Flying With a Large Dog: 6 Things to Do Before Your Trip

People flying with chihuahuas can simply take them into the cabin in their carry-on luggage. But what if you want your Great Dane to accompany you on your journey?

Flying with a large dog comes with certain challenges, but nothing should worry you as you can safely transport them as cargo if you prepare them beforehand.

Here is all you need to know to have a comfortable trip!

Flying With a Large Dog: Is It Doable?

While not impossible, traveling with a large dog can be a challenge unless you and your pawsome pet are adequately prepared for the trip by checking off the list below.

1. Review the airline’s pet transport regulations

While airlines typically transport large animals, your dog’s weight will determine whether you can take it with you or you will have to ship it separately with a cargo plane.

Furthermore, even if you are sharing the same flight, you can only take your furry friend in the cabin with you as long as it weighs below a certain limit (usually 20 pounds), its crate is sufficiently roomy and ventilated, and it can fit under the seat in front of you. Conversely, medium-to-large dogs have to be stored in the cargo area as baggage.

In any case, your dog must be at least eight weeks old, weaned, and sufficiently calm and healthy—proven with the corresponding health and vaccination certificates.

Depending on the airline, additional requirements also apply. For instance, Alaska Airlines will only transport harmless animals that have been properly fed before transit and have easy access to food and water in their containers.

Note: Federal regulations prohibit airlines from transporting pets in extremely cold and hot temperatures (below 45 and above 85 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Plan and schedule your flight early

Start planning your trip in advance since certain airlines require you to inform them you will be traveling with a pet well before scheduling your flight, as they can only accommodate a certain number of animals per trip and

Doing so gives you plenty of time to meet all relevant regulations regarding pet travel. For instance, you will most likely have to contact a veterinary service and even make an in-person visit to get all necessary health certificates.

If you start preparing early, you’ll also have ample time to find a flight at such a time and day when the temperatures are expected to be moderate and tolerable by your pet. Moreover, you’ll train your doggo to stay in a crate for longer periods of time.

Note: If you expect your trip to be longer than 10 hours, book a layover flight so that you and your dog have enough time to stretch out and go for a potty break.

3. Choose Between Pet Cargo vs Checked Baggage

When traveling with large dogs, you’ll either have to check them as baggage on the same flight as yours or have them travel separately in a pet cargo plane.

Most owners choose the former option since they don’t want to be separated from their pets and want to be reunited with them the moment they get off the plane.

However, many pet transport services, such as PetRelocation, recommend transporting your large doggo via a cargo plane since it is the safer alternative.

For instance, they can be monitored easily since they travel on a separate ticket, will be stored in a pressurized and warm area at all times, will never be left waiting on the tarmac, will be handled by specialized staff, and they’ll be the first on and off the plane.

Note: If your dog and its carrier are above a certain weight threshold, they will not be allowed even to be checked as baggage and will have to travel separately in a cargo plane.

4. Ensure your dog is vaccinated properly

Before going on its trip, your globetrotting doggo must be thoroughly checked by a veterinarian and deemed healthy and free of any spreadable diseases.

That way, you will receive the necessary health and vaccination certificates (especially against rabies), which airlines require you to get within 10 days of your journey.

Since most health certificates last for 30 days, you may have to visit a vet to meet the return flight requirements if your journey is longer than that.

If your dog is suffering from medical issues, bring the necessary medications and prescriptions and consult with the vet about the risks and solutions to anxiety attacks.

Note: Some airlines disallow traveling with brachycephalic (short-muzzled) breeds since they have trouble breathing at high altitudes and in hot and humid environments.

5. Get a pet-friendly travel kit

Just as you pack your own luggage, you should also prepare a kit for your furry friend that will contain all its trinkets, toiletries, and other necessities, including:

  • Leash and collar
  • Various games and toys
  • Food and water bowl
  • Water and snacks
  • Adequate poop bags
  • Baby wipes and paper towels
  • Your dog’s medications
  • An approved dog carrier

When it comes to the traveling crate, most airlines impose certain restrictions on its size and build. For example, the carrier must be ventilated on two opposing sides, have a leak-proof bottom, and animals must be able to stand, move, and lie comfortably in it.

6. Prepare your dog for the flight

Before traveling anywhere with a pet, you should (and on some occasions must) get it microchipped so you are able to locate it anywhere and at any time.

On travel day, feed your dog several hours before getting to the airport and allow it to relieve itself, especially if you have scheduled a long flight.

Also, if you have an especially energetic and/or anxious doggo, take it for a walk to calm it down and tire it out so it can easily sleep on the plane.

When all is said and done, put your dog in its crate along with its favorite toys and head for the airport several hours earlier than usual. That way, you will have plenty of time to check in and take the dog to a separate drop-off location if it’s traveling as cargo.

In any case, if you have an older dog or one suffering from a serious medical condition, air travel will be challenging as it takes a toll on its physical and emotional well-being, so consider taking it with you only when absolutely necessary.

Expert tip: Put up a current photo of your dog and your contact information on the crate and keep a photo in your phone as well in case the airline “misplaces” your loyal companion or someone steals it since dog thefts have been on the rise in recent years.

You might also like to read:

Flying With a Large Dog: Picking the Right Airline

Whether traveling nationally or internationally, most airlines allow you to bring your pet with you, but they implement certain restrictions that vary among them.

Below, we take a look at three popular U.S. options and their pet travel guidelines.

1. American Airlines

If you and your doggo are traveling with American Airlines, you will not need any health certificates only if you are taking a smaller pet into the cabin.

However, if you have to transport a larger companion, you are no longer able to do so since recent AA changes have made that service exclusive to active-duty U.S. Military and State Department Foreign Service personnel flying on official business.

As for applicable costs, carry-on pets add an extra $125 fee per kennel, whereas checked pets typically cost $200. Only service animals can board free of charge.

2. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines employs stricter cabin restrictions: you can take a pet with you only if it’s a cat or a dog and you are on an inter-island flight or traveling to certain North American destinations. Moreover, your pet’s carrier must fit under the seat in front of you.

When it comes to checking in a large dog as baggage, the total weight of the pet and its kennel must not exceed 70 lbs, but the airline may accept a brachycephalic breed.

3. Alaska Airlines

Unlike the previous option, Alaska Airlines accepts dogs (and their carriers) weighing up to 150 lbs in its climate-controlled cargo compartments for a $100 fee.

Also, your furry friend will be accepted to travel in the baggage area only if it’s older than eight weeks, has been weaned, has a health certificate dated within the last 10 days before your journey, and is not a brachycephalic breed.

Bottom Line

Flying with a large dog can be unsettling as you would most likely worry about your furry friend being all alone in the plane’s cargo hold, but there are ways to make the experience comfortable. At the end of the day, you must carefully review the relevant airline policies and properly prepare your doggo for the trip when making your travel plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dogs fly on planes?

Yes, dogs can fly on planes, regardless of their weight, but you have to pay extra fees, and your dog must meet certain weight requirements if you want to take it with you.

What is the largest dog you can take on a plane?

Your dog can travel with you as long as it is under a specific weight limit, which varies from airline to airline. For instance, Air Canada allows you to check your dog as baggage if it weighs up to 100 pounds, but Hawaiian Airlines puts the limit at 70 pounds.

How much does it cost to fly a large dog?

Flying with a large dog comes with additional costs that vary based on several factors, such as your destination, the airline, and the dog’s weight. While taking the dog in the cabin costs about $125, larger dogs incur fees between $200–$1000 when flying as baggage.


  1. The American Kennel Club (AKC)
  2. The American Kennel Club (AKC)
  3. PawMaw
  4. Condé Nast Traveler
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