Travelling with pets

Nowadays, it has become a common practice to experience the world alongside your faithful companion. Long gone are the days when you had to deliberate whether you’ll be able to travel at all since no one is available to take care of your furry family member while you’re gone.

Small dog in a luggage

Not only are you able to find boarding kennels or pet sitters more easily these days, but it is also possible for you, given the right circumstances, to take your dog on a journey with you.

Getting the paperwork ready

Flying can be cumbersome even without pets. All of the rules, regulations and security checks can be a real pain in the neck sometimes. But, as is the case with people, good preparation and understanding of these procedures will smoothen your pet’s liftoff.

First of all, always get a certificate of health from your veterinarian. Some airlines will ask for this document, others won’t. Regardless of airline-specific pet policy, this piece of paper is necessary for any owner that decides to bring the pet along. Keep in mind though that this document must be fairly recent, as most airlines that allow pets on board will require it to be less than 10 days old.

Secondly, consider getting a pet passport from the vet. According to the Pet Travel Scheme, or PETS for short, animal companions with passports can travel to any member countries without undergoing quarantine. These member countries include the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and European Union countries. Any other countries will require proof of complete inoculation of the pet, mainly against rabies.

Read more: A definitive travel packing list for a family trip

Rules of engagement

There are several important things that every dog owner should know if they intend to travel by plane. Of course, a lot of these guidelines vary from one airline to another, but it’s always important to get informed about all possible outcomes.

  • Besides being healthy, your pet also needs to be inside of an airline approved carrier. What this means is that the carrier must be able to fit under an airplane seat.
  • Airlines limit the number of in-cabin pets that are allowed to travel at the same time. For this reason, it is prudent to call ahead and reserve a slot in a cabin for your dog.
  • It is common for pet owners to get the middle seat because it has got the most under-seat space available. You might even get to preboard the plane if you’re travelling with a pet!
  • Be prepared to pay a hefty pet fee. Depending on your airline, a one-way flight might cost a 100$ or even more.
  • Bringing pets in the cabin is regarded as bringing carry-on baggage. This lets you take just one more personal item with you, so choose wisely.

If your dog is too big, then there are only two other options to consider. It can either travel as checked baggage in the cargo hold or as manifest cargo if it is unaccompanied. The latter happens when an airline outsources pet transport to some other commercial line. Service and emotional support dogs are usually allowed with the passenger regardless of size.

Speaking of size, each airline determines the maximum dimensions of the carrier allowed on the plane. For example, United Airlines allows for carriers that are not longer than 18 inches and no more than 11 inches high. This is an average estimate for most airlines, some of them only vary slightly. Make sure to check approved dimensions before doing anything else really.

So not only does your dog need to conform to these dimensions, but it must also be of proper weight. Air companies usually require the combined weight of your dog and the carrier to be no more than 20 pounds. There are those that don’t propose such limitations, however, they do require your pup to be small enough to fit comfortably under the seat.

Airlines that allow pets in-cabin

Here are some examples of airlines that let pets join the ride and their weight requirements:

  • America Airlines. Pet and carrier weight shouldn’t exceed 20 pounds. On an international or 12 hour flight, pets are not allowed in-cabin.
  • Alaska Air. This company will also let you bring a pet along. The limit is also 20 pounds. A return flight will cost additional $200 in total.
  • Delta. This one lets your pet fly without weight limitations, but as we have previously mentioned, it must be comfortable.
  • Air France. Air France allows animals weighing up to 17 pounds to fly in-cabin. Others have to travel by either freight or in the hold.

Rows of seats in the airplane

Dogs that match the criteria

After examining all of the rules and familiarizing you with what to expect, we can now cover dog breeds that fit under airplane seat. Obviously, only small dogs are allowed, but the question is what we consider to be a small dog. Since most carriers that abide by airline dimension requirements don’t exceed 3 pounds in weight, small dogs are all those that weigh less than 17 pounds and fit such a carrier comfortably. Of course, this is only relevant if there is a weight limit involved.

So what are some of the breeds that can fit under the seat properly?

There is nothing to worry about if you have a (or a dog that is a mix of these breeds):

  • Maltese,
  • Yorkshire Terrier,
  • Pomeranian,
  • Brussels Griffon,
  • Shih Tzu,
  • Pekingese,
  • Chihuahua,
  • Dachshund,
  • Bichon Frise,
  • Norwich Terrier,
  • Havanese.

We are well aware that it is possible for any of these doggies to grow out of proportion, but usual specimens will fit just right.

If you have a service dog, then you should know that there are pet relief stations for it to enjoy at most airports.

Some precautions to be made

Best dog breeds to take on a flight with you are naturally small and peaceful dogs. Anxious pups will have too many issues aboard an airplane, and it might be best to find a nice home for them to stay there while you’re away. However, anxiety is not the only reason why some dogs shouldn’t go flying. For short snout breeds, flying could potentially be life-threatening, as they could face serious respiratory problems at higher altitudes.

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As far as being prepared goes, make sure you have enough dog food and their favorite treats available at hand. If it is possible for you, bring DryFur. This leak-proof pad will pick up all the moisture and keep the pup warm and dry. Your dog will have to stay locked up for the entire flight, so make sure to bring some toys along, but don’t smother it. Your furry friend will still need proper ventilation, so don’t stuff the carrier with unnecessary items.

Another important thing to remember is to keep the dog in its carrier even after you’ve arrived at the terminal. You might be tempted to let it stretch its legs, but it is not advisable. The pet should remain inside until you reach airport security, at which point you’ll take it out.

Bottom line

As you’ve no doubt realized by now, different airlines apply different rules when it comes to travelling with pets. It is very important to always contact your airline of choice directly, as to avoid any misunderstandings later. The Humane Society of the United States advises against pets travelling by air unless they really need to. It can be very traumatizing sometimes, so really think your decision through. But, if you’ve ever wondered if small dogs can fly in the cabin, we hope that we have solved your dilemma.