Flying With a Dog

Flying on a plane is a stressful occasion in the best of times. This can be even more so the case when attempting to fly with your dog or any other animal for that matter. When planning a trip with your dog, it’s even more imperative that you do your due diligence and thoroughly research the options available to you. Preparation ahead of time will make the process on the day of go much smoother.

Researching Your Options

Every airline has their own set of pet policies and different locations around the world have varying accessibility for pets as well. Due to this, it’s incredibly important that you research everything about your flight and destination prior to making arrangements. Make sure the airline allows pets and check out what their policy is regarding the size of your dog, where it is supposed to be kept during the flight, and what, if any, size limitations they might have.

Whether you can bring your dog on the flight into the cabin with you or if it will need to be transported in the cargo hold will vary depending on the dog and the airline upon which you are flying. Many airlines also restrict the number of pets which are allowed to be on the flight with a first come, first served rule of thumb. This means scheduling your flight in advance and getting your dog setup for flying with you will aid you in ensuring there is room for your dog on the flight before other passengers have a chance to fill up the limited pet slots available.

You should generally expect to pay a pet fee in order to fly with your dog. Standard fees for bringing a dog on the plane range from $75 to about $200 one way. This number could easily go up depending on the size of your dog, so expect to pay a fair bit extra for your pet on round trip flights.

It’s a good idea to try and get direct flights to cut down on complications that can arise from changing planes and getting your dog situated on the flight. This is especially true if your dog is flying in the cargo hold as multiple flights and instances of being handled by baggage handlers increases the chance of the animal being harmed or placed in discomfort for longer periods of time.

Not all dogs are treated the same overseas, so make sure you understand how different countries you might be visiting feel about dogs in general and the breed of your dog specifically. Rules for traveling with a dog can vary depending on the classification of your animal as well. Service dogs, emotional support dogs, and pets can have different rules, laws, and expectations associated with them.

Service Dog

Service dogs are classified as “working animals” and have protections under law due to their essential status for accompanying their masters in order to provide them with the safety they require due to their disability. Many airlines allow service dogs to fly for free if they can fit on your lap or sit at your feet without blocking the aisleway. Pet travel fees can often be avoided when flying with your service dog thanks to laws that protect the rights of those who are disabled.

Service dogs are highly trained animals which are capable of providing various, specialized duties on the behalf of their owner to keep them safe and healthy. Service dogs are only obtainable by special approval to those who suffer from disabilities as defined by the ADA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Service dogs are trained to perform tasks uniquely useful to the owner of the animal whenever the disabled person is in need of their services. This puts these dogs into the “working class” of animals and provides them extra rights that are not afforded to pets.

Emotional Support Dog

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are similar to service dogs, but not afforded all of the same access and rights as emotional support dogs are not considered to be mandatory for the wellbeing of their owner. Having said that, emotional support dogs are still considered extremely important thanks to the value they add to their masters’ lives. As such, emotional support dogs (sometimes called companion dogs) are also allowed to accompany their masters in places that pets might otherwise be excluded from.

There are laws that protect emotional support dogs, but they are generally slightly less accepted when compared to service dogs due to public opinion and understanding of emotional support animals. Despite this fact, emotional support dogs are still allowed on some airlines who permit them to travel for free under certain circumstances. Keep in mind though that, since they aren’t service dogs, airlines aren’t legally required to allow your ESA to fly with you.

Pet Dog

Pets are not afforded any special consideration under law compared to emotional support dogs and service dogs, but they are still provided with the ability to accompany owners on their flights on a case by case basis. The specific pet policies that an airline has can vary greatly which is why it’s so vital that you call ahead of time before booking any tickets and make sure you are completely informed on the airline’s policy.

Airline Dog Policies

Different airlines can have varying policies depending on the breed of your dog and other aspects of your animal. For more information concerning individual airlines, check out the following pages for each airline on USSA’s website:

The key points to consider are that different airlines and different regions of the world have varying opinions on animals, especially dogs. Due to this, some breeds may be considered to be dangerous or unclean depending on the part of the world you’re in. This means it’s important to fully research the feelings that others have towards your specific dog breed.

Regardless of the breed of your dog, there are some general rules of thumb that will help you make the most of your travel experience and avoid any unwanted difficulties from arising when flying with your dog.

General Tips for Traveling With Your Dog

The health of your animal should always be a primary factor of consideration when making any plans to travel with your dog. This means it’s really important that you get your dog a general health checkup from a trained veterinary physician prior to making any arrangements.

A health issue that goes unnoticed prior to placing your dog in a stressful situation like flying on a plane could result in complications that may place your animal in harm’s way. Furthermore, some locations may require that your dog have specific vaccinations or medical clearance to allow them to travel with you. This is why it’s best to start off any plans of traveling with your dog with a trip to the vet first.

Where you are seated on the plane may change whether you are allowed to have a pet with you or not. Most airlines will not allow you to travel with your dog in your lap or on the floor in front of you if you are seated in an emergency exit row. As such, make sure you confirm ahead of time that you will be flying with your pooch so you can ensure that there won’t be a conflict when you arrive at the airport and begin boarding the plane.

Getting to the airport early will ensure you have enough time to get your dog some exercise prior to the flight and give it time to relieve itself so you can avoid any accidents that could result in being charged extra fees or even being asked to leave the flight. Getting your dog to release some of its pent up energy before being cooped up in a small space with lots of other people is always a good idea anyway to keep your dog from acting up during the flight.

Federal regulations require that pets be at least eight weeks old in order to fly, so make sure your pup isn’t too young of a pup for flying before you even consider attempting to go on a flight with them. On the other side of the coin, dogs that are advanced in their age may not do well with the added stress and small spaces that are a factor of flying on a plane. If your dog is getting along in its years, it might be best to leave them at home with a sitter instead of bringing them on the plane with you.

Make sure you have a good quality crate or carrier for your dog. Getting a carrier or crate in which your dog can comfortably fit and still be able to adjust itself will help ease the stress of your dog’s flight and will make sure they are safe throughout it. Where your dog will be allowed (whether in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold below) will vary depending on the dimensions of the crate which you have your animal within. This might make you want to try and get a smaller crate, but it’s important that your dog is comfortable and safe throughout the flight.

A strong, sturdy, and comfortable crate will help ease the stress of the situation for your animal while also protecting it from mishandling or jostling during the flight and loading/unloading process. You should buy the crate ahead of time so you can inspect its quality and give your dog some time to familiarize itself with the crate and become more comfortable within its confines. A sedative may also be a good idea for the flight to keep your dog from harming itself, especially if it has a tendency for nervous behavior.

If your dog is too large to fly in the cabin with you, make sure you check your dog into cargo as late as possible to minimize the time they spend waiting in the terminal. It’s also important to check the weather along the flight to make sure the temperatures won’t be harmful to your animal. You might want to get a night time flight during the hot summer to keep your dog in cooler conditions.

The laws and regulations for traveling animals can vary greatly depending on the location of your destination. Some places have very strict requirements that can be a real headache to figure out. If you’re going to a different country with your dog, you may want to look into hiring an expert who can guide you through the process of your dog gaining entry into your country of destination.

Upon reaching your destination, make picking up your dog as quickly as possible your top priority. Your pet will be glad to see you and will relish the opportunity to stretch its legs and relieve itself once you have reached your destination.

Enjoying Time With Your Dog

Once you have reached your destination with your best friend, it’s time to relax and enjoy yourself! Congratulate yourself on a job well done and take the time to appreciate spending time with your dog on vacation or in your new place of residence. While it took a lot of time and effort to bring your dog with you on your trip, it will be well worth the effort once you have the chance to settle into enjoying the presence of your dog.

While the entire process might have been long and stressful, you now get to enjoy spending time with your favorite creature in a new place. If you follow all these tips and do plenty of research and preparation ahead of time, the entire process is sure to go much smoother. Additionally, the next time you travel abroad with your dog, you will be much more prepared for what works best. Keeping your animal safe and happy throughout your travels is no easy task, but the rewards are well worth it.