How to Fly With a Large Dog

Traveling is an exciting adventure and of course you want your dog to tag along. However, whilst people who have smaller dogs can easily bring them along as carry-on luggage, flying with your larger dog is not such a simple task, and will often require your dog to be put on as checked-in luggage or cargo. 

The process of getting your dog from Point A to Point B via planes can leave you feeling like you have no idea where to start or what you need. After all, there’s paperwork involved, selecting the right pet carrier so that your dog can be as comfortable as possible, alongside a variety of other things to do. 

That’s why we’ve created an article that lays out everything you need to know about flying locally or internationally with your large dog to make it as easy and stress-free as possible to bring your large dog along with you. 

After all, if you get to travel somewhere exotic and dog-friendly, there’s no reason that your dog shouldn’t be by your side every step of the way and we want to help make that happen.

Is it possible to fly with a large dog in a cabin?

The short answer here is no, you cannot fly with your large dog in the cabin during your flight. Most airlines have a requirement that to travel in the cabin, dogs must be able to fit inside a carrier that is stored underneath a plane seat. 

Unfortunately, this means that any medium sized to large sized dogs like Huskies or Labradors are automatically ruled out. Besides smaller dogs being allowed to travel in the cabin, there are a few exceptions. 

A trained or certified support or service dog, accompanied by legitimate documentation, are occasionally allowed to travel with their owners in the cabin. Flights can be a stressful time for most people, and for those who require service dogs, it can be even moreso. 

Hence why airlines might make exceptions for larger service dogs, such as Golden Retrievers, to be allowed in the cabin during a flight. However, this is up to the discretion of the airline and as such, it is vital that you continuously check the rules and regulations. 

Always check before booking your flight as information can change rapidly.

Flying with a large dog internationally

You absolutely can fly with a large dog internationally. However, along with the steps that need to be taken when flying your large dog locally, there are a few extra when it comes to international travel. 

To ensure you are completely prepared and well-equipped to travel internationally with your large dog, contact the local authority in your destination country and they will be able to give you all of the most current information. 

The basics of flying with a large dog

There are a few basic rules when it comes to flying with big dogs. You must ensure that your dog is completely clear of ticks, fleas or any other contagious diseases. Larger dogs will be required to be flown as checked baggage or cargo depending upon the airline. 

If you want to know more information about what the specific requirements are regarding checking in and how your dog needs to travel, contact the airline directly. Your dog must also be traveling in a proper crate, be clean and remain as calm as they can be for the duration of the flight. 

General tips for flying with a dog

To help with taking your big dog on flights and all of the accompanying stress, we have compiled a helpful guide of general tips to follow when flying with your dog.

Have your dog checked by a veterinarian. 

Always check that your dog is okay to fly. Veterinarians can have a look at your dog and give you breed-specific information and advice, which can be really helpful. They will take into account your large dog’s behavioral and health history to provide the best advice possible. 

If vaccination requirements are required, which could be a requirement for flying internationally, your veterinarian will assist with this. 

Don’t feed your dog within four hours of departure

When flying, ensure that your dog is not fed within four hours of your flight leaving as most airlines will recommend this. By not feeding your dog within four hours of your flight, you will reduce the likelihood of motion sickness and your large dog’s possible need for the bathroom. 

Always make sure that you have taken your dog to the bathroom before checking them in for the flight as this will make the flight smoother and more enjoyable for your big dog. 

Tired dogs are happy dogs

Ensuring that you have exercised your big dog before heading off to the airport can help with tiring your dog out, allowing them to potentially sleep through the flight. 

Don’t sedate your dog. 

This tip may be surprising, however, most airlines won’t allow a sedated dog to travel with them. The reason for this is that sedation can alter the way your dog breathes which is risky during travel, especially when they’re in an unfamiliar environment. 

If you do have genuine concerns about your dog flying unsedated, talk to your veterinarian about alternative ways to calm your dog down or ways to crate-train your large dog if they have separation anxiety

Line the bottom of the crate

When you line the bottom of the carrier with newspapers or puppy training pads, this will help when soaking up any unfortunate accidents or water that has been spilt during the flight. Once on the flight, you won’t have the opportunity to clean up any messes made by your pet whilst traveling. At Pet Express we offer a wide range of pet travel crate solutions including fly-dry mats to keep your big dog comfortable for their travel.

Pack lots of treats

Make sure that you pack lots of treats and reinforce any positive behavior. This will ensure that your pet sees travel as being something that is both enjoyable and exciting.

Two ways large dogs fly on planes

As Checked Bags

So long as your dog is crated, many airlines such as Alaskan or American Airlines, allow large dogs to be checked baggage. As the pet owner, you will bring your dog to check-in as you would normally with your other bags and then they will be weighed and moved like the rest of your bags. 

As Cargo

Some larger dog owners may be required to fly their pets as cargo depending on the dog’s size and the airline you’ve chosen to fly with. 

How much does it cost to fly with a large dog?

In general, there are many costs related to flying with dogs. The cost of flying with larger dogs can be considerably more expensive than the cost of flying with a small dog. Flying with a larger dog as either check-in baggage, or in cargo, can cost anywhere between $200 to over $1000. 

The range between prices is why it’s vital to contact your airline or research online to see what costs may be involved. It’s important to do this before you rush off to buy tickets to your next travel destination accompanied by your dog. 

There are also a handful of factors that can determine how much larger dogs cost to fly. 

Check-in baggage or cargo

Out of these two options, flying larger dogs through cargo is more expensive than through bag check.

Airline

Of course, the cost of flying large dogs is entirely determined by how much airlines are willing to charge. Some airlines will generally charge more than others. 

Flying internationally or nationally

Similar to the prices of flight tickets, if you choose to fly your dog internationally, this will cost more than flying domestically. 

Destination

Should you choose to fly to a more remote location that can only be accessed by smaller planes or is flown to less frequently than other major cities, flying with large dogs may cost more. 

Selecting the best crate

There are many factors that go into selecting the best pet carrier or travel crate to keep your dog happy and comfortable when flying. Your dog’s crate needs to have enough room so that they can move around safely whilst being as relaxed and calm as possible. 

To transport dogs, selecting the best travel carrier is vital to a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. 

Best travel carrier for large dogs

To have an airline approved travel carrier, it must be an IATA compliant crate as they are a more durable and high-quality material. This will ensure that your dog is kept safe throughout the flight and reduce the possibility of them escaping. 

Whilst plywood travel crates can be used, most people avoid this option as they will generally be heavier and in doing so, could mean that your large dog weighs too much at the check-in baggage weigh-in. 

Should this happen, you could find yourself in the position of having to pay much more than originally anticipated for the transportation of your dog. 

There are also a variety of other things to take into consideration when choosing a suitable pet carrier when flying with your dog

Door

On the travel crate you have selected for your dog, the door should be able to securely close and lock into place.

Size

The size of your dog carrier should be big enough that your dog is able to move and turn around easily so as to ensure the maximum comfort and relaxation for your dog whilst flying. They should be able to turn completely around whilst in there, otherwise, the crate is too small and needs to be swapped for a bigger one before flying. 

Labels

Ensuring that the proper labels are printed and placed in a prominent spot on the dog’s travel carrier is of high importance. Our experienced team of Pet Handlers will place IATA approved pet handling stickers on your dogs crate to ensure that they are ready for travel.

Keeping calm while flying in a crate

There are many ways to keep your dog calm and happy on flights, including training your dog if they have separation anxiety.

Another helpful way to help crate-train your pet before the flight is by purchasing the crate early. By placing your dog in the carrier for a few hours a day (with treats of course), this will give them the opportunity to get familiar with the crate and reduce the chance of anxiety once they are boarded on the flight. 

Placing blankets that smell like home on the bottom of the crate is also another good idea as this will help calm your pet down and ensure they have as smooth a flight as possible. 

If you are still feeling worried about transporting your large dog on a flight, whether nationally or internationally, it’s always a good idea to consult your local veterinarian. They will be able to give you the best advice on ways to calm your dog down and prepare them for flying in a crate based on their breed and other factors. 

Happy flying!

Whilst traveling with a larger dog can sometimes be stressful and overwhelming, we hope we’ve been able to simplify the process and answer some of your most burning questions. When you travel somewhere exciting, it’s only natural to also want your best pet friend to be there by your side and many airlines will go above and beyond to accommodate your wish. 

Always remember to plan ahead, thoroughly research your destination and chosen airline, ensure that you’ve got all the relevant paperwork and select the best travel crate for your dog. This will leave you with the peace of mind knowing that you are traveling with the least amount of potential problems for you and your dog. 

Most importantly, enjoy your trip with your four-legged friend, and rest easy knowing that you made it there safe and sound. It’s an exciting time to be traveling again post-COVID, so soak it all in with your family, friends and dogs.

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