Scout and I are a package deal. Which translates into he goes where I go. Take that a step further, when I fly home to Colorado he’s going to be flying with me. My first trip home after moving out to California, I was a little bit stressed about the idea to say the least. I had no idea how to fly with a dog, I hadn’t ever seen someone do it, I just didn’t know what to expect. I scoured the internet for what I should bring with me, what the regulations were, how did we go through security, which bag should I buy, etc, etc, etc. I found some helpful tips but mostly what I’ve learned is through good ol’ trial and error. With all that being said, I’ve created this helpful guide to flying with your dog. I’m sure some of this can also apply to kitty cats but for now, I’ll stick with what I know. Warning: this is a long post. It’s in-depth but I hope you find it helpful!
The first question most people probably have (I know I did) is should I bring my dog on a plane? Followed by: what are the requirements for me to bring my dog?
Scout is a small 12-pound dog. He therefore can go under the seat in front of me. Larger dogs have to go into the cargo area. I’m not sure if I would feel comfortable with that. If you have a larger animal, that should go into your decision-making.
The other piece to consider is if your dog is a nervous nelly, gets anxious easily, or is not generally friendly towards others. There are websites and people who recommend giving dogs a medicine that makes them drowsy. My vet told me that this could make them sick during the flight and that it’s better to not give it to small dogs who are more sensitive to medications. That’s up to you though.
Now, the requirements. I fly Southwest, always. For their requirements for animals on the plane, click here. There you will find how much it costs, requirements, and so on.
Here is a complete list of airlines that allow pets.
Okay, so you’ve decided to bring your pet with you on your trip. What do you bring?
1. Pee Pad
Sounds so glamorous but I always make sure I have one. Most airports have a pet relief station but in case they don’t, I have a place for him to go.
2. Collapsible Water Bowl (Similar here)
I have a couple of these because they’re so stinking handy. I monitor Scout’s water and food intake closely before we get on the plane so he doesn’t need to go to the bathroom and to minimize the risk of him getting sick in flight. It’s important to have the option though in case you get stuck somewhere. Which leads me to…
3. Small Water Bottle
I bring a water bottle with me when I fly anyway but if you don’t it’s good to include it. You can always buy one at one of the stores once through security but I’d rather bring an empty one and fill it up at the water fountain.
This isn’t the leash I walk Scout with, actually. It is however, the one I use in the car. I clip it to his harness and wrap it around the headrest so that he stays put in the car.
5. Pet Carrier
There are a ton of these on the market. There are ones with all the bells and whistles and I’m sure they are great! I did a lot of research and settled on this one. It’s Southwest’s dog carrier. It unzips to create more room and it fits one of his dog beds perfectly. It also has a pocket on the front which I find really useful. Since Scout has to go under the seat in front of me, I have to carry anything I want with me. I always have a book and then this pocket fits my iPod and headphones, my cellphone, my driver’s license, and a credit card.
6. Dog Treats
This one is a no brainer. I do try to keep them small treats though that aren’t rich to ensure he doesn’t get sick in flight.
7. Poop Bags
Another glamorous one. Very necessary for obvious reasons.
Scout is generally wearing this in case I need to set him down. He also is wearing his collar.
9. Dog Food
I’ve had this pink smily faced container forever and it’s perfect for bringing a little dog food with me. I think it’s actually intended for cereal for kids or something. Use what you can!
10. Collapsible Food Bowl
Sometimes I bring this, sometimes I don’t. Scout and I generally just use the collapsible bowl that is #2 on this list. Sometimes I bring it if I think I’ll need something multi-functional. It has a pocket, it unzips to create the bowl, and it has a place to put poop bags. It also has a handle so I can put it on my wrist which is nice for hikes or longer walks. It’s also just adorable, let’s be real.
Scout loves his toys. In fact, every night when we go to bed he has to bring a bedtime toy with him. Before I close the bedroom door, I’ll say “do you need a bedtime toy?” If he doesn’t already have one, he goes out and get it. Needless to say, I bring toys. I also bring 3 specific toys. I bring some sort of bone that he can chew on which I put in his carrier with him. I also put his tire (his favorite) in his carrier. He also loves soft toys but I don’t put it in his carrier with him in case he decides to tear it up.
This is the leash I walk Scout with. It also has a poop bag tied to it. Never leave home without one!
Oh, and don’t forget the dog 😉
Other FYIs and Tips:
- Through security, you have to carry your dog. You have to send their carrier through like you would any other carry on and you obviously keep your dog with you. They will have you go through a metal detector and then will check your hands for bomb residue.
- The hardest part about security is you’re doing everything one-handed. So I generally wear my vans so I can slip them off easily and instead of wearing my sweatshirt, I put it in my backpack so I’m not having to peel off any layers. I also don’t wear any jewelry and again put it in my backpack if I want to put it on when I land. I also take my credit card (that I will use to pay for Scout with) and my driver’s license out of my wallet and put them in the pocket on the carrier. I also pay for the Early Bird special through Southwest so I have TSA pre and don’t have to take my laptop or iPad out.
- I’ve never been on a flight that has reached the capacity of animals allowed but call the day before your flight and make a reservation for your animal. If you don’t and show up and the plane is at animal capacity, it’ll be a nightmare. This is a policy I know for Southwest but I would imagine it applies for other airlines.
- On Southwest, there aren’t assigned seats only sections. If I have a number that is further back I ask the attendants at the gate if I can board with the family group since I’m traveling with an animal. It’s extremely helpful because you’re not trying to get over people to your seat while also carrying your animal in the crate. Also noteworthy, if you’re traveling with a pet you can not sit in the exit row. They say it’s because you have other priorities first so make sure to skip that aisle.
- As a courtesy, tell the people next to you that you are traveling with an animal. I always say something along the lines of, “I just wanted to let you know that I have a dog with me.” Better to tell them right off the bat then to learn half way through the flight that they’re allergic to dogs.
- I keep Scout out of his carrier until I’m in line to board. That way, he’s sitting in my lap and if he gets nervous, I can pet him and keep him calm. It also isn’t a bad idea to let your animal get used to the crate before you’re in the airport trying to put them in it. I generally gather Scout’s travel stuff on his blanket that sits in the living room. He knows it’s his stuff and I let him get used to it. When I pull the crate out, he knows we’re going somewhere. He always checks it out and sometimes brings me another toy. He’s too cute.
- Just like I keep Scout out of his crate right up until I’m in line to board, I also take him out of his crate as soon as we’re off the plane. He’s getting a little anxious at this point and it’s easier to carry him like that anyhow. I also don’t set him down in the airport. He’s small and I don’t think people expect to see a dog in their path so I keep him close so he’s not in the way of luggage and people running to catch planes.
- Scout sheds and when he’s nervous, it gets really bad. So I keep a lint roller with me in my backpack just in case I’m completely covered. If you’re busting out the lint roller, you’ve landed and made it through! Yay!
I know it seems like a lot and that’s because it is. But I know that for me, things seem a lot less daunting when I know exactly what to expect. It’s better if you learn from my mistakes – like wearing a sweater and having to take it off with one hand and not being able to so the very nice lady behind me has to help me get it off. Or wasting time taking Scout’s harness off and then having the TSA Agent tell me I could have left it on.
Even though it can be such a pain to get to the plane, it’s always worth it when my family gets to see him or when my brother’s dog (who happens to be Scout’s brother) sees him and they get so excited, it’s so worth it. Just plan it out, know what you’re in for, and in no time you’ll have a well-traveled pup!