How To Prepare For a Long Flight With Your Dog In Cabin
Travel With Dogs And Cats

Travel Buddies! How to Prepare for a Long Flight with Your Dog in the Cabin

Are you planning a trip and want to bring your dog with you? Or, maybe you’re moving out of state? Well, whatever the reason for your trip, you’re probably wondering whether flying is an option.

Sure, you could drive across the country with your canine companion… But hopping on a plane is so much faster when you’re traveling long distances.

Do your research to check if your dog can fly in cabin and whether they need a health certificate. Different airlines have different requirements when it comes to this. 

Prepare your dog for the flight by taking them to the vet, having a proper walk and play-time to release excess energy and giving them enough time to relieve themselves. Make sure that their crate is comfortable and that you take them on a walk if you have a layover and it’s allowed.

But, before you book those tickets, it’s important that you know how to prepare your pooch for the air. Luckily, we’ve compiled a guide that will tell you everything you need to know about preparing your dog for a long flight in-cabin.

Related article: Holiday Travel With Pets

But first, we need to look at whether your dog is suitable for cabin travel:

Table of Contents:

Can my dog fly in a plane’s cabin with me?

Preparing for a Long Flight in Cabin With Your Dog

Many American airlines allow dogs to travel in the cabin of an aircraft, as long as:

  • They are kept in an enclosed kennel that fits beneath the seat in front of you (the dimensions of aircraft seats differ between planes, so it is important that you check your kennel will fit before booking).
  • They are accompanied by at least one human.
  • There is enough space on board. Airlines are limited to how many animals they can transport, even if they are stowed under seats.
  • They meet the airline’s weight restrictions. Again, this varies between different airlines.
  • They are over 8 weeks old (this is the minimum age set by federal regulations, but some airlines may request that your pet is older than this. That means that it’s best to check with your airline before you book your tickets)

Do You Need a Health Certificate?

Well, although a health certificate is required by most airlines for dogs traveling in cargo, some do not extend this rule to their in-cabin canine passengers.

But, it’s best to see a vet before traveling, to ensure your pup is healthy enough to fly.

In addition to listening to your vet’s advice, it’s worth noting that many airlines have a ban on transporting certain breeds of dogs in cargo. And sometimes this is extended to in-cabin passengers too.

Banned Dog Breeds

The most common breeds to be banned are brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dog breeds, due to the associated health risks.

Now, the list of breeds not allowed to fly does vary between airlines (are you sensing a pattern yet?), but to give you an idea, here is a list of those banned by American Airlines:

  • Affenpinscher
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer (all breeds)
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bulldog (all breeds)
  • Cane Corso
  • Chow Chow
  • Dogue De Bordeaux
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Mastiff (all breeds)
  • Pekingese
  • Pit Bull
  • Presa Canario
  • Pug (all breeds)
  • Shar Pei
  • Shih Tzu
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Tibetan Spaniel

It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether an airline will allow your breed of dog to fly in-cabin. So, if you have any doubts,  it is best to call and speak to an adviser before making your booking.

OK, so once you’ve established that your pet is allowed to fly, how do you prepare them?

Well, there are lots of things to consider before jetting off. So, let’s start by looking at…

How long is too long?

Long Flight With A Dog In Cabin

Even with the best preparation, flying can be a stressful event for our four-legged friends. There are lots of strange noises and smells, and to top it off, they can’t get out of their kennel to stretch their legs. So, with this in mind, how long is too long for a dog to be in the cabin on a flight?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question: It really depends on your dog’s individual personality.

So, if your dog is calm and relaxed during a flight, they may happily cope with long journeys. However, if they are especially nervous, they may struggle to fly at all.

Of course, this can prove to be a problem for first-time flyers. After all, how do you know how well your dog will cope on an airplane if they’ve never left the ground?

Well, it’s difficult, but you can make an educated guess. Think about how your pup copes with new environments, noises, and strange smells. If they are generally laid back, they are more likely to cope with long plane rides.

Preparing an Anxious Dog

If, on the other hand, your dog is nervous in new and busy environments, they are unlikely to cope well with air travel.

Then, once you’ve assessed how your pup handles new environments, try putting them in their travel crate for a while. Are they relaxed, or do they bark to get out?

If they dislike being confined, you may not be able to rely on them remaining calm on a long flight. Don’t forget, they will need to stay in their kennel for the duration of the journey.

However, if your dog is simply not used to being in a kennel, you can help them out by training them before your journey. And if you’re not sure where to start, this video by Lead of Leash K9 training may help:

The important thing to remember is, you know your dog best. And this means you are best placed to predict how long they can cope with being in the air.

Should my dog see a vet before flying?

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Although many domestic airlines allow your dog to fly in-cabin without a health certificate, it’s still a good idea to have your pet checked out before taking to the air.

You see, your vet will be able to confirm whether your pet is fit to travel, and they are best placed to answer any health-related questions you may have. Getting the advice of a qualified vet is especially important if your dog is old, has any health problems, or has never flown before.

Whilst you’re at the vet’s office, it’s a good idea to request a health certificate, even if your airline doesn’t request one.

This will protect you if you have to make any changes to your planned travel. For example, if your plane is rerouted and you need to travel with a different airline for one leg of your journey. (Sounds unlikely? Well, that’s exactly what happened to blogger Jessica whilst she was traveling with her Weiner).

But, whilst you’re with the vet, you may be wondering if you should ask for a sedative to keep your pet calm. So, let’s take a look…

Should you give your dog a sedative for flying?

Flying With a Dig in Cabin

The simple answer is no. The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend that you sedate your dog before travel as it can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. 

However, if you have any doubts, it is best to consult your vet for advice on your dog’s individual circumstances.

How do dogs go to the bathroom on a plane?

OK, so bathroom breaks in the air can be problematic for all of us. The person next to us is snoring, or the seat belt sign comes on at exactly the worst moment. But for our four-legged friends, the issues are even greater.

You see, in most airplanes, dogs are expected to stay inside their crate for the entire journey. This means that well-meant advice, such as placing a pee pad down in the bathroom, simply won’t work.

So, what should you do?

Well, lining your pet’s kennel with pee pads is a good idea in case they have an accident. But unless they are very young or nervous, most dogs won’t go to the bathroom in a crate. This means that your pup will have to hold it for the duration of your flight.

This sounds uncomfortable, but there are some things you can do to ease the strain:

  • Don’t feed solids for two hours before you fly. This reduces the need for bowel movements. And, as an added bonus, it reduces the likelihood of your pet experiencing travel sickness.
  • Make sure your dog has ample opportunity to relieve themselves before take off. Some airports have specially designated doggy bathroom areas (usually comprised of patches of artificial grass!). But if your airport doesn’t, head to the human facilities and place a pee pad down for your dog to do their business on.

Ok, but what if you have a layover. Can your dog stretch their legs (and empty their bowels) there?

I have a layover, will my dog be allowed to stretch their legs?

Dog Stretching Legs Layover

Well, it depends on the airport’s individual policy. Some are rather dog-friendly with bathroom stations littered around. But others prefer that you keep your dog safely secured in their kennel.

So, it’s important to do your research in order to be prepared.

But, don’t worry too much if the airport requires you to keep Fido shut away. A quick trip to the (human) bathroom can give him an opportunity to stretch his legs, go to the bathroom, and will give the two of you a chance for a quick snuggle.

Family-sized cubicles are ideal for taking your dog out of his crate. And unless your clever dog knows how to go on the toilet, don’t forget to pack pee pads!

How to Keep a Dog from Barking on a Plane

Have you ever been on a plane with a screaming baby? Or maybe had to listen to a couple arguing loudly from take-off to landing? Well, planes can be loud places and noise in a confined place can be overwhelming.

So, what can you do to stop your flight from becoming earsplittingly loud?

Now, we can’t help you with the other passengers. But there are some ways to keep your dog from barking during your flight:

  • Make sure they are comfortable and used to their crate before you travel.
  • Give them something comforting, like an old sweatshirt that smells of home, or a favorite toy.
  • Pack extra blankets and a cooling mat, in case your pup gets too hot or too cold.
  • Take them for a long walk before your travel (remember, a tired dog is a good dog!).
  • Try giving them a treat or chew to keep them occupied.
  • AND keep your fingers crossed!

Even with the best planning in the world, sometimes dogs bark. But try not to worry, as long as you are polite, the airline staff should be sympathetic (especially if they are dog lovers themselves!).

Should I claim that my dog is a service animal when booking my flights?

Tips For Flying With A Dog

Sometimes, people give some very troubling advice. And one of the most concerning things we’ve heard lately is this: Some people are advising others to pretend that their pet is a service animal when booking flights.

Why? Well, because service animals usually fly for free and are often allowed out of their crate during travel.

But, lying about having a service animal is a bad idea for a couple of really good reasons:

It negatively affects people who genuinely require service animals

You might be wondering how pretending to have a service animal could harm anyone… after all, it’s just a small lie, right?

Well, not exactly. Because of people lying about having service dogs, airlines are becoming more stringent. And this means demanding more proof from individuals with legitimate service animals before they are allowed to travel.

You are likely to be caught out in your lie

Service animals are highly trained. Well, it makes sense; they need to be in order to meet their owners’ needs.

So, if your pet is begging for food and trying to run down the aisle, it’s bound to raise questions from the airplane’s staff.

And, since lying about needing a service animal is illegal in some states, this is a big problem.

OK, so we’ve covered domestic flights, but what if you want to go further afield? Let’s take a look at international travel with a dog in-cabin:

International Travel with a Dog In-Cabin

Dog on Plane Tips

If you are planning an international trip with your four-legged friend, you probably have a few questions, the first being:

Can my dog fly in-cabin on an international flight?

Well, the simple answer is yes. However, not all airlines accept dogs in-cabin. A list of airlines that do allow this can be found here. But as always, it’s important to check directly with the airline before booking your ticket.

You may also be wondering…

Will I need any special documentation to travel with my dog internationally?

Yes, it is likely that you will need some sort of documentation to travel internationally with your dog.

The exact documentation required varies between countries, but may include:

  • A pet passport
  • Vaccination records
  • A health certificate
  • And health insurance

So, in order to ensure that your trip goes smoothly, it’s important to check what is needed before you travel. You can find information about different countries’ requirements here. But it is always a good idea to check with your airline too.

And you may also want to know…

Will my dog need to be quarantined?

Although some countries do require quarantine for animals traveling from the United States, they don’t usually allow in-cabin travel.

However, it is always worth speaking to your airline for confirmation of whether quarantine will be required before you book your flight.

So, there we have it. Our guide for preparing for a long flight with your dog in the cabin.

Where ever you’re going, we hope that you and your pup have a safe and pleasant flight!