Tips for Traveling with Dogs

Preparing to fly with your beloved dog can be an exciting adventure — but it doesn’t have to be daunting. While the rules and restrictions of flying with a dog are constantly changing, here are a few tips you’ll always want to consider. With proper preparation and planning, you can enjoy a stress-free trip.

Prepare Your Dog for the Trip

Before your flight, schedule a visit to the veterinarian. Allow the vet to conduct a thorough examination and request a travel health certificate. Make a couple of copies of that certificate, attach one to your dog’s carrier, and keep the other with you. If you’re worried about how your dog will behave during the flight, be sure to ask your veterinarian for any medications to help with motion sickness, anxiety, diarrhea, etc. Additionally, If you have concerns about whether your dog can mentally and physically handle air travel, again, talk to your vet.

Get a Suitable Dog Carrier

  • Whether your furry friend will be flying in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold, a dog carrier is necessary.
  • Make sure the carrier is spacious enough for your dog to turn around and stand comfortably.
  • Clearly label the carrier with your contact information and line the bottom with a towel or blanket for their comfort and in case they have an accident in the crate.
  • Familiarize your dog with the carrier by practicing at home several weeks before your flight. This way, it becomes a source of comfort and security for your dog, like a crate. Carriers are typically for smaller or medium-sized dogs.
  • A bigger service dog won’t fit in a carrier, therefore, you should consider buying an extra seat next to yours to ensure he/she is comfortable on the flight.

Introduce Your Dog to the Airport Environment

Take your dog to the airport weeks/months in advance of the flight to allow them to become accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells. This can help reduce anxiety during the actual journey.

Learn Airline Rules and Book in Person

Purchase your plane ticket for yourself and your dog in person or over the phone. Inform the sales representative about your canine traveling companion as there will likely be an additional fee. Fees may vary depending on whether your dog will fit under your seat or in the cargo hold. Each airline has specific policies regarding pet travel, so it’s critical that you learn the airline’s policy and are informed before you go as this will prevent surprises on the day of travel. Typically, your dog must be older than 12 weeks, have up-to-date vaccination certificates, and be provided with food and water for longer journeys.

Pack Essentials for Your Dog

Ensure your dog’s comfort and safety for your destination by packing items such as food and water bowls, treats, a leash, medications, favorite toys, and waste disposal items.

  • Portable dog water bottles are handy for providing water on the go.
  • Don’t forget to pack small bags and potty pads, especially if you have a layover.

Day of Travel

Create a checklist to ensure you have all the necessary items for your dog’s journey.

  • Double-check that the carrier has the correct labels securely attached and that your dog’s collar has his/her name, your phone number, and contact information.
  • Did you pack the health certificates from the vet? You definitely don’t want to leave those at home.
  • If you’re concerned about your dog running off, or the airline actually losing your pet, you may want to consider a GPS dog tracker.
  • Your doggo may feel anxious on the day of travel, so taking him or her for a walk will help to release some energy and calm down.
  • Avoid feeding your dog at least five hours before the flight to prevent accidents in their crate.
  • Find out where the pet relief area is or take them for a walk so they can go to the bathroom in an appropriate area. Keep them on a leash, clean up after, and keep a close watch on them. Many airports are beautifully landscaped, but if your pet ingests a poisonous plant or other harmful substance while you’re roaming outside the airport, you could be in for a terrible flight.

Arrive Early

Avoid last-minute panic and chaos by arriving at the airport several hours before your flight. Air travel is already pretty busy and demanding these days. Advanced planning can reduce stress for both you and your four-legged friend.

Before Take-Off

Keep your dog as active as possible before boarding to help them tire out. That way they will want to go right into their carrier and hopefully sleep during the flight. Only administer sedatives if directed by your vet.

Flying with your dog definitely requires effort and a lot of planning on your part, but it shouldn’t deter you from creating incredible travel memories with your loyal companion. By following these tips, your air travel experience with your beloved canine can be memorable and, hopefully, trouble-free.


Tammy Pitts has an extensive background in journalism, media relations, social media strategy, marketing, and brand management. She resides in Michigan with her family which includes her two sons and their Goldendoodle, Max. In her free time, she loves to read, travel, and root for the Michigan State Spartans. Go Green!

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