Tips For Flying With Your Dog

Don't sit and stay. Travel with your pup.

June 16, 2021

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 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Some of us can't stand to leave our friends behind when we're on the road — even if they have four legs and fur. About 37 percent of Americans take their pets when they travel, according to the American Pet Products Association.

Fortunately, most dogs love to ride in cars, but flying with Fido can be a challenge. We've gathered some tips on taking a trip with your pup from Delta Air Lines and DogVacay, an online service that connects pet owners with pet sitters across the US and Canada. Just remember: each airline has its own pet policies and prices, so check before you buy your ticket.

Also, be aware that transporting an animal in cargo is risky. You, your vet and the airline agent should discuss your pet’s breed, health, age and any other considerations before you reserve space for him/her. Remember that the weather and temperature can significantly affect your pet in the cargo area.

The Humane Society of the United States says your pet will likely be happier at home than traveling with you. But if Fido is going, the Humane Society website recommends that you "weigh all the risks when deciding whether to transport your pet by airplane ... Consider all the alternatives to flying." They strongly suggest choosing the cabin over cargo if possible, adding, "While most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling are often to blame." Visit the HSUS site for more information.

Decide Where to Go

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Use DogVacay's Barkability tool to search for your destination and see how "pet-friendly" it is. Find more great places to "ruff" it with Fido.

Experts recommend taking a non-stop to lessen your pet's stress. A direct flight is the second-best choice.

Before You Book

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Be sure your airline will transport pets. Delta allows dogs to fly in the cargo compartment or the cabin. To travel in the cabin, the dog must fit comfortably in his/her kennel, which must fit under your seat. Seat sizes vary by aircraft, so call ahead to find out what size kennel you can bring. Cargo areas also have restrictions on kennel sizes. Reserve space in cargo or in the cabin early, since most airlines take only a limited number of animals per flight.

Dog Friendly Brice Hotel in Savannah, Georgia

Dog Friendly Brice Hotel in Savannah, Georgia

Savannah's pet-friendly hotel The Brice makes everyone feel at home.

Don't be surprised if the airline agent asks what breed of dog you have. Pups with pug-like noses including bulldogs and pugs don't always fare well in cargo and may not be accepted. DogVacay recommends traveling mid-day during the cool or cold months, or in the morning or evening of warm months, so it's easier for your canine friend to breathe. Don't fly him/her in cargo in the summer or in any period of hot weather.

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Visit your vet before you leave home. Some airlines require immunizations and/or a health certificate and record of your pet’s shots. The shots should not expire before you come home.

Your vet can also discuss medications that might make the trip easier on your pet. But don’t give your pet anything to relax him/her unless it's specifically recommended, stresses DogVacay. Altitude changes can affect sedatives, leading to dangerous and even fatal respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Medications can also interfere with the dog's ability to regulate his/her body temperature. If the vet says your dog shouldn't travel at all, heed the doc's advice.

Ask your vet when to stop feeding your dog before the flight, so he/she won't have an upset stomach.

Cypress Inn, CA

Cypress Inn, CA

This boutique inn in Carmel is Fido friendly!

Photo by: D.M. Troutman; BringFido/Cypress Inn

D.M. Troutman; BringFido/Cypress Inn

If your pet is riding cargo, ask your vet to clip his nails, so they won't get caught in your dog's crate door, air vent or any other opening.

DogVacay recommends using a water bottle with a hanging ball mechanism in your pet's crate, so there's less chance of spillage.

Give your dog some “practice time” in the kennel, so he/she gets used to it before you depart. Try putting your dog in it for short drives around town.

On the Day You Fly

Del Mar Dog Beach

Del Mar Dog Beach

Bring four-legged friends to this dog-friendly beach in Del Mar, California.

Photo by: James G/

James G/

Give your dog a leisurely walk about an hour before flight time, to help your dog relax and burn off energy.

Make sure your dog's carrier and tag are marked with your current and complete ID. The kennel should also show where your pet is going and where your pet is coming from.

Get to the airport early, so you’ll have plenty of time to check in and get Fido settled.

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