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TRAVEL TIPS & INTEL

Hop on Board, Rover! What You Need to Know About Flying with a Dog

little dog in the airline cargo pet carrier at the airport after a long journey
Written by Suzy Guese

Flying with a dog presents its own set of challenges, procedures and of course, costs. You can’t just show up to the airport and hope the airline will take one look at those puppy dog eyes and let your furry friend strut right on board the plane. If you’ve never flown with your dog, it’ll take a bit of training on your part. Before you book your ticket, here’s a rundown of what you’ll want to know about taking to the friendly skies with your pooch.

The Paperwork

Horizontal close up shot of an adorable Boston Terrier puppy looking to the camera professional vet making notes on his clipboard

Before you can even consider flying with your dog, you’ll want to be sure you obtain the necessary paperwork. Airlines require a health certificate from your vet. This certificate must be dated within 10 days of your departure. In order to obtain this health certificate, you’ll need to visit with your vet for a check-up. Dog owners should be sure that their vet agrees that the dog can fly and that all of their pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. If you want to travel internationally with your dog, there’ll be more paperwork. What will be required will depend on the country you are heading to and their requirements.

The Cabin or Cargo

Once you have your dog’s clean bill of health to fly, you’ll need to determine if you can travel with your dog in the cabin or whether he/she will have to travel in the cargo hold. Some airlines will only allow dogs to travel under the seat in front of you, while others only permit dogs in the cargo hold. If you want your dog to travel with you in the cabin, they must fit the size requirements for your airline, which generally boils down to fitting under the seat in front of you. This rule eliminates any big dogs from traveling with you in the cabin. Before you purchase your ticket, you’ll want to be sure that your dog is allowed in the cabin or cargo hold in the first place. Once you have determined how they’ll fly, you’ll face more details to review. For example, some airlines will have you bring your dog to a separate facility if they’re going in the cargo hold ahead of your flight. Others will have you merely bring them to the check-in counter at the airport.

The Gear

cute small dog in his travel cage ready to get on board the airplane at the airport.

Your dog has to be in a carrier of some kind whether they are in the cabin or with you in the cargo hold. In all cases, your dog should be able to stand up, lie down and turn around in the carrier. For cargo holds, you’ll want a hard-sided carrier that’s durable. Soft-sided carriers work best when your pooch is traveling in the cabin under the seat in front of you. Regardless, you’ll want to be sure that this isn’t the first time your dog has actually been in the carrier. They should get used to it before flying in it. Also, just as your luggage should be marked with your contact information, so should your dog carrier in case your pet gets lost.

The Expense

Flying with a dog doesn’t come cheap. Again, the cost to fly with your best pal varies from airline to airline, ticket to ticket. You’ll have to pay either way to travel with your dog, whether it be in the cargo hold or in the cabin. Check to see what your airline charges as prices may differ. It’s important to note that service dogs are allowed on the plane with you at no expense as they perform a life-saving purpose. The same can be true of emotional support dogs, but you’ll need a letter from a mental health professional confirming your dog is in fact an emotional support animal.

The Breed

A person petting a happy Pit Bull Terrier mixed breed dog

You might think you can just purchase a ticket for your dog on a flight and be on your merry way. However, some airlines might not even allow your dog on board based on their breed. Some airlines don’t allow certain breeds to fly at all, like pit bulls or mastiffs. Others wouldn’t allow certain breeds to travel in the cargo hold, like dogs with shortened airways such as French bulldogs. Again, this always depends on the airline. Before you book your ticket, be sure your breed of dog is permitted where you want them to travel, cabin or cargo.

The Weather Factor

If you decide to place your dog in the cargo hold, you’ll have to think about the weather. Airlines have restrictions on when dogs can fly in the cargo hold, forbidding dogs to be in the cargo when temperatures are too hot or too cold. Before you book your ticket, consider the flight times. In the summer, select early morning or evening flights so that the heat won’t be a factor. In the winter, pick afternoon flights when temperatures are warmest. If you can, avoid connecting flights where your dog could be sitting on the tarmac for hours, exposed to the elements.

Bottom line, if you want your furry best friend to fly with you, it’ll take a bit more work and know-how than traveling with a human best friend. As it can vary from airline to airline, their rules and regulations should be your first point of reference before you can figure out if your dog is fit to fly.

Have you flown with your dog? What surprised you about the experience? Share your stories with us in the comments below!

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About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.

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