How to Fly on a Plane With Your Dog

Airplane LandingThere are many reasons why people might either need or want to take their dog on a plane.  Air travel can be stressful for both the owner and the animal.  It is important to make sure that you take the appropriate steps both before and during travel to ensure that the experience is as stress-free as possible for everyone.

Dog Sticking His Head Out of A Soft-Shell Carrier

If your dog is under twenty pounds and can fit into an airline-approved soft carrier, you can take your dog onto the plane with you in the cabin as carry-on luggage.  Otherwise, your dog has to go into a hard-shell crate and fly in baggage.  NOTE:  Soft-shell carriers may be used only if you are carrying your pet onto the plane with you.  It is dangerous to put a dog into the hold in this type of carrier, and the airline will not allow it. Since I have only flown with a small dog, the rest of the article is geared towards dogs-as-carry-on-luggage.

  1. When making reservations for your flight, reserve a spot for your dog.  Airlines generally have a limit on the number of animals that they allow into the cabin.  (Service animals, are, of course, exempt from this restriction).
  2. Within ten days of the flight, you must get a health certificate certifying that your dog can fly.  This is also a great place to pick up a sedative for your dog, although not all dogs need them.
  3. If your dog has never flown before, get her accustomed to the carrier.  Start by putting her in the carrier while the carrier sits on the ground and, leaving the flap open, pet and praise your dog while plying her with treats.  Do this until your dog feels comfortable, then close the flap and, once your dog appears to be comfortable, walk away and feed your dog more treats upon your return.  Eventually progress to carrying your dog in the carrier, making sure to use liberal amounts of verbal praise.
  4. Make sure that you have the necessary travel supplies.  Bring a collapsible bowl, a small quantity of food, treats and any medications that you need on the flight.  If you must give your dog pills, I recommend bringing chunky peanut butter as well (the chunks help disguise the pills).  Dramamine (2 to 4 mg. per pound) and Benadryl (1 mg. per pound) are safe for dogs, and useful to prevent nausea and induce drowsiness.  While I would recommend against bringing too many toys, I prefer to bring at least one or two in order to make my dog more comfortable.
  5. Several hours (if flying early in the morning, the previous night) before the flight, remove your pet’s food and water.  Many airports do not have an area where you can take your dog to relieve herself, so it is advisable to limit your dog’s water and food intake beforehand.  While on the flight, however, don’t be afraid to give your dog some food and water.  Airplane air can be very dry.
  6. At security, you will have to take your dog out of her carrier, so be prepared.  Apart from this, the airport requires that you keep your dog in the carrier at all times.  The most stressful part of air travel for your dog is usually being carried around the airport.  Find your gate, put your dog down and stay there.  If you end up in a crowd, don’t be afraid to tell people that you have a dog so that they don’t accidentally crush the carrier.
  7. During the flight, it’s advisable to periodically check on your dog.  Don’t be afraid to give her food, water or medication, as applicable.  Even if your dog doesn’t usually get sick, it might be a good idea to have anti-nausea medication on hand.
  8. After the flight, don’t be alarmed if your dog won’t go to the bathroom or eat right away.  Dogs can get nervous during travel.  Just continue to give her the opportunity periodically, and your dog will eventually eat and go to the bathroom.

Dog in Soft-Shell Carrier

Safe journey!

Dog Sitting in Front of Carrier

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