When I started traveling a lot, taking care of my dog became incredibly difficult. I even tried re-homing him with a friend at one point when work required me to travel full-time — I hated being away from him though. Years later, after a ton of trial-and-error, he’s been on dozens of flights and flown over 50,000 miles. Butterscotch has been to thirteen states and two countries — he flies more than most adult humans! And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that flying with a dog doesn’t have to be hard, as long as you’re prepared. Here are my best tips for flying with a dog!
1.) Check out the airline guidelines in advance
Every airline has their own policy for flying with a dog. Do the research and check out any requirements at least one week before the flight. Most important is the weight restriction — they follow those very closely. Depending on where you’re visiting, there may be health requirements, particularly for travel between multiple countries. If that’s the case, be sure to carry all the vaccination documents on your person to show when going through customs. You should make sure your pup is up-to-date on his shots and in otherwise good health regardless of whether there are any requirements.
2.) Get the right carrier or mode of transportation
If you’re flying with a dog under the seat, it’s super important to make sure you’re flying them in an acceptable carrier. Again, each airline has different rules so be sure to check out the guidelines before you fly. We’ve also use a dog stroller when Butterscotch had a leg injury, which made it very easy to get him to and from the gate. And now, since he travels as a support animal, he doesn’t need a carrier. Occasionally, we’ll bring a small dog bed for him though, if it’s a longer flight and we want him to travel in comfort and style 🙂
3.) Choose a manageable itinerary for flying with a dog
You know your dog best and you know how frequently they need to use the bathroom. Before booking a flight with a long layover, think about how long your dog will need to go without a trip outside. Most airports have a “pet relief” area, but usually they’re inconveniently placed so don’t rely too much on them. My advice is to do a couple short flights with him first and then graduate to longer flights and layovers. But if you’ve got a pretty low-key dog, you can take him on those longer journeys more easily.
4.) Keep food and water accessible
I like to travel with two small tupperware containers: one for food, one for water. Keep them in your purse or carryon bag so you can easily access them in-flight or while waiting to board. Tupperware like these make it easy to pop off the lid and serve as a bowl wherever you are. It’s a huge bummer when your dog starts getting hungry on the plane because you can’t do anything about it. So don’t let it happen — it’s so easily avoidable!
5.) Don’t medicate your dog before a flight
There really is no reason to give your dog any kind of medication before boarding a plane. They’ll be right by your side the whole time so you can comfort them if needed. However, if you absolutely must give them medication, test it out beforehand to make sure your pet responds well. And while you’re at it, don’t feed them anything out of the ordinary leading up to a flight. There is nothing worse than a dog who needs to go to the bathroom during a flight. Seriously — it is the worst!
6.) Certify your dog as a support animal
Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone, but a few years back I got documentation for my dog to become an emotional support animal. This has been such a game-changer because he can sit right on my lap during the flight. It really puts our whole family at ease to have Butterscotch with us at all times. Go through a licensed medical doctor to get your documentation and make sure your dog is fully trained to behave well in airports and on planes.
Do you fly with your dog? Tell us your best tips in the comments!