Your dog’s first flight can be a pretty traumatic experience – both for him and for you. While you may be feeling anxious about how well your pup will handle the trip, he will likely be quite frightened by the new experience. Traveling under the seat in front of you or in a cargo hold just isn’t the same as enjoying the open road in your back seat, and the differences are difficult for even the smartest dogs to understand. When traveling with your four-legged friend, getting there can be half the fun if you follow the tips for flying with your dog listed below.

Book Your Flight Early When Flying With Your Dog

Airlines typically limit how many dogs are allowed on each flight, so booking early is crucial. Do not purchase your ticket without calling the airline and making sure that a seat is available for your canine companion.

Once availability is confirmed, book both of your seats on the same ticket.

Fly Direct

Layovers and transfers are stressful enough for humans. Spare your dog a lot of anxiety by booking a direct, non-stop flight when possible. Try to fly on weekdays when airports are generally less busy. If your pup will be traveling in the cargo hold, fly mid-day during the winter and at morning or at night during the summer.

Flying with an Emotional Support Dog

If your dog is an emotional support animal, make sure that you have the correct documentation before you get to the airport. Showing up to the airport without the correct documentation can make a stressful situation worse. Every airline has a different set of rules for emotional support animals, so we suggest researching the emotional support animal policy for your airline in advance.

Schedule a Vet Visit Prior to Flying With Your Dog

Make an appointment to have your dog examined before your flight. Make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date and obtain a health certificate dated within 10 days of your planned departure. If you are traveling abroad, contact the foreign office of the country you are visiting to obtain additional information regarding health requirements for pets entering the country.

Pack All the Essentials When Flying With Your Dog

When packing your dog’s suitcase, be sure to bring his health certificate and medical records. You should also bring…

  • Contact information for your veterinarian
  • Your dog’s medications
  • A spare collar and ID tag
  • Pet wipes
  • Poop bags
  • Leash
  • Your dog’s favorite toys

Invest in a Good Carrier

Whether you are traveling with a tiny teacup Chihuahua or Great Dane, you need to invest in a good carrier. Soft-sided carriers work best for carry-on pets. If, however, your pet is traveling in the cargo area, you will need a well-ventilated hard plastic carrier.

Whichever option you choose, make sure the carrier is well-built and the right size for your pet to be able to stand up, lie down and turn around in easily. Label the carrier and include identification tags with your address and phone number.

Arrive at the Airport Early When Flying With Your Dog

When flying with your dog, you will need to check-in at the counter. This is because curbside and self-service check-ins are prohibited for travelers with pets. Most airlines suggest arriving two hours prior to your flight when traveling with pets. However, you can check-in up to four hours early. Make sure you have your dog’s health certificate handy when you arrive.

Don’t Give Your Dog Tranquilizers

Giving your dog a tranquilizer may seem like a good way to make the trip less stressful. However, doing so can be quite dangerous. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, tranquilizers and sedatives given prior to flights can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems. This happens due to increased altitude pressure. They also have an impact on your dog’s equilibrium and can make balancing difficult. Unless your vet specifically prescribes a tranquilizer or a sedative for your pet, do not administer such medications prior to your flight.

Don’t Go Flying With Your Dog on a Full Stomach

A full stomach could be uncomfortable and lead to sickness during travel. If possible, feed your dog at least four hours prior to your flight. Feel free to allow him to drink water right up until your departure time, though. Before flying with your dog, exercise your furry travel companion and allow him to use the facilities.

Flying with your dog on a plane

Image by crazytown511


Flying with your pet can be a tail-wagging good time with careful planning.

Remember that your dog’s first flight can be quite frightening, though, and he may not find the journey as exciting as you do. By taking careful steps to plan ahead, you can help ensure your four-legged travel buddy’s comfort when flying. After all, when traveling, getting there is supposed to be half the fun!

8 Tips for Flying With Your Dog

8 Tips for Flying With Your Dog