How to Prepare Your Dog for a Flight

So, you have a gorgeous, adorable, amazing pet dog that you take with you everywhere you go. Being separated? Noooo, thank you! If you want to travel, that means you’re probably going to have fly with your pet at some point. But there’s a lot that you need to know before you dive into the world of aviation with your doggo. This is a guide that will help you to prepare your dog for their very first flight, providing you with all the information, tips and tricks that you’ll need to navigate the airport and to fly with ease.

Before flying with your dog, it’s important to know some of the non-negotiables of flying with a pet in the United States. If you are planning on traveling by air with your dog, it’s super important to do your research about the rules of different airlines, so you can choose a company with policies that you feel comfortable with.

When flying with your dog, there are generally two ways that they can travel. The choices are:

  • In the Cabin OR
  • In the Cargo Hold

Flying Your Dog in the Cargo Hold

Not all airlines allow dogs to travel in the cargo hold. Some airlines that do not allow pets to travel in this manner are:

  • Southwest
  • Virgin America
  • Jet Blue
  • Frontier
  • S. Airways

Other airlines may have restrictions on certain breeds that can travel in the cargo hold, due to the higher chance of breathing problems. This generally includes short-snouted breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs, for their own safety.

Flying Your Dog in the Cabin

The other option if you have a smaller dog is to fly with your pet in the cabin of the aircraft. The rules on cabin flying for dogs varies by airline, so it’s a great idea to do some research to find an airline which will accept your pet on board. Generally, dogs that can fit under the plane seat in a carrier are permitted on most aircraft subject to a pet fee. Or, if you’re traveling with an emotional support animal, your pet’s trip should be without cost if appropriate documentation (ESA letter) is provided.

To find out more about restrictions on flying with your pet, contact some of the airlines that fly the route you’re interested in, or check their websites (here is a link to the Frontier pet policy).

How to Prepare at Home Before Your Flight

Having a successful flight with your dog really comes down to the preparation put in before you arrive at the airport. Here are some ideas to help prepare your dog for their aviation debut.

Teach Them to Love Their Carrier

One thing that won’t change whether your pet is on board or in cargo? They’ll definitely be spending a lot of time in their carrier, so it’s crucial that they are comfortable and happy in there! This comes down to training your dog weeks or even months before you plan to fly. Begin crate-training early, so you’ve got plenty of time if it turns out your dogs is not as obedient as you may have hoped! Once you have managed to entice your dog into their carrier, slowly build up the time that it spends inside to simulate the time that it be in there while you are traveling. Treats are, of course, a great way to encourage good behavior in all puppers!

Be aware, your dog should be able to stand up and turn around in their carrier, for their own comfort and safety. Remember, it’s important to train your pet to be totally happy in their carrier without interaction with you, to simulate conditions on the plane.

Make Your Home into an Airport

Okay so it’s not totally practical to head out to the airport a few times a week to get your dog ready for their flight. So why not turn your house into the airport instead? Dogs need to become accustomed to the unusual sounds and noises of the airport, so preparing them for this at home is essential. Try using real recordings of ambient airport sounds to accustom your dog to what they might hear on the day. There’s plenty of free tracks available on You Tube to prep your pup.

Dog from Pixabay

Socialize, Socialize, Socialize

Of course, when in a situation like flying and traveling, it is essential that your dog is very well socialized. Your dog should be comfortable around and friendly to strangers. If your dog is fearful around strangers or big crowds, you either have a lot of training to do, or sadly, your dog may not be suited to flying.

Traveling on the Big Day

Before you leave for your flight, make sure you’ve prepped the perfect pet bag. By packing everything you think you’ll need, and then some, you’ll be set for any situation that may arise.

At a minimum, here’s a list of what we recommend to pack to fly with your pooch:

  • Carrier
  • Leash and collar
  • Name tag (with your cell phone number on it)
  • A picture of you and your pet
  • Bottled water and portable water dish
  • Supply of sealed pet food, dish, and spoon
  • Dog treats
  • Brush
  • Toys
  • Medication
  • Pet harness if riding in the car not in a carrier
  • An old sheet or two for covering up hotel furniture that your pet may jump up on
  • Plastic bags for picking up after your pet
  • Cleaning supplies: paper towel, stain and odor removing spray, old towels

Make sure you give your pet adequate potty breaks if it’s a long journey to the airport. You can choose if you prefer your pet to ride in or out of their carrier on the way to the airport.

At the Airport

When flying, we all know the suggested times to get to the airport so as not to miss our flight. When traveling with a dog, it’s important to arrive with lots of extra time up your sleeve so that you have plenty of leeway for any mishaps.

Arriving at the airport is exciting—you’re almost on the plane with your furry pal, and about to have a great time wherever you’re flying to! But airports can be overwhelming places, so keep cool. Make sure to take your dog to go potty the moment you track down a pet relief area in the aiport, to avoid accidents.

When checking in, ask the counter staff if you can access priority boarding to ensure you are able to easily get your pet on the plane and settled before other passengers arrive.

Now—it’s take off time!

You are now officially ready to fly with your dog. Bon voyage, we wish you and Rover the best trip ever!



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