How to Prepare Your Puppy or Small Dog for a Flight

November 20, 2023

Happy white pomeranian puppy looking out the window on airplane

Whether you’re traveling with your dog for the holidays or returning home with a brand-new puppy, we want you to be prepared to fly with your dog!

Families welcoming a new puppy have more options than ever for connecting with the perfect pet. If you’ve found the right puppy a few states away, you may have to bring them home on a plane. Although this can be stressful, we’ve prepared our best tips for smooth travels with your dog. 

Adorable bernedoodle in the car blue eyes

Which Dogs Are Eligible to Fly? 

  • Domestic flights – Most airlines require puppies to be at least 8 weeks old. Restrictions do vary slightly. For example, Delta requires puppies to be 10 weeks old. 
  • International flights – If you’re traveling to the US from a different country, puppies are required to have a rabies vaccination, which means they need to be at least 4 months old. 
  • Size restrictions – Pets in the cabin will need to stay in a carrier under your seat for the duration of the flight. The exact size may slightly vary depending on the airline, and your pet should be able to stand and turn around.
  • Limitations – Carriers are restricted to less than three pets in the same carrier, and most airlines will have a size limit of 20 lbs or less in total. 
Adorable pug in the car looking up

Book your Flight

If your puppy is eligible to fly, the next thing to do is book your ticket. Most domestic airlines will allow a limited number of pets in the cabin, so you want to do this as soon as you know the dates of your trip. 

Visit the Vet

The next thing to do is make an appointment at the veterinarian’s office prior to the flight. They will fill out a health form or print the puppy’s vaccination records for you to bring to the airport. If you have an anxious dog, keep in mind that some airlines will not accept pets that have been sedated due to the higher risk of respiratory and cardiovascular problems at high altitudes.

Cute shih zsu in the car in a carrier

Prepare your Puppy

Before bringing your puppy on a flight, make sure they have experienced being in the crate they will fly in. If you are picking the puppy up from a breeder, order the crate to be shipped to them and ask the breeder to start feeding the puppy’s meals in the crate and having nap time in the crate. 

If you already have your puppy, socializing them and exposing the puppy to things they’ll see in the airport are important. Duplicate the experience by bringing them to dog-friendly stores, such as PetSmart, Lowe’s, HomeGoods, Nordstrom Rack, and many more. 

When you take the puppy out, give them treats anytime they look nervous. During these outings, you can also start on-leash training, sit, stay, and other obedience commands. When going to and from your training outings, always put the puppy in the crate you will use on the flight. This will associate the crate with travel, and help the puppy get accustomed to it.  

Day-of Supplies

Ready to Fly

On the day of the flight, cut off your puppy’s water at least two hours before their last potty break. Water runs through a puppy’s system in two hours or less, so this will prevent them from needing to urinate on the plane. Food is a little trickier, as it depends on the duration of the flight and the age and breed of the puppy. Typically, we recommend not feeding the puppy if the flight is in the morning or early afternoon. If it’s later in the day, try to feed the puppy as early as possible, at least 6 hours before, so they have a chance to poop before the flight. 

Adorable puppy in a red purse going shopping

Tire the puppy out as much as possible before the flight and give them a last potty stop in the animal relief area of the airport. In the crate, place potty pads at the bottom in case there are any accidents. In addition, you should bring kongs that are stuffed with meals and treats, which will keep the hungry puppy occupied. Freeze the kongs beforehand to make the treat last longer. 

With these tips, you and your puppy will have smooth sailing. However, if you’re still concerned about upcoming travel, schedule a free consultation with us here and we’ll help you come up with the perfect travel plan for your dog.  

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