Flying With a Large Dog

Golden Retriever

"Can My Large Dog Fly In-Cabin?"


Hi PetRelocation,

I'm desperately trying to find a way my dog can ride in the cabin of a plane to relocate to Japan.

She is 40 pounds, so "too large" by all standards I can find, but I'm hoping someone can give me an alternative (service dog, therapy dog, specific airline?). We are too scared for her to fly under the plane in cargo.




Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for contacting us! Unfortunately the short answer to your question is "probably not." Please see more about your dog shipping options or read on for more details.

The cabin vs. cargo dilemma is a common question about pet shipping, as many pet owners are not aware of the conditions within airplane cargo holds and are afraid of transporting their pets that way. A 40-pound dog is indeed too large to travel in-cabin on most (if not all) airlines and will have to ride as cargo.

Apart from very small pets, only trained and certified service or support dogs with legitimate documentation are sometimes allowed to accompany their owners in-cabin. If your dog is not a certified assistance dog and you are simply trying to find a way around following pet air travel regulations, you will not be allowed to fly your pet in-cabin.

It sounds like you have concerns about cargo travel, but deeper research shows that flying a pet as cargo is very safe and may in fact be more comfortable for your dog. Check out this post where we address questions about flying pets as cargo and another where we disprove myths about shipping pets as cargo.

You'll see that cargo holds are pressurized and climate-controlled and aren't that different from the conditions in which human passengers fly in the cabin. Assuming you book with a pet-friendly airline (such as United) and that your dog's crate is airline-approved and appropriately-sized, your pet should ride safely and comfortably as cargo on his trip to Japan.

If you have any more questions about pet transport to Japan and are interested in hiring some assistance, be sure to contact us for a consultation. We've helped many pets travel safely via cargo and would be happy to discuss your questions and concerns.

Thanks for your question and good luck with your move!


Pet Travel Question Details:

Name: Jennifer
Number of Pets: 1
Pet Type: Dog
Pet Breed: Soft coated Wheaton/Golden retriever mix
From: United States
To: Tokyo, Japan

Want to talk to a pet transport expert about your dog shipping options? Contact us below to get started.

Get A Consultation


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts




United States, Japan


Add a Comment

By Kristi on December 26, 2017 at 8:48 am

We have a Boston terrier and have read that this bread could suffer in a cargo hold. Is this true?

By on December 26, 2017 at 10:42 am

Hello Kristi,

Thanks for reaching out! While you will need to take extra precautions for snub-nosed breeds, like Boston Terriers, it is not unsafe for them to fly. Please read through some of our tips and tricks for preparing snub-nosed breeds for travel here to learn how to make your dog's travels as safe as possible. Also since every dog handles traveling and stress differently, it's important to speak with your vet to determine if your dog is healthy enough to travel.

We hope this helps!

By Sean on March 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Hi any suggestions if the dog is a bit unfriendly as well? I have a 40lb border collie/shiba inu mix. He is great with people and other dogs when he's in a safe familiar place (my house, the local dog park, a walk in the neighborhood, etc). But whenever he goes to the vet or has to stay in a kennel while on vacation he turns into a real growling, snarling, snapping jerk. I know for certain he would be this way to the cargo handlers and anyone else he comes in contact with during the boarding and loading/unloading process. Is his aggression an issue? Would he need to be sedated?

By on March 14, 2018 at 11:47 am

Hello Sean!

For dogs with potential aggression issues, we suggest labeling the travel crate with a note explaining that your dog is wary of strangers. If you choose an airline with a dedicated pet program in place, only trained professionals will be handling him so his personality quirks should not preclude him from completing a safe flight, but it helps to do as much as you can to notify those involved. We recommend against sedation, as it can pose serious health risks to a pet in flight. There are natural ways to help relieve anxiety before a flight, including making sure he gets plenty of exercise before he travels, and including a shirt or thin blanket that smells like home in the crate. Thanks for reaching out to us with your question!

By Tristan Wright on March 14, 2018 at 12:24 pm

I bet your comment about United being pet friendly would be different now that they are responsible for the death of a puppy and there are several other instances of animal abuse.

By Steven on March 14, 2018 at 2:19 pm

United is the worst carrier for pets. It has more then twice the deaths per 10,000 then any of its competitors. United told ABC News that it assumes full responsibility for the puppy's death. A spokesperson could not immediately say if anyone has been disciplined."This was a tragic accident that should have never occurred, as pets should never be placed in the overhead bin,” United said in a statement. "We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them. We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again."The airline has the highest rate of incidents involving animal loss, injury or death during air transportation, with 2.24 for every 10,000 animals transported by U.S. carriers, according to Department of Transportation. That's more than twice as many as competitors.

Add a Comment

Name is required

Email is required and must be in the format

Comment is required

Back to top