How to Fly with Your Small Dog In-Cabin

Chihuahua on Plane Looking Out BIG IMAGE

First time flying with your dog?

Follow our step-by-step guide to make sure your flight is a breeze.

Way Before You Fly:

One of the best things you can do to make flying with your dog easier is to master basic obedience. Things will be much smoother if your dog is solid at “stay”, “come,” “go in your bag,” and “go potty.”

While you are practicing these skills, invest in a quality dog bag. Ideally, you’ll want to get this as early as possible. Like right now.

Dog in Dog Carrier on Airplane

To get started looking for a dog bag, measure your dog’s height (to shoulders), their length (shoulders to butt), and their weight.

Look for a bag that will allow your dog to stand up and turn around, which is a requirement of the airlines.

Different airlines have different under seat dimensions, carrier requirements, and weight limits for dogs traveling in-cabin.

Generally though, the maximum size dog that will be “easy” to get on a plane is about 15 lbs, 13” tall, and 14” long.

Whether they can fly in-cabin will become apparent when you are shopping for carriers rated for airplane travel.

Once you have determined that your dog fits, make sure that the bag has a waterproof bottom and adequate ventilation. Other features you might want to look for are an over the shoulder strap, lots of pockets, and wheels.

When you get the bag, gradually get your dog used to being in the bag by giving them treats while they are in the bag. Build up to having them sleeping in the bag and taking them around on errands in the bag.

Basically, you want them to know that being in the bag is no big deal.

Booking a Flight:

The cost per way for your dog in-cabin is usually between $100-125. Airlines have a limit on the amount of dogs that they allow in-cabin (usually 2-5), so, to ensure your dog’s spot is held, you must make a reservation for them. Airlines vary in their policies on this, so it’s very important that you check your specific airline’s pet policy before you book.

Some things to consider before booking:

The middle seat has the most under seat room. A window seat usually has a similar amount of room. Aisle seats are hardly ever large enough to store a dog bag. So yes, you may be stuck with a middle seat.

If you are going on a long flight series, try to keep your dog’s bladder in mind. Book layovers that are at least two hours long so that you can go out through security to use the pet relief area and come back in.

If you have plans for a very long flight, try and schedule a shorter “practice” flight beforehand to see how your dog feels about flying. That way you both learn what works and doesn’t work before you are stuck on a very long flight together.

Perhaps your dog will do better with a calming pill next time, a longer walk, or more practice with the bag. You may need to change your travel plans for your longer flight to allow more time to work with your dog to get them more comfortable with flying.

If you need more help, talk with your veterinarian about possible options.  

Dog in Airport

IMPORTANT: If you are flying with one airline and then transferring to a partner airline, make sure you have the necessary reservations and certificates for both airlines!

Keep in mind that most airlines do not require a health certificate for in-cabin dogs, but this can change.

Some states require a health certificate, so if you are flying to another state, check the USDA APHIS website for these requirements beforehand.

A health certificate can be obtained at your vet and must be dated within 10 days of travel.

Regardless of whether a health certificate is needed, always bring a copy of your dog’s vaccination records and their vet’s name and phone number with you.

I like to keep a digital copy, as well as a copy of these in my luggage and in one of the pockets of my dog’s carrier. It’s a good idea to look up a local emergency vet at your destination and keep that information with you, just in case.

How to make a reservation for you and your dog:

Some airlines will allow you to book your dog’s reservation online, but the majority of them require that you do it over the phone.

The tricky part here is that phone reservations for people tickets incur a fee. To avoid this, find the reservation that you want online for your ticket and write down the details.

Then call the airline to confirm that there is room for your dog. If there is room for your dog, book your reservation online, then immediately call back and add your dog to your reservation.

Wing of a Plane Overlooking Mountains

Day of the Flight:

On the day of the flight, limit food and water. Also make sure to give your dog an extra-long walk to tire them out.

Be sure to arrive two hours early at the airport. Keep in mind that most airports require that your dog remains in the carrier the entire time they are in the airport. (Their head can stick out though!)

Head to the check-in counter to pay your pet fee. Since your dog’s carrier counts as one piece of your carry-on luggage, you are only allowed one more bag in the cabin, which means you might have to check your other bag.

Some airlines will put a tag on your dog’s carrier to show you’ve paid for them and/or give you a receipt. Hold on to this, as you may be asked to show it at the security checkpoint or on the plane.

After you check in, be sure to visit the pet relief area one more time before you go through security.

When you get to security, put all the rest of your luggage on the belt first—your liquids, laptop, shoes, etc. Then take your dog out of their carrier and take their collar off—if it has a large metal buckle on it.

You will be asked to go through the metal detector while holding your dog.

On the other side they will swab your hands. Once you are done, you can go collect all your other luggage and put your dog back in their carrier.

Go to your gate. When you get into your seat on the plane, put your other bag in the overhead bin and put your dog’s bag under your seat.

Depending on the airplane, there may be a metal bar or life vest at the end of the seat. In this case, simply turn your dog bag sideways.

Breathe a sigh of relief.

Dogs are required to stay in their carrier the whole time, but you can definitely put your hand in and give them a pat!

On the Plane:

Here is where your practice with the dog bag will really pay off.

If this is your first time flying with your dog, it may be hard to stay calm, but try and be brave for your dog—they will pick up on your signals and act accordingly.

It helps to pack their favorite plush toy or a sock that smells like you in their bag.

If your dog is the type to want something to do while they fly, bring along a bully stick.

To keep them hydrated, you can feed them carrots or cucumber sticks (not very many!). You can also ask for ice water from the beverage service and give them ice cubes.

If at any point your dog needs to go to the bathroom, take them in their bag to the restroom.

If you pack a pee pad with you, spread this on the floor and encourage them to go.

When you get off the plane*, go collect your luggage and head to the much-deserved pet relief area.

You did it!

*If you are arriving in an international country, make sure you stop by customs before you exit the airport.

Declare your dog, and show your paperwork.


Dog Shedding and Sitting on a Red Rug

How to Control Dog Shedding

Does your dog shed? Learn how to control their shedding!

10 Adoption Stories Guaranteed to Put a Smile on Your Face

If you love dogs, chances are you love a good dog adoption story! These ten stories are ones that I experienced first hand while working at animal rescues and shelters over the last eight years. They may make you laugh, cry, smile or a little of each, but they are guaranteed to warm your heart!…

Long Haired Beauties, What’s the Best Long Haired Cat Breed?

Are you looking to add a long-haired cat to your family, but aren’t sure which breed is right for you? Look no further because I’ve got you covered, from the Brachycephalic Persian to the dainty Turkish Angora there is a long haired cat out there for every personality type. Persian: One of the oldest cat…

Pug Smiling at Dog Park

Here’s How to Find a “Good” Dog Park!

Learn the insider secrets of finding the best dog park possible!

Dogs Walking on Path

How to Spot the Signs of Discomfort and Stress in Dogs

Do you know when your dog is stressed out or in discomfort?

Two Turtles Sunbathing on a Rock

How to Choose the Turtle for You

Turtles come in all shapes and sizes, with different living environments and dietary needs that you will need to be prepared to accommodate.

Pitbull Laying Out on the Beach

How to Rent a Dog for a Day

Want a furry friend, but don’t know if you can make the commitment just yet ?

Dog From a Painting Chewing on a Page from a Book

BO-ZING! 8 Most Popular Dogs in Literary Fiction

Even though Spot was used in the early 1930s to teach kids the fundamentals of reading, he certainly isn’t the only canine to find his way into a good book.

Dog Drinking Water out of Fountain

How Much Water Should Your Dog Really Drink?

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets.

Neapolitan Mastiff Outside in the Yard Protective Dog Breed

The 10 Most Protective Dog Breeds

These 10 breeds are all known for their dedication to their owners and their willingness to protect them.

Dog Playing with Pink Toy on Bed

Is Your Dog Possessive Over their Toys?

It’s normal for young pups to be a bit possessive over their toys…

Pug with Wrinkles on Face by Seaside

How to Clean Your Dog’s Skin Folds

The wrinkly faces of the Pug, Bulldog, Shar Pei and other brachycephalic breeds are adorable, but they also require regular cleaning.

Cat Profile in Plane Looking out Window

How to Fly with Your Cat

You have to give yourself plenty of preparation before you and your cat are ready to go jet set off on a plane somewhere.

Pug with Flowers in His Face

10 Dangerous Things in Your Yard for Your Dog

Have you taken a good look at your yard to be sure that everything is safe for your furry friends?

Chow Chow Least Obedient Dog Cover

Watch Out! The 10 Least Obedient Dog Breeds

Every dog can be trained, but some are simply a little less motivated than others.

Two Greyhounds Laying in the Backyard

How Long Should You Leave Your Dog Alone?

There is no short answer to this question as many factors can affect it.

Black Cat in Litter Box Newspaper on Wall

Why Should You Clean the Litter Box so Frequently?

Keeping your cat’s litter box clean is extremely important to her psyche as well as her health.

Millennials Spoil their Pets Jack Russell Sleeping

How Millennials are Changing Pet Parenthood

Millennials are putting off big life events like getting married and having children.
Instead, they’re having fur babies.

What Size Dog Should You Choose Dog Reading Self Help Book

What Size Dog is Best for You?

One thing that you definitely need to consider is size.

Puppy in Training to be a Guide DogPuppy in Training to be a Guide Dog

How to Train Your Dog to Become a Guide Dog

Dogs have been helping humans for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that one common job for dogs is guiding the blind.

White Albino Labrador

How to Train a Deaf Dog—It’s Easy!

Luckily, training a deaf dog isn’t so different from a fully-abled dog.

White Great Dane Laying on the Couch

Why are White Coated Dogs Deaf?

Deafness affects white coated dogs, but not all white coated dogs are deaf.

Sheep Dog with Matted Fur in his Eyes

How to Get Mats out of Your Animals’ Fur

Mats in fur are an issue that many dogs face, especially shaggy ones.

Pitbull out in the Summer Sun

How to Prevent Your Dog From Overheating

It’s up to us. Our dogs don’t know when they’re overheating.

Three Greyhounds Sleeping in Dog Beds in Family Room

April is Adopt a Greyhound Month! 50 Amazing Facts about Greyhounds

The Greyhound, the professional sleeper.

Black Cat on Window Sill

7 Myths about the Black Cat and Why You Should Have One

Black cats are famous for “bad luck.”

Small Brussells Griffons Eating in Kitchen in a Line

What is Food Aggression and How Do You Stop It?

A useful response in the wild, but not so much in the home.

Yellow and Black Snake

How to Help Your Snake Shed his Skin

Shedding skin is a natural process for all reptiles.

German Shepherd Dog with Green Backpack on Back

The Top 10 Dog Traveling Gear Must Haves

Luckily, you don’t need to bring a ton of things.

Two Dogs Hike in Los Angeles

Love Traveling? Countries to NOT Travel With Your Dog To

Watch out for Belarus.

Dog Eating a Treat

Yum. Yum. Yum. Can Dogs Eat Sugar?

We love sweets, but can our dogs eat them, too?

Pitbull Looking up at the Camera

Going Out of Town? Best Pet Sitters in Atlanta

Going out of town and need someone to watch your dog?

Maine Coon Backlit by the Sunset

Feline Monsters: Norwegian Forest Cat vs. Siberian Cat vs. Maine Coon

Not only are these cats’ big, their personalities are larger than life, too.

Boston Terrier by Water

French Bulldog vs. the Boston Terrier: What’s the Difference?

To the untrained eye, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers could be the same breed

Labradoodle Hybrid Dog with Tongue Out

Why Do People Want Hybrid Dogs?

They’re cute and they’re…healthier?

Two Cats on the Floor Bonding

5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt an Older Cat

Adopting an older cat is a great way to get an amazing cat without all the work of kittenhood.

Black Cat Outside on the Lawn

10 years? 15? How Old Do Cats Live?

Cat’s have nine lives, but how long are those lives?

Grey and White Cat with Green Eyes

How to Prevent Cat Bladder Infections

Bladder infections are the number one reason cats visit the vet.

Dog on Hillside in San Francisco, California

The Top Dog-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

How can you go wrong with a pub-crawl with your dog?

German Shepherd with Pointed Ears

What is Schutzhund and How Do You Train Your Dog for it?

This sport has withstood the test of time.

Dog International in England Shakespeare House

Your Introduction to Traveling Abroad with Your Dog

Going to a new country with your dog can be a great experience.

Brown Horse with Black Mane Trotting in Dirt

How to Manage Chronically Infected Wounds in Horses

This can be a scary thing, because infections can eventually lead to the horse’s death if left untreated for too long.

Alusky Hybrid Frozen in the Snow

The Alusky—the Hybrid of Two Great Arctic Breeds

One portmanteau that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves—the Alusky.

Two Dogs with Tongues out with Separation Anxiety

How to Beat Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a well-known problem for many pet parents.

Alaskan Malamute Standing in the Mud

65 Fun Facts About the Alaskan Malamute

They’ve lived alongside humans for thousands of years.

Egyptian Mau on Cat Tree

Where Do Different Cat Breeds Come From?

There are over 70 specific recognized breeds…that’s a lot of cats.

Alaskan Malamute Outside in the Snow

Your Go-To Guide to Snow Dog Breeds

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Girl Waving at Computer

10 Ways to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Dog

Not sure how to help your pooch feel more appreciated?

Siberian Cat Profile Outdoors

How to Read Cat Body Language

There are many tell-tale signs to indicate Kitty’s mood.

White American Eskimo by the Lake

What are the Top 10 Dog Breeds that Shed the Most?

Did you know that a dog’s coat serves three distinct purposes?