Tips for Flying with your Dog for the First Time (And All the Times that Will Come)

Tips for Flying with your Dog for the First Time (And All the Times that Will Come)

Sadly, there’s no beating around the bush. When it comes to flying, it can be a hard -and sometimes traumatic- experience for your dog and you. However, it can be made easier if you follow certain steps ahead of time! It’s all about a little research and extra planning. 

Here are our fav recommendations that have worked wonders for us!

  1. Visit your veterinarian before booking anything! 

You are going to need official veterinarian documents with you. Always. They might include general health information dated within 10 days of your planned departure, updated vaccination information, and microchip details. 

The vet might also prescribe some medicine to help reduce your pup’s anxiety during the flight. However, check with them if it’s okay, because according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, giving tranquilizers and sedatives to your dog can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems due to high altitude pressure, they can also make balancing difficult. 

Do some research and see what documents you will need to travel with your pet! Especially if you’re flying abroad. Contact the foreign affairs office of the country you’re visiting to see if you need any additional documents or health requirements for pets to enter a territory. 

If you don’t already have it, consider getting pet insurance in case of accidents or emergencies. 

  1. Call the airline to request for information. 

Request any information you think might be useful, like what are the requirements to flight with your dog in that specific airline. As of January 11th, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) no longer requires airlines to carry Emotional Support Animals (ESA), which beforehand was actually required by law to accommodate ESA owners with documentation. It was a voluntary decision but as of March 1st, 2021, most of all U.A airlines have disabled this option for ESA and their owners. If it’s an international flight, they might accept ESAs as long as the passenger provides the proper documentation. So, ask ahead of time! However, there’s good news for Psychiatric Service Dogs’ owners. All airlines still accept them on flights. 

Here’s a list of Airlines that still accept ESAs: 

  • Latam Airlines 
  • Westjet 
  • Volaris 
  • Air France 
  • Asiana Air 
  • China Airlines 
  • KLM 
  • Singapore Air 
  • Lufthansa 

Their policies can change every day so, ask ahead of time and make sure that you won’t have any problems when it’s time to return home. 

Let’s see the different ways to flight with your pet: Cabin, hold, and cargo! 

  • Cabin 

This option is mainly for small pets. The airline will charge a fee that may vary according to which one you choose, and your pet will be counted as a carry-on item. While flying cabin, your pet must remain inside of its carrier during the whole flight. Keep in mind in mind that there’s a limited number of pets per flight. If there are available spots, book your flight in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute. 

  • Cargo hold 

If your pet is now allowed to fly with you in the cabin, then they will be sent to the cargo hold area of the airplane, where excess luggage goes. This is an area that’s heated and ventilated accordingly. 

  • Cargo 

This might be the most expensive option between the three. Pets travel in cargo when they’re not allowed to travel as luggage; this happens because they exceed the size permitted in cabin or cargo hold. Sometimes it all depends on the destination or because they’re sadly flying on their own. It’s not the best option, and frankly quite stressful, for both pet parents and pets. We believe it’s a determining factor in whether to bring them along or not. 

Thousands of pets travel safely according to the airline, there are some of them that have better ratings regarding animal handling. Remember a direct flight it’s always preferred in order to avoid unnecessary stress to your pup caused by difficult and long layovers! 

If you are worried about your pet flying cargo hold or cargo, we recommend looking up a company that takes care of these specific cases, where you can track your pet during the whole flight. 

You should also consider the time of the year to fly due to the weather and temperature. If your pet is flying cargo hold or cargo, they will probably have to wait during long periods of time; most cargo areas are not heated or air conditioned properly, so they might get too cold or too hot. 

Most airlines don’t accept animals when temperatures fall below 45°F (7°C) or higher than 85°F (29°C) in any place of your flying route. So, we’d dare to say that the best times of the year to fly are spring and fall, when temps are not too cold nor too hot. 

The best advice we can give you is to plan everything in advance to avoid any accidents or emergencies and search for the best airline for you and your pet’s needs. 

Here are some of the most used airlines’ pets flying policy: 

Also, as long as your destination permits it, try to flight direct! Flying on weekdays is also a good option because airports are less busy, which means less stress for your pet. 

  1. Pick an appropriate and airline compliant carrier. 

If your dog’s flying cabin with you, there’s always a chance that a seat next to you might be empty. So, how about an expandable pet carrier where they can have more space to lie down or stand when the occasion permits it? 

If you’re flying domestic and it’s a very short flight, it’s not necessary. 

Whether they’re flying cabin, cargo hold, or cargo, search for your airline’s requirements about pet carriers, including size and measurements. 

The minimum features a carrier needs to fulfill are: 

  • Waterproof bottom 
  • Adequate ventilation 
  • Must fit under the seat in front of you 
  • Your pet must be able to stand up, lie down and turn around in the carrier comfortably. 

Your pet can’t be bigger than the carrier. Both soft-sided and hard-sided carriers are usually accepted in the cabin. Remember that the carrier counts as a carry-on item! If your pet’s traveling in cargo hold, or cargo, remember to get a carrier that accommodates their food and water. 

Try to get your pup to adjust to their carrier at least a month before flying. Make the carrier their safe space, where they can take naps, or even where you feed them their food or treats. 

If your dog’s not an ESA, you are going to need an airline compliant pet carrier that are a certain dimension. 

Most airlines require the carriers to be leak proof and well ventilated, it must be big enough for your pet to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably, the carrier must be an adequate size for your dog, your pet don’t can’t be bigger than the carrier. Both soft-sided and hard-sided carriers are usually accepted in the cabin. It depends on the airline, but most carriers have to remain under the seat and closed at all times. And remember, the carrier counts as a carry-on item! 

  1. Arrive early to the airport! 

You might be used to online check-in prior to your flight, but when travelling with dogs you need to check-in at the counter. Most airlines recommend arriving at least two hours early when travelling with pets. 

  1. Don’t fly with your dog on a full stomach. 

This is a recommendation to avoid accidents during the flight since a full stomach can cause sickness. Try to walk them before arriving to the airport, so they can empty their bladder and bowels ahead in time. However, don’t restrict water, let your pup drink it up until 3 hours of departure time! 

Regarding solid food, some recommend that your pup should stop eating at least 6 hours prior flight. But dogs are resilient, so don’t worry too much if you have a long flight ahead, they can last up to 12 – 24 hours without food. It is not ideal and only do so when necessary. 

  1. Make a packing list. 

This will ensure your pet is comfortable during the flight. 

  • Food and water 
  • Leash and harness 
  • ID tags (more than one!) 
  • Your dog’s essentials that you might only be able to find at home 
  • Collapsible bowls 
  • Their favorite toys 
  • Bed (or crate). Plan out where your pup’s going to sleep during the trip. 
  • Medicine 
  • Poop bags! 
  • If traveling to a cold place, remember to pack a warm coat. 

Now, let’s talk about some recommendations regarding your dog’s behavior and needs. 

Some dogs might be more energetic or even aggressive towards unknown people and animals, it all depends on their personalities. While travelling, try to put into practice the training you’ve been doing at home! Reinforce good behaviors with positive rewards, aka dog treats. Try not to reward them when they’re behaving poorly. 

During the flight you should be attentive to your pup’s reactions. If there are signs of distress, they might need special attention.