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How To Fly With Large Dogs: 5+ Helpful Tips To Get Started

Do you have a large dog that’s an important part of your family? If you do then you’re probably always trying to find ways to take care of them and keep them with you at the same time, right? 

Well, if you’re planning on flying anytime soon you’re definitely going to need more information about flying with large dogs.

If you don’t know what you’re doing it can be a nightmare, but when you’re prepared, you can there in no time.

How To Fly With Large Dogs

How to Classify Your Dog

When it comes to flying you will need to know how your dog can be classified.

Now, small dogs can often be brought directly into the cabin of the plane in a similar way to your carry-on bag and they can sit (in a carrier) at your feet.

Large dogs, however, have some additional requirements. 

You have to know whether they are an emotional or medical support dog or not.

If they are that means that they will be eligible to fly directly in the cabin of the plane, with you. If they are not, that means they need to be checked in to fly as cargo.

Booking Your Flight

No matter how your dog is going to be flying it’s essential that you make arrangements with the airline long before your flight day.

There are requirements and restrictions when it comes to flying with animals of any kind and you’ll need to understand each of these. 

You’ll also need to make sure that the flight is prepared for a dog to be boarding, whether in the cabin or in the cargo hold.

These things take time and a whole lot of paperwork on the part of the airline. If they don’t have time to get it prepared it could mean your dog (and you) are denied. 

Dog Requirements to Fly

In order to fly, just about every airline has a few important rules. These are designed to keep your dog healthy and safe when flying and to make sure that they arrive safely wherever you are going:

  • Dogs must be at least 8 weeks old
  • Dogs must be completely weaned
  • A certificate of health is required within 10 days of flight date
  • Temperatures must be safe (generally between 45◦F and 85◦F)
  • Your dog must not be one of the banned breeds (some breeds have difficulty with the air and temperature extremes of the cargo hold)

Getting Your Dog Ready

You’ll need to have the right equipment for your dog to fly in the cargo hold. One of the first things is that they need to be in an approved grate. 

This means that you need to check your crate for compliance with the International Air Transport Association or IATA. They require that the crate must:

  • Be made of specific materials, including fiberglass, rigid plastic, welded metal mesh, plywood or solid wood or metal. 
  • Be large enough for your dog to sit, stand and lie down in a natural position
  • Be large enough for your dog to turn around normally
  • Have a door the size of one entire side
  • Have a door made of welded metal mesh with a secure lock
  • Be held together with metal hardware
  • Have affixed and approved stickers stating ‘live animals’ and ‘this side up’

Prepping Your Dog for the Flight

When it comes time for flying with large dogs it’s important that you prepare your dog properly.

This means getting them used to their crate (which we’ll talk about in a minute) as well as making sure they have a collar and ID tags.

You may even want to get your dog microchipped and/or use a GPS tracking collar. 

Also, put your name, address and phone number inside the crate (where it can’t be knocked off) and have a photograph with you in case of an emergency.

If your dog is lost, each of these will make it easier for the airport personnel to find them again. 

You want to make sure you prepare them at the airport as well. In most instances, this is going to mean making sure that they have an opportunity to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom before taking them to the designated drop-off area. 

They will not be out of the cargo hold (or the cabin of the plane) until you arrive at your destination.

For dogs flying in the cargo area of multi-stop flights they may not be given an opportunity to get out of the crate until you arrive at your ultimate destination.

Make sure your dog also has plenty of food and water before the flight as well.

Keep in mind that this should be approximately 4 hours before the flight so that they will be able to get it through their system before the flight (when you take them out before check-in). 

If you can run them around and get them a little more worn out before the flight they might be able to travel better as well, because they’ll be worn out enough to sleep on the flight (just like with a baby).

Not only that, but you can leave items in the crate with your dog, so give them a toy and some water so they’ll be prepared along the way.

Make sure you put your dog in the crate they will be flying in long before the flight.

Get them used to the crate itself and what it’s like to be in it for extended periods of time. You may also want to get them used to being transported in the crate by taking them on car rides. 

These things will make your dog more comfortable and relaxed so that the flight will not be as big of a deal for them. They should be able to feel more relaxed because the crate feels familiar. 

Wrap Up

Overall, the most important thing when flying with large dogs is keeping your dog safe and making sure that they are going to arrive wherever you’re going happy and healthy. 

The best way to do that is to make sure that you’re prepared when you get to the airport (and before). That way, you can keep them calm and make the trip as enjoyable as possible for everyone. 


I started this site because I am a dog lover. Most of my social feeds are full of dogs and I am always learning more about them. I also have a lifetime of experience with dogs packed with tactics, tips, and funny stories that I want to share with the world!

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