Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs | The Dog Effect

Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs

Travelling by air is by far the quickest way to get from A to B with your dog.  While I love a good road trip with my dog, it is not always convenient or possible.  Airline travel with your dog can be a great option but be aware, you must be prepared before you attempt this journey. Before you attempt to book a ticket this Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs is a MUST READ.

There are many many rules and requirements before you are ready to go. In Australia, we can not travel with our dogs in the cabin. Nope, never, not even. Our dogs much be checked into cargo and and we lose control over our dogs care. Horror stories are often heard of dogs being left on the tarmac for too long in the blazing sun.  

Not to raise alarm, there are many good carriers and in many countries you can travel side-by-side with your pooch in the cabin. Not to mention my absolute dream of  taking my dog by private jet in complete luxury.

Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs

Booking your Dogs Travel

There are many consideration to take into account when booking your dog's travel. Firstly, consider the benefits, disadvantages and alternatives to plane travel.

1. Book Direct

If you decide on plane travel consider the journey. Try to book a direct flight where possible to eliminate the need to change planes and possibly disrupt or frighten to your dog. Direct flights are generally shorter too.

2. Time of Day

This is a huge consideration for me. If you live in a hot climate, avoid flights during the day. This is particularly important if your dog is black, dark coloured or is extra sensitive to the heat. Although this shouldn't happen, dog's can be waiting for some time in the heat to be loaded onto the plane.  Your dog may have limited water and can dehydrate easily.

Which Airlines Allow Dogs To Travel In The Cabin?

When I started looking into this, I was surprised at how many there were.  Airlines have specific procedures in place for the booking, handling and delivery of your dog. The needs of your dog is  specifically considered during loading, off-loading or at a transit stop. Here are a few of the airlines that you can start looking into and links to the airlines Pet Policy.  

Which Airlines Allow Dogs To Travel In Cargo?

If your chosen airline does not allow dogs in the cabin or your dog does not ft within the airline cabin criteria, then you will have to send your dog cargo. Here are some airlines that do not allow cabin travel but will allow your dog to travel cargo. 

We all have reservations about sending our dogs cargo. Here is a short video by JetPets showing the on-loading and off-loading process.  Nice to note the the cargo is air-conditioned and comfortable for our dogs and that they get priority treatment on and off the plane.

Restrictions To Flying With Pets.

There are many airlines that can help you when travelling with your dog.  These airlines will have their own requirements for travel though. Some will allow cabin travel, others will not. Thoroughly read the airlines rules about animal travel and I would even make a call to them to discuss in more detail. Here are some of the common restriction for some airlines but always check the details directly with the airline.

1. Size of Your Dog

If you wish to travel with your dog in the cabin, both the size of your dog and the size of the carrier will be a consideration. Airlines will usually restrict your dog's weight to either 5, 8 or 10kg and this includes the weight of the carrier.  Your carrier size will also be restriction to carry on size as it will need to fit under the seat in from on you.  Carry-on luggage is measured by the sum of width, depth and height of the cage, with a total sum of less than 115cm. 

If your dog is larger or heavier, airlines may still carry your dog, but it will need to travel as checked baggage in an approved crate.

2. Number of Dogs

This is usually restricted to 1 dog per passenger. Logically because you can usually only fit one dog carrier under the seat in front of you. I have seen cases were you can have more than one pet as long as they fit in the same carrier and still meet the weight restrictions. Perhaps very small dogs,  rats or rabbits would fit this criteria.

3. Age of Your Dog

Many dogs are travelling to their new homes, so many doggy passengers are puppies. Many airlines will restrict the age of the dog to more than 8 weeks old but some will state 10 or even 12 weeks old.

4. Breed of Your Dog

I have seen breed restrictions for some airlines around "brachycephalic" breeds. These are breeds that tend to have a short nose and flat face like a Pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Boxer, Griffon (Belgian, Brussels), Boston Terrier, Bordeaux Mastiff, Japanese Chin.  These breeds often have restricted airways and breathing difficulties which puts them at a higher risk during travel.

Dogs that are classified as fighting or dangerous dogs may only be transported in special crates and exclusively in the hold. An exception is sometimes made for fighting dogs between the ages of 3 and 6 months which can be transported in standard transport crates. These breeds usually include but may not be limited to an American Pit Bull Terrier,  American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, Dogo Argentino, Karabash (Kangal) (Anatolian Shepherd Dog), Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd Dog), Rottweiler.  

5. Your Destination

If you plan to fly domestic, then you will have little planning to do. Simply check with your airline and understand how to ensure your dog is safe and comfortable.

International travel is completely different. Australia and New Zealand have the strictest quarantine requirement in the world and you can't just book your dog a seat and arrive there unannounced. Like many rabies -free countries, there are wads of paperwork, vet checks, blood tests and approval that need to be granted before getting your dog to these countries.

Approvals and quarantine requirements will be based on where your dog is coming from. There are three types of countries:

  • Rabies Free Country (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, Singapore...)
  • Rabies Controlled Country (e.g. Canada, England, Germany, USA...)
  • High Rabies Country (e.g. Much of Africa, China, Costa Rica..)

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country of departure and the country of arrival for any special regulations for the import and export of animals. Always be prepared well in advance as Rabies and other vaccinations and blood tests may be required.  A rabies vaccination is usually required no later than 21 days before the trip and is effective for 1 year. 

Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs

Preparing For Your Dogs Travel Day

Preparing your dog for travel can be very stressful. Being prepared is the best way to reduce that stress and divert all your attention to making sure your dog is happy, healthy and prepared for travel. Our Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs provides some final checks and preps before you take your dog to the airport.

1. Health Check

Get a vet check prior to travel. Top up on any medications and advice that your vet has for travel. Don't feed your dog anything unusual before travel as this may give your dog an upset stomach or diarreah. It is generally not recommended to tranquillise your dog prior to travel and should only be done under strict veterinarians advice. There are alternate natural calming solutions if you wish to try them but always test these prior to travel.  Many airlines and destination countries will require a health certificate prior to flying. Check with your destination country and airline.

2. Documentation

Keep a list of paper work that your airline, departure and destination countries may require. This could be your Pet Passport, health certificate, vaccinations, microchip details, worming and flea treatments. Check whether originals or copies are required, but always take copies for your records. Take a copy with you and leave a copy at home with someone you can contact.

3. Exercise

Give your dog lots of exercise in the few days leading up to travel.  Whatever your dogs favourite playtime is, lots of walks and don't forget to exercise their minds and jaws. A big bone, some chews or chew toys and lots of stimulation the week leading up to travel. This will ensure your dog will be tired and willing to sleep and relax on the plane.

4. Grooming

Airlines don't like stinky animals so a nice wash, dry and brush will ensure your dog will board trouble free. I recommend a groom before travel mainly to ensure that your dog's health isn't compromised. Long claws can get stuck in cages or pulled out causing your dog a lot of pain. Having your dog's coat trimmed will remove any hidden grass seeds that may cause problems. Along with cleaning your dogs ears and clearing their anal glands will ensure your dog is in tip top condition for their long journey.

5. Crate Preparation

Ensure that you have the correct crate for airline travel. If your dog is new to being in a cage or crate, spend ample time acclimatising your dog. Have the crate at home at least a week prior. Play some games with your dog around the crate to make it a pleasant experience. Carry your dog around in the carrier so that they understand the movement and noises prior to travel.

5. Cost of Air Travel for Dogs

This may or may not be expensive. Cheap options include domestic travel where you both travel on the same plane and can be less than a few hundred dollars for small dogs and several hundred for large dogs. The price tends to go up for there and can skyrocket. Associated costs inlcude:

  • Plane flight can be over $1000 for long journeys
  • Airline approved crate or carrier
  • Vet vists
  • Vaccinations
  • Health certificates
  • Blood tests

Type of Dog Carrier

To transport your pet in the cargo hold, you will require a transport container compliant with current IATA (International Air Transport Association) regulations. The rules regarding approved types of containers for animals flying in cabin and as cargo were created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and have been accepted by most of the world's airlines. Dogs are supposed to be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down naturally and comfortably in the carrier. You can read our article on the best dog carrier for airline travel.

Best Dog Carrier For Airline Travel

Here is a short video showing you what the crate sizing and requirement are:

Top Tip: Freeze the water in the carriers water bowl. This will stop it from spilling and allow your dog to drink the water as it melts.

Preparing Your Dog Carrier For Cargo Travel

It is essential that you prepare your dog and the dog crate or carrier before travel. Here are some preparation tips this.

Firstly get you dog comfortable with being around the carrier. Play with your dog around the carrier and encourage your dog  to get inside and play. The airline carrier can split in two, so if your dog is wary, just use the bottom half until your dog is more comfortable.

Clean the crate and assemble the carrier correctly and most importantly securely. Check the door latch, the bolts, the water container attachments and handle. The water bowls should sit on the inside but be refillable from the outside, usually with a small funnel.

Attach any information that has been required by the airline. Include a 'LIVE ANIMAL' sticker on the top and side of the crate. Have your name, your dogs name and contact details on the crate. You can include a photo of their dog on the crate. Put any vital documents in a safe vinyl pouch with the words "DO NOT REMOVE! ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS" and zip tie this to the crate then tape it securely. 

Line the carrier with a absorbent mat and put a familiar bet or blanket on top. Put in a t-shirt with your scent on it to comfort your dog. Do not put any hard toys or objects in the carrier as this can hurt your dog during movement.

Your dogs collar and leash does not go inside the carrier when flying incase it get caught up on something. Attach the collar and leash securely to the outside of the crate. 

Consider Help To Arrange Your Dog's Flight

I have sent my dog on both domestic and international flights and I find it extremely stressful. The domestic flight was actually quite easy and coming from a small airport, it I was able to be with my dog up until loading. International travel, to and from Australia, was so stressful due to the extreme quarantine requirements that I wouldn't actually do it again. But if you must, then it is definitely worth using an animal transport company to help.

Many international journeys are not so hard so don't be discouraged. Also, help is at hand. Consider using a pet transport company to help you out. It can be pricey, but worth every cent. The transport company can assist navigating the paperwork, requirements, bookings, and pre and post flight doggy accomodation. Visit the International Pet and Animal Transport Association (IPATA) website to find a suitable and trusted transport company. A pet transport company will help you with all the preparation  and transport.

Does My Dog Need a Pet Passport

A Pet Passport or Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is a document that allows dogs and pets to travel more easily through member countries. It can dramatically speed up processing and any eliminate quarantine requirements when travelling through some countries. The Pet Passport is useful for travel through the European Union (EU). Here is some useful information from the UK government in regards to Pet Travel to the UK and EU.

Best Dog Carrier For Air Travel

What To Do On The Day of Travel

Here are some tips for the day of travel and how best to prep your dog.  

As well as the week leading up to travel, take you dog for a long walk and play on the morning or day of travel. Be careful not to dehydrate your dog and allow them time to drink water before travel. Allow lots of time for them to go potty or toilet before flying.

Reduce the size of feeds the day before and only give them a small fee on the day of travel. Make sure your dog drinks but give them time to toilet.

Brag your dogs favourite blanket and t-shirt with your scent. Check your dog's collar and leash for damage and check the ID is correct. I prefer to have additional contact numbers n the collar if contact may get difficult.

Before check-in, take your dog for another walk and toilet and try to to be nervous as your dog will pick up on this. Lots of pats and cuddle to reassure your dog and try to act as norma as possible leading up to checkin.

Packing List For In-Cabin Flying

Yes, your dog will most probably need his own carry-on luggage. Emergency items to clean up after your dog and to keep your dog occupied during the flight. Here is al ist of things we recommend you take with you on the flight.

  • Airline approved carrier
  • Health certificate and medical records
  • Contact information for your dog's vet and an emergency contact at your destination
  • Any special medication your dog might need
  • Pet wipes or grooming products
  • Paper towels and stain remover
  • Dog treat for the flight but only small ones
  • Bottled water
  • Food and water dish
  • Leash and poop bags
  • Your dog's favorite toy and blanket

What To Do In Transit With Your Dog

If you have a stop over or transit stops while travelling with your dog in-cabin, many airports are now providing Pet Relief Stations.  There is a new regulation out that requires airports that serve more than 10,000 passengers a year to have pet relief station in each terminal. This caters for service animals that accompany passengers but can also be used for in-cabin doggy travellers. Example airports include:

  • Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago O’Hare International , Chicago, Illanois
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas, Texas
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, New YOrk
  • Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California
  • Miami International Airport, Miami, Florida
  • San Diego International Airport, SanDiego, California 
  • Vancouver International Airport, BC, Canada

Read more on the Most Dog Friendly Airports in America. From massive play areas, to doggy cafes. Here's a short video on the Dog Park at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport.

In Europe,  Amsterdam Schiphol airport leads the way as a dog friendly airports and Paris Charles de Gaulle airport has a nice grassy area outside that for your dog to enjoy.

This is a great example of a pet relief station. It is at Denver Airport. The airport also have a Pet Resort if you are staying overnight and features private suites, flat screen TVs, massage therapy, on-site medical experts – and, of course, obedience training. 

Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs

This is a great outdoor pet relief station at San Jose Airport complete with bright red fire hydrants. 

Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs

Animal Transit Lounges

Here is another short video on the Lufthansa Animal Lounge. Flying your dog is a very emotional experience so I have included lots of videos to help alleviate your stress by showing you how it works so that you can see what the process is like.

More Help For Dog Plane Travel

In additional to this Ultimate Guide To Flying With Dogs, more information about flying with your dog can be found at  the following places to get yourself up to speed and take the fear out of flying with dogs:

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