Arrow (our malinois) has traveled to a lot of places via plane: Alaska, Las Vegas, Utah, Idaho, Nashville, Ohio, Put-In Bay, etc- just to name a few. As a side note, if you want to listen to our train wreck of a trip to Vegas with a dog- please checkout our podcast: The Bowmar Show
So- how exactly does an 80lb dog fly with us in the cabin and not in cargo? There are four different ways an animal can travel with you on a commercial flight!
1: If your animal is small enough, you can travel with them in a pet carrier in the cabin as long as they can fit under the seat in front of you. I think the fee (each way) for an animal is $200
2: You can check your animal in cargo in a hard shell kennel. The cost varies per airline but it is usually $50-$100
3: You can fly with your animal if they are a registered service animal- this includes animals such as seeing eye dogs. Paperwork varies from airline to airline. Service animals fly for free
4: If your dog is registered emotional support animal, they can fly in the cabin with you either in a carrier or at your feet IF they do not take up more room than your seat allows. Josh and I also travel together so Arrow has double the room to lay down in front of us on board. To register your animal as an emotional support animal through an airline, you have to submit the following paperwork at least 48 hours ahead of your flight: written documentation from your mental health professional validating the need for the support animal (it has to be dated and less than a year old), professional dog training proof (certificate or letter of recommendation from trainer), and specific airline documentation. Thee airline has to approve the request ahead of the flight, you cannot mobile check in for your flight as you have to check in at the counter for the ticketing agent to assess the behavior of the animal. You can be turned away if your animal is not properly trained to handle stress / stimulation from an airline or if they are misbehaving. This is how we travel with Arrow- she is an ESA and is trained to do just that.
The most stressful part about flying with a dog is the bathroom situation. The longest flight Arrow has been on was from Dallas to Anchorage at about six hours. For long flights like these, I do recommend having your dog wear a doggy diaper. We also carry pee pads in case there isn’t a service animal relief area open. Most airports have multiple service animal relief areas in each terminal. Before we take off, I make sure I look at the airport and terminal we are flying into to see where the nearest relief area will be for our arriving gate. We also limit water while flying to mitigate any accidents.
We pack her favorite chew toys to keep her entertained on flights. For every single flight she has ever been on, she always falls asleep as soon as we take off but I would rather be prepared. She also wears a “do not pet” vest at the airport which I would highly recommend for all working breeds. This helps her understand that when the vest is on, she has to be on her absolute best behavior as she only wears it the airport.
I highly recommend that your dog be professional trained as well, especially if you are bringing them through an airport. There aren’t many instances that are more stimulating than an airport / airplane and your dog needs to be trained to behave to the best of their ability.