5 Tips & Tricks For A Safe Flight With Your Small Dog

Flying with your dog can be a rewarding experience. It takes planning well in advance. However, the time you spend planning ensures a fun vacation. Fido is your best friend. No matter how rough you look in the morning, he looks at you with adoring eyes. In fact, he seems to sense your moods. He greets you at the door after work. Snuggling up is his favorite way to spend a cold winter night. And at the beach? He’s the first one to jump into the water. Of course, it is natural for you to want to take Fido on a trip with you. After all, he is your best friend.


I have personally flown with Rocco, my toy fox terrier, on many occasions. This crazy little dog of mine has seen more of the United States than most people. Some of these tips were advice that was given to me. Some is common sense. And some…well, let’s just say I learned them the hard way. Indeed, careful planning is a must. In fact, the planning must start early. However, these easy 5 tips and tricks will make your flight a breeze.

1. Check With The Airline

This may sound like a no-brainer. This is one lesson I learned the hard way. I read on the airline’s website that pets were allowed with a $50 fee. However, I didn’t realize that there was a limit of one dog per flight. This meant that I needed to tell them that Rocco was coming with me and pay the fee when I booked the flight. I did type this information into the “comments” section of the form. Apparently, this was not the right way to do this.

I suggest calling the airline so you have the name of the person who approved this. This is not the time to book online. Take careful notes and keep them with you in case you are challenged by the airline.


2. Get Shots Updated; Keep Records on Hand

First, make sure Fido’s shots are updated. Have the vet print you out a “travel copy” which includes your veterinarian’s address and phone number. Put these records in a ziploc bag and keep them in your possession at all times. I keep mine in my carry-on bag or purse in a separate zipped pocket. In case Fido gets ill on your trip, you will have instant access to his medical records. If you would need to visit a vet, the new vet will be able to see a quick snapshot of his health.

Also, and I know you all will hate I say this, consider the following. Travel can be stressful for some pets. You don’t know until you take Fido on vacation how he will react to new situations. Therefore, a normally mellow dog could bite someone when stressed. In this case, those shot records could be Fido’s get out of jail free card. Otherwise, she could be quarantined. Finally, while you’re at the vet getting shots updated, go ahead and get Fido micro-chipped. This painless implant codes your contact information so that he can be returned to you if he accidentally gets separated from you.


3. Create Train Your Dog

The best thing I’ve ever done is crate training my dog. When we travel, his crate is his safe place. Make sure the latches that hold it together are secure. Ensure the door latches completely. If your dog doesn’t use a crate, get him acclimated to one in advance of your flight. Start with short times in the crate. Increase times a little every day. Of course, Fido will scream and have tantrums. Keep calm and make the crate a happy place. Toss in a treat or two and a favorite toy.

This is important. Fido will need to remain in his travel crate the entire time he’s in the airport and in flight. In fact, I walk Rocco the very last thing before I enter the airport. There’s usually a lovely tree or two for him to visit. Then he doesn’t get out of his carrier until we get to our destination. Invest in an airline approved pet carrier. You will not be allowed to carry on with your pet if it does not meet this guideline. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for proper sizing.

I prefer to carry Rocco in an airline-approved nylon pet carrier. I carry it like a duffel bag. This means that it’s easier to get in and out of the airport. He doesn’t seem to mind getting stuffed in a bag and under an airplane seat. Indeed, he sleeps most of the way.


4. Socialize Your Dog

When you fly with Fido, he and his flight kennel will be inspected. This means he will be removed from the kennel so the kennel can be x-rayed. They may let you carry him through but they may also want to look at him. Now, I will admit that TSA agents annoy me. I have been tempted to bite them. But Fido actually might if he’s not socialized. And that will surely ruin your vacation plans.

Take Fido for walks prior to your trip. Invite neighbors and family members to come up and meet him and touch him. Hopefully, you already have a social doggie. However, if he isn’t social, then do this right away.


5. Necessary Items to Keep In Your Bag

Remember I mentioned that I learned some things the hard way? One of these was on my first flight with Rocco. I had a short layover. The plane was apparently broken down and so it became a long layover. I couldn’t take him out because I didn’t know if I had time to leave the airport, return, and go back through passenger security.

I was grossly unprepared for this situation. A kind flight attendant handed me a big wad of paper towels and pointed me to the restroom. I tried to get Rocco to pee on this makeshift pee-pee pad but he refused. My good boy knew he was not to pee inside. From then on, I started carrying a puppy training pad in my carry on. They are scented so the dog knows what he’s supposed to do.

Also, invest in a portable fold up water bowl. They cost a couple of dollars and collapse to nothing. The fast food places in the airport usually sell bottled water so that you can give him water. Like people, pets need to keep hydrated on flights. Last, check with your vet on what to do for airsickness. Yes, it happens. Because of this possibility, I was told to keep a Benadryl tablet to help. Fortunately, I have never needed it. 

Follow these steps to prepare to travel with Fido. Keeping him with you on vacation is truly priceless.