Jet-Set Pet: Small Dogs & In-Cabin Air Travel

Thinking about flying the friendly skies with your pet in tow?  Taking your pet along can make your vacation even more memorable. Small dogs and pets can even fly with you in the cabin, making it easy and relatively stress-free to jet set with your pet. There are size and weight restrictions for both your pet and their carrier, so read up on your airlines of choice to see if this is an option for your pet. One of our team members, Alison, recently flew from Toronto to Florida with her Miniature Dachshund Pretzel. Here are her tips for air travel with your small dog:

Book Early, and Together

Space for pets is limited, so it’s a good idea to book your trip together. There will be a fee for your pet to fly (which will vary by destination and airline) and your pet counts as one of your carry-on items, so you are likely looking at checking your bag. You will also need to consider your accommodations, pet-friendly is a must, but pet-friendly hotels may also have rules about crating your pet or how long you can leave your pet alone in your room. and can help you find pet-friendly accommodations in the US and Canada.

Get Cleared for Take off

Different countries have different requirements for bringing along a pet, so make sure you do your research prior to booking. When travelling from Canada to the US, Pretzel needed a valid rabies certificate (if your pet is due for a booster, make sure they receive it more than 30 days before you travel to the US, you can learn more at the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website). It is also a good idea to visit your vet and have a health certificate done up within 10 days of your departure. A health certificate indicates that your pet has been deemed fit to fly by your vet. Also speak to your vet about your destination, as they may suggest preventative care for health issues related to sunny destinations, such as heartworm or ticks.

The airline will likely request that you give yourself and your pet extra time for check in.  So make sure you plan your day (and your pet’s meals and bathroom breaks) accordingly.

Travel Gear

Don’t forget, you’re packing for two! With a few essentials you can help your pet’s trip go off without a hitch.

Carry On:

  • Carrier – The carrier is the most important piece for air travel with your pet – as airlines have strictly enforced size and weight restrictions. Make sure your carrier is compliant. For this trip Pretzel and I were given the Original Sherpa Pet Carrier to try out. The Sherpa carrier is well-ventilated and roomy, but they also specialize in peace of mind with their Guaranteed on Board® program. Guaranteed on Board® works with many of the major airlines so you can make sure your Sherpa carrier is compliant, and if you fill out a The Guaranteed on Board® certificate and if you are denied boarding due to your carrier, Quaker Pet Group (the makers of Sherpa) will refund your ticket and pet travel fee. Filling out the information and obtaining my certificates was very easy and definitely took a load off my mind.
  • Calming supplement – Sedating your dog is not recommended for air travel. An herbal supplement like Head to Tail Calming can help your pet relax, without drowsiness. Since it’s safe to give up to a triple dose in times on increased anxiety, I typically give Pretzel two supplements in the car as we head over to the airport and then one more before boarding. Don’t forget to declare your pet’s treats or food if you are passing through customs.
  • Quiet Toy or chew – Your pet will likely be in his or her carrier for a long time, especially when you factor in the pre-boarding. It’s a good idea to bring along a chew (just make sure it’s customs-friendly if you are crossing a border) or quiet toy to give to your pet if you notice they are getting restless.
  • Leash, collar, and clean-up tools – Keep a collar with identification on your pet at all times (except when you pass through security), just in case. Make sure you pack your pet’s leash (and harness if you use one) and some poop bags into your carry on, as you’ll want to take your pet for a bathroom break as soon as you land – some airports even have designated pet relief areas! If you are concerned about accidents, line your carrier with a pee pad, or carry one with you.
  • Light blanket of scarf – The first time I flew with Pretzel I was surprised when he found the terminal more stressful than the airplane. I find it helpful to cover his carrier while moving through the airport to keep him quiet, and then put the blanket or scarf into the carrier so he can snuggle up during the flight. To see how your pet reacts to crowds, it might be a good to take a test drive somewhere busy like a pet-friendly store or transit station.


  • Portable crate: You’ll have your carrier with you, but if you are staying in a hotel, or your pet is typically crated when unattended, a soft portable crate will be more roomy as your pet’s home away from home on vacation.
  • Portable food and water dish
  • Food – although if you are short on space you can also pick up food when you arrive at your destination. Many of the brands available at Tisol are also available at, which will ship your food directly to your destination in the USA.

When you’re all settled in at your destination, take your dog to the nearest dog park or just enjoy a long walk together. Enjoy your vacation!

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