How to Travel on a Plane with a Dog

November 4, 2021

how to travel on a plane with a dogSo, you’ve got your big trip planned. Your bags are slowly getting packed, the excitement is building, and the day is drawing nearer.

But what about your pooch? Are you really going to go weeks without seeing them and pay an arm and a leg to board them? Couldn’t you… just…. take them with you? After all, flying isn’t so bad, right?

Well, in this article, we’ll break down exactly what you need to do in order to make this dream of jet-setting your pup a reality

Make Sure Your Dog Can Even Go with You

We know, we know. “What do you mean?!” You ask with (justified) indignation. “Why the heck couldn’t Fido go with me!?

Look, we get it. 

We want you to be able to travel the whole wide world with your dog in-tow, too. But there’s a variety of countries that just don’t agree with us and don’t give a darn about your desire to take Instagram-worthy photos with your pup. 

Many international destinations require your dog to quarantine for extended periods of time before they can enter the country, and some places don’t even let pets fly in the cabin at all. (Not to mention the fact that many international airports have no pet relief areas, which can quickly become a nightmare. 

However, even if you’re flying domestically, you still need to consider whether or not flying is really the right choice for your dog. It might be ok for you, but is it really the best choice for Rover?

Decide Whether or Not Flying is Really the Best Option

Deciding to take your dog onto an airplane should not just be a fly-by-night decision (we’re so sorry about that pun). 

Flying can be a very stressful experience – both physically and emotionally – for your pup. They’ll be in an unfamiliar situation filled with bright lights, loud noises, air pressure changes, a limited ability to go pee in their preferred yard, and a litany of people all gawking at them. 

And it’s not as if flying with your dog is cheap.

Most of the biggest airlines in the United States charge upwards of $125 each way for an in-cabin pet. Plus, since your in-cabin pet counts as a carry-on, you may have to pay a fee to check the rest of your other luggage. That’s not even counting any multi-hour layovers you might have, each of which can trigger additional fees and stress.

These are reasons why Justine Lee, veterinary expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance, says that flying with dogs should probably be avoided if you can help it. “In general, I recommend not flying with a pet unless absolutely necessary,” says Lee. “Ideally, pets should not fly unless an owner is moving permanently or taking a long trip—two to four weeks at a minimum.”

However, if you must fly with your four-legged friend, we understand. It’s just that there’s still a bunch of stuff you have to consider and take care of well in advance.

Consider Whether or Not Your Dog Will Fly In-Cabin or Cargo

traveling with my dogIn-Cabin

Your dog is eligible to fly with you in the cabin so long as they can fit in a carrier under the seat in front of you. Generally speaking, that means your dog has to weigh no more than 20 pounds. 

However, that isn’t always the case; different airplanes have different allotments of space underneath each seat. That’s why it’s important to check with your air carrier to guarantee that your dog will be able to fit on your plane. 


If you have a larger dog, they’ll almost certainly have to be flown as cargo in a pressurized, temperature-controlled compartment. This compartment, commonly called cargo, is where other checked bags reside during the duration of your flight.

It is important to note that not all carriers will transport your dogs as cargo. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways, for example, will only allow small dogs and cats to fly as in-cabin companions. 

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the Humane Society of the United States does not endorse flying with your dog unless they can be in the cabin with you – which is….kind of impossible for bigger dogs. 

But it’s not as if traveling with your dogs in the cargo compartment is some grave danger. The website NerdWallet reported that, in 2017, airlines reported only 24 deaths among 507,000 animals that were transported – a death rate of .0004%. 

Make Sure Your Pet is Cleared to Fly (Both Ways) with Your Veterinarian

how to fly a dog on a planeDon’t think that this is just a recommendation – it’s not! In fact, most airlines require a clean bill of health from your dog’s vet in order for them to be eligible to fly. 

You’ll need to make sure that all of your pup’s relevant vaccinations are up-to-date and that you have a hard copy of your dog’s rabies vaccination records on-hand to show security. ‘

Also, depending on your dog’s anxiety or stress levels, your veterinarian might recommend a sedative to keep your dog calm during the flight. However, you should know that other options might offer a similar level of relief without requiring your dog to take medication. 

Thundershirts, for example, will offer a snug, comforting experience similar to a swaddle that can make your dog feel safe and protected. Similarly, there are some collars you can buy that will release pheromones which soothe and calm your pup’s nerves. Some pet owners have even found success with administering CBD tinctures to their dogs pre-flight, though we must remind you that most CBD-infused petcare products are still not FDA approved. 

An important note re Health Certificate for your dog. Your pet’s veterinary certificate of health is only valid for 30 days and you’ll need it for both your departing and return flight. (Some airlines even require a bill of health that’s not more than 10 days old). That means that you may need to schedule a trip with a veterinarian at your destination to recertify your dog’s health in order for them to be eligible to board your return flight. 

Unfortunately, depending on your dog’s breed, this may all be for moot. Some species of dogs with snub-nosedness aren’t even allowed to fly because the high altitudes make it hard for them to breathe. 

Get Your Dog a Quality Kennel

Opened pet travel plastic carrier with Yorkshire Terrier inside

It doesn’t matter if your flight is 45 minutes of 14 hours – you need to bring an appropriately-sized pet carrier. The International Air Transport Association, which dictates how pets must travel on an airline, has provided a list of pet carrier requirements

We’ll spare you the task of reading that whole list and just tell you what you need to know. 

Basically, your carrier must be durable with adequate ventilation and possess strong handles with a bottom that prevents leakages of any kind. If you’re flying with your dog in-cabin, you may also want to consider getting a soft-sided carrier 

Additionally, all pet kennels must be clearly marked with the words ‘Live Animal’, as well as with arrows that denote which way is up. 

You must also attach a label that includes key information such as your name, phone number, address, and the contact information of the lodging you’ll be in at your destination. 

Build Positive Associations for Your Dog with Their Kennel

We’ve spoken about this at length before, but it bears repeating: if you want your dog to happily get in their carrier, you must make them happy to get in their carrier. 

It seems so obvious, but so many pet parents just naively assume that their pups will happily jump into their carrier without any prior contact with it. This is a mistake! If your dog doesn’t have any prior interactions with a carrier, they’re not going to be cool with your sticking them inside of one for hours on end.

Instead, you’ll need to lay some groundwork to ensure that your flights go smoothly. Consider leaving your carrier open in common spaces in your home for multiple weeks before the trip. You can also feed them once per day in the carrier to make it as inviting as possible for them. 

Additionally, you might want to train them to enter, stay in, and exit the kennel for a few minutes each day (while making sure to reward them with plenty of praise and treats) to make them more comfortable with the sensation of being in their carrier. 

Follow This Short Guide for Flying with Dogs

Pre-Flight / At the Airport

Though it may seem a bit unkind, do not feed your dog for six hours before their flight. This minimizes the chance that their stomachs will get upset. You’ll also want to line your dog’s carrier with absorbent potty pads so your dog has a place they can relieve themselves while in-transit. 

Before you leave your house, triple-check to make sure that you have everything on-hand that you need to travel safely with your pup! This includes, but is not limited to:

  • All medications your pet currently takes
  • A small container of dry food
  • A small, collapsible water bowl and a water bottle
  • Treats (of course)
  • Potty pads and dog waste bags
  • A leash, collar, and harness
  • Their favorite pet bed
  • All relevant records and health documentation

Once you arrive at the airport, be sure to let your dog walk around for a decent amount of time. Not only will this help them get their energy out, but it will minimize the chances that they have to relieve themselves inside the airport or while they’re cruising at 30,000 feet. 

Once inside your terminal, go to the passenger check-in desk. Your agent will need to make sure you have all of the necessary paperwork for your dog to fly.

If your dog is traveling cargo, you’ll have to check them in with the airline before proceeding to security. You may want to attach a small amount of food to your dog’s carrier so the airline can feed them in case of a long delay. Be sure to give them lots of love before sending them off! 

If you’re going to fly with your dog in-cabin, your dog’s carrier must be x-ray scanned by security without your dog inside. That means you’ll have to guide them through the section of security that’s for humans, so make sure they’re secured in a firm-fitting harness with a leash.

Once you get to the security gate, prepare your belongings by placing them into the designated bins before putting them on the conveyor belt to be scanned. After that’s complete, remove your dog from her carrier and then place the empty carrier on the conveyor belt. 

Once you get through security, find your dog’s carrier and safely reposition her inside before retrieving your belongings. Now, go find a Cinnabon and wait to board your flight!


how do dogs travel on planesOnce you arrive at your destination, grab any checked baggage from the designated baggage claim area before proceeding to your airline’s specified cargo pickup location. After retrieving your dog, take them for a walk right away to let them relieve themselves and grab a drink of water!

And that’s it! 

You’ve flown with your dog and lived to tell the tale! 

Stressful, we know, but it’s so worth it and is made so much easier by careful planning and preparation. 

That’s why, even if you’re not doing something as labor-intensive as flying with your dog and, instead, you’re just planning a road trip, we know you’ll be just as diligent to ensure your dog is contented and carefree the whole time! 

We further know that, as a responsible pet parent, you want to keep your pet happy and healthy. That’s why we hope you’ll continue coming back to our blog at!  We hope you found this article helpful.  If your dog ever gets any cuts, abrasions, ear infections or hot spots, we hope you keep Banixx Pet Care in mind.  Alternatively, we have a host of dog information on this page