Although no airline will accept a puppy younger than 8 weeks of age, most airlines will allow a dog or older puppy weighing less than 20 pounds to fly with you in the passenger cabin. When packing your puppy’s bag, you’ll need to keep in mind the pooch’s needs and comfort, as well as the comfort of your fellow passengers, during the flight.
Choose the Right Bag
For bringing a small dog with you into the cabin, a soft-sided pet carrier that will fit beneath the seat in front of you is preferable. Look for a case that’s approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s a good idea to learn the airline's policies about flying with pets, and make sure your carrier meets their size requirements. Generally, the maximum carrier size is 23 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, and your puppy must be able to stand up inside it. The carrier will count as your piece of carry-on luggage, so look for one with plenty of pockets, both inside and out, to accommodate items you’ll want during the flight.
Prep for Puppy’s Comfort
Your puppy will have to stay in the carrier for the entire flight, so be sure to make it as comfortable as possible. Line the bottom with absorbent pads, or consider putting him in a doggie diaper for shorter flights. Although it’s tempting, you shouldn’t provide food or water during the flight. According to Animal Planet, the food might aggravate motion sickness, and water will slosh around and soak the carrier. Ask the flight attendant for some ice to keep your baby hydrated during the flight. Place the puppy’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal in the carrier with him, and give him a chew toy to keep him occupied during the flight.
Consider Your Fellow Passengers
Airlines require that your dog be well-behaved, so he does not disturb the other passengers. With puppies, though, good behavior isn’t always easy to achieve, especially if he’s anxious or excited about a new situation. To help keep him calm, place a T-shirt with your scent on it inside the bag. You might also try a collar or spray with pheromones that mimic the hormones mother dogs produce to calm their puppies. As a last resort, you can bring along a bark collar to keep him quiet during the flight.
Don't Forget the Doggie's Vitals
Although you can stow in your checked luggage most of what your puppy will need during your trip, consider adding items that you might need upon arrival or that will help tide you over in case your luggage gets lost. For your puppy, this might include his certificate of health, rabies vaccination tag and medical records, food and bottled water, his leash and collar with ID tag, and baggies for cleaning up after he relieves himself after the flight. You should also pack contact information for your regular vet and an emergency vet at your destination in case of a medical emergency.
Pack Your Personal Items
Don’t forget that the puppy’s carrier counts as your carry-on luggage. Unless you’re travelling with a human companion who can carry your personal items for you, you’ll need to remember your own needs when packing your puppy’s bag. As tempting as it might be to fill all of those pockets with extra toys and treats, leave room for items you’ll need to make yourself comfortable during the flight, and to tide you over in case your luggage is lost or delayed.
Jean Marie Bauhaus has been writing about a wide range of topics since 2000. Her articles have appeared on a number of popular websites, and she is also the author of two urban fantasy novels. She has a Bachelor of Science in social science from Rogers State University.