid feeding them within a few hours before the flight, to avoid them getting nauseous on the plane.

Make sure they’re very familiar with their crate or carrier, and that you provide comfort items that smell like home, with yours and your dog’s scents on them. These items can be a worn t-shirt, a blanket your pup likes to sleep on, or a favorite toy.

Lastly, if you have to take a flight with your dog in-cargo, try not to worry too much. Plenty of pets fly every day and get to their destinations safe and healthy. It’s extremely unlikely yours will be the exception!

Help! My Dog Isn’t Acting Right after our Flight

Dog Not Okay After Flight

I know, I know—I just said your dog would be fine on their flight.

But sometimes, things go wrong. If your dog isn’t acting right after a flight, look out for these flight-related health issues.

They range from simple stress to heat exhaustion and hyperthermia, so don’t worry right away if your pup is acting a little strange.

But if the behavior continues, or symptoms are extreme, always take your dog to the vet for a check-up as soon as possible.

I hope this guide has been helpful for all of you who love traveling with your furry friend!