Tricks, tips, and hacks for flying with a large ESA dog.

Are you thinking of taking your newly-minted Emotional Support Dog, a 105# Ridgeback, along for the flight?  Read on for some pointers.

Are you concerned with the dimensions of the bulkhead seating area? What about layovers? Toileting issues? Maybe first-class is the way to go (for those with the dollars or miles to spare).

Here are a few pointers to help smooth the journey.

Before you arrive at the airport

Call the airline

After booking your flight, make sure to call the airline and let them know you’re traveling with a large ESA. Try to reserve a bulkhead seat, allowing you and your doggie more room.

Keep in mind Southwest does not reserve seats, so make sure to show up early.

Exercise your dog

Take the dog to the park, give him a long run to wear ’em out.

Do not feed your dog

Prior to the flight, avoid feeding your dog, which should reduce the chance of motion sickness. Also, limit your dog’s intake of water.

No new treats

Along those same lines, limit any new treats within two days of your flight, as we’re looking to avoid an upset stomach.

Toileting a large ESA on the flight.

Sir, your dog’s eyes looked a bit crossed! Oh man, that’s not good news.

Several things contribute to a dog’s need to toilet, including activity, routine, stress, and fullness.

Experienced ESA travelers will suggest withholding food and water before the flight, with the hopes that Fido can make that seven-hour flight.

Dogs are physiologically designed for periodic short fasts. It doesn’t hurt them. In fact, if a dog gets diarrhea one way to reset the system is to withhold food (but not water) for twenty-four hours.

Once you pass security, you can not leave to toilet the dog without going through security once again.

Your mileage may vary, but in our experience, flying red-eye will not make up for not withholding food.

Flying first-class.

These options offer a LOT more room for the ESA; so If this is a viable option for you, we’d suggest you take it.

The bulkhead.

Bulkhead seating does not provide more room than regular seating — assuming your ESA can fit a part of their body under the seat in front of you.

The “under” command.

To familiarize your ESA with tight spaces, you could use a table, chair, or box as a starting point.

Please remember that other passengers have a right to their space. Ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing the foot space.

Items to bring on the plane

The following items can help keep your doggie comfortable on the plane:

  1. Thunder Shirt are helpful for a dog who is not used to flying.
  2. A collapsible bowl. Remember to really limit the amount of water provided to your dog.
  3. To combat motion sickness, vets suggest 1mg of Benadryl per pound of body weight. All dogs are not the same, so contact your vet to get the precise dosage for your dog and always double check the dosage of your pills.
  4. Last, but not least, your dog’s favorite toy to help pass the time.

What to do after you arrive at your destination.

You’ll have already scouted out the airport’s pet relief area, so head there. Remember to give your emotional support dog a big hug and thank them for their service!

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