I have a real plane dog. The day I adopted Kobi, I took him on his first flight (see right). Since then, I’ve taken Kobi on several flights both domestically and internationally. As such, I can definitely help you with tips for flying with a dog.
Kobi is under the typical 20lbs limit for in-cabin flight travel, so he’s always been in the airplane with me. (I can’t comment on plane travel for dogs that are larger and need to be in the hull, i.e. as cargo.)
Before Your Flight with Your Dog
You will need to check with the airline you plan to fly with and see what their pet regulations are. There is no standard set of rules and they can change. Sometimes rules are different depending on where you are flying to (e.g. Hawaii).
First of all, make sure the airline will take your breed. Some airlines will not accept brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs, e.g. Pugs. Shih Tzus.
You need to purchase a ticket for your dog, as well as, yourself. I find this highly annoying because your dog will end up sitting in your seat area. You have to put him in front of your feet, on the floor, under the seat in front of you. Don’t forget that despite the fact that you purchased a ticket for your dog, this does not give you an extra bag. If you’re flying coach, you are still only limited to one bag and one personal item. The dog bag will count as the “one bag”, so I just bring a purse as my personal item.
It’s important to make sure your dog has a ticket because there generally is a limit on the number of pets in the cabin. Note service animals are typically not counted in the maximum number allowed in the cabin.
Getting the Right Dog Travel Bag
Your dog will need an airline approved dog bag. I’ve never experienced an airline exactly measure the bag my dog was in, however, your dog needs to be able move around in it – typically stand up enough so he can switch his body position front to back and visa versa. I have heard stories of airlines doing this test. The dog bag also needs to be able to fit under the seat in front of you.
I recommend getting a dog bag which allows your dog to see out as much as possible (this also helps with ventilation). It should also have flaps to close the “windows” of the bag, because sometimes your dog will just want to sleep and not be distracted.
Make sure to get your dog used to his travel bag. He should not be testing it out on his first flight. We made sure to feed Kobi in his travel bag before he used it on a plane. As such, he has positive experiences associated with his travel bag.
Last but not least, often you will need a health certificate from your vet, which might need to be dated within 10 days of the first flight your dog will be on.