25 Things to Know Before Bringing Your Dog on a Plane

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: December 21, 2023

For an easy and safe trip every time, it helps to know everything you can about flying with a dog in a plane. The wonderful thing about having an emotional support animal (ESA) is that they are allowed to fly with you free of charge! But before we get there, it’s important to prepare well for Fido’s air travel!

This includes being aware of getting your paperwork in order, researching the airline’s ESA or pet policy, finding a portable kennel for the trip, learning how to calm your dog, and so much more. Basically, today we’ll show you how to fly with a dog without causing you and your pet too much stress.

**Please note, as of January 11, 2021, under new regulations passed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the allowance of Emotional Support Animals onboard flights may vary from airline to airline. Please contact your airline of choice for their most up-to-date policies on Emotional Support Animals.

How Certapet Helps People Get Their ESA Letter Consultation

CertaPet makes the process of getting an ESA letter consultation very simple. All you need to do is take a free online 5-min pre-screening. If your answers show that you may be eligible for an ESA, we can connect you with a licensed mental health professional LMHP who practices in your area.

The 2 Laws That Protect ESAs!

There are 2 federal laws that protect ESAs! The Fair Housing Act (FHA) makes provisions for people who want to live in rented accommodation with their ESA despite there being a “No-Pet” policy.

The Air Carrier Access Act” href=”/air-carrier-access-act/” data-wpil-keyword-link=”linked”>Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows people to fly with their animals free of charge. Airlines have been tightening their ESA policy though, so always be sure to check out the details of the policy before em-Barking, on your journey!

If you want to bring your dog on a plane, read these 25 tips and tidbits.

25. Be Prepared for the Possibility of Anxiety

If your pet has never done anything in terms of travel but gone on car rides, the plane trip to your destination could rouse some anxiety. Flying with a dog in cabin may make him nervous about the long trip to the airport, being surrounded by people in the terminal, being stuck in a kennel for hours, and of course, flying.

While you can soothe and comfort your pet before takeoff, the only way they’ll get over most of this traveling anxiety is through experience. Eventually, your dog will travel with comfort and ease. Plus, bring some calming treats such as CBD or supplements your vet recommends.

24. Buy a Secure Kennel

Your dog’s comfort and safety should be the chief concerns when buying them a kennel for traveling. After all, this is where your dog will spend the flight to and from your destination. The kennel should be roomy, allowing your dog to lie down, sit, move, and stand.

The door to the kennel should lock securely, preventing your dog from getting out and causing trouble on the plane. Such an incident could get you permanently banned from the airline.  If you’re flying with dogs, always ensure their comfort and safety.

23. Make Sure the Kennel Is Allowed on a Plane

Did you know there are restrictions on kennel sizes for many commercial airlines? If you didn’t, now you do. The restrictions vary depending on the airline you fly with, but the limit on kennels is a height of about nine inches and a width of 13 inches by 19 inches long. You can obviously go smaller than that without issue.

If you have questions about the size of your kennel, get in touch with your airline long before you leave for your trip. This way, if you need to buy another kennel that fits the above requirements, you’ll have time.

22. Get Your Dog Comfortable with Their Kennel

Don’t just break out the kennel for the trip and expect your pup to love it in there. Your dog is already going to be feeling a lot of emotions—anxiety, fear, nervousness—don’t make it worse by pushing them in a strange place.

Instead, weeks before the trip, get them comfortable spending time in their kennel. Encourage them to sit and nap in there. Drive around the neighborhood with your dog and put the kennel on the floor.

This mimics the vibrations of an airplane in flight. Once your flight takes off on the day of your trip, your pup may not be as nervous.

21. Be Aware That Self-Inflicted Accidents Happen

Unfortunately, if your pet isn’t comfortable in their kennel or they’re prone to high anxiety, there’s a possibility they may injure themselves while on the flight. Your dog may try biting the kennel to escape. They may scratch at it as well. In their frenzy, they could scratch or cut themselves as well as suffer other injuries. That’s why it may be worth it to…

20. Consider Sedatives if Necessary

Listen, if your dog has accidentally injured themselves or seems extremely nervous ahead of the flight, it might be wise to have sedatives ready just in case. Before the trip, discuss the option of sedatives with your veterinarian. That said, sometimes dogs may experience breathing issues while on sedatives, so carefully weigh the positives and negatives of this medication before administering it to your dog.

You might need to research the airline’s pet policy because many do not allow, or strongly discourage, the use of sedatives for pets while flying. There are wonderful alternatives to pharmaceuticals, such as CBD Oil, which can help keep Fido calm during his travels!

19. Watch What Your Pet Drinks Before the Trip

While you’ll have regular access to a bathroom aboard your flight, that’s not the case for your dog. They’ll have their kennel and that’s it until you get off the plane. As a responsible pet owner, you should always make sure your dog has done their business as close to the time of departure as possible. To reduce the risk of accidents, limit how much water they drink. Obviously, you don’t want to deprive your dog, but be smart.

18. And Eats

When it comes to your dog’s diet before a flight, you should be especially careful. You’ll have to cut them off for six hours from all solid foods. This is again to prevent the risk of them making waste in their kennel and tracking it everywhere during the flight. You might want to give your dog a heartier meal the night before your trip, and definitely give them some extra treats once you arrive at your destination to make up for the brief fast.

17. Pet Relief Stations Do Exist (and Will Become Your New Best Friend)

Many airports have pet relief stations. Whether you want to make sure your dog’s bladder is empty before your flight or you have a layover, make use of these stations. These are built inside the airport and are covered in artificial grass. Some even have a faux fire hydrant. Your dog will think it’s the real thing. Call ahead and ask if your airport (and any layover airports) has a pet relief station so you can plan accordingly.

16. Know the Price of Your Pet

Traveling with your pet isn’t free, you know.

Well, unless they’re a service dog or an emotional support dog, in which case, it’s different.

You could pay between $75 and $200 for your dog if you fly Delta” href=”https://www.certapet.com/delta-airlines-pet-policy/” data-wpil-keyword-link=”linked”>Delta, and you may pay between $200 and up to $2,000 if you go United. If you choose to fly with American Airlines” href=”https://www.certapet.com/american-airlines-pet-policy/” data-wpil-keyword-link=”linked”>American Airlines, you may need to pay $200 to get your dog in their kennel and on the plane.

These prices may vary, so again, call your airline ahead of the flight and ask what you’ll be charged. No one likes surprise bills!

15. Know the Limit on How Many Dogs You Can Bring

Do you have a whole posse of pooches? While that’s great, depending on how many you own, you might have to pick and choose which ones will fly with you. Heartbreaking, right? Again, call your airline before your flight to double-check what the limit is on how many dogs you can bring. Hopefully, there’s enough room for all of your furry friends on the plane!

14. Be Aware of Weight Limits for Dogs Too

Besides the number of dogs with your group, you also have to worry about their weight. Smaller dogs, typically those that weigh under 20 pounds, are preferable for most airlines.

If your dog is mid-sized or bigger, you might end up paying extra to bring them along on the flight if you’re allowed to at all. Yes, once again, to be on the safe side, get in touch with your airline well in advance of your trip so you know the protocol. It’ll save you stress the day you disembark!

13. Make Sure Your Pet Isn’t Too Cold or Hot During Their Flight

Depending on where you’re flying to, which airline you choose, and where your dog ends up, they could be hot or cold during the trip. Sometimes airlines run floor heaters or air conditioners to keep pets comfy for the ride. To make sure your dog isn’t freezing, stash their kennel with warm blankets or even a shirt of yours. That will bring back the comforts of home and may help your dog through the trip.

12. Use Pee Pee Padding in Their Kennel, Too

Listen, some flights can be pretty long. Even if your dog is the world champion for holding their pee in, as soon as you put them in a high-anxiety situation and a strange environment, all that training goes out the window. That’s why you may want to stash some pee-pee pads in their kennel as well. That’s certainly better than your pup using the above-mentioned blankets as their personal toilet.

11. Schedule Your Flight Well in Advance

It’s one thing if you’re flying alone or with another human companion. Once you bring a dog into the equation though, things change. Cabins have limited space for dogs and other pets, and if your flight has no more room, you and your pup are out of luck.

If you know you’re going on a trip in five months, plan it now. This will give you peace of mind that your dog can come with you. You can also spend plenty of time finding a great, comfy kennel and acclimating your dog to it.

10. Your Vet Must Give Your Dog a Health Certificate/Form

Another great reason to schedule your flight months ahead? You also may need to schedule a vet’s appointment to get a health certificate for your dog. To earn their certificate, the vet will check that your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and is free of any injuries or illnesses that could make flying difficult. Don’t forget this important document on the day of your flight!

9. Know Where You Can Go with Your Dog

Where do you plan on traveling? Your location can directly impact whether your dog can come with you. If your trip exceeds 12 hours, you might have to leave Fido at home if you fly some airlines.

8. Make Room for Their Supplies with Yours

Some of your dog’s supplies may be in their kennel for a comfortable flight, but most of their necessities should be packed away in luggage. We’re talking about food and water bowls, their bed, medications, grooming supplies, and jackets, and any clothing your dog wears. You may have to pay extra for another bag or two, so be prepared for that as well.

7. Don’t Forget Their Favorite Stuff

Your dog is going to be confused, especially if this is their first flight. After all, why leave the comforts of home to go to some strange place? That’s why it helps to bring their favorite stuff along. Whether that’s a toy or a worn but beloved bed, these things from home will help your dog settle down in their new location so you can enjoy your vacation with fewer worries. Don’t forget the treats, too.

6. Stay Calm

Look, we get it. Flying with your dog can be nerve-wracking. You’re going to be worried about their wellbeing the whole time. Are they hungry? Thirsty? Are they cold or hot? Do they have to pee?

That said, it’s important you remain calm. After all, your dog can read your mood, so if you’re stressed and anxious, that’s just going to add to their stress and anxiety. Be calm and kind to your dog and they’ll feel better in return.

5. Get Them to the Bathroom as Soon as You Can

Whew. Your flight has finally landed and you’re about to disembark. As soon as you can get your dog, you should take them outside so they can use the bathroom. Even if they made a mess in the kennel (luckily you brought pee pee pads for this very reason), they may still have to go again, especially now that they’re outside somewhere more familiar.

If you can’t get them outside because you’re waiting for your luggage or the like, take advantage of the above-mentioned pet relief stations.

4. Give Them Extra Treats after the Flight

Your dog was such a good boy or girl. They handled their first flight with aplomb and only minor messes. Still, it could have been worse. They could have escaped the kennel or injured themselves. Now’s your chance to reward them for being so well-behaved. Hopefully, you followed the tip above and packed their favorite treats. If not, run out and buy some. Throw in some head pats and belly rubs, too. Your dog has more than earned it!

3. Acclimate Them to Their New Surroundings

Yes, you’re going to be adjusting to your new surroundings, too, especially if you’ve traveled to a place you’ve never been before. That said, you know why you’re here.

Your dog doesn’t.

Take some extra time and care to make sure they’ve adjusted to the new location. Whether you’re at the beach, in the mountains, or anywhere in between, leash up your dog and roam around a bit. Let them sniff your hotel room or rental home. Be extra patient. They need to feel comfortable, too, after all.

2. Relax a Little

You probably have a huge itinerary for the next week or so of your vacation. That’s fine but think of your dog. You just woke them up early, put them in a crate for several hours, and flew them far from home. They’re confused, stressed, and certainly tired. If you have big plans, at least chill out for the first few hours of your arrival.

Relax. Unpack a bit. Play with your dog or just sit and watch TV or catch up on emails. Your dog will be grateful to have the break!

1. Have fun!

Remember, this is a vacation, and it’s supposed to be fun. Yes, there was a lot of stress involved flying with dogs, but—like many things—traveling together with your four-legged friend will only get easier the more you do it. You’ll know which airlines to use and you’ll already have a kennel at the ready. Now that all that traveling is out of the way, take some much-needed time to enjoy your vacation with your furry friend.

If you need an ESA and plan on taking flights with your canine or feline companion by your side, having an ESA letter is a godsend! Take the quick pre-screening now to find out whether you qualify!

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