Making Sense of Air Travel with Your Dog
Air travel with your dog can be confusing - and frustrating!
That's why we provide you with a few resources to make the whole process easier, and help you understand the ins and outs of traveling with your dog by plane. Take a look at our guide below - and if you need any assistance about how these regulations affect any of the gear you plan to use for air travel with your pet, please get in touch with us and we can help!
1. Find out what your airline will and will not allow
First, you should always contact the airline you plan to travel with to confirm they will accept pets on the day and the flight you have chosen. Some airlines restrict the number of animals on a flight; the more advanced notice you give the airline the better.
Certain dogs, specifically snub-nosed dogs (e.g. pugs, bulldogs, boxers, Shih Tzus, etc.), have trouble in high altitudes and during hot weather. It is recommended not to travel with dogs with snub-noses if it is too hot because they have trouble maintaining normal body temperature in hot weather. In fact, some airlines will not accept snub-nosed dogs during the summer months.
Also, almost all breeds that are classified as "fighting dogs" by an airline will need a specialized CR82 crate in order to be transported in cargo/check-in baggage. We highly recommend doing your own research, including contacting the airline(s) you will be flying to find the specific breeds they restrict or find dangerous. We go more in depth on these specialized CR82 crates and common breeds that need them farther down this page.
Depending on the size of your dog, the size of the crate, and the specific flight, your dog can travel in-cabin with you instead of in cargo. Check with your airline to see if they will allow your dog's size and breed to be carried on with you under the seat during your flight. Additionally, some airlines will allow two puppies together in one crate if they are eight weeks to six months old, weigh no more than 20 pounds each, and are fully weaned. For an in-depth look at the pet travel policies of the four major US airlines, take a look at our article here. For specific airline pet policies, check out this link and read about what your airline will require for your dog to fly.
Check out our article on flying with your dog on America's largest airlines.
2. Measuring and finding the right size crate
Finding the right size crate is key. You'll want to measure your dog to find the proper size crate for them to travel in. They must have enough room to be able to stand up with a little bit of head room, turn around while standing, and lie down in a natural position. Too big and you might risk paying extra for travel. Too small and the airline will not allow your dog to fly. Most importantly, the right size ensure your dog will be comfortable.
Measuring your dog isn't hard. The length of their body should be measured from the nose down to the base of the spine, where the tail starts. Next, the height is measured from the floor to the tip of the ears, for dogs with ears that stand up straight, or to the top of his head. To make things easier, you might want a friend to help you measure; one person to keep your dog in position and the other to take the measurements.
3. In-Cabin dog travel
Your crate must meet certain specifications in order to be approved for travel. The crate must meet IATA LAR (International Air Transport Association, Live Animal Regulations) specifications. Wire crates are not IATA approved. Soft-sided or rigid plastic crates will work for small dogs that are able to be carried on in-cabin, depending on the airline. As long as the bottom is water proof, there is adequate ventilation, and there are secure fasteners to keep your dog from escaping.
4. Check-in/Cargo dog travel
For dog crates that will be in checked-in baggage or cargo there are different specifications IATA requires. Please make sure to buy an IATA approved crate. Material of the crate MUST be fiberglass, metal, rigid plastics, welded metal mesh, solid wood or plywood. Again, you need the right size crate in order to have your dog be approved for travel, see above. Containers that are completely made out of welded wire mesh are not suitable for air transport.
There must be handles along the middle of both long sides of the container. The floor must be solid and leak-proof. The roof must be solid, but ventilation holes are allowed, as long as it does not reduce the integrity of the crate. The container must be adequately ventilated on three sides and the majority of the ventilation should be on the upper part of the container. The door must form the whole of one end, either hinged or sliding, and there must be an adequate means to fasten the door. The wire mesh on the door must not be wide enough for your dog to stick their nose or paws out in order to prevent injury during transport.
Make sure to to have water and food bowls inside the crate, with accessibility from the outside to be filled without opening the door. Food an water bowls should also have rounded edges and be made of non-toxic material.
Food must also be provided to the airline and must be checked so it does not violate any regulations of the country(ies) of transit or importation. Food of animal origin, such as meat or food containing meat, will not be accepted inside the container.
Generally, your dog will only require water or food if the amount of time they are in transit exceed 12 hours. However, in case of delays, a copy of feeding instructions needs to be attached to both the crate and given along with your shipping documents.
Lastly, the crate must be labeled with a "This Way Up" tag and a green IATA "Live Animals" label. If you want to read more about IATA's current official requirements for pet containers, click here for their document laying down detailed requirements and specifications.
5. IATA CR82 (Container Requirement 82)
There are some breeds of dogs that many airlines deem dangerous and classify as "fighting dogs" or "historically aggressive breeds." Thus, these breeds will need special heavy duty IATA CR 82 compliant crates for cargo or check-in transport. All CR82 means is IATA's specific Container Requirements (number 82) for big and "dangerous" animals; this includes dogs. If your airline deems that your dog's breed (even if they are a mix of that breed) is too dangerous or aggressive, then you will need a CR82 compliant crate to transport them by air travel.
CR82 has additional specifications for crates that need to be implemented to be approved for cargo or check-in animal travel. Additional design principles regarding frame, slides, floor, roof, and doors need to be applied. No portion of the crate can be made of plastic. Instead, CR82 crates must be made of wood, metal, synthetic materials, welded mesh or wire grate/mesh. Crate doors are required to be made of heavy wire mesh, metal or reinforced wood and need a secure fastening mechanism to ensure that it cannot be accidentally opened during your dog's transport.
IATA LAR CR82 is actually not a new rule. It has been in place for many years and specifies any animal that is deemed dangerous must be transported in specially made reinforced crates constructed out of wood and/or metal. It was not until more recently that the rule was revised to require these "dangerous" dog breeds to be transported in the same CR82 compliant crate as they would have used for wild animals, such as lions and bears. Although this rule seems harsh to the many dog breeds we love, it has actually allowed many of these same dog breeds that were prohibited from flying for years another chance to fly again, in a safer and more secure way.
- The Grain Valley airline approved folding/collapsible portable dog crate is a strong and durable crate, but is still light and portable. When purchased with the IATA CR-82 Airline kit, it is one of the most popular crates to fly in.
- For something even more heavy duty, we have two Zinger crates, the Zinger professional and the Zinger Deluxe airline compliant IATA CR 82 Travel Dog crates, with the Professional model adding a more heavy duty door in case you have "Houdini" dogs.
Both the Grain Valley and Zinger Crates are airline and military approved, and the Zinger crates come with pre-installed travel kits with everything you need to get traveling with your dogs.
Here are some of the breeds that many airlines and countries restrict:
- American Bully
- Pit Bull Breeds (American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier)
- American Staffordshire Terriers
- Anatolian Shepherd Dog
- Ca de Bou
- Cane Corso
- Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd Dog)
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
- Perro de Presa Canario
- Presa Canario Tosa (or Tosa Ken)
- Tosa (or Tosa Ken)
If you have one of the above breeds, please make sure to check with your airline(s) to see if they need CR82 crates for. Also, if you're traveling internationally, check if the destination country allows you to transport your dog's breed there too, not just whether you need a CR82 crate for the airline, otherwise you'll just waste your money on buying a crate you can't even use.
6. Preparations before your flight
There are a few things that IATA recommends doing right before your dog's flight. First, feed your dog a light meal and a short drink about 2 hours before leaving for your flight. Exercise your dog right before leaving for the airport, and if possible before they are checked in. This will calm your dog down for the flight. Make sure they have enough ventilation in their crates and nothing is blocking the air vents, especially for snub-nosed dogs.
Finally, make sure your dog is comfortable and calm. Maybe even include a favorite toy if you can. This will make the trip infinitely easier for them and for you, so they aren't scared or stressed out and you wont be worrying about how they are doing the whole flight.
7. IATA CR-82 Container Requirements
If you want to check out the official Container Requirements from the IATA, we have a copy for you here: IATA General Container Requirements for Pet Animals
We know flying with your dog can be confusing, so if you need any assistance navigating through all of the regulations, don't hesitate to Contact Us.
Update: Since mid-2018, most major US airlines have enforced more restrictions on "dangerous breeds," citing physical characteristics and/or behavior that they deem make certain dogs too risky to transport by air, due to potential health complications and safety.
These are generally any breeds classified as brachycephalic or snub-nosed of any "mix." Please be aware of these new restrictions and make sure to contact your airline to be sure if they will allow your dog to travel. These airlines include United, Delta, American, and Southwest Airlines. Breeds that are under this classification are no longer permitted to travel at all through these airlines in checked baggage or even Cargo. These breeds may include, but are not limited to: