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Flying With a Large Dog: 8 Airplane Tips for Big Pups

Laura Day

July 11, 2019

Flying With a Large Dog

Flying on an airplane can be a nerve wracking experience for both animals and humans. We all do our own things to cope, but our pets are left hanging because they can’t just pop in some headphones and listen to a podcast! Therefore, it is up to you to help your poor little animal stay calm on flights.

When it comes to larger dogs, you may not be able to have them in the cabin with you as carry-on pets. This can be even more scary for them, so you are going to have to get crafty to keep them sane.

If you want to prevent the disaster that is a distraught Doberman on a seven hour plane ride, read ahead for some tips. It’ll be smooth sailing (or… flying) from here!

#1: Visit Your Vet

The first thing pet owners should do before buying your ticket is visit the veterinarian with your dog. This will get him updated on his vaccines and certified with a clean bill of health. You should also use this time to talk to the vet about what you can do to keep your canine chilled out on the flight. If yours is particularly nervous, the doctor may prescribe some mild sedatives for travel.

#2: Get the Right Crate

No matter how long or short your flight will be, you have to be sure that your dog will be comfortable. After all, he can’t get up and mosey on over to the restroom when he gets restless. When picking an appropriate crate for your husky to hunker down in, consider these factors:

  • How much room he will have to move around. If your pup can’t at least reposition himself after a while, you are probably picking a crate that is too small. He should be able to turn around, stand up, sit up, and lie down without being smushed against the ceiling or any of the walls.
  • How heavy he is. Since you know that he is a large dog, you know that he will be quite a bit heavier than other pups. Get something made of a durable material that won’t warp or crack under his weight. The recommended crate materials are fiberglass, metal, solid wood, or rigid plastic.
  • Whether or not it is airline approved. You can’t just buy any crate to take on the plane with you. They usually have to be compliant with the company’s guidelines. Do research on that before you go out and buy anything!

You can find plenty of crates for large dogs here!

#3: Talk to the Captain

large dogs fly in the cargo

Many large dogs fly in the cargo hold because there simply isn’t enough space in the cabin. The cargo hold is supposed to be climate controlled and pressurized, but the pilot has to activate those controls. You need to notify the captain that your pup is traveling with all of the other large items so the pilot can make sure he is comfortable and, most importantly, safe.

#4: Don’t Make Him Hold It

Once you take off, your pup will not be able to do his business until you land and are reunited. That could be a very long time. Whether its five hours or two, you need to let Fido “go” right before you two go on your skyward adventure! He is likely to be calmer and less agitated if you do not make him hold it for hours more than is necessary.

#5: Chow Down Before You Board

Just like your dog needs to go to the restroom before you board, he needs to eat, too. Hungry dogs are anxious and testy dogs; no one wants to deal with that. Be a good pet owner and feed your fur baby his dinner before he has to go in the crate.

Let him eat just a little bit before the flight, though. Make sure that he has time to use the bathroom after if possible, but don’t stretch it too much.

#6: See Spot Run

When your pup is tired, he is not worried about how strange his new environment is or how much he misses you. If you tire him out enough, he should go right to sleep on the plane. This one is easy because he will do all the work himself! Let him run, play, and frolic before he has to be put away like so much luggage.

#7: Make His Space Comfortable

So, no one wants to sleep in a crate. Not humans, not dogs–okay, so maybe cats, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, could you imagine sleeping on wood or metal for five hours with nothing between you and the floor? If you can, you know that you would be really uncomfortable.

So would Spot. Don’t do that to him! Put these things in his crate to make his time on board more pleasant:

  • A blanket (preferably something soft and not scratchy)
  • A small pillow (if you think he won’t tear it apart)

These simple things will make all the difference for your sweet doggy!

#8: Don’t Lose Him!

One surefire way to make your dog unhappy and afraid is to lose him. Obviously, this is not entirely your fault. Mistakes happen! Dogs sometimes get put on the wrong plane or returned to the wrong person. However, you can do a few things yourself to make the reunion go over more smoothly.

  • Put all of your info on a label or tag on the crate. This includes your name, phone number, email, and any emergency contact number you want to include. If the attendants know who the crate belongs to, the chances of Fido meeting up with a complete stranger diminish considerably.
  • Have him microchipped. If you haven’t already, take him to the vet to get a microchip put in. If your dog does get lost anyway, someone should be able to identify him and his owner by scanning the microchip.

If you follow this handy guide, you should never have to worry about your pup being lost, hungry, scared, aggressive, or restless. Things happen, but you can make man’s best friend happy and safe easily enough. Now go out there and touch the sky!

Side note: If you have an emotional support animal or service dog, the whole pet policy may be different. Talk with your airline about traveling with service animals. Particularly for international flights, it can be important to have your furry friend by your side.


Bringing a new family addition into the home is extremely exciting! Becoming a new puppy parent comes with a ton of new joys, challenges and responsibilities. PupBox was created to help new puppy parents like yourself, by providing all of the toys, treats, accessories and training information you need, when you need it. CLICK HERE to learn more about PupBox.


And remember, puppyhood is fast and is gone before you know it. Make sure to savor the time when your pup is young, and take lots of pictures along the way!