Flying With Your Dog? Four Ways To Prepare While You're Still on The Ground

More on PawNation: dogs and air travel, DogsAndAirTravel, flying with pets, FlyingWithPets, pet health, pet travel, PetHealth, PetTravel

Pets during travel picture katbert, Flickr

Going on a trip can be stressful enough without adding your dog to the mix. Some organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States recommend against flying with your dog at all because of numerous cases where the animals didn't arrive safely. But if you'll be taking to the skies with Fido in tow, some advance planning can ensure that both you and your pet will be ready for takeoff.

Assess whether your dog can handle the trip.
Radio show host and pet travel expert Stephanie Abrams points out that every breed and every dog has its own temperament that can affect your trip. "Some by nature are more high-strung," she says, and not good at dealing with the motion and the other rigors of travel. If your dog is relaxed in the car, that is a good sign. Certain breed-specific physical characteristics can make travel difficult, for instance brachycephalic dogs such as pugs and shih tzus have a pushed-in muzzle that often causes breathing problems which makes traveling in airplanes -- and especially the cargo hold -- risky.

Veterinarian David Smith of the New York Department of Agriculture agrees: "Be realistic about whether or not your pet is a good candidate for air travel. If your pet is easily stressed out by new environments, it may be better to leave it with a trusted pet-sitter." (The U. S. Department of Agriculture and state agriculture organizations are involved with the rules regarding transport of live animals.)

Know the airline rules.
These can vary quite a bit. Many airlines, like American Airlines, require that animals be at least 8 weeks old at the time of travel. Most airlines say that an animal under 20 pounds (including the weight of the pet carrier) can be brought aboard as long as the carrier can fit underneath the seat. Some allow larger animals to be flown in the cargo hold, but not all. For instance Jetblue has an extensive JetPaws Pet Program but passengers can only bring a pet as carry-on.

Not all customers feel comfortable having their pets travel kenneled in the airplane's cargo hold. It can be extremely stressful for both the dog and the owner -- especially with recent news reports of dogs being lost or sent to the wrong destination. If your dog is small enough to fit in its carrier underneath your seat, you'll probably want to travel that way.

Fees vary per carrier and can be anywhere from $75-200. A good resource for comparing airlines is, which has the lowdown for every major carrier. Once you've narrowed your choices, go directly to the airline site to get the most updated rules. If you plan to have your dog in the cabin, it's important to make a reservation for your dog at the same time you are booking your flight, because every airline has a limited number of animals they will allow on board.

The Air Transport Association recommends that, "whenever possible, book a direct, nonstop flight and avoid holiday or weekend travel. Consider schedules that minimize temperature extremes. For example, try to avoid travel during excessively hot or cold periods. Morning or evening flights are preferable during the summer."

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

1 Comment

Filter by:

Sooo weird ! I swear this is a picture of my yorkie Coco. I used to fly with him all the time and he has short hair and that exact same carrier. People would stop me all the time and some people would take pics. I havnt flown with him since 2007 so I came here looking for tips to fly him again and I am shocked. Either this is my dog or my dog Coco has a twin with the same name according to the Flickr page. Oh and coco is a boy and the Flickr says coco is a boy too .. What are the chances...

January 01 2013 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who is Cutest?

Like us on Facebook?