Tips For Flying With Your Dog

Don't sit and stay. Travel with your pup.
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Some of us can't stand to leave our friends behind when we're on the road—even if they have four legs and fur. About 37 percent of Americans take their pets  when they travel, according to a recent survey.

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Fortunately, most dogs love to ride in cars, but flying with Fido can be a challenge. We’ve gathered some tips on taking a trip with your pup from Delta Air Lines and DogVacay, an online service that connects pet owners with pet sitters across the U.S. and Canada. Just remember: each airline has its own pet policies and prices, so check before you buy your ticket.

Also, be aware that transporting an animal in cargo is risky. You, your vet and the airline agent should discuss your pet’s breed, health, age and any other considerations before you reserve space for him. Remember that the weather and temperature can significantly affect him in the cargo area. 

The Humane Society of the United States says your pet will likely be happier at home than traveling with you. But if Fido is going, the Humane Society website recommends that you “weigh all the risks when deciding whether to transport your pet by airplane….Consider all the alternatives to flying.” They strongly suggest choosing the cabin over cargo if possible, adding, “While most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling are often to blame.” Visit the HSUS site for more information. 

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Decide where to go:

Use DogVacay's Barkability tool to search for your destination and see how "pet-friendly" it is. Not sure where to go? Barkability also lists the top pet-friendly cities in the U.S., to help you choose. Find more great places to "ruff" it with Fido.

When you're ready to book, Barkability recommends taking a non-stop to lessen your pet's stress. A direct flight is the second-best choice.

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Before you book:

Be sure your airline will transport pets. Delta allows dogs to fly in the cargo compartment or the cabin. To travel in the cabin, the dog must fit comfortably in his kennel, which must fit under your seat. Seat sizes vary by aircraft, so call ahead to find out what size kennel you can bring. Cargo areas also have restrictions on kennel sizes. Reserve space in cargo or the cabin early, since most airlines take only a limited number of animals per flight.

Don't be surprised if the airline agent asks what breed of dog you have. Pups with pug-like noses including bulldogs and pugs don't always fare well in cargo and may not be accepted. DogVacay recommends traveling mid-day during the cool or cold months, or in the morning or evening of warm months, so it's easier for your canine friend to breathe. Don't fly him in cargo in the summer or any period of hot weather.

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Visit your vet before you leave home. Some airlines require immunizations and/or a health certificate and record of your pet’s shots. The shots should not expire before you come home.

Your vet can also discuss medications that might make the trip easier on your pet.  But don’t give your pet anything to relax him, DogVacay stresses, unless it's specifically recommended. Altitude changes can affect sedatives, leading to dangerous and even fatal respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Medications can also interfere with the dog's ability to regulate his body temperature. If the vet says your dog shouldn't travel at all, DogVacay can connect you to an experienced sitter.

Ask your vet when to stop feeding your dog before the flight, so he won't have an upset stomach.

Cypress Inn, CA

Cypress Inn, CA

This boutique inn in Carmel is Fido friendly!

Photo by: D.M. Troutman; BringFido/Cypress Inn

D.M. Troutman; BringFido/Cypress Inn

If your pet is riding cargo, ask your vet to clip his nails, so they won't get caught in his crate door, air vent or any other opening.

DogVacay recommends using a water bottle with a hanging ball mechanism in your pet's crate, so there's less chance of spillage.

Give your dog some “practice time” in his kennel, so he gets used to it before you depart. Try putting him in it and taking him on short drives around town.

Del Mar Dog Beach

Del Mar Dog Beach

Bring four-legged friends to this dog-friendly beach in Del Mar, California.

Photo by: James G/

James G/

On the day you fly:

Give your dog a leisurely walk about an hour before flight time, to help him relax and burn off energy.

Make sure your dog's carrier and tag are marked with your current and complete ID. The kennel should also show where your pet is going and where he's coming from.

Get to the airport early, so you’ll have plenty of time to check in and get Fido settled.

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