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Tips for Flying with Your Dog Stress-Free + a Packing List

Want to take a trip with your dog this year? If you’re planning on flying, you may be wondering how you can bring him along, without all the stress. It can be done! But preparation is key.

Here’s a quick outline on how to fly with a dog, so you and he have the best time possible!

1. Know Your Airline’s Rules and Regulations

Bringing your dog on vacation may seem like a dream come true, but it’s important to plan ahead and know what to expect before you get to the airport. Each airline has its own rules about flying with dogs, but, in general, you should know:

  • Dogs are not always allowed on flights with connections.
  • Pets are usually only permitted on flights of 12 hours and fewer.
  • There are kennel-size restrictions, for both carry-on and cargo.
  • Puppies should be at least eight weeks old, but some airlines request that dogs be older.
  • Some breeds, such as bulldogs, are not allowed to fly.
  • Certain destinations have restrictions and rules regarding pets.

Already know which airline you’ll be using? Carefully research what is and isn’t allowed on the flight. Here are links to some of the most well-known airlines’ pet policies:

If your airline is not one of the examples listed above, you can usually find pet policies by searching online for “Name of the Airline’s Pet Policies.” Certain companies, such as JetBlue, offer specialized programs to make flying with your dog easier.

Each airline has rules about how many total pets are allowed as carry-ons or in cargo, and how large your dog’s kennel can be. When booking your flight, mention your dog as early as possible to ensure he gets a spot on the plane. You’ll be asked to pay extra fees, and further information about your pup may be requested.

Never show up to the airport with your dog without booking his spot and carefully researching pet rules. You don’t want to begin your trip disappointed!

What’s the pet policy of the airline you’re using?

2. Bring This to Make Your Dog Comfortable

Flying with your dog can be a fun experience you won’t forget. Make those memories good ones by being properly prepared!

Here are a few items you should definitely bring along:

Documentation and Vaccination Records

Some airlines and even some destinations require you to bring documentation and vaccination records along with your pup. For example, JetBlue requires vaccination records, and American Airlines requires pet documentation in specific situations. It’s important to research both your flight and your destination to ensure you’re prepared in the paperwork department.

Regardless of requirements, it’s generally a good idea to bring these items with you, so you’re prepared for any medical emergency or situation that could arise.

Kennel

Each airline has different requirements when it comes to kennel size, depending on whether you’re bringing your dog as a carry-on or checking him as cargo.

If your pup will be onboard with you, his kennel should fit under the seat in front of you. Bringing two pups along? That’s fine by some airlines, as long as they are the same species and fit in the same kennel.

While his kennel generally has to fit under a plane seat, size allowances vary from airline to airline, so make sure you know the exact rules for your flight. For example, Delta requires kennels to have proper ventilation, but sizes allowed vary from plane to plane. Spirit states that carriers must be 18” l x 14” w x 9” h, but for Frontier, kennels should be 24” l x 16” w x 10” h. Some airlines, like Delta and JetBlue offer kennels for you to buy that meet their restrictions.

Airlines may also have restrictions regarding weight. For example, your kennel on Spirit Airlines must be under 40 pounds, but American Airlines requests under 20 pounds.

The kennel you choose depends on how you’re flying with your pet (carry-on or cargo), your pet, and the airline. Research is essential to avoid problems, as airline requirements may change. You can find approved carriers through airlines’ websites or by searching online for “airline friendly kennels.”

Treats

Flying with your dog can be a stressful situation, but treats are almost always welcome! Give your pup treats throughout flight preparation (like packing), boarding, and during the flight to ensure he’s comfortable and knows his good behavior will earn him more.

Toys

Stick a favorite toy into your carry-on, and let your dog have it whenever possible. This is another great way to lower his stress because it’s familiar and comforting.

Food and Water

While you generally can’t feed your dog during your flight, you definitely want to have food on hand for afterward. Your pup will be hungry and thirsty, so it’s best to feed him as soon as you land.

If your dog is traveling as cargo, he should have water and food at least four hours before takeoff.

Baggies and Paper Towels or Wipes

It’s quite possible your pup will have an accident at some point during your travels. New situations and unfamiliar places like airports and planes can be confusing to a pup. When you have baggies and paper towels or wipes on hand, you can be a polite traveler and clean up the mess before one of your fellow passengers steps in it!

how to fly with a dog

3. Reduce Your Dog’s Stress While Flying

Flying is stressful for many humans, so there’s no doubt it can be anxiety-inducing for our fur babies. There are steps you can take, both during and before the flight, to help him feel more comfortable.

Get Prepared Early

A few days before your flight, take your dog’s carrier out. He may already be anxious about the carrier, but having it out before your trip can help him get a bit more comfortable before travel day comes. Leave treats inside, so he associates it with yummy things.

Gather everything else that your dog will need, like his documentation, your tickets, his treats and food, etc.

Schedule a Checkup

Many airlines or destinations require that your dog has a checkup prior to take off, but it’s a good idea regardless of requirements! It can help ensure your dog is ready to fly comfortably, free of any potential health issues.

Exercise

As you get ready for your flight, it’s smart to fit some exercise in. Walk your dog, throw ball, or do some agility. Your dog will be cooped up for a while, so it’s important he works out some of that pent-up energy for a more relaxing flight—for both of you.

Groom Your Dog

Grooming your dog, which includes trimming his nails, is recommended to ensure he stays cool and comfortable throughout the trip.

Fly Your Dog as Carry-On If Possible

Flying your dog as carry-on is recommended over checked baggage. Just being near you can reduce his stress. Give him treats regularly to reward him for good behavior and calm his nerves.

When Not to Fly with Your Dog

Not all dogs are cut out for airplane rides. If your pooch is particularly anxious, you may want to leave him at home with a friend or family member, or board him with a trusted facility.

It’s also recommended that certain breeds do not fly. Dogs with snubbed noses, for example, may have difficulty breathing in the cargo area or during stressful situations. Many airlines don’t allow these types of dogs to fly. If your dog has trouble breathing due to breed or health issues, it’s best not to take him on a plane.

Taking a trip with your dog can add a whole new, fun layer to the experience. But it does require preparation and research, so you can ensure your pup has just as much fun as you do!

Taking a trip with your dog in the near future? We recommend a checkup! You can schedule your appointment with us by calling 281-693-7387.

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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