Eight-Week-Old Leonberger puppy is sleeping.

Flying with a Puppy that Escapes in Airplane

Flying with a Puppy

When I learned about the Leonberger dogs’ loyalty to their owners and fondness for children, I convinced my husband that– it was not a bean-brained boondoggle– it was worth traveling to purchase a Leonberger puppy. Though we had sufficient airline points to pay for our flights, no one had warned me about the stress of flying with a new puppy. Much less, I didn’t know that we would be flying with a puppy in the airplane cabin that was an escape artist.

Male Leonberger Dog
Leonberger’s are known for their expressive faces and black masks.

Leonberger Club of America

I began the process by joining the Leonberger Club of America. After speaking with several breeders, I finally found one in Seattle, Washington, who had recently mated her female.

Weeks later the breeder confirmed the bitch’s pregnancy. For the first step, I had filled out a questionnaire, and the breeder interviewed me. She wanted to feel confident that I would adequately care for the dog. Additionally, I had to commit to training the puppy so that I could handle the dog when he was full grown.

I convinced her that I had trained all of our dogs (and a few ponies) and that I would not return this one when he weighed 140 pounds. Consequently, the breeder accepted my application and deposit for a Leonberger puppy.

Leonberger Puppies

The puppies were born, and knowing that I had two young children, the breeder picked mine based on temperament. Though some in the dog business will ship puppies in cargo, I felt that it was cruel and opted to travel to Seattle to get ours.

I researched the cost of flying with a puppy on a plane, and though we paid about $50 several years ago, today the price for a pet in the cabin ranges between $100 to $200.

Flying with a Puppy on Southwest

Since Leonberger puppies grow quickly, we picked up our eight-week-old puppy when he was still small enough to travel with us in the airplane cabin. According to the policies for several airlines, a pet can fly in the cabin if it can fit in a pet bag under the seat in front of yours.

Not only did I check online, but I spoke with the airline personnel about flying with a puppy on  Southwest, and other airlines like American, Delta, and United.

Leonberger Puppy
This Leonberger puppy is four months old. (photo by Katie Zulty)

Therefore, the weekend that the puppies turned eight weeks old, my daughter, who was nine, and I flew to Seattle to collect our new family member.

No one had told me about the possible problems that could occur when flying with a puppy in the airplane cabin. While I anticipated the adventure, possible scenarios revolved through my mind like I was riding a tilt-a-whirl.

Traveling with a Pet

I learned that flying with a puppy causes perspiration and heart palpitations. Though we had flown to Seattle with the Sherpa bag under the seat, I wondered what would happen if Fido was too tall or bulky to fit. Suppose the airline personnel confiscated him and sent him to cargo? I was determined that no matter what, I would carry our puppy on the plane.

Leonberger Puppy
Our five-month-old Leonberger puppy enjoys the outdoors.

Flying with a Puppy is Challenging

When we picked up our puppy from the breeder in our rental car, my daughter held him on her lap, and she spoke softly as she ran her hands through his coat. Separation anxiety caused him to yelp and yap during the forty-five-minute drive to the airport.

Driving a rental car in an unfamiliar city with a screaming dog is an experience that you wouldn’t want to miss. But most importantly, I worried that he would bark in the airport and draw attention to us.

When we arrived at the airport and dropped off the car, we walked him to the pet area hoping that he would eliminate. It was his first time walking on a leash. Of course, with cars buzzing around, he was too nervous to do anything. So knowing that we would have to fly for several hours, we hoped that he wouldn’t be uncomfortable or have an accident.

Eight-week-old Leonberger puppy is on his way to his new home.
A Sherpa pet carrier makes flying with a puppy easier.

 Puppy in Airport

Though I had paid his airfare, I worried that passengers might suffer from dog allergies or complain to the airline personnel about flying with a puppy in the cabin.

After passing through airport security, we took Fido to the restroom and filled his water bowl. No surprise, he wouldn’t drink, and we headed to the gate that was two gates past our boarding zone, hoping to hide him.

We placed his carrier on the floor, and I cringed as high-pitched screeches erupted from within the bag. You would have thought that it was a group of fighting cats in that Sherpa.

Flying with a puppy
A three-month-old Leonberger puppy can easily look over the deck.

Puppy Boards Plane

Hoping to calm him, I unzipped the top of his carrier so that Fido could stick his head out. To distract him, we slipped him ice cubes and puppy kibble from between our fingers. Also, we hoped that the breeder’s soft blanket, scented by his littermates, would soothe him.

Thankfully, he was asleep when they called our flight, and I had slung the bag over my shoulder like it was just another carry-on. But, I placed my hand on the black mesh end to prevent anyone from seeing the contraband. Only the airline staff knew that I lugged invaluable loot.

Puppy in Airplane Cabin

We boarded, and I felt elated when I slid the sack under the seat in front of us, and it fit. When the plane door slammed shut, I  knew that they couldn’t throw us off. After we took off, I took a deep breath and exhaled. I celebrated with a glass of cabernet. Little did I know that I was celebrating a little too early.

A Leonberger puppy flying in a Southwest cabin.
An eight-week-old Leonberger puppy fits under the airline seat.

Puppy Awakes

The aroma of chicken and beef drifted through the cabin and Fido stirred.  When the stewardess served our dinner, my daughter had taken her retainer out of her mouth and rolled it in a napkin placing it near her plate.

After eating, the flight attendant removed the tray, and five minutes later, my daughter noticed that her retainer was missing. We jumped out of our seats and hurried forward to alert the attendant who pawed through the trash with plastic-gloved hands and found it.

Puppy Missing in Plane

When we returned, I checked the pet bag and noticed that the zipper was open; Fido had crawled out of his prison. Then,  I heard the lady behind me say, ” Where did you come from cutie?” Uh oh, the fugitive had fled.

I rose and edged sideways out in the aisle, and I turned around and grinned at the woman behind us who had an escapee sprawled across her Nikes, gnawing her shoestrings.

Ten-week-old Leonberger Puppy
This Leonberger puppy is too big to fly in an airplane cabin.

She picked up the dog, petted him and handed him over. I apologized and returned to my seat. When I placed the absconder back in his bag, his soprano shrieks pierced the cabin like he was in a choir. Sweat beaded my hairline. I wasn’t allowed to remove Fido, so I brushed my foot against the side of the canvas hoping that I could calm the criminal.

Puppy Disturbs Man

The grey-bearded man who sat next to me crossed his arms over his potbelly and said, “I had no idea that you were flying with a puppy in the airplane cabin.  What kind is it?”

I flashed a smile and said,  “He’s a Leonberger puppy.”

“Hamburger? Hamburger puppy? I eat those especially if they are noisy when I am trying to rest.”

I twirled my hair around my index finger and placed it behind my ear and said, “Sorry.”

Eight-Week-Old Leonberger Puppy
We visited our eight-week-old Leonberger puppy the day before we took him home.

The man leaned back and closed his eyes. A few rows behind, a baby screamed. I watched the hamburger-eating man open one eye and furrow his brow. Thank goodness it wasn’t us bothering him this time.

 Flying with a New Puppy

As a result of Fido’s escapades, we made some drastic changes. The name Fido did not fit our new puppy, and we changed his name to Harry, as in Harry Houdini.

Leonberger Puppy had escaped in airplane
Our Leonberger puppy and our children grew up together.

No Regrets: Flying with a Puppy

Even with the stress, flying with a new puppy in the cabin was worth it. First of all, I can’t imagine taking a puppy away from its littermates and putting it in airplane cargo.

Also, though it sounds bizarre to fly cross-country to purchase a dog, I wouldn’t trade the two days that I had spent with my daughter for anything. We explored Seattle and loved staying in our bed and breakfast. It’s a trip that we have never forgotten.

Additionally, we trained Harry and never regretted our decision to adopt him. He loved romping with the children and he became one of the best dogs that we have ever owned.

Black masked Leonberger Dog
The Leonberger is known for their expressive faces.

Three Leonbergers

With that said, you may notice that the photos above represent different Leonbergers. Now we own our third one.

Check out Dog Bite Report and Puppy Training 101–Blame the Husband  (published on Erma Bombeck’s site) for hilarious stories about our Leonbergers.

Do you think it is worth flying to purchase a puppy that you will keep for its lifespan? Would you ship one in cargo? Sometimes I feel guilty that I didn’t adopt a dog from Animal Services, what do you think?

Eight and ten-week old Leonberger puppy

Dog Bite Report

Leonberger Dog Show

Two Traveling Texans


31 thoughts on “Flying with a Puppy that Escapes in Airplane

  1. What size kennel did you buy???? We are going to fly across country to pick up a leonberger puppy and trying to decide whether to fly back or drive

    1. I got our Leonbergers as soon as they turned eight weeks. I checked with the airlines to find out the dimensions under their seats and their pet policies, and I bought my Sherpa bag accordingly. I also double checked the size with the breeder. This is my third Leonberger, and he is the largest weighing over 155 pounds. You should be fine flying with yours.. Also, there was no way that I was putting a puppy in cargo, they are stressed enough leaving their litter mates. Congratulations. Also, who is your breeder?

  2. Aww this was such a great read – I loved your writing style in this post!! I definitely admire you for taking him in the cabin and not putting him in cargo… like you said, separation from his litter and being in a plane is enough stress! We just got a new puppy a couple weeks ago. We also fell in love with his mom when we were visiting him, so we took her home as well! They are both rescue dogs, and my family has gotten local rescue dogs for years. I don’t think you should feel guilty for not getting a dog from animal services, though. To each their own, especially if you are looking for a specific breed. Maybe there is a Leonberger rescue organization that you can look into, though! I’d really like to get a pure bred dachshund one day and will probably look for a dachshund rescue group.

    1. Sarah, thank you for your lovely story. I admire you for adopting rescue dogs and we will considerate it the future. Good luck with your puppy and the mother, and I hope that you rescue a dachshund soon.

  3. I would totally fly interstate to pick up a puppy – what an eventful flight you had! I love the idea of adopting but I think if there is a specific breed or type of dog you want and you have a good breeder, then I think it’s ok to shop rather than adopt. I’m hoping my friend’s dog has puppies and then I won’t really have to make that decision, I will “naturally” acquire a puppy! How lucky Harry is to have you as his hoomans!

    1. Sammie, thank you for your comment, and I hope that your friend’s dog has puppies. That would be exciting to see them so young and you could pick your favorite one.

  4. I’d love to get a dog but I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving him in a kennel while traveling and I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing him on a plane either – it’s such a tricky situation! Guess it all comes down to the personality of your dog, in the end 🙂

    1. Vanessa, I totally understand, we can’t make plans to go anywhere unless we have a dog sitter.

  5. This is an entertaining story — knowing that everything was going to turn out okay before I read it! What a little rascal. I would gladly have picked up your escape artist and held him the rest of the plane ride. Such a cutie!

  6. Such a wonderful read. I did not know you could travel with a pet in the cabin, maybe only domestic flights. Not sure about Uk flights. Harry is so lucky to have you. #theweeklypostcard

    1. Thank you, it truly was a wonderful trip. Actually, we flew internationally with our second Leonberger puppy in the cabin. That was stressful too.

  7. Oh my gosh! Sooooooooo stinkin’ cute! Flying with a dog is definitely nerve-wrecking! I also took my little sheltie before she became chubby and I was afraid something would go wrong. Luckily, she’ was quite a quiet dog and I had no problems the several times I did it! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  8. I strongly support adopting animals instead of purchasing whenever possible. That said, your puppy looks so sweet and precious, and I’m glad he has brought your family so much joy. Flying with a pet sounds very stressful, luckily he was so cute that he charmed the lady behind your row. Found through #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  9. Harry is adorable. I remember flying with my cat when I moved from Phoenix to NY. It was so stressful. She was crying most of the way and I felt so bad but I couldn’t leave her behind. I have seen plenty of pets that don’t mind it though. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  10. I loved reading your post! We don’t have many Leonbergers here, in California. It’s probably because the weather is to hot for them. I am “owned” by a Vizsla myself and I know how difficult it is to travel with a dog. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Anda, my neighbor has a Vizsla and they seem like great companions. You are smart to have a short haired dog and not have to worry about shedding. Thanks for your comment. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  11. Oh wow it does sound stressful! Haha just reading the story I was wondering what would happen next! I think I’d be a bit scared but also so enchanted if a puppy just happened upon my feet on a plane haha

    1. Camila, thank goodness the lady with the Nikes liked dogs and didn’t mind a puppy sprawled across her feet! Thanks for reading my post.

  12. This post has really made me smile! To be honest I didn’t even know you could take dogs/ puppies on a plane before. It sounds like a very stressful adventure but worth it now you have such a gorgeous family pet. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  13. First of all, Harry is adorable.

    Second, I may have to travel with cats in the not-to-distant future. Did you have to call the airline to ask them about their pet policy, or is it readily available online?

    (sent here by #theweekylpostcard)

    1. Eddie, I am sure that the pet policy is online, but I wanted to talk to someone too. Good luck traveling with your cats.

  14. I absolutely love this post!! I’d never even heard of a Leonberger, and they are so adorable. This story has everything, including an evil ogre! How could he even make that hamburger remark? What a scrooge. Glad everything turned out. I can’t imagine putting a puppy in cargo. He would be so cold and scared!

    1. Cynthia, thank you so much! As far as putting a puppy in cargo, puppies are stressed enough leaving their mother and litter mates, it seems mean to then put them in a cage and shove them in cargo alone.

    1. Jo, thanks for reading my post. I worried about sitting near someone that was allergic to dogs. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

  15. What a great post! Travelling with a puppy on a plane definitely sounds stressful, I think I would have a breakdown worrying about both the dog and other passengers! Certainly looks like the journey was worth it though – what a cutie!

    1. Thank you for your comment. It was completely worth it and now I am more confident about flying with a pet.

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