Trusted Tips From Flight Attendants for Flying with Dogs

Posted by Jessica Roberts

Traveling with your furry best friend is an experience every dog/human duo deserves to enjoy together. But we all know that airline travel can be stressful, and flying with dogs presents some unique challenges. Among the tasks on your flight prep to-do list are planning when and where to take doggie potty breaks, what to pack for your pooch in your carry-on and how to keep Fido calm in the air.

While it does mean extra effort, it’s very pawsible to have a peaceful flight with your pup happily by your side. We spoke to three flight attendants and animal lovers--Rachel, Chelsea and Jonathan--and asked them to share their best insider tips and tricks that have proven to work when it comes to air travel with dogs.

What is your favorite tip for people flying with dogs?

“Look, Ma! We’re flying!” Photo by @oliviaenfotos

Chelsea: I like to tell people to remember that flying feels different for everyone ... and every pet. Like humans, pressure will build up in a dog’s ears during takeoff and landing. You may notice him pawing at his ears or shaking his head. Giving him a toy to gnaw on or a few hard, chewy treats during elevation changes will help to lessen the discomfort, similar to how chewing gum can help relieve the pressure for humans.

Also, everyone gets dehydrated on planes, including pups. While you don’t want to give him too much water during the flight, you should make sure your dog drinks water before you board and, on longer flights, bring a portable water dish for him.

Rachel: Always take your pup for a potty break at the airport before you board. Most major airports have pet relief areas where you can take him to do his business before you get on the plane. And know that even the best-trained dogs might have a potty accident when they’re in an unfamiliar environment, so line his or her travel crate with a puppy pad, just in case.

I also like to remind people who are prepping for a flight that it can get cold on the plane! Bring a blanket to help keep little dogs from shivering. Plus, a familiar blanket and toys from home can help them feel more at ease during the flight.

Jonathan: My biggest piece of advice is to make yourself familiar with the airline’s pet policies and don’t assume that they are the same across different air carriers. Also, talk to the people around you. Let them know you have a furry companion. Being friendly and upfront usually diffuses any tension that other passengers might feel about flying with a pet nearby.

Do you have special tricks for helping an anxious four-legged passenger?

“I’m fine. Everything’s fine. I’m not nervous at all.” Photo by @dogsworldinsofl

Chelsea: Bring something that makes them feel at home. A bed, a blanket, a toy or anything that smells like home can be really helpful and calming. There’s a calming spray that works well for some dogs called Adaptil. You can apply it in their travel carrier, on their bed or on a bandana they can wear.

Rachel: Busy toys are great for keeping a dog distracted and content during a flight. Bring a Kong toy stuffed with a frozen mashed banana and applesauce, or whatever kind of treat your dog likes that isn’t stinky. That will help to keep him occupied. Treats are a good idea, but not too many treats. No one wants to spend an entire flight with an upset stomach, including dogs!

Jonathan: Follow size guidelines. I often see people trying to squeeze their pets into travel carriers that are too small, making them uncomfortable and anxious during the flight. For safety, the carrier has to be able to fit under the seat in front of you with the dog still in the carrier.

What else can pet parents do to make the flight go smoothly for Fido?

"I'm leaving on a jet plane!" Photo by @saintlaurentpup

Chelsea: Avoid giving him squeaky toys if you don’t want grumpy looks from other passengers, and bathe him before the flight! Please don’t bring a stinky pup onto a plane. Also, pet jet lag is real. I’ve found exercise to be the most effective way to help me personally, so treat your pup to extra walks on the other end of the flight. It will help you both cope with any jet lag symptoms.

Rachel: Get him good and tired before the flight. Take a long stroll through the airport or take him to play at a pet relief area. If you’re concerned about how your dog will do or if he has shown symptoms of anxiety in the past, talk with your vet about medication that might help him feel calmer during the flight.

Jonathan: Bring food and water for your pet! Sometimes turbulence prevents flight attendants from being able to get up, so you can’t always rely on the crew to bring you water at a moment’s notice when your dog might need it.

What’s your best tip for flying with dogs? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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