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When I was fresh out of college, I boldly decided to move to Taiwan and sign a 1-year contract teaching English. Extra bold, considering I didn’t speak any Chinese.
It didn’t take long for the language barrier to make the experience extremely isolating, so I decided to get a dog to make the year I was there more like home and I’m not afraid to admit that I needed some canine cuddle time.
I knew I was going to have a very long flight home with her (27 hours total, to be exact) and I knew I wanted to make sure I got a dog who was small enough to fly in the cabin of the airplane with me. That required quite a bit of research to figure out!
So what dog breeds can fly in the cabin of a plane with you?
To bring your dog in the cabin with you on a flight, most airlines require that your dog comfortably fit in a carry-on-sized travel kennel that is not larger than 11 inches tall and 18 inches long. This means only extremely small breeds like Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Maltese can fly in the cabin with you.
I decided to get a Maltese, Sofie, who I’m pretty sure is my spirit-animal, knowing that she’d be small enough to meet even the strictest airline’s pet requirements.
Unless you’re planning on picking up a new furry family member during your travels as I did, you’re probably more interested in finding out if the dog or dogs that you currently have can fly in the cabin with you.
If your dog is over 11 inches tall or longer than 18 inches, they do not meet the size requirements to fly in the cabin with you, but that doesn’t mean that you need to leave your pup at home for your next trip.
Many airlines offer other means of traveling with your dog besides carrying them with you in flight. While these other options remove some of the strict size requirements, there are many other regulations and considerations to understand before you hand your dog over to the valet with the rest of your checked luggage.
We’ll cover everything you need to know along with a complete list of dog breeds that are carry-on friendly.
What Size Dogs Can Fly In Cabin With You On A Plane?
There are rarely weight restrictions when it comes to flying with your dog in the cabin of the plane. If the airline has a weight restriction, it’s usually not more than 20 or 25 pounds.
But dogs that meet the height and length requirements will rarely weigh that much anyways.
When you bring your dog with you on a plane, they must stay in a carrier 100% of the time of the flight, and that carrier must be able to fit in front of your feet, under the seat in front of you, just like any other carry-on bag.
That means that your dog must be able to comfortably fit inside of a carrier that is roughly 18 inches long by 12 inches tall, as that’s how much space you have to fit the carrier in front of you.
Most airlines require that your dog be able to comfortably stand up and turn around while in the carrier, so don’t think you can get away with cramming your Beagle into a kennel for a very short flight.
This means that most dogs are far too big to fly in the cabin with you.
To comfortable stand up and turn around in a 12×18 inch space, you’re limited to breeds of dogs that are smaller than 11 inches tall and also shorter than 18 inches long.
What Breeds Are Small Enough To Fly In A Cabin?
Your dog must meet the specific size requirements outlined above in order to fly with you. There are going to be variations in sizes among dog breeds and some breeds are mixed, so it’s important that you break out a ruler and measure your dog very carefully before booking them a ticket.
However, the following is a list of dog breeds that commonly meet the size requirements to fly in the cabin with you:
- Australian Terrier
- Bichone Frize
- Cairn Terrier
- Dandie Dinmont Terrier
- Manchester Toy Terrier
- Miniature Pinschers
- Norfolk Terrier
- Norwich Terrier
- Scottish Terrier
- Sealyham Terrier
- Silky Terrier
- Sky Terrier
- Toy Fox Terrier
- Toy Poodles
- Toy Xoloitzcuintli
- West Highland Terrier
- Yorkshire Terriers
These breeds of dogs typically meet the height, length, and weight requirements to fly on all major airlines.
You may be noticing that there are dog breeds that seem small enough to fly that is not listed above, like Pugs and Shih Tzus.
If your dog’s breed isn’t in the list above or if you have a mixed breed dog, read on to find out why you may not be able to fly with your tiny, furry buddy.
Are Any Breeds Banned From Flying On Planes?
Most airlines have strict breed restrictions, either as a full-time policy or a seasonal policy. They may also have restrictions on particular destinations, particularly international ones.
However, the breed restrictions are not necessarily what you may think. Most of the time “breed restriction” ends up limiting the so-called “bully breeds” because they’re often mislabeled as dangerous.
That’s not so for airlines.
The main reason that some breeds are banned from flying at all is because of their brachycephalic and snub-noses.
Because of the changes in cabin pressure, dogs with stubby, short faces are often completely prohibited from fly not just in the cabin but in the cargo hold as well.
The following breeds are commonly banned from flying both in the cabin and also in the cargo hold:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Boston Terriers
- Brussels Griffon
- Bulldogs (all breeds)
- Cane Corso
- Chow Chow
- Dogue De Bordeaux
- English Toy Spaniel
- Japanese Chin
- Lhasa Apso
- Mastiff (all breeds)
- Presa Canario
- Shar Pei
- Shih Tzu
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Tibetan Spaniel
Any dog that is visually identified as a mix-breed dog with one of the above breeds also will be banned from flying in any capacity on a plane.
While it may seem like a bummer, dogs with these short faces have actually died on planes. The rules may be inconvenient, but they exist to keep your dogs safe.
Additionally, you’ll need to consider any local regulations in the specific area you’re flying to or flying from. These most often impact bully breeds like Rottweilers and Pitties but other big dogs like Great Danes may be restricted by specific legislation as well.
Great Danes and other large breeds may also have problems actually fitting inside a crate that’s airline approved and it can take some work to find an airline crate that’s large enough for Great Danes.
What Are The Rules And Regulations Regarding Flying In The Cabin With Your Dog?
There are some variations in the specific rules from airline to airline regarding flying in the cabin with your dog, so it is very important that you double-check with your particular airline before arriving at the airport with your dog.
However, I’ve compiled the information below from Delta, United, and American Airlines, which is a great place to get started preparing for your dog’s in-cabin flight.
As stated above, most airlines required that your dog fit in a kennel that can fit under the seat in front of you during the flight. This means that your dog cannot be more than 11 inches tall or 18 inches long.
Many airlines ban the breeds listed above from flying as well.
Besides that, there are many other rules and regulations you need to be aware of.
American Airlines requires that the combined weight of your pet and the carrier cannot be more than 20 lbs at the time of check in.
Your dog must be at least 10 weeks old before traveling domestically and 16 weeks old before traveling internationally.
Only one pet is allowed per kennel except in the following conditions:
- One female dog is traveling with her unweaned litter of puppies who are between the ages of 10 weeks and 6 months. In this scenario, there is no limit on the number of puppies in the litter so long as the weight limits are not exceeded
- 2 pets of the same breed and size between the ages of 10 weeks and 6 months may share a kennel. They will be billed and treated as one single pet.
It’s likely that you will have limited seat selections. For example, you likely will not be able to sit in the bulk head or in the emergency exit rows.
An unaccompanied minor may not bring a pet in the cabin with them.
It’s possible also that a flight attendant will move your dog and their carrier to a special pet holding area within the cabin of the airplane during taxi, takeoff, landing, or turbulence. This is just to make sure they stay safe.
Keep in mind also that the kennel your dog is in will count as your carry-on bag. You’ll be allowed to bring a personal item like a purse, backpack, or laptop bag, but you will need to check any other luggage you have.
Your pet must stay in the kennel for the entire duration of the flight (no bathroom breaks).
Most airlines only allow a maximum of 5-7 total animals in the cabin of the airplane, so be sure to book your pet early so they don’t lose their spot on the plane.
You must check in at the ticket counter to get your pet appropriately checked in, no online check in or check ins at the gate. At the ticket counter, you’ll get a special sticker to affix to your kennel.
You should expect to pay roughly $125 for your pet to join you on your flight in the cabin.
Many different airports and travel destinations have their own restrictions when it comes to allowing pets, not just the airline.
I cannot emphasize enough then how important it is for you to use a fine-tooth comb to run through your entire itinerary, especially if you have layovers or are traveling internationally.
Finally, remember that going with your pet may be different than coming with your pet.
For example, I brought Sofie from Taiwan to the United States. Since Taiwan is a “rabies-free” country, Sofie had to get only minimal health certifications and also did not have to quarantine when she arrived in the states.
However, if we had been going from the US to Taiwan, Sofie would have had to stay in quarantine at the airport for two whole weeks once we arrived in Taiwan.
Since Taiwan is “rabies free,” they are exceptionally worried about letting animals into their ecosystem. You’ll find this is the case for most islands you’d travel to. Hawaii has a 120 quarantine period!
It’s impossible to get into the specific rules of every airport and country you could be visiting in this short article.
Besides perusing your airline’s website, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) run the bye U.S. Department of Agriculture has a ton of resources to help you safely and legally travel with your pets, from dogs and cats to horses and tortoises.
Can I Bring Both Of My Dogs With Me In The Cabin Of The Plane?
Most airlines only allow one dog kennel per person for in-cabin flights. However, if both of your dogs are under 6 months old, of the same breed, and their combined weight is less than 20 pounds, you may be able to fly with both of them.
If your dogs are not over 6 months, of the different breeds, or have a combined weight of more than 20 pounds, you may still be able to travel with both of your dogs if you purchase an additional ticket and also pay an additional pet fee for your pet.
Since you’ll be traveling with two kennels in this situation, the extra ticket is to ensure that there is space for your second kennel.
If that’s not an option, you may be able to check one of your pets, who will fly with the checked baggage in the cargo hold, and fly in the cabin with the other one.
In general, though, you can expect a one dog per person rule when flying with dogs in the cabin of a plane.
What If My Dog Is Too Big To Fly In The Cabin With Me?
If your dog does not meet the size requirements to fly in the cabin with you, there may still be options to take your dog with you on your next vacation. They may just not be able to spend the trip at your feet.
If your dog is one of the banned breeds listed above, they will not be able to fly under any circumstance.
Some airlines allow you to check larger dogs who will fly with the cargo, but this seems to be a trend that airlines are phasing out and replacing with their own special pet cargo programs.
For example, Delta allows you to ship up to 2 dogs as cargo, but they do not guarantee that the dogs will be on the same plane as you or match your flight schedule.
United and American Airlines currently have suspended their pet cargo programs due to COVID (somehow).
To be perfectly honest, I would not recommend shipping your dog in the cargo hold of the plane. It’s dangerous and dogs have died in transit.
The danger typically comes from extreme temperatures. Cargo holds are seldom temperature controlled and your dog will need to be transported around the airplane and airport outside by baggage handlers, further exposing them to elements and tumult.
If you need to travel with a dog who is too large to fly within the cabin, I would instead suggest either driving yourself or enlisting the help of a pet transportation service like Blue Collar Pet Transport or Air Animal, whose dedicated mission is to safely transport live animals.
How Can I Prepare My Dog To Fly In The Cabin With Me?
If you are flying with your dog in the cabin with you, below are some steps you can take to make sure you have as peaceful and comfortable a journey as possible.
The key here is to be as prepared as possible so you have as few curve balls as possible to deal.
This means you’ll need to prepare all of the following:
- Country-specific paperwork (pet passports, vet clearances, etc.)
- Food, water, and equipment to keep your dog safe and comfortable
- As short of a trip as possible (limit the number of layovers and get a direct flight if possible)
- Check out each airport and stop that you’ll make along the way to ensure you are in compliance with each locations pet rules
- Be sure to plan out what you’ll do with your dog once you get to your destination. Check with your car rental company to see if they allow dogs. Many taxis and hotels do not allow dogs
- Give yourself plenty of time at the airport so you’re not stressed out. Your dog will pick up on your stress
- Know your dog and know whether or not this is a good idea that’s worth it in the first place
Be sure to get a kennel that is as large as possible for your little furry buddy while also still easily meeting the strict size requirements.
A soft sided kennel is a good option since it allows for a little bit of extra flexibility when it comes time to cram your kennel under the seat in front of you.
This soft-sided one by Maskeyon has pop-out sides so that your dog can have a little bit of extra room when you’re in between flights.
If you have a rough journey ahead of you, you may want to opt for a hard-sided kennel like this one that will help keep them safe in case of turbulence or if they get knocked around.
And as a third option, just in case you have a lot of walking ahead of you while you fly, this roller kennel has an extendable handle, just like a piece of luggage, so you don’t have to carry your dog the whole time you’re traveling with them.
All of the kennels I linked to above meet the size requirements for most major airlines.
Food and Water
I don’t recommend bothering trying to have food for your dog on your flight. Odds on, your dog will be too weirded out by the experience to want to eat but, if they do, then there’s a good chance that the motion and turbulence will make them get sick.
Instead, be sure to give them a good meal a few hours before you head to the airport, and then just plan on giving them another meal immediately after you land.
That said, your dog shouldn’t be without water for more than an hour or so, so it’s important to plan to be able to give your dog water while they remain in their crate.
Very simply, a bowl isn’t going to work. You’re going to be walking through an airport with your dog in a carrier and the last thing you want is to slosh water all over them before they settle in for their flight.
Instead, I recommend picking up one of those old school no drip water bottles like you’d expect to see hanging off of a hamster cage. They do make them for dogs, but the principle is the same as the ones made for any small animal.
And since you’re flying with such a small dog, they don’t likely need much water. Just be sure that you practice drinking from this with your dog for a few weeks prior to your trip so they know how to keep themselves hydrated.
Oh! And don’t fill it with water before you go through airport security! Fill it with water once you get to your gate.
Some airports have actually have dedicated areas and even bathrooms dedicated to their furry passengers, but not all airports are that pet friendly.
Still, though, we wanted to make her as comfortable as possible. Pick up some pee pads to put at the bottom of their crate so, in case they have an accident, they don’t need to sit there in their own mess for the rest of the trip.
Be sure to bring some extra too in case you use them up.
Some dogs are very particular about peeing outside after all that training you did with them as a puppy. If your dog doesn’t like using the pee pads, try putting a piece of astroturf over the pee pad. Since it’s like grass, your dog will be more likely to want to pee on it.
Be sure to put a pee pad down underneath it though or you’re going to leave a little puddle on the ground for the next passenger.
Let’s be real, a dog on an airplane is not going to be an extremely comfortable doggy, but you can take some steps to make them as comfortable as possible.
Stick a piece of clothes that you’ve worn in their kennel with them. This will help comfort them and remind them that you are close even when they cannot see or smell you.
Toys are a great option for some dogs, but you don’t want to take up any of their precious little space with too much extra stuff in there with them.
Some dogs will be overly stressed by the experience. You probably already know if you have a dog like that. Get ahead of a full blown panic attack by giving them some calming supplements like these ones. Almost 4,000 five star reviews, some of them specifically mentioning successful airline travel, can’t all be wrong.
Some people swear by like thunder shirts, which work the same way as weighted blankets do for people. The weight of the blanket/shirt is enough to assuage your dog’s anxieties about flying.
Flying With Your Dog In The Plane Cabin
If you have a dog that is small enough to travel with, I cannot recommend it enough. Sofie and I have been to Texas (she thought it was too big and loud), the Grand Canyon (she was unimpressed), Tokyo (too crowded), Minnesota (way too cold),.and California (her favorite), to name a few destinations.
TSA has never been nicer to me than when I was traveling with my dog, and every memory was made richer because I got to share them with her.
So long as your dog isn’t more than 12 inches tall, 18 inches long, over 20 pounds, or of a banned breed, you should have no problem at all bringing them into the cabin of the plane with you.