Would you like to to fly with your dog but are not sure where to begin? While planning may seem complicated, there are some steps you can take to help you through the process. Here are 7 tips to help you prepare for flying with your dog.
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7 Tips For Flying With Your Dog
1. Take your dog for a health check
Before you consider putting your dog on a plane, you’ll want to make sure she is healthy enough to fly. Not all dogs are suitable for flying, and some airlines even have restrictions for snub nosed breeds.
Make an appointment with your veterinarian to get the all clear before booking your flight.
Also, consider getting your dog microchipped since this is required if you are flying internationally.
2. Get your dog’s weight and measurements
When you begin to inquire with the airlines, they will ask you for the breed and weight of your dog. They need this information to determine whether your dog will fly in the cabin or cargo hold, or with the airline at all since not all airlines accept all dogs.
They will even sometimes ask for the height and length of your dog as well, so it’s a good idea to have this information handy when you call.
3. Choose a flight for your dog
Not all airlines will accommodate larger dogs so the size of your dog will determine which airline you can fly. If you are traveling domestically the general rule for allowing dogs in the cabin is 15-20 pounds, anything over must go in the cargo hold unless you have a service dog.
Delta Airlines will accommodate dogs of most sizes, so they are a good airline to start with.
If you are flying internationally, the distance and number of flights will determine if your 15-20 pound dog can fly in the cabin with you. It’s always best to try and pick a direct flight if you can.
KLM and Lufthansa are great airlines for international flights. They both accept larger dogs and have a “Pet Hotel” at their respective airports for flights that require a stopover.
4. Select an airline approved travel crate
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a set of guidelines regarding types of crates allowed for flying. The airlines are incredibly strict when it comes to crates and while most follow the IATA guidelines, it’s still a good idea to review each airline’s specific crate policy.
For the cabin, the crate can be either hard or soft, but must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.
For cargo, the crate must be made of hard material and have steel hardware fasteners. See here for a more detailed list of crate specifications.
Petmate makes a Sky Kennel series that is approved by most airlines.
For both hard and soft crates the dog must be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
5. Obtain a Health Certificate
You must present the airline with a health certificate issued form your veterinarian, which has to include proof that your dog has been vaccinated for rabies. If the flight is domestic this can be done within 30 days of travel.
If the flight is international, it has to be done within 10 days of travel and it will have to be endorsed by the USDA. Click here to learn more about USDA endorsement.
6. Feed and Exercise your dog before the flight
Because flying can be rather stressful for dogs, it’s a good idea to feed and water your dog at least 4 hours before the flight. This gives her time to digest her food and relieve herself.
It’s also a great idea to give your dog a nice long walk before heading to the airport. Most airlines require you check in 2 hours before the flight, which means adding 2 extra hours of being in the crate to the already designated flight time, so any exercise is good!
7. Remember to Relax
Your dog will feed off your energy, so remaining calm through the process is important for both of you. Putting an article of clothing in the crate that smells like you is a good way to help your dog to relax during the journey.
While it may feel stressful at the time, once you reach your final destination you will realize it was worth it.
Share Your Experience
What tips do you have for flying with your dog? Share them in a comment below, or join the conversation on the Everyday Dog Mom Collective, a private Facebook group for dog moms!
About the Author:
Caroline is a lover of outdoor activities and international living. Originally from the US, she currently resides in South Africa with her husband and rescue dog Milo, who has traveled around the world with her. She blogs at The Traveling Tail.