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10 Air Travel Tips for Flying With Your Dog

Dean Eby

July 2, 2021

Flying with a dog can be pretty stressful, especially if it’s the first time for you or your dog. The whole experience has the potential to be a bit traumatizing for your dog and frustrating for you. That’s a shame because flying usually means you’re going somewhere enjoyable, and you don’t want to let the stress of your flight ruin any of the enjoyment you might have.

Thankfully, flying with your dog doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful at all. Follow these 10 tips from those who have plenty of experience flying with their pooch in tow and everything will go over smoothly. From picking the right flight to what to do when you first get off, these tips will make sure the entire process is as easy as it can be, and we’ll even provide you with a packing list of essential items you can’t forget to bring along.divider-dog

10 Tips for Flying with Your Dog

1. Time Your Flight According to The Season

pomaranian-spitz-in-a-travel-bag_nadisja_shutterstock
Credit: nadisja, Shutterstock

When you’re flying on your own, it’s ok to pick flights that take off during any hour of the day or night. At most, this could mean an inconvenience for you, but it will likely save you lots of money by picking the less desirable flights.

Unfortunately, you can’t do this when your dog is coming along with you. You’ll need to pick flights according to the season in which you’re flying. For example, if you’re flying in winter, you’ll want to take off during the middle of the day when it’s warmest so your dog isn’t too cold in the cargo hold. In the summer, you’ll want to fly in early mornings or evenings to avoid the heat.


2. Pick Direct Flights

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Credit: Iryna Kalamurza, Shutterstock

Every time you have to switch flights, your dog is going to go through the trauma of being unloaded from one plane, jostled around, and loaded into a new plane. This isn’t going to be enjoyable, and you can easily avoid putting your dog through such experiences by picking direct flights with no connectors. This will also shorten the overall time you spend in a plane, which will make the whole trip much easier for your dog.


3. See Your Vet

dog and vet._LightField Studios_Shutterstock
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Before you take off, there’s a lot that you need to take care of. For one thing, you’ll need to make sure your dog’s vaccinations are all up to date. You’ll also need a health certificate to prove it, and this certificate must be dated no more than 10 days prior to your departure. If you’re leaving the country, you might even need to make additional plans for meeting international requirements.


4. Pick An Appropriate Carrier

dachshund-dog-sits-in-blue-pet-carrier_Masarik_shutterstock
Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

If you have a tiny dog, you can put it in a soft-sided carrier and bring it on the flight as a carry-on. But larger dogs need to go into the cargo hold, and to do that, they’ll have to be contained in a large carrier. These carriers must be hard-sided and properly fit to the dog. Your dog must have room to comfortably lay down and even move around, otherwise, it will be rejected by the airline.


5. Last Stop – The Yard

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Image Credit: Kiadtisak-Khwanyu, Shutterstock

What’s the last thing you do before leaving the house on a long trip? For most, it’s using the bathroom, and that should absolutely be the last stop for your dog. You’ll want to give your dog a thorough walk before leaving to make sure it pees and poops so there are no accidents mid-flight.


6. ID Your Dog

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Credit: Cameron Cross, Shutterstock

You would never go to the airport without your ID, and neither should your dog. You’re likely going to be separated for quite some time and that ID helps to ensure you get reunited. Airlines are infamous for losing luggage, and the last luggage you want lost is your dog!


7. Book Your Flight Early

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Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

While a flight can hold hundreds of human passengers, they generally only allow one or two dogs on each flight. If you want your dog on the plane with you, you’ll want to book your flight far in advance to ensure your dog gets one of these limited spots.


8. Avoid Sedatives

golden-retriever-near-the-airline-cargo-pet-carrier_Kraeva-Olga_shutterstock
Credit: Kraeva Olga, Shutterstock

Many people seem to think it’s a good idea to give their dogs tranquilizers or sedatives to calm them down before a flight. In theory, the idea seems to make sense, but this isn’t recommended. When exposed to the pressures of higher altitudes, those medications could end up creating respiratory and cardiovascular problems with no one near your dog to help.


9. Go For a Long Walk When You Land

man walking dog_Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

When the plane lands, your dog is going to be stressed and antsy. After hours locked in a little crate, it will be ready to get out and stretch its legs. One of the very first things you should do after getting your luggage is to let your dog have the opportunity to get out for a bit. Find the first bit of lawn you can and let your dog stretch its legs out and relieve itself. Just remember to keep it on a leash and to clean up after your pet.


10. Test Travel First

chihuahua-dog-in-transport-bag_Javier-Brosch_shutterstock
Credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

If your dog has never traveled like this before, it’s probably not a great idea to just throw it into the deep end on a long flight. Instead, try loading it up into the crate like you will on the flight, but then go on a long drive. Maybe even take a weekend trip so your dog can get used to being transported around in the cage. That way, it’s less likely to freak out when it happens at the airport since the experience isn’t entirely new.divider-paw

Things You Need to Bring

One of the most hectic parts of any vacation is the few moments leading up to departure from the house. Everyone’s in a panic making sure they’ve packed all the essentials. It’s easy to forget something and realize too late that an important item was left behind, but you don’t want that to happen with your dog. The following items need to make it onto your flight with you, so check and double-check this list before leaving to ensure you aren’t forgetting anything that you’ll need for your dog.

  • Your dog’s health certificate and any medical records, including vaccination records
  • Medications your dog needs
  • Leash
  • Spare collar with ID tag
  • A comb, brush, and anything else you need for grooming
  • Pet wipes
  • A toy
  • Bowls for food and water
divider-paw

Conclusion

Flying will be a new experience for your dog, and it has the potential to be very stressful. If you follow the tips we’ve covered, however, it should make the entire experience a lot less scary for your dog and a lot more rewarding for you. Flying with a dog doesn’t have to be difficult. It just takes a little extra planning and care.


Featured Image Credit: RyanTaylor, Shutterstock

Dean Eby

An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan.  He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning.  An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.

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