9 Key Lessons Learned While Flying with a Dog In-Cabin
UPDATED: October 21, 2018
I’ve flown with my dog Gretel 4 times.
I don’t claim to be an absolute expert on flying with a dog in cabin but I am pretty savvy when it comes to traveling with a dog and I learn fast from experience (plus our Facebook followers gave me a bunch of great tips and advice).
I’ve flown varying length and distances with Gretel. One was a direct flight but the others had layovers. The total travel time ranged from 4 hours to around 10 hours.
Our first flight was from Seattle to the PetSafe Paw Print Blogger Summit in Knoxville, TN. I had never flown with a dog in-cabin (or at all) before and Gretel had never been on an airplane.
I did a lot of research during the few weeks before we left. For most of our flights, Gretel’s airline pet carrier was a Sleppypod Air (read our review HERE). On our most recent flight, Gretel traveled in the Kurgo Explorer Small Dog Carrier. Both worked really well for us.
Although I read a ton of tips from other people, I also knew that every person, dog, and situation is different so I went into each experience with an open mind and flexible attitude (albeit a little nervous, admittedly). Each time, I have learned something new.
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9 Important lessons I’ve Learned while Flying With a Dog
1. You might get to board the plane first…. especially if you act like you are supposed to
I’ve paid between $100 and $125 to fly with Gretel each way. You bet I was right up there when they announced boarding for elderly, families with children, and people needing additional time to board.
Honestly, I DID need the extra time so I was not rushed by others waiting in the isle while trying to squeeze Gretel’s carrier under the seat (after my first attempt I could tell it would have been REALLY inconvenient for my seat mates if I had waited until they were in their place).
I put myself at the front of the line out of principle too. I only flew with one airline so I can’t guarantee that all will allow you to do it but I say, for that price, you should at least try to take advantage of the privilege of boarding first.
Also of note: You will definitely (on all of the airlines I’ve flown anyway) get to board with that first wave of people who “need extra time or assistance” if you are traveling with a pet stroller for your dog and will have to check it at the gate.
2. Pockets on the outside of your pet carrier are indispensable
I knew that Gretel counted as either my carry on bag or personal item (purse) so I would only be able to bring one bag besides her.
What I didn’t think about is that there was no room under the seat once I put her under there so no matter what kind of “second bag” I had, it had to go into the overhead bin. That meant all of my stuff was up there too.
While you CAN get up mid flight and get one or two things out of your bag, it’s a hassle if not impossible. You probably want your Kindle, noise-cancelling headphones, a magazine, or something with you during takeoff, landing, and during the flight.
Sticking them in a pocket on the outside of the carrier before you board the plane is the way to go.
I like the Sleepypod Air pet carrier because of the large, wide pockets on the side. It meets all airline & TSA Requirements and is pretty stylish too.
3. Don’t rely on treat toys or long-lasting chews to keep your pup distracted while flying
Some dogs are hesitant to eat or drink when outside of the home and stressed.
That’s not usually true with Gretel because she is very food motivated. I usually give her stuffed treat toys when we are dining a restaurant patio to keep her busy.
I stuffed her PetSafe Busy Buddy® Waggle™ to the brim hoping it would take her the whole flight to get through it but she wouldn’t touch it. I guess she was so concerned with what was going on around her that it overcame her food drive.
My vet gave me some Xanex for Gretel before we left for the trip just in case she got extremely stressed out. However, airlines don’t want you to sedate your pet in flight, and I prefer to use natural methods when I can.
I’ve tried a lot of natural remedies for anxiety over the years and the only one that worked for her is the VetriScience Composure Chews. I do have to give her 2 or 3 times the recommended dose before I see a clear a difference in her state of mind but it’s not harmful to give her a little more than it says on the package.
I sometimes supplement the composure chews with CBD oil for pet anxiety.
Luckily, that has been enough to keep her from freaking out and quiet so I didn’t need the Xanex.
4. Your dog might get really cold on the cabin floor….or really hot
I was warned that it can get really cold for a dog on the floor. People recommended putting one blanket inside the carrier bringing another to cover it to keep the draft out.
However, all of the flights we’ve been on didn’t have good air circulation on the floor.
For a normal dog that might be the perfect situation because it would be “room temperature” on the floor but Gretel was overheating a little within an hour. In hindsight, I was not surprised. Gretel has a fast metabolism and it frequently hot to the touch.
You’re supposed to keep your dog inside the carrier (all parts) during the flight but I had to let her stick her upper half out of the carrier for a bit so she could cool down.
Next time, in addition to the blanket, I will bring a small cooling mat to put inside the crate if she starts to get too hot.
5. Not all dogs will go to the bathroom during the trip
I was lucky enough to find an air-side potty station but these are, at best, a piece of fake grass on a plastic frame. It doesn’t look anything like the real “outside” and smells strongly of urine – other dog’s urine to be exact.
Gretel definitely had to interest in going potty there.
I gave her the opportunity to go on a potty pad that I placed on the floor of the handicapped bathroom stall but she had no idea what I was asking her to do since she has never used a potty pad before.
Our maximum travel time has been around 10 hours and she held it the whole time. I wasn’t too worried because I know she can hold it that long at home in her dog crate.
Next time, if we had a much longer flight, I might consider putting a dog diaper on her. I am not sure she would like that though.
6. Keep the pet-fee receipt handy when boarding
One one of my flights, I had no problem breezing past 3 attendants when boarding but the 4th one – the last one of course – asked to see proof that I had paid for Gretel.
I looked at her funny because I was at the flight check in counter and they wouldn’t have let me past that point without paying for her so I didn’t see how I could have NOT paid.
The lady wasn’t really happy with my displeasure of having to dig through my entire bag for the receipt but explained that with express checking, and no checked bag, I could have blasted right past the check in desk to security without paying.
Now I keep the receipt handy but have never been asked for it again.
7. Get a health certificate whether the airline requires it or not
The first time we flew, I verified with the airline that I didn’t need a health certificate for Gretel. Out of paranoia, I got one anyway and it turned out to be a good choice.
Because of a fire in Chicago, our return flight was re-routed. The re-routing required that one of my travel legs was with a different airline…that did require a valid health certificate according to policy.
I was relieved I had a health certificate for Gretel! Otherwise, I would have had to scramble to find a local vet that would see her and issue a health certificate. I didn’t have a rental car so that would have been a stressful and almost impossible feat.
The certificate from my vet was only $35 and totally worth the peace of mind in case flights get changed.
8. Go ahead and let your dog stretch their legs at the airport
Normally, I am a strict rule-follower but this is one time that I am going to say it’s ok to break the rule.
The policy for all airports I know of is “no dogs allowed” so they are supposed to stay in their carrier. Service dogs, of course, are allowed to walk freely beside their owners.
Imagine being cramped in a tiny space for 6 hours in a strange setting.
I let Gretel out of her carrier before we got on the airplane and during our layover. I didn’t flaunt her around the airport – only let her out at our gate and kept her close to me and our bags – but I figured the worst that would happen is someone would ask me to put her back in the bag.
Several airport staff passed us and saw her but no one said anything.
9. Don’t be a worry wort
I was a nervous wreck the first time I flew with with Gretel. I’m pretty sure I checked on her every 5 minutes.
She was becoming visibly agitated and it concerned me. However, I wasn’t sure if she was stressed because of the travel itself or because I was stressed and she could feel it.
Also, I realize I wasn’t giving her the opportunity to sleep.
On the return flight, I stuck her under the seat and left her while reading my book. She didn’t make a peep.
The second way was more pleasant for the both of us.
If it’s your dog’s first time flying, it’s only natural (and safe) to check them often to make sure they are safe. However, it’s best to disrupt them as little as possible so reduce the disturbances once you are familiar with your dog’s behavior.
BONUS TIP: #10 Book a middle or window seat
I’ve learned that this is actually one of the most important things to consider. The space under the aisle seat on airline varies by plane size and make but it’s often significantly smaller than the space under the other seats.
On all of our flights, it looked too small to fit standard carriers underneath (unless it was reeely small).
Booking a window or middle seat is usually the safest.
You can call ahead and let the airline know you’re bringing a pet so you can always ask for their advice too if you’re unsure.
Their tips, along with these 9 lessons I learned, will make any future trips much more seamless for us.
Read Also: Sleepypod Air In-cabin Pet Carrier Review
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
Glad you made it with little problems except for the last attendant. I would imagine that they have had people trying to sneak pets on planes. Dog knows what those attendants have to deal with on a daily basis. The potty area looks scary to me! It also looks very small so I can’t imagine me getting my big poodle butt on it.
The one thing I didn’t see you say was if you would fly with a dog again. Would you?
You caught me! I purposely left that part out 🙂 Honestly, I am not sure yet. It would depend on what was at the destination. The fun at the destination has to be worthy of putting us both through the extra stress. Now that we have both done it though I would expect it to go easier the next time.
This is a lot of great information! I always wanted a dog I could travel with…Ruby is the right size but her reactivity would make it impossible. I feel like I see more and more dogs at the airport – they are a welcome sight if I’m missing my own.
Very interesting how different your flight was from mine! I never thought of boarding first, but I will definitely be doing that next time. I’ve never been asked to show the Health Certificate or receipt that I paid for the dogs. There’s no way I would have been able to find that receipt. That’s good to know.
If I don’t have time to go outside, I usually just take the dogs into the handicap bathroom. Only once did they pee – the other times they hold it. Once I did take Swift out of his kennel near the gate. I got away with it for about 30 minutes, then an employee told me to put him back.
One thing you didn’t mention that I was curious about – how was getting through security for you? I was really nervous the first time because I didn’t know what to do, but now I’m an old pro. Of course it differs based on airports and even agents, but usually, I just pull the dogs out of the kennel and catch the eye of the agent so they know I have an animal. I go through the metal detector (yay for no x-ray machine!), then they pull me off to the side and test my hands. I’m not sure what they’re testing for, but every time I’ve been pulled aside to be tested.
Great info! The first time for anything is always a little nerve-wracking, especially when dealing with flying.
I guess I should add a #10 – book your flight for 5 am because there is no one in line at security at 4 am. Ha, ha.
It was so nice because I always feel rushed at security by the people behind me. I was able to stand off to the side and wave the couple people past while I got Gretel and my computer out of the bag. It sent smooth. I asked a security person what I needed to do with her. I had to take off her harness and carry her through the metal detector. They tested my hands too. I heard they test everyone who walks through the metal detector (or carrying a dog or something). They’re testing for explosive powder.
My personal experience at TSA was pretty similar to yours. But they did not ask to take off harness. It really depends on agents and how crowded the TSA area is.
We flew out from Newark Airport to Denver on United Airline around 11am. Since there were so many people in line, they asked us to take your dog out of the carrier and hold them. Then walk pass the metal detector and tested both of our hands.
United does not give receipts for pet. I have asked but they said they don’t give out boarding pass or receipt.
I forgot the model of the aircraft we were on, but I remember that window sit didn’t had enough room to fit the carrier underneath. The pet carrier we have is medium size ‘Sherpa’ brand.
Thanks for the info. I’ll be flying again with Gretel in a couple of months on a different airline so I’ll be getting additional experience.
I wonder also if taking the harness off depends on the type. Do you think this has anything to do with it?
As for the seat, it’s definitely important to find out what the model of aircraft is to look up the under-seat dimensions. I know they vary quite a bit. Unfortunately though, I think they sometimes switch the model of plane last minute depending on how many seats they sold. I’m guessing that the middle seat is the best be no matter which airplane one is on.
This could be a new feature:
I just booked a United flight with miles and they do show proof you paid for a pet fee when you check out online. I choose them it was guaranteed I was booking a pet and other airlines couldn’t give me a straight answer even over the phone.
It might not look like a proper “receipt” but if you paid for it ahead of time, there should be email proof of the fee charged since it is a line-item. Or, log into your United account to see what it says about your reservation. In person, maybe you get nothing.
If it doesn’t show up in my united app, I’ll print the hard copy (maybe will print it anyway) as proof! Trying to get comfortable with my first cat flight. Pet flight, period.
Thanks for the tip.
Great tips, we’ve never flown but we can understand how nerve-wracking it can be! Great job!
I’ve only flown with a cat, and I honestly can’t even remember what we did (I can only remember in-flight). It was back before the days of insane security and it was in small airports… nothing like what we’re faced with these days.
A great comprehensive list! Both of my dogs are too big for the cabin, and I’d never cargo them, but I hope to have a small dog to travel with some day. I’ll be bookmarking this for then 🙂
Jessica, was the return trip any easier for Gretel than the flight out there?
Oops – never mind. I just re-read the post and clearly, the answer is yes. Thanks!
It was definitely easier for both of us. I relaxed and didn’t poke around with her as much. I think that made her calmer and more relaxed.
That sounds like quite the experience flying with Gretel! Thanks for sharing what you learned
This is amazing thanks! I’m so nervous to fly with my pup!
There is something to be said for portable dogs! I doubt we’ll ever fly with our lab mutts. How did others on the plane react? I imagine some passengers might fear that if someone had a dog less well behaved than Gretl (whining,barking,making doggy smells,etc) ,it would be as bad as a crying baby!
Ps..the ability of dogs to ” hold it” is amazing. Our lab chow mix used to REFUSE to go anywhere except his own yard…he went 3+ days once! Vet said no worries…nature has a way of taking over after a certain point!
Yes, yes there is something do be said for the portableness of little dogs 🙂
I think the reactions were somewhat mixed. One the way there I think one lady was like “oh, great a dog” because she wasn’t all smiling and cooing over Gretel. The other lady made up for it though 🙂 At the end of the flight, the unimpressed lady said “Your dog was very well behaved” also leading me to think she had doubts. Maybe it was my immediate proclamation that I had to clue what I was doing and it was Gretel’s first time flying. Ha, ha.
The way back was pretty uneventful either way but Gretel’s carrier stayed under the seat the whole flight.
Mom has flown with cats and dogs internationally in the cabin and in cargo, plus she worked for the airline for eleven years. She doesn’t like putting us in cargo, but sometimes that is the only way. The only time she flew with a dog in the cabin was when she picked me up. It was real easy to do. I howled non stop except inflight when I fell asleep. None of us ever used the bathroom on our journeys, cats or dogs. We just held it. As long as you have all the documentation and a proper carrier, it was pretty simple. The hardest part, says mom, was leaving us under the seat the entire flight.
What great tips! I sure wish I could have flown with mom to Barkworld. Don’t forget us dogs can feel your energy, you worry, we worry. Glad it all turned out for the best, all of the prep paid off and you are ready for your next adventure! Love Dolly
I know. I felt bad because me being stressed was stressing her out 🙁
I’m glad to hear that the flight back was more stress free – as mentioned above she might have been picking up on your anxiousness on her behalf. I’m pretty sure I’d be a wreck if I had to fly with my dog – not only am I a big wuss when it comes to planes but my dog can be pretty fearful as well. Glad to know the trip went well.
I love your site and have found that the tips apply to the ownership of other small dogs too! Another site, dogjaunt.com, is a good site for tips on traveling with dogs. There are specifics on airport dog potty spots and under the seat sizing. I also wanted to mention it because that blogger is also from Seattle! I love Seattle and how dog friendly the city is – thank you for such a fun site!
Mary-Alice from DogJaunt is one of our local blog friends and I mention her site on our blog frequently. I am glad you like her site. I have always followed her but never flown with my dogs. I used her site to find where the airside potty station was at the DFW airport for this trip though. Thanks for reading our blog too!
Great tips for flying with your pet, especially keeping the pet-fee receipt handy and being mindful of temperature variations.
Thanks for these great tips. I haven’t flown with my dog before, but I’m keeping these ideas handy for the future. I imagine the hardest part is handling the potty situation. I know Haley would not want to use the potty stations either.
Hi, what airline did you fly and what carrier case did you decide on? What size? Our mini has flown in cargo to london and back, but never in the cabin and I’m a bit nervous about her fitting under the seat. Thanks!
I flew cross country one way with a diabetic dog and two children – the worst was security explaining the meds and needles where for a dog and not a human and needed to be kept cool. Our poor pup had a diaper on but he waited till we got to the car to pee on my husbands lap. lol Our lay over had no dog area and I never thought of using a pee pee pad in the bathroom. good tip.
When I flew with Dodger June 2014, the TSA website had me worried. The language about how the dog must stand for examination by TSA, how the dog must do this and that to board the plane. While Dodger is pretty agreeable with most things, a heavy handed TSA agent would not be something he would tolerate well. It was fine, no TSA agent asked to examine him.
I found all the airports had an outdoor potty spot, but we had to leave the secured area to get to it. Fortunately I was traveling with my husband, so I took Dodger, his health certificate, boarding passes, and my ID to the pet area and left everything else with hubby to get back through security easier.
One other tip, we chose an itinerary that had a decent layover, so the chance of having to race through the airport to the next gate were minimal, and we would have time to get Dodger out of his carrier for awhile.
I was worried about that too, although it was my understanding that the airline gate agent is the one that would decide whether your dog had enough room to stand up and turn around. Our gate agent did not ask to see her in the carrier at all and I had to carrier her through security.
I was traveling alone and the flight was booked for me so I couldn’t choose the length of layover. This made going outside of security to a potty station a non-option for us. My favorite flying-with-dogs website, Dog Jaunt, saved the day though because it had a review for the airport I was in that said there was a potty station on the departure side of security.
Wow, this is such a helpful post! Some of these things I thought about, others I did not. I’m sure Wynston won’t want to eat on the plane, although he’s extremely food motivated. I think he’ll be too anxious. Thanks for this wonderful post!
Glad you found it helpful. I researched a lot before flying with Gretel but there were still surprises. Every dog is different so there will always be unique surprises your first time flying together.
What a fantastic article…both of them about your trip flying with Gretel and your review of the Sleepypod Carrier she travelled in. We were interested in those. I have a question…did Gretel ever bark on occasion? See, I’m an occasional barker. I am a “alert barker” if I get startled. Is that a problem, or do they understand it might happen on occasion? I’ve gotten way better in my middle years now, but occasionally one escapes my furry lips. Just curious how the airlines handle it in the airport and on the plane. Also, I am glad Mommy could have the carrier on her lap if she so chose.
Hi Pixel. Gretel never barked on our trip so I can’t speak with first-hand experience. However, I am pretty sure it is frowned upon. I would hope that no one would get more irritated than they would for being on a flight with a crying baby though. Gretel did fuss once when I had to leave her to go to the bathroom but one of my seat-mates tried talking to her to calm her down. I don’t think too many other people on the plane heard her though.
Thanks for the great tips! I have a dachshund too and I will be needing to take him on a plane for the first time. I’m a bit worried about the airlines allowing my dog to fly in cabin so I have a question. How big is your doxie? My little guy is 15 pounds and about 22 inches long. I’m worried that he’ll be slightly too big to fit under the seat and I’ll have to check him in cargo. Your doxie looks a little smaller than mine but did you have any problems with the airlines? Thanks again!
I am glad you found the tips helpful. The carrier I used (here: is 21 inches long on the inside. The ends are intended to fold up so the carrier will fit under the airline seat. Gretel is only 14 inches from shoulders to the start of her tail but I had to figure a few more inches for the length of her head/nose. She fit just fine, with a little room to spare when not under the seat and comfortable under it. She was able to curl up a little because she’s skinny so that took a little off of her length. She weights 11 lbs. Chester is larger than her. He is about 13 lbs and 16 inches shoulders to base of tail. He hasn’t flown with me but I put him inside the carrier at home. He fit, and it looked like he would fit when the ends were folded up to go under a seat, but it was a pretty tight fit for him. The carrier I used is one of the most roomy airline approved carriers on the market. The carrier couldn’t be much bigger and still be able to fit under a seat. It sounds like your pup might be borderline because of his weight and length. I would try to find one of these carriers in a store so you can try it out.
As for the airline, I was nervous. It seems that any airline attendant can just decide that the conditions are too cramped for your pup. I didn’t have any trouble though. I went prepared with a bunch of rebuttals but no one even asked me about her. I have heard from some people that they were grilled pretty hard though. Sounds like it’s airline roulette to me.
You mention that the treat toy was not able to keep his attention. So, what do you suggest to distract your dog during a flight?
Hi Joanne. That is the only time I have flown with one of my dogs so I haven’t been able to keep “testing”. I don’t have a good suggestion, sorry. I can say that although Gretel was not interested in the treat toy, there were no issues with her on the plane. I did give her some natural dog calming chews and stopped fussing with her so much on the way home (only checked her a couple of times instead of constantly). She was quiet so she might have just slept.
When flying with my pup, I have had success with stuffing a large Kong Toy with peanut butter, jamming some hard biscuits in there (making it very difficult for the dog to get access to the peanut butter), and then freezing it over night. Once we get to the airport, I put it in the dog’s cage and this seems to keep him busy for the entire flight. My dog loves food, though, so I don’t know if it will work for others.
Thanks for sharing what worked for your pup Dan. As you said, there can be differences but it’s is certainly one of the best things to try early on. Unfortunately, my Gretel is normally VERY food motivated but she must be too anxious because she won’t lick her KONG like she does at home to stay occupied. Maybe I need to put something extra, extra, extra tasty in there… something special just for flights 🙂
Awesome website! Amen to the pockets on the bag bit – I’m so glad Alfie’s bag has lots of pockets! Good point about not worrying at the airport – chances are that if you’ve made it that far, you’ve practiced enough and made the proper reservations so that things should go smoothly. If I’m feeling nervous, I always try and take a deep breath and try to be brave for Alfie – he’s paying attention to how I react.
Hi Elena. Actually, there ARE things to worry about at the airport but my point was that I didn’t need to worry as much as I did. Each flight has a limited number of spaces for in-cabin dogs. It’s usually 2 – 4. No airline I’ve encountered actually lets you make a reservation for your dog – it’s first come, first served. That means you could show up and there would be no spaces left. I always arrive at the airport with a plan B just in case – my hubby drives me and waits until I check in just in case he has to take the dog home – but it hasn’t been an issue so far and I expect that it rarely is…. which is why I didn’t need to worry as much. You are so right about needing to remain calm for the dog’s sake though. Dogs totally pick up on your emotions and it can stress them out.
Terminal 4 Boneyard Pet Park
Sky Harbor has five areas for pets to stretch their legs, drink water and take potty breaks (mitts for cleaning up provided). The Pet Patch is located just east of Terminal 2.
The Paw Pad has relocated. It is now located in the parking garage of Terminal 3 – Level 1 on the north side.
The Bone Yard is on the west side of Terminal 4 – Level 1 just outside of baggage claim.
There are also pet parks located near the PHX Sky Train® stations. The East Economy Park & Bark is located near the East Economy parking garages. The Park ‘n Play is located on the northwest corner of the 44th Street PHX Sky Train® Station.
Unfortunately, we do not have any pet relief areas available post-security. If possible, please take your pet to one of our five pet relief areas before you go through the security checkpoint.
The above info I sent about the airport at Phoenix. Dogs are loved in Phoenix. I’ve seen the areas at the airport and they are good.
Please don’t ever send a dog in cargo on a plane. I beg of you. It is I humane.
Thank you for this information. I may be flying into the Phoenix airport with Gretel next June. It is good to know that she will have many potty options after we deplane and pass through security.
The sleepypod carrier seems like such a great investment. I’ve been meaning to try it. I’m happy this trip went smoothly for you both!
I just flew from CA to NJ a few weeks ago for the first time with Matilda, and I was a nervous wreck!
Our first flight was just an hour to LAX, and then we had a five hour flight to EWR, but our second flight was delayed for four hours.
I tried to get her to relieve herself on a pad in a handicapped stall, too -but she just wouldn’t do it.
The potty area was outside the security area, so once I had my first alert that there was a delay, I took her out there, and she went. I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time on the return trip to go through security on my layover, so I’m a little worried. As my delay extended into the fourth hour, I let her walk around the airport on her leash, and we only got compliments – I saw other people doing the same with dogs who obviously weren’t service dogs, so it seemed they weren’t strict.
I know they say to keep the dog under the seat during the flight, but I’m a rule-breaker when it comes to keeping my dog comfortable. I had her carrier in my lap for the first flight, and just had her in my lap for the second, as it was dark and nobody could see her. I feel so lucky to have a tiny dog.
The rule is that pets need to be under the seat for takeoff and landing, not necessarily under the seat at all times. However, they ARE required to be in the carrier. Doesn’t sound like you broke any rules to me 🙂
I dread the day Gretel and I hit a delay or other sort of complication. I’m a nervous flyer as it is (not the FLYING but getting to and from my flight). I know Gretel won’t go potty anywhere but outside so that it would totally stress me out if I couldn’t get her out there.
Glad you guys survived the trip! You–and Gretel–will be an expert in no time! I have to say, that potty station is awesome. I have flown with dogs several times and have never seen anything like that. Very cool that it was provided. Gretel is a jet-setter now!
She’s getting there. She’s flown twice with me and she might fly with me to BlogPaws this year. We still have a few minor kinks to work out (mostly with me) but she flies pretty well.
Hello! I will be traveling from Dallas to the Philippines with my Pomeranian “in cabin” with Delta airlines on June-July. It will be my first time to travel with my dog and it’s his first time as well. I already know the requirements but I am not sure how he is really going to behave but I badly need tips for our flight.
Hi Reyna. I can’t remember where the other place was you left me a message but I replied there. Just in case you didn’t get it…
That sounds like an exciting but fun trip. I am certainly no expert in flying with dogs. I’ve only done it twice with Gretel so I’m still learning. A super great site to check out is DogJaunt.com. She writes almost exclusively about flying with small dogs. Good luck!
These are really great tips! So important to use the pockets and I love the idea of boarding early. I would hate to juggle things. I so wish I could fly with the boys, but they are too big. Its a shame because anytime I travel anywhere I always think they would love it. We need a big cross-country trip with them!
The attendant DID look at me a little strange (at least in my mind) when I got in line to board early but if they are going to make me pay that extra $125, you bet I think it comes with early boarding privileges 🙂 I mean, I DO need extra time to get seated like the announcement says. I wouldn’t fly with my dogs if I had big ones.
I never got to board the plane first! Not that I’m too bothered about that 🙂
Anyway, thanks for the very informative post! I shared this post with my facebook page 🙂
Thanks for sharing!
I never “got” to board the plane early either… as in, they didn’t tell me or ask me to. I just did it. They DO say “those that need more time to get situated” and that’s me so I just went up there with the few other people. Like I said, I paid an extra $125 to fly with her…. you BET I’m going to board early. That’s about the only “benefit” of paying that fee. Fees that are so high are kind of ridiculous I think. Paying a fee for special accommodations is one thing but you have to shove them under the seat like the rest of the baggage.
Excellent article that covers several things I hadn’t considered. Thanks for sharing these great tips!
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to post this! I am taking my dog Dobbi (2 year old Dachshund) on a flight with me for the first time this weekend and I am very nervous about it. I made the mistake of reading horror stories where dogs have passed away on airplanes (mostly in cargo) so now I am very nervous but I have no choice but to fly him. We only have a 2 hour flight. But he is a nervous pup, hates even riding in the car or anything with engines.
Can you ease my mind any?
Hi KB. I’ve never heard of a dog passing away while riding in an airplane cabin.. so there is that 🙂 It’s not advised to give a nervous pup a sedative when they fly. In face, some airlines prohibit it. You can, however, give your dog a calming product (always check with your vet first). VetriScience Composure works well for Gretel. The chews work best for us I do find I need to give her 3 or 4 times the recommended dose when the situation is particularly stressful. There are also hemp-derived CBD products for pets (it’s legal no matter what state you live in because it’s derived from imported industrial hemp with no THC – the stuff that has mind-altering effects). Gretel is one tough cookie when it comes to anxiety products so those are the only two things I have found that work for her. The other two things I will suggest are to not fuss over him too much and to get him used to the carrier as much as you can before you go by leaving it open in the livin groom and giving him is favorite treat or chew toy in there. Good luck and have a safe trip!
Hi Jessica! Thanks for your very informative post! You posted a link to a Facebook group with great tips about flying with your dog but the link doesn’t seem to work, is there somewhere else to access this information? Also wondering if you can offer some advice about bag/dog size – I will have to fly with my small dog (5kg) home to the US at the end of the summer and I have been reading online nonstop trying to figure out the logistics of this. I ordered a KLM-appropriate bag and have tried it out today and she can just barely stand up comfortably in the bag. In the pictures it looks like Gretel may be about the same size – did she just lay down and chill for most of the flight or did you notice she was pretty cramped also? Thanks again for all your tips – greatly appreciated!!
Hi Hanna. The Facebook link worked for me. The post does pop up in a light box though so maybe there is a glitch if you try viewing it from mobile. In case you want to try again, here is the direct link: https://www.facebook.com/YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner/photos/a.589793537744522.1073741825.134301133293767/769221593135048/?type=1&theater
Gretel is 11 lbs (so, yes, about the same weight) and about 14″ from shoulders to base of tail. She cannot fully stand up in her carrier. The requirements of most airlines say your dog should be able to stand up comfortably but no one checked Gretel the two times we’ve flown. I hope that the airline person would be fine with Gretel because she can stand up enough to turn around in the bag but I’ve heard the “safe to fly” determination can be subjective. I’ve hear one or two stories where airline personnel were very strict about their rules but most of the time there are no issues.
Gretel can lay comfortably in her carrier and sleeps or lays there (mostly) peacefully during the flight. The less I stress out and fuss with her, the better she does. I also give her some calming chews – Vetriscience Complsure – before we fly. Good luck!
For the past eight Christmases, my husband and I have taken our two wire-haired doxies from San Diego to Chicago to Georgia (and then back to SD) every Christmas to see our families. It’s definitely stressful in that we always worry about getting stuck in an airport overnight due to flight delays, etc. but it wouldn’t be Christmas without them! We usually give them a tiny bit of sedative to take the edge off, but one of our guys did have what we think was a reaction to it on one of our first trips – seemed almost like a panic attack. I smuggled him out of the carrier and under my sweater, and if anyone noticed they were kind enough to look the other way. Being a doxie, the next time we flew he did not seem panicked but was extremely determined that he would sit with us rather than under the seat, and it was a couple more trips before he and my husband reached an “understanding” (my husband is a bit more resistant to doxie tantrums!) that he had to stay under the seat. My advice would be: 1) it’s worth investing in a good carrier – in particular our guys seem happier in the carriers that are flexible but do have some structure (the supports kinda like those for tents) as I think they don’t feel like they are collapsing in, 2) don’t count on getting to board early – we usually asked but more often than not are turned down, and 3) bring a sweatshirt or sweater big enough to sort of conceal the pup if he gets too agitated under the seat! It’s also worthwhile to scope out the airports that you depart/arrive in to have a potty plan – our guys don’t really go for the fake grass bits but we usually find a place for them to go right before going thru security or right after we arrive. Most of all – give it a shot! despite the worries, we are always glad we brought our guys along and while they may not love the flying bit, they are super happy to be with rather than left behind!!
I like the “understanding” that you and your husband have – just follow what he thinks you should do (the rules) 🙂 Good warning on the boarding early thing. I just walked up there like I belonged and no one said anything. They do say “anyone that needs more time to board” and I certainly do with the dog. Honestly, if they tried to tell me I couldn’t, they would have an argument on their hands. What in the heck do I pay that huge extra fee for if I don’t get any kind of special consideration? I wouldn’t be a total jerk about it though. If I pushed back and they were more insistent, I would digress.
hi Jessica! I’m flying with my 4-year old mini-dachshund Karma in 2 weeks. The last time I flew with her on a 2 hour flight, she was panting excessively and her eyes were glazed over. She would not eat any treats and barely wanted ice. This time we’re flying across the country from EWK to LAX. Is it dangerous if she pants the entire flight? do dogs get dehydrated panting from nerves?
This is what worries me the most, especially since flying is already so dehydrating. Are there any other tips you can provide! thank you for an awesome info!
HI Jessica. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of experience here. I’m still new to flying with dogs as I have only taken Gretel on the plane about 4 times. It definitely sound like your pup is stressed. The panting and not eating is a huge signal. Gretel is ravenous when it comes to food and she won’t even take a treat when she is over-stressed. She doesn’t pant but it’s hard for me to get her to eat a treat on the plane. Using medical sedation on a flight can be dangerous Some airlines don’t even allow it. There are some things you can do though. The only natural calming product I found to work for Gretel is VetriScience Composure. I have to give her about 3 or 4 times the dose to see the effect (it’s not harmful). That has been a miracle for me. You can also give a dog melatonin which can make them a little drowsy. I don’t have much advice regarding dehydration, sorry. Under mildly stressful conditions, flavoring the water with a bit of low-sodum chicken broth works for us. Like I said, Gretel is too stressed on the plane though. She’s flown from Seattle to New York with a layover. She didn’t drink any water the entire time. I didn’t see any ill effects of that but each dog is different. Good luck.
thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! Our vet prescribed trazadone for the flight, but I too have read that medicating is not always good on a flight. at the same time, I also think that being overly stressed for a 6-hour flight is harmful too. what a Catch 22! it’s so hard to know what to do.
Did you fly with American Airlines? I recognize the fee amount. We’re planning to take our standard doxy to San Diego from Philadelphia with us flying with them and he just barely fits under the seat (5 hr 45 min flight). Did you have to call and make sure your dog could get on the flight before you booked tickets (their website says only 6 dogs allowed on a flight)? And did you have any problems with Greeley barking at all? We’re new doggy parents so any words of advice would be appreciated!
Hi Lexy. I can’t remember but I don’t think it was American Airlines. I think it was Alaska. Many of the airline fee amounts are the same. I did call ahead and give them a heads up that I was travelling with her but most airlines don’t let you make reservations for them – it’s first-come-first-served. I’m told it’s very unusual for 6 dogs to be on one flight. However, it’s not impossible. I’ve always had a plan B. My hubby drops me off and then waits until I check in just in case there is no roon for Gretel on the airplane and he needs to take her back home with him. It doesn’t sound like that’s an option for you though. I would just be sure to arrive plenty early so you can grab one of the 6 spots.
I didn’t have trouble with Gretel barking. She fussed a little the one time I had to go to the bathroom. My seat mates told me when I got back. Every dog is different though. I was on a plane yesterday and a woman’s dog barked when we were landing and taking off…. probably the pressure on it’s eardrum. I find it about as annoying as a baby crying but I am sure others were more irritated than I was. There is not much they can do about it though. Like I did with Gretel, I would just make sure to have something on hand to handle that. Calming chews (VetriScience Comosure) were enough for us but your vet may suggest Benadryl to make your pup sleepy or Xanax. Good luck.
Thanks for posting these tips Jessica. Im flying for the first time with my older dog on Monday. Im a little nervous and trying to research as best I can for the big day. Im flying LAX to MCI, a three hour flight for the holidays. Im really hoping all goes smoothly. Your tips are definitely helping!!
It’s Monday so you are probably in the air Three hours is a short trip so hopefully it went well.
Saw your advice on boarding first. I was actually thinking the opposite – boarding last would minimize the time on the plane – especially the turmoil when everyone’s getting seated. (just a thought)
Hi Stefan. Everyone is free to choose what works for them. Boarding last would not minimize stress on my dog in my experience. It’s very hard to get the pet carrier under airline seats and a carrier has to be under the middle or window seat (the airline doesn’t restrict you when you reserve your seat but the space under the aisle seat is much smaller than the other seats… there is no way an average pet carrier would fit under there safely). If you board toward the end, you have to ask the people in your row already sitting to get up and hold up the rest of the passengers trying to seat while you struggle to get the carrier under the seat safely for your pet as fast as you can (and, keep in mind, not everyone is a fan of pets flying or having to sit next to one in the first place). I will always try to board first with her. It only extends her “wait” time by about 20 minutes and, in the scheme of things, that won’t make or break her experience. She’s either in her carrier, in a line of people, waiting to board that plane for those 20 minutes or resting quietly under the seat. I’m sure you’ll find what works best for you though and our experiences may not be the same. I’ve only flown 3 or 4 times with Gretel.
I think the advice you gave in this post is exceptional. I read this prior to my flight with my dog in December and I kept the tips you gave in my mind the whole trip! I was comforted knowing that it was not an unusual thing to fly with your companion, and was less stressed because of it. I actually took your advice when purchasing my airline travel bag for my pup, when making sure it had pockets, and that was truly a life saver. Also, I took a vets note of health with me even though southwest does not require it, and it saved the trip. The airport I was at required it even though Southwest airlines did not and if I had not taken that I would not have been able to fly!
I read your 9 Lessons Learned While Flying with a Dog In-Cabin, I have traveled with my cats and agree with most of your lessons. I have been through the copy of health certificate and making sure I had the right size carrier (luckily I had a soft carrier for two young cats). I agree that pockets on the carrier are indispensable if you can get them. The idea of a carrier that opens on top as well as front or side is handy, you can occasionally check on the animal(s) or as in your case let them up for a breath of air.
Comment on #10 Book a middle or window seat.
– Do not sit at a window seat above the wing (if possible) the leg room above the wing is limited on most airplanes.
Another thought is to get a rolling carrier if you have to do a lot of walking. My cats got pretty heavy by the time I walked through the airport and then parking lot.
Well written lessons learned!
My dog was pretty stressed and panicky during out flight. I think the high-pitched sounds of the jet engines, as well as the smell of jet fuel is not comfortable for dogs because sound and smell are their keenest senses.
This post gave me anxiety thinking about it! My dog would not have behaved that well! I’m so glad you were able to go and learn some traveling tips along the way! I’m saving for later just in case I ever find my self in a situation where I need some flying tips, thanks!!
Hi Karlee. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I was very surprised at how well Gretel handled it. You might be surprised. However, I DID get a prescription of Xanex from my vet before we left in case of “emergency”. I’m glad I didn’t have to use it.
Thanks so much for all the tips. I am already starting to plan. We have a pug, and he ain’t skinny- HA!. The vet said he is not fat, and its true he is big boned. If they don’t let him on at 24lbs, we head to PLAN B.
My husband wears hearing aids for tinnitus, so we have one possibility for a service dog option. Last year I was in Las Vegas and saw a service pug. The gentleman had diabetes. Well, next year we are moving to Ecuador, we will let everyone know how it goes. Thanks again, Debbie
Thanks for this! I’m flying out to pick up my new puppy in a couple months, and I’ve never flown with a dog before so it’s stressing me out! Every bit of information I can get about the process helps!
Great post. I’m curious how are these carriers transported thru security, to gates and onto airplanes like ladies purses?
I’m traveling from SLC to the east of the Mississippi in about 6 weeks with two grade school aged grandchildren and two doxie mix breed poochies.
Neither grand doggy is under 15lbs.
Hi DJ. The carrier is usually passed through the X-ray machine with luggage but you must take your dog out and carry them through when you get scanned. You carry the dog and carrier onto the plane like luggage and it counts as one of your carry-on items. The carrier gets tucked under the seat in front of you so you must store your other carry-on item in the overhead bin. That means you won’t have access to what’s in it for the flight, or at least until you are allowed to get up and retrieve something from it. I stuff what I need right away in the one pocket on my dog’s carrier and in my pockets (of course, only small items will fit). Good luck!
I am wondering if you have/had taken Gretel on other modes of transport in the sleepypod prior to the flight? We have a new rescue who (so far) is very placid and already doing fine in her Sherpa carrier for bus, train, and car trips (we use a car share and they require that dogs are contained). I’m wondering if this is likely to mean that with continued exposure to land transport she will do okay on a flight, or if the process of going through security and being under the seat for an extended period makes it a whole new experience.
That would have probably been the right thing to do but I didn’t have time before our trip. She was already crate trained but wasn’t used to the carrier. I lured her into it with treats a few times and zipped it closed to see what she would do. She seemed fine so I just took a chance on the airplane. It is definitely a different experience than most other modes of transportation. Thankfully, it worked out. I did have some sedatives with me just in case though (from my vet).
Thank you for such an informative blog! I’m flying with my 1 1/2 yr. Maltese puppy for the first time one 3 weeks and have been so nervous about it. These suggestions are priceless, like getting out carrier early to get her use to it. I might take her to pet store in it a couple times so she is used to people around her while in it. Wish me luck!
I was super nervous at first too. It gets easier after the first time and then a little easier after that. I’m glad my tips helped. Have a good trip.
Your blog calmed my nerves a bit and was really helpful. I’m still training my dog for the movement of the plane. I read that when driving to put him on the ground with his carrier that will simulate the movement of the plane. He tends to bark though. That’s actually what I’m worried about that hell bark in the plane and I can’t take him out to calm him down. But my I also can’t leave him with one of my friends because he has desperation anxiety and I wouldn’t let my friend go through that. Do the chewy snacks help the dogs not bark at all? Or some what? How do you reccomend I train him not to bark. By the way, he’s a year old apple-headed chihuahua.
Hi Vanessa. I apologize for the delayed response. I’m not sure if you’re taken your trip already. If you have, how did it go?
In my case, at least the first few times, Gretel was too freaked out to eat anything in her crate on the plane. At home, a stuffed treat toy is great for distracting her and making her more relaxed but it didn’t help for the first few times on the plane. Now she is more relaxed and will chew on it and, yes, it does help. Although airlines deter passengers from sedating their pets, I would talk to your vet and get some medication to settle him down in case he totally freaks out. More likely though, calming chews like Vetriscience composure or CBD dog treats (we use both) might be enough to take his stress down a notch so he can calm himself.
Many thanks for your travel trips and all comments that you generated.
I plan to travel with a “vocal maltese” (emotional support dog), who is a bit reactive, barking at noisy kids and anything that moves like skateboards, trolleys. Otherwise friendly with people. It’s going to be a long flight from Australia to Italy (via Dubai – 2 hours stopover). Never did something like this before.
Any brief advice / suggestions from the checking in, security, waiting at the gate to the flight itself that would be very much appreciated.
Hi Roberto. Flying with a reactive dog might be challenging. Then again, it might not. My Gretel is perpetually nervous and sometimes reactive towards strangers but she did surprisingly well on the flight. The key was giving her calming supplements and having her in a carrier (which she saw as her “safe space” and wasn’t reactive at all). You’ll be able to keep your dog in a carrier all of those times you mentioned except that you may have to take your dog out of the carrier when you go through security (you do in the US but I’m not sure how other countries do it). The other big key is trying to stay calm and relaxed yourself. Your dog can tell if you are nervous or on edge and it will make them that way too. Good luck!
I was just about to make the same comment as Roberto. My Maltese is very vocal as well. He barks if he hears a pin drop. I will be traveling from the US to the UK with him and I am so nervous. This article is wonderful; it actually made me feel a little better. I would hate to sedate him but If i don’t the rest of the passengers will be ready to jump from the plane before we get to the UK. My dog has never even seen a crate before so we’re starting from square one. This weekend, I plan to research to see which is the best crate for him. Jessica, thank you for writing this; It has really helped.
Good luck. Hopefully you have some time before your flight to get your pup used to the crate.
Many thanks for your kind advice Jessica. Appreciate it.
Hi! We are adopting a dog, a 13-14 pound pug, from out of state. To drive would take about 14 hours one way, so we are considering flying. I have never flown with a dog. Any advice if we do? Also, I guess I could not get a certificate from the vet since I will just be adopting this pug. Thank you!
Hi Michelle. Congratulations on your new addition. My best advice for flying with a dog is in this article and this one that I just published today: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/tips-for-flying-with-your-dog-in-cabin/. In addition, I do suggest calling your airline to confirm that no health certificate is needed. If it is, you can arrange to visit a local vet before the flight or the rescue might be able to arrange for a certificate before you arrive. Good luck!
What I’m curious about is cabin pressure on a dog. I’m headed out to get rat terrier and we’ll be flying home with her. I’ve never ever flown with an animal but one thing I will not do is put them in the cargo hold. I would never forgive myself if I put an animal through any type of harm or injury when I could have chosen to avoid it the situation.
I’ve never had any issues with cabin pressure when flying with my dog. It’s meant to closely mimic normal pressure. Also, the differences in pressure are probably no more than would be felt when driving over a high mountain pass. If you give your dog something to chew on in the carrier, it can help their ears pop.
Appreciate your tips. I have a Bichon Frise. We flew for the first time when he was 10 months old from Chicago to Ft Myers over Thanksgiving week. It was not easy, and I did get scolded by an agent 1) near the gate for letting him stretch his legs while leased and 2) at the gate when he was crated but barking a lot because he sensed another crated dog at the same gate—that pup was also barking. The agent said, “Ma’am, your dog MUST stop barking or you cannot fly!” I was so upset and nervous after that. I explained it was his FIRST airport experience, it was a short, nonstop flight, and could she please give me some slack and him a chance? She did, and he was pretty quiet the whole time. Just a little whimpering.
One thing though—I bought the same SleepyPod carrier, but I was concerned it was not ventilated well enough for use under a seat on a packed flight. I was afraid he’d overheat, so I ended up buying a much cheaper but with more ventilated sides carrier. I was sorry not to get to use the well-constructed SleepyPod, but its solid sides concerned me.
Hi Brenda. I’m glad you found a carrier you were comfortable with. Our Sleepypod carrier is not just ventilated at the top. The ventilated park wraps around each of the ends. Also, pets only need to be under the seat for takeoff and landing. During the flight, I pulled Gretel out and placed the carrier between my feet. She did not overheat but it’s definitely something I keep my eye on.
Thank you for all the great information! I just flew with my dachshund Evie for the very first time this past weekend and couldn’t have done it without the help from your post. Because of it, I was very well prepared and we had a very smooth and stress-free experience!
Great. I’m glad your trip went smoothly.