What to Know About Flying with Your Dog for the First Time

Travel and adventures are that much more special with your best friend along for the fun! Road trips with your four-legged family members are a fun way to explore, but what if your destination is a bit beyond traveling by car? Flying with your dog for the first time can be an adventure on its own!

It’s easy for us humans to just hop on a plane, but there are a few extra things to think about when bringing your dog along on a flight. Are you prepared for the extra planning of traveling by air with your pup?

Pet Travel Checklist:

  • FAA-approved carrier or crate
  • Puppy pads & poop bags
  • Required documents and health records
  • ID tags and pet license (consider getting them a microchip, too)
  • Dog food and treats
  • Comfort items like a favorite toy or stuffed animal
  • You and your vet’s contact information & phone number

Can I Bring My Dog on an Airplane?

In many cases, yes you can! 

Most airlines will allow small dogs (and cats) under 20 pounds to fly in-cabin with their humans, as long as they can stay in their pet carrier. Pet carriers must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. 

The minimum age for puppies and kittens to fly is usually two months.

Airlines in the U.S. That Allow Dogs to Fly In-Cabin:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allegiant Air
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines

Always double-check the airline pet policies as they are subject to change. Most recently, some airlines have altered their emotional support animal (ESA) policy, so it’s important to re-review your airline’s requirements.

What If My Dog Is Too Big to Fly In-Cabin?

denver most dog-friendly cities

Some airlines will accommodate large dogs to fly as baggage or cargo. It’s important to do your research and learn exactly what your airline’s policies are for big dogs. 

Airlines like American and Delta have stopped allowing dogs to fly in cargo or checked baggage due to COVID-19, except for active-duty U.S. Military and U.S. State Department personnel.

Travel by air can be stressful for dogs, and it’s okay if some four-legged family members are better suited for road trips. If you have to fly without them, seek out a local, a loving kennel, a trusted friend, or a fellow pet owner to care for your pooch while you’re away.

Can I Buy a Seat for My Dog on an Airplane?

flying with your dog for the first time

You’re able to purchase an additional seat for your cats and dogs with some airlines. Unfortunately, they’re not exactly allowed to sit next to you and strap in.

Most airlines reserve purchasing a second seat for passengers who are traveling with more than one pet. 

If you’re bringing two furry friends on your flight, airlines like JetBlue require that a second seat be purchased to safely store both your dog’s carriers. If you buy a second seat your dog or dogs will still need to fit in carriers that remain securely under the seats in front of yours.

Planning Travel With Your Dog in Mind

girl taking her dog on a sniff walk

There are pros and cons to flying with your dog, especially if they’re too large to fly with you in the cabin. Consider your destination, the length of your flight, your dog’s health, and try looking for direct flights to avoid changing planes and long layovers. 

Most airlines allow no more than two pets per traveler, and usually limit the number of pets allowed on any given flight, so book early for the best chance of getting your travel buddy a spot. 

Flying at busy times like during the holidays can be overwhelming for people, and even more so for pets. It’s best to avoid popular travel times when possible if your dog is along for the adventure. Most airports are least busy in the early morning or late evening hours, making those windows a good time to book air travel with dogs.

How Will My Dog Go to the Bathroom on a Plane?

why is my dog's poop white? dog holding a poop bag

Before boarding, take them to the airport’s designated pet relief area. 

Onboard, line your dog’s carrier with puppy pads or other dog pee pads when you’re preparing to travel with them. You can find them in most pet stores where puppy training items are sold or on Amazon.

Some airlines have restrictions about pets on international or extended flights because they end up being too long for pets to comfortably travel through. Just like us, they need their potty breaks!

The Cost of Flying with Your Dog

pug dog at airport

Pet fees for traveling with your dog vary from airline to airline and may depend on the distance to your destination, or whether your flight includes a transfer. 

Most airlines charge between $95 to $175 each way to fly with your dog in-cabin, and they sometimes count as your carry-on item.

If your dog will be flying as luggage or cargo hold, the cost can vary depending on the size of your dog, destination, and whether you’re traveling internationally. 

Always check with your specific airline, but plan to pay between $200 and $1,000 to fly with a large dog.

Being Prepared at the Airport 

Read the fine print and make sure you’re aware of any rules or regulations for flying with dogs well before check-in. The last thing you want is to show up for your flight and be turned away because of something you overlooked, or even worse, have to leave for vacation without your dog!

Getting Your Dog a Check-Up Before Traveling

dog at the vet

You want to make sure your pup is healthy and ready for travel, but a documented clean bill of health issued within 10 days of travel is also required by most airlines before dogs can fly. 

Once you’ve booked your travel plans, schedule a visit with your dog’s veterinarian to get a health certificate and up-to-date vaccination records. If your travel will extend past the 10-day window, you may need to schedule another vet visit while you’re away to be sure your pup is cleared for the journey home. 

Bringing the Right Carrier

pet carrier

Your dog may be spending a lot of time in their carrier while you’re traveling, so make sure it’s a good one! You want your furry friend to be comfortable for the journey. Line their carrier with a soft bed or blanket, and make sure they have a comfort item like an entertaining toy or favorite stuffed animal.

Airlines typically all require that pet carriers be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Check exact dimensions and weight limits with your specific airline, and be sure you can choose a carrier that allows your dog enough room to comfortably turn around and sit or lay down during your flight.

Still have questions? Check out the FAQ page on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website.