Home How-To Dog Travel 101: How to Ship a Dog by Plane

Dog Travel 101: How to Ship a Dog by Plane

Dog Travel 101 How to Ship a Dog

Traveling can get a little complicated for pet owners. Whenever it's time to relocate to a new living place or if you're simply looking to travel on vacation that requires booking a flight, you don't want to leave your pooch behind. No biggie, because today traveling with your pet is becoming increasingly popular and airlines will usually be happy to assist. But to make your trip less stressful, you need to go through some instructions on how to ship a dog safely.

First of all, if you get a chance to travel by car instead of a plane without sacrificing too much, consider doing so. Not only will this make the trip less stressful for the dog, but your pooch will also have a great time on the road. Nevertheless, if air travel is the only way to go, start making arrangements well in advance on how to ship a dog to avoid unnecessary hassle.

RELATED: 5 Best Airline Approved Dog Carrier Brands

Naturally, caring dog owners will find it important to make sure that their furry companions travel with the utmost comfort and safety, as well as with qualified transporters. The great thing about traveling with your dog is if you're going on vacation, there are many pet friendly hotels available if necessary, especially in the US. There is also enough options of useful dog equipment that can make travelling safe and comfortable for your canine.

Below, we've listed five essential steps on how to ship a dog when you choose to air travel, but also keep in mind that you can use the alternative of pet shipping service. There are some great options out there that can take care of your dog traveling needs and we will try to list these in our upcoming article, but for now, this post is dedicated for those dog owners who are looking for easiest ways on how to ship a dog safely, comfortably and with the least amount of stress when traveling on the plane together.

Dog Travel 101: How to Ship a Dog

Here are five essential steps for those looking how to ship a dog by themselves when travelling by air. Follow this to help limit the amount of tension load for both you and your pooch while planning your amazing vacation or home moving trip.

Hint: Turning this into a checklist of things to do when shipping a dog wouldn't be the worst idea.


How to Ship a Dog: Step #1 – Medical

Pre-flight vet checkup. Have your dog checked by the vet before all of you travel together. Aside from simply ensuring that your dog is healthy enough for travel, a pre-flight checkup is very important in order to catch any potential or underlying health concerns that can affect your dog specifically during travelling. Those cargo holds in the airplane that your dog will be travelling in are pressurized and the air does not remain the same as it does in the passenger section (even though airlines are trying to make baggage compartments as comfortable for pets as possible these days).

Consider potential risks. The above mentioned cargo pressure, temperature, environment and everything related to traveling by air might become a serious risk to your pet's health if your dog has any underlying health concerns, especially related to their heart, kidneys or lungs.

First aid kit. This is not essential and will mostly apply for extremely cautious dog owners, but traveling with first aid kit for dogs on hand cannot be worse than traveling without one. Simply get together a few essential items and stick them in your carrier bag so that you have easy access to it. In fact, you can simply combine these items with those used for people and have a universal first aid kit for travel for you, your family and your pets.

Avoid traveling post-surgery. If your dog has had recent broken bones or any type of somewhat serious surgery, it is a good idea that they have had plenty of time to heal before travelling. You cannot supervise how your canine will be carried into the plane and how they will travel in the baggage compartment, so delay the trip for another few weeks if possible to let them heal properly.

Try to avoid sedation at all costs. When you're looking for ways how to ship a dog anyway and exchanging air travel for a car, or delaying the trip for dog's complete recovery is not possible, there's another option: discuss with your vet about having your pooch sedated during air travel. But beware: high altitudes and sedatives are an extremely dangerous mix and should be avoided at all costs, because it can reduce your dog’s ability to regulate their body temperature and can be fatal.

Dog Travel 101 How to Ship a Dog - Vet Checkup
How to Ship a Dog: Remember the pre-flight vet checkup / Photo: Naoko Kawachi


How to Ship a Dog: Step #2 – Airlines

Contact your airline. Call the airline that you will be using and find out what their requirements and regulations are in regards to travelling with pets. Very important: note their kennel guidelines and any other dog travelling equipment you're using. Ensure that your dog crate fits their maximum measurements. Quick pro tip: find those guidelines on their website, print them out and have them with you in case you get in any a conflict with airline employees about the size of your dog crate.

Learn airline's pet shipping instructions. Some airlines will not transport pets during the summer months or the winter months due to severe weather conditions and the effects it can have on your furry friend. Again, check their website and definitely call in case you're unsure.

Dog Travel 101 How to Ship a Dog - Dog Carrier
How to Ship a Dog: Ensure airline-compliant carriers

Dog carriers in planes. Certain airlines (not all of them!) will allow small dogs up to a certain size to be brought into the cabin with you in an approved carrier or dog backpack, which is always a better option. Double check that your carrier definitely fits their requirements and take the advantage of that opportunity. Larger dogs will obviously need to be crated and travel in the baggage compartment. But don't worry, because most luggage compartments these days are equipped with climate control and will make the trip for your pet more comfortable.

Compare airlines. It's not such a bad idea to spend some time researching online and comparing different airlines if you have that option. Some airlines have better conditions and less restrictions on travelling with dogs; other companies might be really bad in handling pet travel in general. If you don't know yet how to ship a dog, talk to other dog owners that have experience in travelling with their pets and get some more tips from experience.

Unacceptable dogs. Be aware that some airlines will not accept certain dogs. When you're looking for ways on how to ship a dog and your furry friend is a short-nosed dog like a boxer, chow-chow, bulldog or a pug, make sure that the airlines are aware of this. There's also a bias towards certain dog breeds, so if you're traveling with a full grown purebred Pit Bull, you might also run into some problems depending not only on the airline, but also the employees who will handle your case at the airport. Best way to avoid this is to call the airline and double check if they might have any issues with your dog breed.


How to Ship a Dog: Step #3 – Health Records

Dog Travel 101 How to Ship a Dog - Medical Records
How to ship a dog: Ensure medical records are in check

Update health records. Make sure that your dog’s health records are up to date. Don't forget about the most essential vaccinations for your dog, especially his rabies shot (note: some pet shipping companies might require proof that your canine has been vaccinated according to their requirements, so always check beforehand).

Have a health certificate. Airlines will need a current health certificate and travel documentation when transporting your dog. This is especially applicable if you are travelling internationally and are going to visit multiple countries. First of all, consider if taking your dog with multiple layovers in different countries is truly the best idea. If there's no way to avoid this, then make sure you have proof of compliance for all regulations by the country your pet is travelling to, from or through to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Pro tip. You should also include a copy of any medications your dog is on, any allergies or illnesses of your canine and anything else related; have it all in official writing from your veterinary clinic, too. Keep your vet’s contact information and any backup numbers handy in case for some reason there is an emergency. This can be somewhat of a hassle, but better be safe than sorry.


How to Ship a Dog: Step #4 – Compliance

Dog Travel 101 How to Ship a Dog - Airlines
How to ship a dog: Remind airline employees that you're traveling with a dog

Regulations for dog crates. When using a kennel for travelling, make sure that it follows airline regulations, because most airlines will require for your dog crate to be approved by International Air Transport Association (IATA) and/or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – check with your airline with this. Aside from that, ensure that it is comfortable with adequate room for your dog to at least have the option to turn around in.

Mark the crate. This one seems obvious but some dog owners often forget. First, ensure to put “Live Animal” on the top and side of your crate. Then, just as you mark your own luggage, remember to write your contact and any vital information on the kennel, and include it in an envelope safely attached to the top of the kennel (even better, securely attach a metal tag to the crate). This should contain your flight’s destination, your name, address, phone number as well as the place you are going to be staying.

Ask a lot of questions. All airlines have their own set of rules, especially when it comes to passengers who are traveling with pets. Keep asking questions on how to ship a dog and everything you're unsure about and make certain that in case any trouble arises, you're already prepared to how to deal with that problem.

Pro tip: Put some of your dog’s food in a Ziploc bag containing instructions and have it attached to the kennel if any emergency should arise. That way you can at least be somewhat certain that your pal at least is well taken care of for the time being.


How to Ship a Dog: Step #5 – Items

Your dog's collar, leash and chip. Make sure that your dog has a secure, safe collar with the proper tags on it in case for some reason he/she gets loose. That probably is unlikely to happen, but it is a good idea to take precautions. Unfortunately, sky is the least dangerous place for your pet when traveling by air; it's on the ground before and after boarding is when most problems occur. Microchip is another important item to have on your dog (after all, we're in 2015). Also, do not forget that you absolutely must have a good leash ready for your pooch.

Dog photos. Take a few photographs of your dog. Have those in your phone and, most importantly, print one in A4 format and stick it on top of the crate your pet will be traveling in. This can prevent a lot of problems in case you dog gets loose, and it works great alongside the message “Live Animal” which should be on the top and side of the crate as indicated above.

Dog Travel 101 How to Ship a Dog - Travel Items
How to ship a dog: Have any other useful dog items with you

Other items. It's important to remember that according to airline rules, you cannot pack your dog’s toys, blankets or anything else in the crate except for dog food attached to the kennelDouble check if the airline handlers will supply water for your dog. This is applicable only if your dog crate has the option of having water attached to the kennel in a secure container (thus try to buy a dog crate that would provide such an option). Another option is to have frozen water in a container that you affix to the kennel as a water supply for your dog.

When nature calls. Shredded newspaper in the kennel is allowed by all airlines to absorb any accidents. However, if your dog likes to chew things or chews when nervous, then the paper should be avoided. You can confirm with the airline if they don't mind you using dog potty pads in the kennel instead.


How to ship a dog: Useful tips for traveling with your pet

1. When travelling with your dog, it is a good idea to plan the trip in advance to have more flight options. Direct flights in the early mornings or evenings are your best option when flying with your dog. The temperatures are more comfortable. Also, direct flights do not stress your dog as much.

Pro tip: If you are unable to travel direct, try and book a flight that has a layover that will give you the option to connect with your dog so you both have the opportunity to go for a walk for a bathroom break, give them water and some quick bonding time before having to travel more.

2. Remember to make the reservations for you and your dog because airlines can only accept a certain number of pets on board.

3. When you have all your dog’s travel and health documents on hand, send scans of all those to the airline that you will be using as soon as possible (obviously before your travel day) simply to eliminate any problems so that there are no issues on the day of your trip.

4. Remember not to feed your dog at least 6 hours before the trip to prevent any stomach upset and dire need to go potty while in transit. A small amount of already tested dog treats are okay if you need to calm your dog down.

5. Pack your dog’s familiar bedding, dog toys, bowls in a suitcase so that once your pal arrives at the final destination, he/she will have soothing objects and familiarity to ease the stress of flying. Again, dog treats, petting and bonding is essential to lower the level of stress in your pooch.

General pro tip #1: Go through this list of steps on how to ship a dog and make checklists for yourself for the following things:

  • Checklist of things to take with you
  • Checklist of things to confirm with the airline
  • Checklist of things to do to the dog
  • Maybe even a checklist of checklists?

Good organization and taking care of everything well in advance will safe you a lot of headache!

General pro tip #2 from ASPCA: Tell every airline employee – in the airport and in the plane – that you are traveling with a dog, especially if he/she is in the cargo hold. That way these people will be prepared to assist you and your pooch accordingly in case of any issues.

As you can see, a lot of planning can go with travelling with a pet and you're unsure how to ship a dog. However, the more organized you are, the more comfortable and safe your dog will be, which will ultimately result in a more relaxed and easy experience of travel for you too. Follow these tips, preferably make yourself a list of Important Steps on How to Ship a Dog, and go from there. Have a safe travel!

How to Ship a Dog by Plane
How to Ship a Pet by Plane

Featured image courtesy of Larry Downing / Reuters (2005)