How to keep your dog safe on an airline flight

How to keep your dog safe on an airline flight

How to keep your dog safe on an airline flight!

How Different Airline Dog Rules Apply to You & Your Dog

Traveling with your pet doesn’t have to be... an exercise in frustration, you just need to be prepared. A little planning goes a long way when dealing with airline-specific rules, but before delving into the specific pet policies of the major airlines, you should understand basic federal guidelines as they apply to domestic flights.

Federal Airline Dog Rules

Service animals aren’t pets, they’re working dogs. By federal law, service animals can go anywhere you go.  If your dog isn’t a recognized, labeled service animal, however, you have two choices when traveling by air:

  1. Use an approved carrier <> that slides under the seat in front of you if your little buddy is small enough. He has to be stowed in his carrier for the entire flight, be able to lie down naturally, stand and turn around completely inside the carrier. The regulation carrier must be leak-proof and well ventilated.
  2. Put your larger dog in an approved travel crate to be checked as a piece of luggage. He has to ride in the cargo hold with appropriate labels, instructions and food and water bowls. Check with your vet about sedation, but it’s usually not recommended. This way of travel is also becoming more and more restricted.


Once this fundamental decision is made, other federal airline dog rules and requirements include:

  • Puppies must be at least eight weeks old and five days weaned.
  • All pups must behave. Unruly or aggressive behavior can get your dog — and you! — thrown off a plane.
  • Give your pampered pooch a bath <> before flying, as offensive smells are not tolerated.
  • Place an absorbent blanket or towel on the bottom of the carrier for comfort and a wee Wee pad in case of accidents.
  • Get a health certificate from your vet no earlier than 30 days before you fly. You may need to prove your dog has been vaccinated for rabies.
  • States like Hawaii have quarantine requirements after you land. The time to check is well before you leave, or your family pet may have to be quarantined for up to four months!

Specific Airline Dog Rules

Each domestic airline throws additional restrictions into the mix, so it can be difficult to navigate the airline dog rules for any specific trip. For example:

  • Some airlines make it impossible for you to take your big dog with you, while others allow you to check your dog in his travel crate like a piece of luggage.
  • Most let you take your little dog in a carrier into the cabin with you as your carry-on, but some bar even that.
  • There are restrictions based on the destination, the type of plane you’re flying on and relating to the lengths of any layover.
  • Some airlines won’t let you check your dog if he has a pug-like nose! You may consider it nose discrimination, but until bulldogs go on strike to protest, you have to read the fine print of your ticket.
  • Costs to carry your family pet on board with you range from $95 to $125 or more, each way.
  • You may be told your dog has to be 10 weeks old instead of the federal minimum of eight weeks.
  • While most regulations are geared to maintaining the safety of your dog, other passengers and the employees of the airline, some — like not being able to bring Fido onto the plane if you’ve got a first-class or business-class ticket — defy easy explanation.
  • And finally, some good news: some airlines will check your crate or doggie stroller for free.
  • Plus, several airlines offer pet programs along with their airline dog rules. Always ask when you’re purchasing your ticket, maybe you’ll be rewarded with bonus miles.

You may find so much variety that it’s difficult to know what to do or what to expect. Ultimately, it’s up to you to do the legwork, the paperwork and the research. Check the airline’s website for their airline dog rules and regulations. Talk to a representative about their policies. Let them know you’re bringing your dog with you when you buy your ticket.  Don’t take anything for granted!

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

  • Airlines can legally limit the number of animals on any particular flight, so book early and confirm with the airline that dogs are welcome on that particular flight.
  • If you’re catching a connecting flight on a partner or regional airline, you also have to check that company’s airline dog rules. If the smaller airplane can’t accommodate your pup, then you may not be able to get to where you’re heading! A nightmare waiting to happen.
  • Be prepared. Make sure you know the airline dog rules and pet policy before you buy your ticket — and it never hurts to keep checking with the airline to make sure your plans are still A-OK.
  • Get your pup used to the carrier before you fly. He’ll be less stressed or nervous if it’s just another day in the carrier. The first trip should not be his first experience in the carrier.
  • Make sure you have a legally adequate, airline approved carrier. Get one that your little friend will be comfortable in, because he’s going to have to stay inside it from the moment you enter the airport until you leave the airport at your destination — except when you go through security.
  • Feed your dog about four hours before take-off, but make sure he gets enough water. Before entering the airport, get in some exercise — and most definitely a potty break. Happy Travels!


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