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Flying with Puppies: All you need to know [2021]

Flying with puppies can be quite a nerve wrecking experience, for many reasons. Firstly, the world can be a scary place for a new puppy, depending on your pup’s personality and confidence levels. Being surrounded by new people, in new environments, with new smells and sounds, can be quite a lot for a puppy so you want to prepare to ensure it is as stress-free as possible. Furthermore, flying with puppies can be a stressful experience for you! You may be worrying about your puppy’s well being and what is best for him. You may also worry about how to handle your energetic puppy when traveling. 

Additionally, there are specific requirements to fly with puppies, including microchips, vaccinations and animal health certificates. 

However, with preparation, training and planning, flying with puppies can be enjoyable for you both. In this article, we will talk you through the things you can do to make flying easier to bear for you and your puppy. 


Traveling with puppies during socialisation period (8-12 weeks)

Between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks, your puppy will be in it’s socialisation stage. Your puppy’s experiences during this critical period of learning and development can influence and shape their behaviour well into adulthood. 

A well socialised puppy will find it easier to navigate life. You’ll be able to take them confidently along with you, knowing that they can cope with situations.

A well travelled puppy will be much calmer on a flight, as he will be used to new, busy environments. This is why it’s important to socialise them as early as possible. 

What is socialisation and why is it so important?

Puppies are brand new in the world, they haven’t yet learnt which situations are safe and which ones could be risky for them. From about the first three weeks to three months of life, they go through what’s known as the ‘socialisation period’. During this period they learn that everyday sights and sounds are a part of normal life and are not a threat to them. Introducing them to everyday scenarios, places, sights and sounds while they are young will help them feel relaxed into adult life. 

Additionally, they need to learn when they could be in potential danger and what to do about it. At around 8 to 12 weeks old and again at around 6 months, puppies have short periods of what is called neophobia. This means, ‘fear of new things’ and it plays a big part in how puppies and dogs keep themselves safe. Negative experiences during this key period can have a big impact on how a puppy views the world and his sense of security. 

Traveling with puppies when they are young is recommended, to provide a wide range of positive experiences for your them. During the key socialisation period you will want to introduce your puppy to as many every day things as possible. This includes car rides, busy train stations and train journeys, buses, busy roads among many more environments and situations. If your puppy is introduced to these things early on in life, they are far more likely to be confident with them throughout their lifetimes. 

Of course, you and your dog may come across situations that you could never have practiced during their early months, however if you have a well travelled puppy, they’re more likely to accept and be confident in new experiences too.


Flying with Puppies

Is it possible to fly with a puppy?

Flying with puppies is possible, depending on which airline you are flying with, where you are flying to and from, and how old your puppy is. Different airlines have different rules and regulations for flying with a puppy. Some of them will allow flying with a puppy that is at least 8 weeks of age, where others will require that puppies are at least 12 weeks to fly. The rules also differ depending on whether your puppy will be flying in the cabin with you, or in the pet cargo area of the plane. It’s important to check the pet policies of the specific airline you are flying with, and your specific aircraft and route. 

Will my puppy be okay flying?

Flying with puppies can be a stressful experience. Being in a busy airport, and being restricted to a travel container, along with all the new sights, sounds and smells of an airplane and airport, can all be quite overwhelming for a puppy. Additionally, bright lights and changes in air pressure and cabin temperature, and a limited ability to use the bathroom can be added stresses. Of course this depends on your puppy’s temperament, confidence levels and travel experience. A well travelled puppy will handle flying much better than a puppy who hasn’t spent much time in the outside world. 

It’s important to think long and hard about whether it’s essential to bring your puppy on a plane. In general, vets recommend not flying with a pet unless absolutely necessary. Ideally, puppies should not fly unless an owner is moving permanently or taking a long trip—two to four weeks minimum.

Unless you have a really good reason for bringing your puppy with you during your travels, it may be best to leave them home. You could consider hiring a pet-sitter, asking a friend or family member to watch your puppy, or boarding them at a licensed facility. You might feel quite sad for a few days, but it’s potentially better for your puppy in the long run. 

However, if you are planning on taking your puppy on flights with you in the future, for whatever reason, it’s best to get them used to the experience from an early age. We will outline tips and guides on how to get your puppy used to flying, and how to make the experience as stress-free as possible.


Cabin or Cargo travel?

Whether your puppy will travel in the cabin with you, or in the cargo area of the plane will depend on the size of your puppy, which airline you are traveling with, where you are traveling to and from, and possibly the breed of your puppy. 

Though rules vary from airline to airline, your puppy can typically only fly in the cabin (as carry-on luggage) if they are small enough to fit in a carrier stowed under the seat in front of you. Any larger than that, and your pup will have to travel in the cargo hold, with the luggage and freight. Airlines will do their best to make puppies and dogs comfortable in the cargo hold, however it will likely still be a rather unpleasant experience for your dog. Not only will they be separated from you, items might shift around or fall during the flight, which can be loud and scary.

Additionally, it’s important to note that on certain routes, dogs are not permitted to fly in the cabin. This is usually the case when flying to and from the UK, for example. 

Some airlines will also have restrictions on certain breeds. Often, snub-nosed breeds such as pugs and french bulldogs, are not permitted to fly in the cargo of the plane as they are at higher risk of health problems due to potential breathing issues. 

Check the rules and regulations for your specific airline, route and dog breed and size to weigh up your options. 


Getting your puppy prepared for flying

Before traveling with a puppy on a plane, it’s best to consult with your vet about food, water and medication. 

You may be considering sedating or tranquillising your puppy for the flight, however it isn’t recommended. There are high risks involved with sedation, and some airlines actually prohibit sedation, or at least require a vet note to state that it is absolutely essential. For more information on sedating a dog when flying check, Dog Sedatives for Flying: Should I use them?.

Medical concerns aside, it’s VERY important to get your dog used to spending time in and traveling in a crate. This is something you should do well in advance of your flight as it does take time to build up that positive relationship with the crate. You might even consider taking them to the airport’s departure area a few times so they become more comfortable with this new, strange place.

For more information on preparing your puppy for travel, check the section below. 


Selecting an appropriate travel carrier

Whether your puppy will be flying in the cabin with you, or in the cargo area of the plane, you’ll need to bring along an appropriate pet carrier or crate. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), whose guidelines most airlines follow, has a list of pet carrier requirements to follow.

Generally, your crate needs to be durable and have plenty of ventilation, strong handles, and a leak-proof bottom. Additionally, the travel crate must be big enough for your puppy to stand up, sit down, lie down and turn around with ease.

Additionally, you should clearly mark your pet carrier with the words “Live Animal” and arrows that show which way is up, with a label containing your name, phone number, address, and destination contact information.

Different airlines have different restrictions on the sizes of travel carriers to use, these sometimes even vary depending on the specific aircraft you will be boarding. It’s important to check the restrictions of your specific airline and aircraft. 

When traveling with puppies on a plane, it’s important to line the carrier with absorbant material as they are prone to have accidents during the flight, particularly if they are very young. 


Documents required for flying with a puppy

The documents required when traveling with puppies on planes will vary depending on where you are flying from and to, and which airline you are flying with. Generally, you may need any of the following:

  • Microchip certificate
  • Rabies vaccination certificate
  • Animal health certificate 
  • Import permit
  • Additional vaccination certificates
  • Rabies titer test results
  • Parasite treatment certificate
  • Sanitation form

Check the requirements for your specific route and airline well in advance, as some of these may take some time to obtain. This is particularly the case if your destination country requires a rabies titer test for your puppy. 


Choose your flight wisely

For your flight to be as stress-free as possible, look for direct flights with no transfers, and avoid flying during holiday periods when airlines and airports are busier than normal.

If you are flying with a puppy in the cargo, you’ll need to be mindful of the weather at your destination. For example, if you’re traveling somewhere warm, it’s best to fly in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures aren’t so high. Alternatively, in cooler climates, look for flights in the middle of the day, when temps are warmest.

It’s also important to keep in mind that airlines will not let your pet fly if temperatures get too hot or too cold at any destination along your journey. If this happens, you’ll have to make alternative plans.


Call to reserve your puppy a spot

Most airlines only allow a certain number of dogs to fly in-cabin, so it’s important to call way ahead of time to ensure there is room for your puppy and to book his or her spot.


How much does flying with a puppy cost?

This will depend on which airline you are flying with, whether they are flying in the cabin or cargo, the size and weight of your dog and where you are flying from and to. 

If you are flying in the cabin with your puppy, you’ll typically pay around $125 each way for your pet to fly in the cabin with you, though it varies by airline. The cost of shipping your pet in the cargo hold can vary more, depending on the combined weight of your dog and their crate. Additionally, the price will likely increase on longer journeys. Most airlines offer online calculators for getting an estimate.


Steps to follow at the airport

First of all, we recommend getting to the airport extra early so that you don’t feel rushed.

Flying with puppy in cabin

If your puppy is small and light enough to fly with you as a carry-on, you’ll go to the passenger check-in desk where an agent will check all of the paperwork for your puppy. Once you’ve got the all-clear and paid the pet carry-on fee, your next stop is security. Leave your puppy in it’s travel carrier while you sort out your shoes, jacket, bags, laptop and other items. Once you are ready, take your puppy out of it’s travel carrier and place the travel carrier on the conveyer belt with your other items. You may also want to remove your puppy’s collar or harness to avoid setting off the metal detector. Then you can carry your puppy through security while the kennel and your other items go through the X-ray machine. 

Flying with puppy in cargo

If your pet is flying cargo, most airlines require that you arrive at least three hours before the departure time for domestic flights and at least five hours before international flights. It is likely that you will need to take your puppy to a separate cargo drop-off location at the airport (this is where you’ll pick up your pet after the flight, too), so review your departure and arrival airport maps ahead of time.

We highly recommend attaching a current photo of your puppy to the carrier, as well as a small bag of food so airline personnel can feed it in case of a long delay. I’m sure you already have thousands of photos of your puppy, which makes it easier to identify them should the airline “misplace” your pet (it’s unlikely, but you’d rather be prepared than not). 

Once you arrive at your destination, grab your checked baggage and head straight to your airline’s specified cargo location. Generally, puppies and dogs are available to collect two hours after the flight’s arrival. Often, they must be picked up within four hours or they’ll be taken to a veterinarian or boarding facility.

Whether your pet flew in cargo or as a carry-on, take your dog for a walk right away to relieve itself. 


Tips for traveling with puppies

Get your puppy used to confined spaces

When flying with puppies, they will need to travel in a crate or carrier. This is why it is important to get your puppy used to confined spaces as early as possible. 

Once you select the crate or carrier your puppy will be traveling in, it’s important to spend some time working on ensure he or she is comfortable in it. 

It’s best to start this as early as possible, as it can take time for puppies to acclimate to their new carriers. If your puppy is particularly anxious or nervous, you’ll want to allow yourself more time. 

The aim is to get your puppy used to spending time in it’s carrier for long periods of time, before your planned trip.

You’ll want to use lots of treats, and your puppy’s favourite toys and blanket. This is so that your puppy associates the carrier with positive things. 

When introducing your puppy to its new carrier, it’s important to let your puppy explore it on its own. Do not place your puppy in immediately, and do not close the door until they are comfortable sitting or lying down in it with the door open. Instead, place your puppy’s treats, toys and blankets inside and let them venture in by themselves. You want it to become a safe place. 

It’s also a good idea to do some practice runs in your puppy’s carrier. When your puppy is comfortable chilling in the carrier, take him out for a walk around the block, or to the cafe. The more practice runs you do, the less anxious your puppy should when you set off for your flight. 


Get your puppy used to busy environments.

If it’s possible, take your puppy to a train station, or airport and sit with him or her in the public waiting area. This way, your puppy can get used to the sights, sounds and smells of an airport. 

However, I understand that this may not be possible. If it isn’t, you could always play your puppy an audio of a airplane taking off or train passing, and airport/train station noise.


Try to limit access to food and water before your trip.

A puppy that needs to go to the toilet is more likely to be distressed and anxious when traveling.

If possible, try to limit your puppy’s access to food and water leading up to your flight, or time your puppy’s meals to suit your flight.

Not only will it reduce the chances of them needing the toilet while traveling, some puppies may experience motion sickness if they eat just before a trip. 

This is particularly important when you are flying – Air Canada suggest feeding your dog four to six hours prior to departure, as a full stomach may cause discomfort during travel. 

If you are flying in the cabin with your puppy, and it look like he needs to go to the bathroom when on the flight, ask the attendant for advice on what to do. Make sure you pack some wipes and poop bags in case of any accidents. 


Pack paperwork and supplies the night before.

When flying with puppies, it’s best to get everything organised the night before your trip. This will make the whole journey much less stressful for you, which will in turn make your puppy calmer. From personal experience, I know how much of a handful puppies can be, so rather than rushing the morning of your trip, it’s much better to have it prepared beforehand. 

Supplies are key to a happy, healthy trip. Here’s what we suggest bringing:

  • Your dog’s food
  • Favourite treats
  • Collapsible food and water bowls.
  • An extra leash
  • Plastic bags and hand cleaners in case of accidents.
  • A safe toy or bone for chewing on during the flight
  • A blanket

When flying with a puppy, we recommend bringing their favourite toy and blanket. Both of these will provide them with a sense of security. A blanket also comes in handy as you can use it to cover your puppy’s carrier. 

The documents required to fly with a puppy will vary depending on which airline you are flying with, and where you are flying from and to. But generally, you may require any of the following:

  1. Microchip certificate
  2. Rabies vaccination certificate
  3. Animal health certificate 
  4. Import permit
  5. Additional vaccination certificates
  6. Rabies titer test results
  7. Parasite treatment certificate
  8. Sanitation form

This is just a guide on what is required, please check the requirements for your specific airline and destination country. 


Familiarise yourself with signs of distress.

Look out for the following signs of distress when traveling with puppies:

  • Crying
  • Shivering
  • Excessive licking
  • Excessive yawning
  • Pacing
  • A glazed over look
  • Continuous shaking as if they are wet

Exhaust your puppy before travel.

Try to tire your puppy a little by having a little play session just before your trip.

A sleepy puppy will be less prone to getting stressed when traveling as they will likely just sleep through it! Puppies need a lot of sleep!


Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I take my 8 week old puppy on a plane with me?

It is possible, however, it depends on a number of different things. Different airlines have different rules and regulations for flying with puppies, some require them to be just 8 weeks old, where others will only allow puppies older than 12 weeks of age. Additionally, it depends on where you are flying to and from, as the rules also vary depending on destination. You will need to check the requirements for your specific airline and route.

Can my puppy sit on my lap on the plane?

Most airlines require for puppies to stay in their travel carriers for the duration of the flight. However, some may allow you to place the carrier on your lap once you have taken off. If you are really nice to the aircraft staff, they may allow you to take your puppy out the carrier for a short period of time, as long as your puppy behaves well.

Can I bring two puppies on a plane with me

This depends on which airline you fly with. Many airlines only permit one puppy per passenger, however, some allow 2 as long as they are small enough to fit in one carrier. Usually they must weigh under 8kg, including the carrier weight.

Can my puppy fly in cabin with me?

This completely depends on which airline you are flying with, the route you are taking, and the size and weight of your puppy. Generally, puppies must be under 8kg (combined with carrier), to travel in the cabin, they must also fit in a small carrier that fits under the seat in front of you.


Bottom Line

So, flying with puppies can be a positive experience for the both of you, as long as you take time to prepare beforehand. Traveling should actually be a key part to your puppy’s socialisation period, as it will result in a confident happy dog who enjoys the experience, if done correctly. 

It’s important to take your time and gradually exposing your puppy to new environments, such as train stations, airports and cars. Gradual is key as you don’t want to overwhelm your puppy and make them feel like they have something to fear. You want to take baby steps, listed above, and provide your puppy with plenty of praise and treats when they behave calmly when traveling. 

Additionally, it’s important to get your puppy used to spending time in a travel carrier. Again, it’s important to introduce them to the carrier gradually, using lots of positive reinforcement. 

Lastly, it’s important to check the pet policies of the specific airline you are flying with, as each as different rules and regulations. The requirements will also vary depending on where you are traveling to and from, and the breed, size and weight of your puppy. 

Hope this has been helpful! Happy travels!

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