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Tips for Flying with Your Dog

With the right preparation, your trip can be as smooth as butter

Tips for Flying with Your Dog

Maybe the family is moving across the country? Maybe a vacation wouldn’t be the same without the fur babies there. Either way, pet parents are sometimes faced with bringing pups onboard their flight. Going through security and keeping your baby calm while in the air can be a challenge. But with the right preparation, the trip can be as smooth as butter. 


  • A trip to the vet is required—Pets need a check-up before taking to the sky. A vet will provide a health certificate and bring any vaccinations up to date.

  • Twenty-five pounds is typically the limit—To be able to fit comfortably in a carrier under the seat in front of passengers, airlines usually put a weight limit on things. Dogs can become scared and even injured when flying in cargo, so avoid it at all costs. Even if it means driving.

(Tip: Be sure to purchase and test a TSA approved carry on pet carrier in advance)

  • Each Airline has its own rules--When it comes to bringing pets onboard, Delta and Southwest are notoriously hospitable choices. Southwest even has a special carrier that can be purchased from their site.

  • Pets have to go through security too—In the airport, they must remain in their carrier until walking through the metal detector or body scanner. At this point, they must be carried or walked on a leash.

  • Dogs can have a difficult time breathing at high altitudes—Because of this, sedatives are discouraged.

Gear and Packing

  • Carrier—This is an absolute must. A TSA-approved carrier fits under the seat. This pick is well ventilated and even has additional compartments for food, water, and other supplies. No need for an extra bag to carry those things. 


  • Water Bottle—Keeping pups hydrated is a breeze with this bottle that allows you to squeeze and fill a small bowl on top. Bring it through security empty, and fill at a water station.


  • Pet Luggage—Everything for the trip does not have to be brought to the cabin. Check a bag with extra food and supplies. We love this tote with cute paw prints.


  • Harness—Do you have a Houdini on your hands? Ruffwear has developed the Webmaster harness which will be more secure since it has five adjustment points. Pet parents can breathe a little easier with a more secure harness.

Special Issues

  • Dogs must be at least 10 weeks old to fly. If picking up a puppy in another state, keep this in mind. 


  • Dogs with more flat snouts may struggle to breathe on planes. For example, a pug would be included in this category. Some airlines won’t even allow dogs like this to fly.


  • Flying out of the country presents a different set of rules and requirements. This will have to be assessed by each location. Some will allow in-cabin arrivals, and some, like Hong Kong, will not.

COVID and Pets

Some airlines have tightened up pet policies after the COVID outbreak. Pet parents may have to book much further in advance to secure a spot. Air cargo travel is out of the question on some carriers, for the time being. However, more flights are heading for the skies as we continue to navigate the crisis but call if you are wanting to fly with your dog anytime soon. 

Traveling with a dog can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be all stress. Plan ahead, visit your vet, and talk to a few people at the airline and TSA to ensure all the facts are sorted. Special considerations are made for military pets. All in all, enjoy the time with those furry babies.

Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.

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