Dog Flying on Airplane for the First Time! Help!

dog on plane in harness


We flew our 5-month-old puppy cross-country on a 6 hour flight. Although we don’t advise for you to take your pup on that long of a flight for the first time, we took a huge risk. Our pup is a approved as an emotional support animal, so we made sure to get all our paperwork ahead of time. Airlines have cracked down on flying with dogs and now require hefty paperwork beforehand from your doctor and vet. Plan ahead and get those signed EARLY!


Make sure to get your dog’s energy out before the ride. We took ours on a long walk and played with him longer than usual before our plane ride.


Many airports now have designated pet relief areas. Luckily, we flew out of SFO, which has the best ones with real grass!! Our dog loved it and #1 and #2’d before the plane ride, which gave us a huge relief that he was fully emptied before our long flight.

Plan to budget an extra 20 minutes or so to walk your dog around the airport and relieve him so that he’s comfortable and tired out before the ride.


Pack his favorite toy and blanket so that he feels comfortable. We brought our pup’s favorite teddy bear and a towel and set him up by our feet on the plane. Here is our pet packing list:

  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Food (plus some extra)
  • Water bottle
  • Poop bags
  • Blanket/towel
  • Wet wipes/Baby wipes
  • Carrier (if he needs one)


Some owners say to deprive your dog of food and water the day of travel. We felt this was cruel and unusual. Imagine if we starved before a long plane ride? We’d probably feel nauseous and end up pigging out on free pretzels on our flight, then terribly regretting it.

We kept our dog on his usual eating schedule. One thing we were mindful of is flight times – we chose an evening flight (our dog is a morning dog) when we knew he would be more sleepy.

Just make sure your dog has the opportunity to fully empty his bladder and bowels before the airplane ride, even if it means walking him around the airport in laps until he goes.


Our dog slept by our feet for 90% of the plane ride. He was startled once when the beverage cart zipped by him really fast. If your dog is not enclosed in a carrier, then make sure to keep him on a leash in case he does get startled and tries to run. Make sure to make him feel comfortable and pay attention throughout the flight. (And make sure he isn’t eating your neighbor’s dropped grapes or snacks on the floor.)