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How to fly with an in-cabin dog: Fido Friendly blog post (4/30/10)

I wrote this post for the wonderful Fido Friendly blog, back in April 2010. I’ve linked to it from a Dog Jaunt post on the same topic, but the link is now fatally broken, and I can’t find the original Fido Friendly post on line. I’m posting it again here, because it’s still good stuff.

Travelers with dogs small enough to fit under an airplane seat don’t have to wave good-bye as their pet’s crate is rolled away, or worry about conditions in the plane’s cargo area on the tarmac or during flight. When we were deciding to add a dog to our life, we deliberately chose a breed small enough to fly at our feet. We travel often, and I didn’t want to leave our dog behind or add fear for her safety to the usual stress of plane travel. Happily, all of the major U.S. airlines, and many international airlines, allow passengers to travel with an in-cabin dog. Here are ten things you need to know to make flying with your small dog straightforward and comfortable.

1. Assess your dog’s size

Our dog Chloe is as large as a small dog can be and still fit comfortably under a plane seat. She weighs 13 lbs., and stands about 12 inches tall at the shoulder (which is where you measure a dog for height). She is fairly light-boned, however. A sturdier dog her size could weigh up to 15 lbs. If your dog weighs more than 15 lbs., you will likely find that she cannot stand or turn around in her carrier. That kind of freedom of movement is necessary for your dog’s comfort, and is required by the airlines.

Please note that very young puppies are not permitted to travel by plane: Nearly all U.S. airlines, and most international airlines, require that your dog be at least 8 weeks old.

2. Choose a good pet carrier

A good carrier will be the correct size for your dog, fit under a plane seat, and have features that make your pet’s flying experience as comfortable as possible.

The official size maximums for pet carriers vary by airline, but typically describe a carrier between 16 and 19 inches long, about 10 inches tall, and about 12 inches wide (carriers on international flights can generally be a bit larger). The most popular pet carrier is a medium-sized Sherpa bag, but I prefer a large-sized SturdiProducts bag or the Sleepypod Air carrier.

Some carriers are structured to allow them to flex in height and length. You may, therefore, be able to use a slightly larger carrier than is officially allowed, as long as it will compress to fit in a plane’s under-seat space. Once you are airborne and you pull your dog’s carrier out into your legroom area, a larger carrier will give your pet a bit more room to move around. There is a risk, however, that an airline agent will object to your non-complying carrier.

A carrier must be made of water-repellant material (in case of accidents), it must have padding under your pet, and it must have at least two large ventilation panels. I also look for a carrier that allows me to see down into it when it is at my feet, and that has a zipper that allows me to reach into the carrier and hand Chloe treats and ice cubes.

3. Accustom your dog to being in the carrier

If your dog only sees her carrier when she’s being taken to the vet, she’s not likely to regard it as a cozy den. Spend some time in the weeks before your first flight taking your dog in her carrier on short trips to loved destinations (an off-leash dog park, for example). Leave it out so she can curl up in it if she chooses (improve the chances that she’ll choose to by tossing treats and her favorite toys inside).

4. Reserve a space on the plane

Nearly all airlines limit the number of pets that can travel in-cabin on a given flight. When you make your own reservation, tell the reservation agent that you are traveling with an in-cabin dog to reserve one of the available spots. If you make your reservation on-line, call and add your dog to your reservation over the phone. As of early 2010, only Continental allows you to make reservations on-line for your pet. On most planes, a middle seat offers the most under-seat space, but ask the reservation agent if the plane you’ll be traveling on has a bulky electronics box in that space.

If possible, choose a non-stop flight to your destination, to reduce your travel time. If you must change planes, schedule a long layover between flights (at least an hour and a half) to give you time to visit a pet relief area with your dog.

It is very expensive to travel with an in-cabin pet (typically about $100 each way), and you may be tempted to smuggle your pet onboard. Resist the temptation. An increasing number of airlines are adding a special tag to pet carriers upon check-in, and airline representatives will look for that tag. You must remove your pet from her carrier to go through security, so it won’t be a secret that she’s with you. Finally, another passenger may have a severe allergy to pet dander. The location of in-cabin pets must be known to the airline so they can seat allergy sufferers in another part of the cabin.

5. Two weeks before you depart

Make an appointment with your veterinarian to get a health certificate for your dog (officially called a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection), saying that your dog is fit to travel and is up to date on her vaccinations. Not every state requires a health certificate, nor does every airline, but enough do that it is safest to get one. Schedule your appointment within 10 days of travel, and keep in mind that a health certificate is only good for 30 days after your vet signs it. Both ends of your journey need to be covered by the certificate, so if your trip lasts longer than 30 days, you’ll need to get another one in the state you’re visiting.

Also ask your veterinarian to print out your dog’s shot record. Many hotels like to see it, and if you need to board your dog at a day kennel while you’re traveling, the kennel will require it.

If you are traveling internationally with your dog, you will want to research the pet importation rules of the country you are visiting at least two months before you depart, if not more, since the kinds, and timing, of required vaccinations vary by country. A good place to start is the website for the embassy of the country you are visiting.

6. Departure day

If your flight is in the morning or the early afternoon, do not feed your dog her morning meal. Pick up her water two hours before you leave for the airport. Just before you leave, take her for a long walk, keeping in mind that you will not be offering her water at the end of it.

Line the inside of your dog’s carrier with a DryFur pad of the appropriate size (they’re pricey, but they wick moisture away from your dog and don’t bunch up under her as she shifts around). Tuck a small towel or a tee-shirt in the carrier for extra padding and comfort. Put your dog’s leash and harness and a roll of poop bags in the carrier’s pocket.

Your pet’s carrier takes the place of your carry-on bag, so the only other object you will be allowed to bring into the cabin is your purse (or other small personal item). Since your pet’s carrier occupies all of the under-seat space, your purse will need to be stowed in the overhead compartment. In case your luggage goes astray, or you find yourself stranded at an airport, be sure to pack in your purse enough kibble for a meal or two, a packet of treats, a chew toy, a collapsible bowl, and a water bottle. Don’t forget to pack your dog’s health certificate and shot record!

If we are driving to the airport, I sometimes let Chloe ride in her car seat (why not give her another half-hour of relative freedom?). If we are taking a taxi, or are in a rush, I will put her in her carrier at home. Toss a really good treat into your dog’s carrier to remind her that it’s a pleasant place to be. Leave her collar on — you’ll be there to make sure it doesn’t get hooked on anything, and you want her to have identification if she gets away from you.

7. At the airport

Your dog must be fully enclosed in her carrier the entire time that you are in the airport and on the plane. If your carrier has large ventilation panels, she will be able to see what’s going on — and there is no rule against reaching your hand in to her carrier to pat her.

You will need to check in with a ticketing agent since you are traveling with a dog. Some airlines allow you to pre-pay your pet’s fare, but most will take your payment now. Most will also issue you a tag for your pet’s carrier.

Next it’s time to go through security. I recommend taking off your shoes and jacket first, and putting them and any other special items you have (3-1-1 bag, computer) into bins before dealing with your dog. Make sure you have a really good treat in hand. Place your carrier on the belt in front of something heavy (your purse, or a bin), so its weight will push the empty carrier through the machine. Unzip the opening, reach in and scoop your pet into your arms. Do not give her the treat yet.

The carrier will go on through the x-ray machine. You’ll walk through the metal detector holding your dog in your arms. Even with her collar on, Chloe has only set off the detector twice (when that happened, we sent her collar through separately in a plastic bowl). After you get the all-clear, put your dog back into her carrier right away, showing her the treat and tossing it in ahead of her. Then collect the rest of your belongings.

8. On the plane

As with any carry-on, your dog’s carrier will need to fit completely under the seat in front of you. Since the under-seat space is generally wider than it is deep, it works best to stow the carrier left-to-right.

During the flight, you can move your dog’s carrier out and under your feet. On some airlines, and assuming it doesn’t inconvenience your seatmates, you can lift the carrier onto your lap. You cannot, however, take your dog out of her carrier or even allow her head to stick out.

You are allowed to put your hand in the carrier, and during the course of the flight, I will pat Chloe, give her a couple of treats, and two or three ice cubes. I want her to have enough water not to be dehydrated, but not so much that she has to pee.

What if you’ve miscalculated, or it’s a very long flight, and she does need to pee en route? Pack a couple of scented pee pads in your carry-on, and take them, and your dog, to the bathroom when it seems less in demand. Be sure to clean up thoroughly afterwards!

9. During layovers

With luck and planning, though, your dog should be able to travel comfortably until you reach your destination. If you have a layover, look online for the location of that airport’s “pet relief area” (all U.S. airports are now required to have a place where service dogs and pets can relieve themselves). It generally takes about an hour to exit the airport, locate the pet relief area, achieve your dog’s goals, and return through security to your departure gate.

If, despite your best efforts, your layover time has been whittled away to nothing, you can use the pee pad technique in an airport bathroom (you’ll have the most room in a handicapped stall). Be sure that no one else is waiting for the stall, and be sure to clean up thoroughly.

10. The nervous traveler

What can you do to make traveling easier for an anxious dog? Exercise is important: Make sure that your dog gets a walk just before you leave for the airport, and make it a long one. Include in her carrier her favorite toy, and a tee-shirt that you’ve worn, so your scent is close at hand. Consider wiping the inside of the carrier with Comfort Zone with DAP, a synthetic pheromone produced by nursing dogs (the TSA-friendly wipes are available on-line, and I’ve recently tried a D.A.P.-infused collar on Chloe, with some success). Some owners swear by spritz of calming lavender spray, or you could tuck a lavender sachet under the carrier’s padding (so your dog isn’t tempted to chew it). Others swear by Rescue Remedy Pet, a distillation of floral essences. A drop or two on your pet’s tongue, nose or paw may have a calming effect.

Turn to sedatives as a last resort, and only with your veterinarian’s approval and prescription. In some cases, they may be necessary and appropriate, but sedatives in general are not recommended even for pets traveling in-cabin, since they tend to affect your dog’s balance and impair her breathing.

Have fun!

There’s a lot to keep in mind the first time you and your small dog take to the skies, but I promise that these steps become second-nature in time. And the effort is worth it — you and your dog will be happy to be together, and your dog will love the new smells of your destination!

166 comments

  • Patti Rendell

    I am traveling from Dominica (not Dominican Republic) to St. Maartin, then on to Charlotte. I have two questions. I am in transit in St. Maartin, but because I am changing airlines I will have to go through Immigration and Customs. St. Maartin is very pet friendly, but they require a form that be sent to government and then you get approval. I haven’t been able to get a response from the listed government official as to whether this applies to in transit passengers. My second question is about entry into the U.S. I have Global Entry for myself, the little kiosk. This is my first time traveling with a pet, island dog breed, do you know if I have to go through the lines at Immigration and Customs or can I still just use the kiosk. It’s at Customs they look at your animal, correct? I have read the government web site about bringing her in and she has her airline reservations, I just like to know what to expect when I get to Immigration and Customs in the U.S.
    Thanks

  • cindy

    Aloha, Mary Alice, I stumbled upon your site today while researching pet carriers. I am loving all the great info and experiences you have had with Chloe, as we, too, have a CKCS.:) My family and I are moving from Hawaii to Florida in late May, and I am looking for the perfect airline carrier for my little guy. He will be a year and a half at that time. He is currently 13 lbs and 12″ at shoulder. Assuming he stays around that size by then, I am looking at the Sturdibag that you use as one option, but I am wondering if you have ever tried any of the backpack models? If so, do you have any recommendations? Let me know your thoughts! Mahalo!

  • Elena

    I have a 30 pound Shepard/Heeler mix. Do you think she could fit in an extra-large Sturdibag for an American Airlines flight?

  • Mandy

    Hi, I will soon be traveling with a small pekingese that is almost 3 years old. She is about 4 kg…we will be traveling from Odessa to turkey to LA, which is a 13 hr flight…also there is a 12 hour layover in Turkey…she is not pad trained. I am concerned about what to do during flight and the layover with potty breaks. Also, I have read that “pug nosed” dogs have more trouble flying…any advice.

  • Hi, Mandy — Pug-nosed dogs do have more trouble flying, but not so much in-cabin, where the air pressure is what they’re used to and they’re not exposed to the stressful sounds of the cargo area (and they’re close to their owner, further reducing their stress). The main advice is to NOT give her tranquilizers, if you and your vet can possibly help it, because they affect a pup’s breathing and balance, and a dog that already has breathing issues doesn’t need another layer of potential trouble. About the bathroom break issue — I suspect that she might manage to hold it for the 13 hour flight, especially if you are mindful of her water intake before you leave and en route (I typically give Chloe a couple of ice cubes every time the beverage cart comes around). A 12-hour layover, however, will likely push her into action; I’d bring the pee-pads and take her into a bathroom stall and hope she hits them, but I’d also bring a small roll of paper towels and soap and plastic bags, so you can clean up after her (if she misses) and dispose of the debris. That’s a heck of a long day for both of you — safe travels and good luck!

  • Leslie Fisher

    I fly from Venice, Italy, then to Paris and then to Los Angeles, every 6-8 weeks. I take my 8 pound terrier mix with me, on board. She has a “Karlie” carrier and is very happy to be in there. If you have time, get your dog used to his/her carrier several weeks before your trip. Car rides, trips to the mall. Anything you can think of. The “Karlie” is great because it’s also on wheels.
    I never give my dog tranquilizers. I’ve never needed to. I don’t give her breakfast on the travel day and I “potty” her as often as she will go. During the flight I let her lick ice cubes. I feel the key here is to get your dog so used to the carrier that he/she actually LIKES to be in it. You didn’t mention the class you’ll be flying but this particular carrier accommodates both business and economy as it opens many different ways.
    Good luck to you!!!!!!

  • Love it, Sarah — thank you so much for the report! I appreciate it (heck, we all appreciate it) and I regret my radio silence. Life and the blog just got away from me for the past few months!

  • Lindsay Lehman

    Sarah, I flew with the large sturdibag on a USAirways express-jet twice in December and it was no issue! I cut off the extra inch of cardboard like this website had recommended, and I oriented the carrier front to back, and it only stuck out an inch or so. I got no complaints from the crew, and no one said it was too large! Mary-Alice I have pictures if you would like them!

  • Leslie, I just searched for a wheeled Karlie pet carrier, and came up blank — if you have a chance, would you post another comment with a link to the carrier you like so much? I’m always interested in a carrier that’s worked well for travelers, and would like to pass your recommendation on to other readers.

  • Leslie Fisher

    Hello again. I bought one of mine in Los Angeles, and one in Italy. I can’t remember where, exactly, but the link to the company that makes this great carrier is:
    http://www.karlie.de/karlie/en/New_website-Shop-ShopList_3116/cat/dogs/prod/bags_117275/
    The name of the carrier I use is “Carrier Bag Smart Trolley”. A bit pricey, but well worth every penny!!!
    I’ve written to them and asked them if there is a store here, in the U.S., that carries this. If, and when they respond, I will pass along the information to you. Good luck! It’s worth the search!

  • Charlotte

    Hi!

    What an amazing website this is! So very helpfull!

    I am travelling with my mini pinscher from San Francisco to Amsterdam in May. He is 11 pounds and very comfy in his soft sided carrier, but he can not fully stand up in his natural position. Will that be a problem? I’m flying with United Airlines from SFO to Houston en then with Lufthansa to Amsterdam. The lufthansa part worries me the most, because I am told they are pretty strict.

    I’m hoping someone here has recent experience with flying Lufthansa with a carry-on dog! Would really ease my mind to get some reassurance.

    Thanks!

  • That’s exactly it, Elena — those XL bags work, just, if you can show that there’s some head room for them to squash down into when you put your pet under the seat, and I suspect your pup fills the bag completely. Drat!!

  • Hello, Alison — The carrier you choose depends in large part on the size of your pup. We fly a great deal on JetBlue with Chloe’s large SturdiBag, and it works perfectly for her (she’s about 13-15 lbs, depending, and about 12″ tall at the shoulder).

  • Hello, Cindy! I’m hideously late in writing back to you, and I’m so sorry about that. To date, I have not found a great backpack carrier for Chloe that could also be an in-cabin carrier — EXCEPT THAT just a short while ago a reader pointed me to Celltei Backpack-o-Pet product. She had hers customized for a very large small dog (a 20 lb. Corgi — here’s the link: http://www.dogjaunt.com/posts/readers-report-custom-celltei-carrier-for-franny-the-corgi/ ). The basic model in the size large would work for our Cavaliers (click on the Celltei link in that post), or you could spring for a custom carrier that’s an inch shorter or so.

  • Leslie Fisher

    A while back I wrote about the Karlie Bag. It’s a German company but I’m pretty sure you can find it here in the States. It’s a backpack, carrier, AND it’s also on wheels with a handle that pulls up in the same way as your luggage might. Good luck! I love mine!

  • Hi, Leslie! I love the look of that Karlie bag, and passed the word about it onto Dog Jaunt folks on the Facebook page — but I think it’d be too small for Cindy’s 13 lb. pup (that’s Chloe’s size, and she seemed like she’d be a little too large for the Karlie). I could totally be wrong, though — what do you think?

  • Leslie Fisher

    More important than the weight (although airlines DO have weight restrictions), is the actual size of the dog. My Lulu is 10 pounds and easily stands up and moves around inside. The Karlie bag zips in such a way that it can be opened from two different positions. If he/she is flying coach, her pup may be too tall when the bag is on it’s side. If, however, she’s flying business or first class, he/she may be fine. So… the dimensions are important, but so is the height and length of her baby.

  • I’m so sorry, Leslie — You’re quite right, I should have included Cindy’s dog’s height. Like Chloe, she’s 12″ tall at the shoulder (as well as the 13 lbs. I mentioned).

  • Leslie Fisher

    This particular Karlie Bag (the one I have) measures about 14″ tall. I’m pretty sure Chloe would be quite comfy in it. Additionally, after much research, this is the largest bag available that has so many wonderful features, AND is acceptable on International flights.

  • Hello, Patti — Alas, I do not have an answer for you about the in-transit question. I would be following in your footsteps, asking the same official the same question, so I suspect you’ll get your answer before I do mine. Typically, if you don’t leave the secured part of the in-transit airport, you don’t have to get paperwork for that country, but I’d hate for you to rely on that and then find out that St. Maartin is an exception. About coming in to the U.S. — you can still use the kiosk. The last time we returned to the U.S., no one even noticed Chloe was with us (though we were not attempting to sneak her in, by any means — they just didn’t notice or didn’t care). That said, you’ll want to have with you the required certificate showing that your pup’s rabies shot happened at the right time and is still current, in case someone does happen to notice your pup and ask you about her. [I wrote this about 15 minutes ago, and then had a reason to look again at this guest post: http://www.dogjaunt.com/posts/bringing-a-pet-into-the-united-states-a-readers-research/ Apparently, we are supposed to seek out a U.S. customs person on arrival and declare Chloe to her — something I’ve never done in my usual post-international-flight stupor. I mention it because it’s always good to know what the rules are.]

  • Lina, I am so sorry to have taken this long to respond to you!! Your Sage sounds lovely — and leggy. He’s the same weight, basically, as Chloe, but a couple of inches taller at the shoulder. I do believe he would be comfortable traveling in-cabin. If I were you, I’d give the large Teafco Argo Petagon a look — it’s a little larger than the large SturdiBag that Chloe uses, but it’s still workable, and I think it’d be a good choice for your boy.

  • Hello, Esther — I am so very sorry it’s taken me this long to respond. On the off chance that you might get this response, I’m writing to say that a 14 lb. Min-Pin should fit just fine in in-cabin spaces. Your pup is only about an inch taller than Chloe at the shoulder, and right now she’s flirting with 14 lbs., and she travels very comfortably indeed. The crucial thing is that that your pup’s carrier be the same (or nearly the same) height as his shoulders, so he can turn around (the carrier need not allow him to raise his head fully). If I were you, I’d switch carriers, to Chloe’s large SturdiBag, or to the large Teafco Argo Petagon I’ve just been checking out, both of which are taller than your carrier, but still very workable since they can fit themselves around obstructions, and in shorter spaces (our dogs are both small enough that there’s enough headroom in their bags so that the bags can squish a bit to fit into a shorter space during takeoff and landing). I hope that helps!

  • Ted

    Hello, great advice ! We are doing a move from Las Vegas to Chiang Mai Thailand in the near future and we will be take our fur-kids with us (4) I’m pretty sure it will be Korean Airlines because they are one of the few that will let us take 2 in cabin and 2 in hold, and has the shortest layover time.. Have you heard of how they are with pets ? Thanks, Ted

  • Sadie's Mom

    I flew with my 11.5 pound Havanese from Denver to/from Atlanta on Southwest Airlines in a Sleepypod Air Carrier and the trip went very smoothly. The tips on traveling with a dog were great. I kept the carrier in a vertical or perpendicular position to the seat and no one on the flight ever said anything. Half the carrier was under the seat. The middle seat had the most room under the seat on our flight which fit the Sleepypod Air carrier just fine. Keeping the carrier in a vertical position was helpful because my dog could see me at all times and I was able to put my hand into the carrier to pet my dog. I did have to set up a reservation ahead of time and it costs $95 each way (total of $190) which was almost the same price as our regular fare for people, which was charged at the time we checked our bags. Overall, it went pretty well.

  • Faith

    Hello. Has anyone had any experience with traveling via Spirit? I am taking my Mini Schnauzer aboard and am wondering if they will be strict in the carrier dimensions? She is quite tall, about 12 in , which is taller than their 9 inch limit. She will be fine under the seat but I would like to get her a carrier that is a bit bigger than the required so that she can turn around. Any info will be appreciated!

  • James Rutland

    I have a 35lb miniature American shepherd (miniature Australian shepherd) service dog that needs to fly in cabin with me; I want to travel from Jacksonville, Florida to Cebu, Philippines… What do I do? Where do I start? How much is this going to cost? How much food can I bring with me? Do I need special paperwork to show he is a service dog?

  • Debbie

    Traveling with an 8 week old puppy in a few weeks on American Airlines from Manchester NH to Jackson, MS. I upgraded my seats to the ones behind the bulkhead. Will I be able to put the carrier under my seat?

  • Hello, Debbie — Let’s see. If you’re in a bulkhead seat yourself — that is, the bulkhead is directly in front of you like a wall and you could put your feet up on it if you chose to — then you cannot have a pet dog traveling with you. Your pup in her carrier needs to go under the seat in front of you, so there has to be a seat there for the system to work.

  • Sam

    Hi, I just wanted to let everyone know that LAN Airlines started acepting Dogs to fly in cabin.
    Now in Latin America we are able to fly with Avianca, Copa and LAN!

  • Luisa Mendoza

    Your information is great however I don’t see much about traveling with and emotional support dog. Can you please post some info about this. Thank you.

  • Hello, Luisa! Thank you so much for the kind praise. It’s true — I don’t offer any information about traveling with an emotional support dog. Chloe isn’t one, so that’s not an area I’ve had to research. I can point you to another blog, called Montecristo Travels — Monte is an ESA, and his person, Sonja, will have more info to offer than I do. (He also has a Facebook page, under the same name, and you could likely message Sonja through that.)

  • Patricia

    Your blog is so helpful, thank you!! 🙂
    I have nothing helpful to add yet, since I just got my mini pin puppy and am learning new things every day. But will definitely have to fly overseas with him and reading your blog, already taught me a lot. So just wanting to say thanks!

  • Kathy

    I flew with my 15 pound Cardigan Welsh Corgi puppy on American 319 (1st class) and American CRJ900 (coach) with an extra large Sturdibag. The bag fit in both cases, but there was actually more room on the CRJ900 than on the 319 (even though the 319 is a much larger aircraft). I did run into resistance at the ticket counter on the return trip, but they let me go anyway because I was on the return leg of my trip. I worry that once my Corgi reaches her adult weight she may be too big to be comfortable in the XL Sturdibag. I have photos in case anyone needs proof that the Sturdibag fits in the space. One interesting note: on the outbound leg we were upgraded into first class, even though there was already another pet in first class (I don’t think the flight attendant notices). My seat mate was Grumpy Cat…

  • Mary Connaughton

    My guy is 12 inches at shoulder and about 15 pounds. The largest carrier Delta will accept on our flight is only 8 inches high. In looking at your chart of airline carrier dimensions, I don’t see any that are 12 inches high, yet you state your dog is 12 inches. Am I missing something here? We have to fly from Colombia to Boston in a couple of weeks and I am desperate to figure this out. Thanks!

  • Nicole

    I would like to share my experiences of flying for the first time with my ten year old baby. She is 20lbs, and has some health issues so I was very nervous with the thought of her flying. My husband and I were going to drive from Boston to Los Angeles, but decided to give flying a try. I purchased a large Sturdibag in February and tried everything to get her use to being in there. I put in her favorite toys, treats, then I started putting her meals in there. I talked to her vet who recommended an anti-anxiety pill for her, so I gave her half a pill the Sunday before we left, just so I could monitor her to make sure there were no side effects. Then the Friday in June we were off! We flew Virgin America. Lola is right at 20lbs so I was afraid if they weighed her in her bag, she would be over. Luckily, they did not weigh her. The ticket agent just asked if I had a carrier for her. She did not even see the carrier (it was on the floor) and did not ask for a health certificate which I had just in case. Everything was going good until we had to put her in the carrier right before we boarded. She did not like being in there at all! She didn’t bark or cry but she wanted out! The flight attendant told us we had to put her under the seat for takeoff, but I knew she would be scared so as soon as the flight attendants sat down, my husband lifted the carrier and put it on his lap. The carrier stayed on his lap for the entire flight. This was ok since it was me, my husband and my mother in the same row. When the flight attendant came by to tell us to put her under the seat for landing my husband was pretending to do it, but once again kept her on his lap. She would’ve been totally ok if we were allowed to take her out of the carrier and just hold her, but I didn’t want to risk it because it’s hard getting her in the carrier. On the flight home we bought an extra seat in the middle, so my husband put the carrier on the seat with the seatbelt around it! I knew there was no way we were going to get away with that but when the head flight attendant came by, he paused and was about to say, she needs to be under the seat in front of you, but instead he just said “I’m not looking!” and walked away!! She was much more relaxed on the flight home. I don’t know if it had to do with her being so tired from our fun-filled vacation, or being on the seat between us, or the half a pill of Trazadone! Because she is diabetic we gave her her breakfast and insulin about 4 hours before the flight and made sure she had a good walk. On my last flight from LA, there was a woman holding a dog on the plane and I asked if it was an emotional support dog. She said no. I asked if anybody said anything to her about having the dog out of the carrier, she said no but I would think they’d rather have me hold him then listen to him bark the whole way. So, it all depends on the flight attendants and the strangers around you (that’s why I bought an extra seat on the way home…I tried doing everything I could to lessen the stress for Lola)

  • Carolyn Kidd

    Thank you so much for that informative post. My fur baby is also ten and I plan to fly back to Florida with him for the first time in October. I am really nervous as he is a terrible traveler. 17 lbs hates driving in the car..cries so vet gave me a mild tranquilizer that I hope works. I too gave a large sturdi bag that he goes into but not crazy about being locked in there. Should I have him in it when I get to airport or Dan I walk him to gate. Need all the help I can get. Any advice would help. Oh btw he is a mini schnauzer.

  • Hi, Carolyn! He should be in the carrier when he gets to the airport — no walking to the gate, alas. To be honest, I think the carrier is often a comfort for a nervous traveling dog, more than being out in the open and dodging all those bags and legs. Do what you can to get him to associate the carrier with good things — a cozy place to nap (keep it out and open for him to check out), tasty treats, meals (put his bowl in there!). Take him on short trips to places he loves, like the pet store, or the park. And the day of travel, give him a good long walk, so he’s mostly tired rather than nervous!

  • Victoria Velazquez

    Thank you for such insightful information. I am printing this out and studying it until I memorize it. It will be my first time traveling with Khloee (my baby), and your article makes me feel that it will be possible and that we will both survive our trip. Thank you!

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