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Flying with a Dog: the Rules and Preparations
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Flying with a Dog: the Rules and Preparations

Having a flying with a dog option eliminates many problems and opens up a totally new approach to adventures and travel. But as with any travel, it requires understanding the rules and regulations of pet friendly airlines.

How Stressful Is Flying for Dogs?

Dogs, just like humans, can feel stress and anxiety during air travel. The unfamiliar noises, confined spaces, and the overall turbulence of flying can be overwhelming for your furry companion. So before launching on the adventure with your dog, you should consider their temperament and health conditions.

Can I Buy My Dog a Seat on a Plane?

Contrary to popular belief, dogs typically don't get their own seat on a plane. Most airlines require pets to travel in the cabin in an airline approved carry on pet carrier. Larger dogs may need to travel in the cargo hold, following specific guidelines provided by the airline, such as the United Airlines pet policy.

Service Dogs: Most airlines allow service dogs to fly in the cabin with their owners. Service dogs are trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities. Proof of training and the necessity of the dog for the passenger's health or emotional support might be required.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs): Policies for ESAs have become stricter in recent years. Some airlines still allow them in the cabin, but many now treat them as pets, requiring them to meet the same requirements as other traveling pets.

Can I Fly with a Dog on a Plane?

While usually dogs can fly with us on a plane, some airlines have restrictions on certain breeds, particularly those considered to be snub-nosed (brachycephalic), like Pugs or Bulldogs, due to increased health risks during flights. If the breed of your dog is unclear, consider using a dog DNA test for accurate identification and consult a veterinarian for professional advice.

Small Pets: Many airlines allow small dogs to travel in the cabin if they can fit comfortably in a carrier under the seat in front of the passenger. There is often a weight limit, including the carrier, which is typically around 15-20 pounds.

Larger Dogs: Larger dogs that cannot fit under the seat in a carrier may need to travel in the cargo hold. This service is subject to restrictions, including weather conditions, as extreme temperatures can pose a risk to the animal.

What Are the Rules for Flying with a Dog?

When it comes to flying with a dog, there are several rules and regulations you need to be aware of:

Dogs must be no more than 11 inches tall and 18 inches long.

Size matters when it comes to in-cabin pet travel. Ensure your dog fits within the specified dimensions for a comfortable journey in a dog in a carrier.

Dogs must usually weigh less than 9kg / 20 pounds.

Weight restrictions are imposed to ensure your dog's and fellow passengers' safety and well-being.

Dogs must stay in their travel carriers at all times.

Your dog must remain in its carrier to prevent any disturbances during the flight. It ensures that you didn’t restrict United Airlines pet policy.

Dogs must be at least 10 weeks old.

Young puppies may not be ready for the stress of air travel. Check with your vet to determine the best time for your dog to start flying.

Only one pet per kennel.

Each dog should have its own space to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for everyone on board.

You must have all the required documentation.

Bring along all necessary paperwork, including health certificates and vaccination records, to comply with airline and destination regulations.

You will need more paperwork if you are traveling abroad.

International travel with pets may require additional documentation, such as import permits and quarantine requirements. Research and prepare accordingly.

You must be over 18 years old.

Ensure that you, as the owner, meet the minimum age requirement set by airlines for traveling with a pet.

Dogs must be well-behaved.

Having a well-behaved dog is essential to avoid any issues during the flight. Consider obedience training if your dog tends to be anxious or overly energetic.

How Can I Prepare to Fly with My Dog in The Cabin?

Preparation ensures a smooth flying experience for you and your dog. Always check your airline's specific pet policies, including size and weight restrictions, and secure any required health documentation or vaccinations.

The List of Essential Steps to Take

Visit the vets.

Before flying, schedule a visit to the vet to ensure your dog is in good health and up-to-date on vaccinations. This is also an excellent time to discuss any specific concerns about air travel.

Select the right dog carrier.

Invest in an airline-approved carry-on pet carrier that provides enough space for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie comfortably. Familiarize your dog with the carrier before the journey to reduce stress.

Get your dog used to confined spaces.

Help your dog acclimate to the carrier by gradually increasing the time they spend inside. This will make the actual journey less stressful for your furry friend.

Get your dog used to airports and the sound of airplanes.

Take your dog to the airport in the days before your flight to expose it to the hustle and bustle. Additionally, play recordings of airplane sounds to help desensitize it.

Try to limit access to food and water before your flight.

To prevent accidents during the flight, limit your dog's access to food and water a few hours before departure. However, make sure they stay hydrated throughout the journey.

Pack paperwork and supplies the night before.

Organize all necessary documents, including identification tags, health certificates, and vaccination records. The night before your flight, pack your dog's essentials, such as food, water, and medications.

Familiarize yourself with the airport that you are departing from and arriving at.

Knowing the layout of the airports can help you navigate smoothly and reduce stress for both you and your dog. Identify pet relief areas and plan accordingly.

Bring along your dog's favorite comforts.

Pack familiar items, such as a favorite toy or blanket, to provide comfort and reassurance during the journey.


Flying with the dog is not an improvised act. Considerations and planning should be made to ensure an enjoyable journey. Prioritizing a dog's well-being and needs is integral to positive and successful air traveling. It requires responsible ownership because it involves ensuring the safety, comfort, and well-being of your pet, fellow passengers, and airline staff.

Note: It's crucial to check with individual airlines for their specific policies and requirements regarding flying with pets, as they may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can my dog sit on my lap during a flight?

No, airlines typically require that dogs remain in their carriers under the seat in front of you for the duration of the flight.

How to air travel with a dog?

To air travel with a dog, ensure they meet the airline's size and breed requirements, book their spot in advance, and have an airline-approved carrier, along with all necessary health documents and vaccinations.

Can I fly with my large dog in the cabin?

Most airlines do not allow large dogs in the cabin and require them to be transported in the cargo hold, except for certain service or emotional support animals where regulations may differ.