Etiquette for Taking a Dog on an Airplane

by Julia on July 27, 2020

If you have a dog as a companion, it’s understandable why you might be tempted to take it with you on your travels.

Between needing to find a sitter, the uncertainty of knowing how they’re doing, wanting them with you, and needing them for support or service needs, flying with your dog and bringing them along is a seemingly simpler alternative.

Unfortunately, flying with a dog is not as simple as it seems. You don’t have the luxury of purchasing an extra seat for your pal, which means you’ll need to comply with the regulations of whichever airline you decide to fly on.

Most popular airlines have several requirements regarding flying with a dog. Additionally, a few smart considerations are crucial to practicing good flying etiquette with a dog. We’ll go over them below so you’re prepared for your next flight!

Understand Size Limitations

One of the most important considerations regards the size limitations placed on dogs.

When taking your fluffy friend on a plane, you typically have two options. You can either put them on the floor in front of you or store them in the cargo hold.

An important consideration here is the safety level of cargo holds. Because cargo holds do not contain passengers, their temperature is not regulated as well. This is problematic because planes fly at high altitudes with low temperatures.

While the cases of dog deaths and injuries from flights are relatively low, they often happen as a result of temperature changes in the cargo hold. Whether that’s from low temperatures in the air or overheating on the tarmac, it happens and it is devastating.

That said, your other option is taking them with you on the plane. However, there are size restrictions on this. The exact ruling varies by airline, but you typically can have a dog up to 15-20 pounds with you.

More importantly, your companion must be able to fit in their dog carrier and underneath the seat in front of you. This makes them similar to carry-on luggage.

Exceptions are made for service animals. They can be larger, but must still fit in the space between you and the seat in front of you.

Size makes a big difference when flying with a dog. The bigger your pet, the more challenging it becomes because then you’re faced with crating them in the cargo hold. You likely could do this without a problem, but the existence of any risk is enough to avoid taking that option.

Register in Advance

You’ll also need to register in advance to ensure your dog has a spot on the plane.

If you do not inform the airline that you are flying with a pet, then you won’t be able to board when you get to the airport. This is because there are limits on how many animals can be on a plane at any time.

Again, the exact number varies by airline, but 6-7 pets on the entire plane cabin with a single pet per passenger is a good estimate. With a plane of more than 100 passengers, this means that the odds of having an available spot may be slim.

Registering in advance will ensure that your companion is accounted for. Furthermore, it will prevent you from being seated near an exit row (pets cannot sit in these rows) and will have you take care of the payment of a required pet fee.

Having all of this taken care of will make flying with your dog much easier. Pay the fee upfront and take care of the paperwork before the day of your flight to have one less thing to worry about.

Physically Prepare Your Dog

Another significant suggestion is physically preparing your dog for the flight.

This means thinking about your pet’s wants and needs during the flight. What you do has a direct impact on your dog’s needs and this can be altered to minimize their needs during the flight.

Specifically, you should focus on limiting their food intake before the flight, ensuring they fully relieve themselves before taking off, and going on a long walk the day of the flight.

Limiting food intake is important to reduce their need to make a bowel movement. How much they need to relieve themselves is based on how much they’ve eaten, so less food results in fewer urges to go to the bathroom.

While the airplane has a human toilet, there isn’t an easy spot for your dog. You certainly don’t want a mess on the plane, so going beforehand is your only option. Many airports have doggy relief areas, so make sure you know where to go before your flight.

Lastly, a long walk the day of your trip will exhaust your fluffy friend. The easiest way to fly with a dog is when they’re fast asleep because they won’t even know they’re there. This makes it easy for them and you.

As you can see, you can make a difference in how your dog will be ready for the flight. Reduce their diet the day before flying, make sure they go potty before boarding and take a nice long walk before the trip.

Closing Thoughts

It’s likely easier to keep your dog at home while you travel, but bringing them on your flight is an option. However, you’ll need to consider how this affects your eligibility to fly.

You must properly prepare for a flight with a dog to avoid delays and frustration. A few important tips for this include understanding the size limitations placed by airlines, registering your dog in advance, and physically preparing your pet for the flight.

Keep in mind that flying is a scary experience for any animal. Between a packed airport, a loud airplane, and hundreds of new scents, it can be a sensory overload. Remember how your pet feels and plan your actions with them in consideration.

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