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Preparing for our first flight

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Stella and I are going on our first flight in just over a week. Stella is a 50lb lab mix. She's good on a leash and around other people. We've gone to PetSmart a few times, as well as a local, crowded outdoor bar. In all those situations she has been very calm. Still, an airport is it's own beast. I'm wondering if I should take her out there a few days ahead of time to get her used to that. I'm wondering if anyone else has done this, and whether it's a good idea. I'm wondering how airport security would react to me just walking around the place. I figure having an ESA vest would be helpful in explaining. On a side note, I can't seem to find anywhere to buy a vest that doesn't also sell doctor's letters. I'm really loathe to give these people money, is there a more reputable place that sells them?


Trust me, airport security has seen a lot weirder than you and your ESA dog. I doubt they will do more than comment on how pretty she is.

As for training, yes, I would take her to the airport in advance and expose her to it. Also ensure she can hold a downstay for the duration of the flight (plus an exta 30-60 min in case if delays).  A 50lb dog with a decent tuck should have  no trouble fitting.

If you want a vest your best best is probably to buy a service dog vest with ESA patches instead. Several places sell these.

Good for you!
I advise against getting a vest. I think they create the impression that the dog is a service dog which confuses the public and might make people judgmental if she does something like wander on leash.  I don't think security will pay any attention to you on the front side of the TSA. People fly with pets (they just have to pay for them.)
I took all my dogs to the airport on an excursion before flying. It is a different place for them. The shiny floors, echoing sounds and crowds would give any creature pause.  You'll be stressed on flight day, so getting her accustomed early will help. She's also going to need to clear security, so you might want to find a friendly stranger to help with that. Hold the leash and have someone she's never met before offer a hand to sniff and then touch her all over.  I'm sure you know about fasting her and withholding water, and so forth, but let us know if not.  But I have to give you one piece of advice: get the biggest Ziploc bag available. In it, put a couple of Chux-type pads that absorb water into gel, some paper towels or Handi-wipes, a small packet of baby wipes and a couple of poop bags.  If she vomits or has an accident (or just knocks over a water dish at the other end of the flight) you can clean up the mess, clean your hands, seal all the dirty stuff in the big Ziploc and be gone a lot faster. Murphy's law kicks in when flying with a dog. It really does.

Thanks for the advice guys! A few follow up questions. Stella is good with her basic sit, down and stay, but I've never specifically had her stay for 30+ minutes. That said, she's not a very high energy dog, she spends 90% of her day lying on my bed honestly. I think that once she's settled, she won't have any problem staying. I'm also going to keep her on leash at all times, just in case. Should I be worried? Also, I saw a suggestion elsewhere that Benadryl can help with potential motion sickness. Is this true? If so, I'm thinking it would also help her keep calm. And should I worry about seating? When I bought the ticket online, United didn't give me the option to request bulkhead seating. There were seats with extra legroom available for an upgrade, but I'd like to avoid the $40 fee if possible. I know I have to call them, is this something that will get worked out then?

Thanks again! This is all a bit nerve-wrecking, and your advice really helps!

If you want bulkhead seating you need to call the airline in advance and work it out.

How long is your flight? Because lazing around on your bed is a lot diffetent from holding a tuck and downstay for an extended period.

I prefer not to drug dogs for a flight unless I know exactly how they will respond to the medication. Does your dog get motion sick in the car? If not, I wouldn't expect that to be a problem on a plane.

Also, the law requires that your dog be on a leash the entire time, so, good plan there.


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