Flying with a dog used to be very straightforward – buy a travel crate, limit access to food and check your dog in as checked luggage.
However, nowadays the process is a lot more complicated, with good reason – to ensure that dogs are happy and safe while travelling.
Flying with your dog can be straight forward and stress-free with a little planning:
- Select a dog-friendly airline.
- Decide whether you want to fly with your dog in the cabin or cargo.
- Obtain your dog’s pet passport.
- Ensure your dog’s carrier is appropriate.
- Get your dog used to it’s travel carrier.
- Exhaust your dog 48 hours before the trip.
- Limit access to food 12-24 hours before the trip.
- Pack all the essentials.
In this article we will go into detail on how to prepare for taking your dog on a plane. I’ve also included some travel tips, to ensure that the process is as stress-free as possible for you and your dog.
Let’s jump straight in!
First of all, you’ll want to select a dog-friendly airline.
Over the years, there have been some heartbreaking accidents where dogs unfortunately haven’t made it through a flight.
Since these incidents, airlines have certainly focused on improving their pet policies. However, there are some airlines that outshine others when it comes to pet-care.
Comparethemarket.com kindly analysed 52 airlines and selected the top 10 pet-friendly airlines:
- Air France
- British Airways
- Thomas Cook
- Turkish Airlines
- Aegean Airlines
- Air Europa
They also highlighted the following 5 airlines as those to avoid when flying with your dog:
- Balkan Holidays
For the most enjoyable and stress-free journey for your dog, try to avoid using these airlines.
Additionally, when selecting an airline, it’s important to note that different airlines have different rules when it comes to flying with dogs.
a) Airline’s requirements for the ages, breeds and sizes of dogs.
Sadly for those of you who want to travel with young puppies, most airlines won’t allow dogs under the age of 8 to 10 weeks to travel on their flights.
For example – United Airlines states the following:
Puppies and kittens traveling within the U.S. and Puerto Rico must be at least 8 weeks of age to be accepted for travel on United. Puppies and kittens weighing less than 2 pounds must be at least 10 weeks of age.
Additionally, certain breeds are often banned by some airlines.
Pitbulls, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, Mastiffs and Rottweilers are the most commonly banned breeds.
For example – United Airlines has banned the following dog breeds (including mixed breeds) from their flights:
- American Bully
- American Staffordshire Terrier/”Amstaff”
- Belgian Malinois
- Boston Terrier
- Brussels Griffon
- Bulldog – all types
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Chow Chow
- English Toy Spaniel/Prince Charles Spaniel
- Japanese Chin/Japanese Spaniel
- Lhasa Apso
- Mastiffs – all types
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Pug – all types
- Shar-Pei/Chinese Shar-Pei
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier/”Staffys”
- Tibetan Spaniel
This is because, certain breeds have physical or behavioural traits that make them more likely to be negatively affected by air travel.
Whether your dog is permitted to fly in the cabin with you, or whether he/she will need to fly in the cargo hold, is determined by his/her size.
We’ll go into this further in the next section.
b) Airline requirements for the size of pet carriers.
Airlines have particular requirements when it comes to the size of your dogs crate.
Additionally, they may also request that you purchase specific crates for the flight.
For example, United Airlines states the following:
- Not accept crates taller than 30″, including the 700 series crates.
- No longer sell or provide crates at airport facilities. All cats and dogs traveling with a PetSafe reservation must have a compliant crate, which may be purchased via united.com/petmate in advance for acclimation and travel.
Be sure you’ve read up on your airline’s pet requirements well in advance of your trip.
Get your dog used to it’s travel carrier.
You want to ensure that the journey is as stress-free as possible for your dog.
Let him/her get used to their carrier or crate, so that they feel a little at home in there.
Lure your dog into the carrier/crate with plenty of treats. Let him/her play and sleep in there as much as possible.
If you have a small dog, you could even do some practice runs in the carrier – take him/her for a walk with you, or out for breakfast.
Additionally, for extra comfort and security, pop some of their favourite toys in their travel home.
Exhaust your dog 48 hours before your flight.
Try to exhaust your dog a little. Increase the level of activity 48 hours before your trip by taking longer walks or runs.
If your dog is sleepy for the flight, he/she will be less prone to getting stressed out.
Limit access to food 12-24 hours before taking your dog on a plane.
Give your dog less access to food, for the obvious reason – it’ll be less likely that your dog will need a poop on the flight.
Familiarise yourself with the airport that you are departing from and arriving to.
Most airports will have an area for animals and pets to rest.
For example – U.S. airports are required by law to have pet-relief areas available for working animals and pets to rest.
Take photos of the airport maps, so you know where the resting places are for your dog.
Pack all the essentials.
- A small amount of dry food
- A collapsible bowl
- Medications and first aid items
- Pet passport
- Your dog’s favourite soft toy, blanket, or pillow
- Treats and chews
- Your vet’s contact information