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When I decided to add a Lagotto Romagnolo puppy to my household, I searched for a responsible, knowledgeable breeder I thought would breed the qualities I wanted in my new dog. When I found my chosen breeder, I didn’t let the fact that she was in the Midwest, while I live in the MidAtlantic, stop me from applying to be on her puppy waiting list.

Families wanting to welcome a new puppy into their lives have more options than ever for connecting with the perfect pet. If you’ve found that special new furry family member a few states away, here are some suggestions to help you make sure your puppy has a safe and comfortable first flight.

Find Out What You Need for the Flight

As soon as my puppy was born, I started making plans to fly to the Midwest and bring her home. But before making any reservations, it’s important to check with your airline to determine if they will fly a puppy. Some airlines have restrictions on age, size, and breed type, as well as what type of travel crate is required.

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If you plan to have the puppy travel with you in the airplane cabin, you’ll need to have that noted on the reservation. Most airlines limit the number of animals allowed in the cabin at one time, so make your reservation as far in advance as possible.

Only small dogs and cats that can fit in special carriers under the seat are allowed in the cabin. There’s usually a fee of $100-$150 in addition to the cost of your ticket. Carriers cost $30 and up. Some airlines may not allow dogs in the cabin at all and will transport them as cargo in a heated and ventilated hold. Learn about specific dog airline travel guidelines before you go.

If the puppy is shipped as cargo, you need to take weather and time of year into account as you plan for the puppy’s travel, which may be affected by extremely warm or cold temperatures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that some U.S. carriers don’t allow pets to be shipped between May and September, the hottest months, if they’re being transported as cargo.

Be Sure the Puppy Is Old Enough

Puppies must be at least eight weeks old and have been weaned for at least five days for air travel, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. If it’s a small breed dog, there may be weight and age minimums, too.

The CDC requires all dogs entering the United States to be immunized against rabies. Puppies should get general vaccinations at least one month prior to traveling, and rabies vaccines are not given before a puppy is three months old. Therefore, dogs entering the U.S. on international flights must be at least 16 weeks old.

small dog in pet carrier for airline travel

Make a Visit to the Vet

The puppy must be healthy enough to travel, so a visit to the veterinarian is important. Some airlines require a veterinary health certificate that is issued within a specific number of days of travel.

Deworming should be completed at least three days before the puppy is scheduled to fly. Puppies can’t be accepted for travel if they have any signs of recent surgeries, so make sure they’re completely healed from any procedures.

Whether you’re traveling with your puppy from state to state or internationally, there will be health requirements you have to meet that will vary by your origin and destination.

Prepare the Puppy

To help your puppy relax on the flight, it’s a good idea to order the travel crate that meets the airline’s requirements ahead and have it delivered to the breeder. The breeder can put the puppy into the carrier for naptime and place it under a desk or table to help the puppy get used to it.

Offering the puppy treats or feeding him in the carrier may also give it a positive association. Ask the breeder to give you a blanket or soft toy that smells like the mother and littermates to accompany your pup inside the crate.

Plan for the Unique Needs of the Puppy’s Breed

Since dogs come in all shapes and sizes, travel might be easier for some breeds than others. Large breed puppies, for example, will need a bigger, sturdier crate than their smaller companions. The pet carrier must fit under the seat in front of you, and most airlines require that the pup weigh less than 25 pounds and be able to stand up in the crate, turn around, and lie down.

If you’re traveling with a brachycephalic (or short-muzzled) breed, it’s especially important to have a well-ventilated crate and constant air flow. “These breeds can run into respiratory challenges in increased temperature or humidity. Confinement in a carrier could exacerbate these conditions,” notes AKC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein.

Check with your airline to confirm specific requirements.

Mudi puppies peeking out of a carrier.
Valkovich Olga/Shutterstock

How to Handle Flight Day With Your Dog

The puppy shouldn’t be fed solid food for about four hours before the flight, but it’s a good idea to offer a little water and time outside to exercise and eliminate. Place several layers of puppy pee pads inside the crate and carry extras to add to the crate or use at the airport.

If you’re traveling with a puppy in the cabin, most airlines require you to sign in at the passenger check-in desk and show any required paperwork, such as your reservation and the puppy’s health certificate.

If you have a young puppy who hasn’t received the full series of shots, it’s best to carry him around the airport and stay away from designated dog elimination areas. You can take your puppy outside or to a low-traffic area of the airport, put him on a pee pad, and give him a chance to go.

The Federal Aviation Administration considers the pet travel crate to be carry-on luggage, and it must be put through the carry-on luggage screening device – but your puppy does not. When you go through security, carry the pup in your arms and take him through the human screening process. If possible, don’t check any luggage, so you can leave the airport immediately when you arrive. Use a backpack to keep your hands free for the pup.

What to Take on Travel Day

  • Travel crate that meets your airline’s requirements
  • Leash and puppy harness
  • ID tag for dog and crate
  • Health records
  • Airline reservation verification and pet fee receipt
  • Pee pads
  • Wet wipes, paper towels, plastic bags
  • Water and bowl
  • Puppy food in case of layovers
  • Treats and soft toys (not squeaky)
  • Change of clothes in case your pup has an accident on you

Our Lagotto puppy was a superstar in the airport. So many people stopped to ask what breed she was and to pet the adorable ball of fur – offering great puppy socialization opportunities. On the plane, she slept quietly in her crate. I’ve never had more fun flying.

Related article: How Do I Know if My Puppy Is Healthy?
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