How To Fly With a Golden Retriever (Domestic & Intl.)

Updated September 5, 2023

Becoming a dog owner doesn’t mean giving up on travel, and you may wonder how to fly with a golden retriever.

Since golden retrievers are a large breed, flying with your dog can be tricky but not impossible.

The restrictions and requirements for flying with pets may vary by airline, destination, and other factors.

However, some rules for flying with pets are universal – your dog must be healthy, have documents, and not pose a risk to other passengers.

Unfortunately, most times, adult golden retrievers aren’t allowed on board due to their size and must travel in cargo, which is an unpleasant experience.

If you decide to travel with your dog, consider its safety and comfort. Sometimes, leaving a dog at home with a trustworthy caretaker is better than stressing it with flights.

Guidelines & Restrictions

Each airline’s rules regarding animals on board may vary.

Still, some guidelines and restrictions for flying with dogs are imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other governmental bodies.

U.S. airlines are legally obliged to follow CDC and USDA guidelines, and dog owners should know these basic regulations. Note that these guidelines only apply to domestic air travel, and other countries may have additional rules.

The USDA requires dogs to be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned to fly. The dog must be in good health and not pose a risk to airline passengers. Airlines can refuse to transport a sick or aggressive dog.

All dogs crossing home state borders must be vaccinated against rabies and hold a valid health certificate issued within 30 days of the flight date.

However, if the dog travels via cargo, the health certificate must be issued no earlier than ten days before travel.

The USDA and CDC don’t require owners to use tranquilizers or sedatives – the decision is reserved for the owner and veterinarian.

Dogs traveling to or from a destination where the temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit or falls below 45 degrees should hold a veterinarian’s letter stating they are accustomed to extreme temperatures.

If the temperature at the departure or destination point falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the dog may not be allowed to travel in the cargo even with a vet’s letter.

The dog must travel in an appropriate carrier. Airlines can specify the required carrier dimensions, but the USDA states that the dog’s body parts can’t protrude through the carrier holes. In other words, wire carriers are prohibited.

The carrier must be spacious enough for the dog to stand, sit, and move around and have a leak-proof floor covered with an absorbent lining. Soft-sided carriers are only permitted in the cabin.

Carrier ventilation should make up 14% or more percent of the total wall space to ensure the dog can breathe, and 33% of the vents should be located on the carrier’s top.

If a dog travels in the cargo area, the carrier should be marked with “Live Animal” on the top and side. The dog shouldn’t be wearing a leash or muzzle during the travel.

Lastly, a carrier should contain only one dog, but two puppies under six months old can travel together if they weigh under 20 pounds each.

International Flight Regulations

Traveling with a dog abroad can be tricky because each country’s regulations differ. Before traveling overseas, contact the destination country’s embassy or airport and consult regarding rules for traveling with animals.

Australia has the strictest rules for traveling with pets. Local authorities require dogs to have a microchip, valid rabies vaccination, and a negative Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre (RNAT) test.

Furthermore, a certified veterinarian in the U.S. must fill out a Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre (RNAT) test declaration.

Any dog traveling to Australia must travel in the cargo area and be quarantined in a government-approved facility for two weeks.

Pregnant golden retrievers can’t enter Australia. Additionally, the dog must be vaccinated against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Para-influenza, and dewormed.

Dog entry requirements in European countries typically aren’t as strict. For example, to enter Austria, a dog must be at least seven months old, identifiable with a microchip, have a rabies vaccination, and carry a valid health certificate.

Belgium only requires a valid health certificate and a microchip. Canada also requires only a health certificate, microchip, and rabies vaccination.

Brazil authorities require a dog to be vaccinated against rabies, have documents showing the dog’s breed, name, gender, size, and other essential information, and have a valid health certificate.

As a rule of thumb, a passport, recent health certificate, and valid rabies vaccination is required for any international air travel with a dog, but some countries may have additional regulations.

So, the vet’s office will be your first stop regardless of the destination country. Make blood tests, renew vaccinations if necessary, and obtain health certificates and permits.

On Board Or Cargo?

Flights can be stressful for dogs, especially if the owner isn’t around. Unfortunately, whether a dog will be allowed on board depends on its size.

Since golden retrievers are large dogs, the answer to “can a golden retriever fly on board?” typically is – no.

Although specific airline rules may differ, most only allow in the cabin pets whose carrier can fit under the seat in front of you. Unfortunately, this means that adult golden retrievers have to travel in cargo.

However, golden retriever puppies can travel in the cabin of some airlines as long as the carrier is appropriate. Some airlines have weight restrictions for pets on board, and golden retriever puppies can be heavy.

Airlines also have a limit on the number of animals on board. Some airlines can accommodate only one animal on a flight, while others allow over five.

Still, you should call the airline before booking a flight to ensure that there’s space for your golden retriever.

Airlines Allowing Pets On Board

If you’re flexible in airline choice and want to bring your golden retriever puppy in the cabin, a list of airlines allowing pets on board may be handy. Note that the regulations are subject to change, so check them before booking a flight.

Alaska Airlines allows pets over eight weeks old in the cabin if the carrier can fit under the front seat. American Airlines allows up to seven dogs in the cabin if the flight duration doesn’t exceed 11 hours and 30 minutes.

Delta Airlines allow puppies over ten weeks old for domestic travel and 15 weeks old for international travel in the cabin if they fit in a small carrier.

Frontier Airlines allows small pets in the cabin but requests the owners not to give their pets any food or water to avoid accidents.

Hawaiian Airlines allow dogs in the cabin only on some flights, and the dog’s weight shouldn’t exceed 70 pounds.

JetBlue allows dogs over eight weeks old and weighing under 20 pounds to travel in the cabin but doesn’t accept dogs in the cargo.

Airlines Banning Pets On Board

All major airlines in the U.S. allow dogs on board, provided they meet the dimension, age, health state, and weight requirements, and the animal count in the cabin doesn’t exceed the limit.

Finding an airline to accommodate an adult golden retriever weighing over 55 pounds can be challenging, so the dog will most likely have to travel in cargo.

Note that some airlines may be an exception and only allow service animals on board, so even puppies may have to travel in cargo. It’s always worth checking the regulations with the airline directly.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of flying with a dog depends on the airline and whether the dog travels on board or in cargo. Most airlines charge $50-$250 for dogs on board regardless of the dog’s weight or size.

However, you may have to pay additional fees for the pet’s carrier because it’s classified as a carry-on bag.

The price of dog transportation in cargo is usually calculated based on the dog’s weight and the carrier’s size. Airlines may also charge extra for longer flights where airline workers must take care of the dog.

Expect to pay $200-$400 for an average golden retriever. Layovers and plane changes may come at an extra fee. A cargo crate may cost an additional $50-$150.

Don’t forget to budget for required health checks, vaccinations, quarantine facility fees, and manual check-in.

Legal Protections For Service Golden Retrievers

Service animals don’t classify as pets, so the regulations for flying with pets don’t relate to them. If your golden retriever helps you perform daily tasks due to a disability, learn the legal protections for flying with service animals.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), airlines must allow service dogs on board regardless of breed, age, or size. Note that the rule only refers to domestic flights, and international guidelines may differ.

Furthermore, service animals can travel for free. Many owners are confused about can large service dogs fly in a cabin. The answer is yes, as long as the dog can sit on the owner’s lap or a separate seat and not obstruct the way.

Airlines can determine whether a dog is a service animal by observing its behavior, asking the owner which tasks the dog is trained to perform, or requesting a U.S. Department of Transportation form specifying details about the dog’s health, behavior, and training.

However, airlines can refuse a service dog on board if it violates safety requirements, poses a threat to other passengers, or doesn’t have a valid health check.

Image credit: Pexels

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