How a Dog goes through Airport Security Screening


A reader asked me this question: “I was wondering what is involved in taking a dog through security? Do they stay in their crate? Do they have to go through the metal detector? Or the new scanners?” – Dawn

This is a good – and frequent – question. I’ll do my best to demystify the process and let you know exactly what to expect.  I have found the process is much the same in Canada, the US and in Europe. The exception is that in Canada, you will need to go through a secondary screen upon return; this will occur nowhere else. (That, Dear Readers, might be a post for another day.)

Okay, so follow me through the airport labyrinth:

1. Check you and your pet in at the airline reservation desk (or wherever the airline told you to check in). Then, with your pet in his/her airline-compliant carrier and your boarding passes and identification in hand, make your way to the security screening line.

By the way, with regard to carrier requirements, be sure to check the details with your airline or on their website. While most airline requirements for carriers are standard, airlines can vary from each other on small details.

Security Screening:

2. Take off your own items (purse, laptop, coat, belts, shoes, etc.) and place them in a bin.

3. In a separate bin, place your pet’s items (carrier, harness, leash, collar with ID tags, toys etc.).

4. Once your and your pet’s items are in bins on the conveyor belt, take your now “naked” pet out of the carrier.

5. Be sure to always carry your pet. Most airports do not allow your dog to walk on a leash. If your dog is too heavy, or, if for example you have a bad back, let the security agents know this and make sure that the leash and collar you are using for your pet will be metal detector friendly: all fabric with plastic clips and NO metal tags.

6. Walk through the upright metal detector with your pet in your arms (or on leash at your side).

7. If you are traveling with a pet who is high-spirited or frightens easily, you can request screening in a room so your pet will not escape should you be unable to contain him or her while out of the carrier. (This option is often used for cats.)

8. The bipeds believe the now more common body scanners are not safe for humans, let alone pets. Whether traveling with or without me, they will say, “I opt out” and select a pat down (much to the annoyance of the TSA agents). What does this mena for you? Removing your pet from the carrier (as above the carrier goes through the x-ray with everything else) and be prepared to present your furry companion to the security officers should they decide to inspect your pet.

Your pet’s “pat down” will be much like your own and might include: fur being gently petted against the “grain,” pressure applied to the gut to feel for unusual bulging – Mom always makes sure I’ve gone for a good bathroom break before entering security – and a quick look into the eyes, ears and, maybe, mouth.

9. Place your pet back in the carrier before going for your own pat down.

10. With your pet still in his or her carrier, collect your items and continue on your way. From this point, your pet will likely be in the carrier until you arrive at your destination. As such, you may choose to leave your pet “naked” in the carrier for comfort.

I hope you have found this useful. Do you have anything to add? Any good tips and tricks? Any stories you would like to share? Please do so in the comments below so we can all benefit!



31 Comments on “How a Dog goes through Airport Security Screening

  1. Great info again Sonja!! People need to know these things when traveling with their babies!!!

  2. Interesting! Our experiences were slightly different. We never got asked to go into a body scanner (and thus never had to opt out and get separate screening) and every time we went through the metal detector, they also had to swipe my hands and test for bomb residue. I also always forget to take off her collar and it’s never set off the metal detector (so if you forget, don’t stress. Just walk through and see if it goes off. :))

    • LOL! awesome … and true … it is like jewellery right? sometimes you forget … worse case – step back, remove and try again!
      Let me know what happens the first time you try to opt out from the body scanner. TSA agents … we are ummm…. not friends.

  3. Many airports are now also doing hand swabbing. Because you can’t go through the detector that detects explosives, they often will swab your hands because you are carrying your dog through. I had Layla in my arms when I did this and that wasn’t a problem. You might also want to suggest that people carry a treat in their pocket. Once we were done with security Layla was beyond thrilled to take in her new surroundings and wanted very little to do with going back in her bag. I now put a “high priority” treat in my pocket and use it to lure her in 🙂

  4. Thank you for explaining, as always – one day we will take the plunge and it will be a lot less stressful armed with the knowledge of what to expect 😉

  5. We’ve flown with Wrigley twice from LAX through Miami to the Bahamas, and once from LAX to Vancouver. So far, I’ve not been asked to go through the new body scanners. When they see I have a dog, they just make me me walk through the old fashioned metal detector with him in my arms. Sometimes, they let him through with his harness on, but twice, I’ve been asked to take it off before I walk through the detector with him.

    Virtually every trip, I’ve had my hands swabbed, which wasn’t a big deal. So far, though, nobody has ever patted Wrigley down. Not that he’d mind — he loves human attention!

    • That sounds about right … I have only been petted down twice. (Newark) I think it depends on the airport and the TSA agent. The hand swabbing thing happens every time for us too. I can’t figure out why. In any case, I think people would be surprised how “not a big deal” this actually is.

      • Monte,
        The hand swabbing is to detect traces of explosives on your skin just in case some siccos stuff it in the animal before the flight. It’s outrageous to think of it, but it probably happens. 🙁

  6. I’m thinking about taking my dog with me to Europe next summer, but we have a few issues. He is a Miniature Fox Terrier and I think too big for “in cabin” and second – he WILL bite someone trying to “pat him down” or look in his mouth. So how do larger dogs fair on a transatlantic flight and will anyone try to remove him from his carrier without me being there?

    • Danielle, I know little about canines traveling in Cargo. Other than United has a fabulous system. As far as I know and you MUST check with your airline – since it is different from airline to airline – but as far as I know they will not take them out of the carriers once they are cleared. If I were you I would simply call the airline you will be traveling with and ask. Likely he will need to have a warning placed on his cage.

      Also go to my blog roll and see the resources there.

    • Have you traveled with your dog yet. I have a Italian greyhound that I am training to help me because I have lost my hearing 3 years ago. I am already loosing sleep about choosing an airline and airport to fly from Venice to Montreal. I am reading EVERYTHING regarding traveling with him.

      • I have been travelling with my dog for nearly 7 years so … yes! This entire site is about our travels!
        As for flying from venice to Montreal the easiest airlines are the star alliance bunch. All Italia, KLM, Lufthansa and Air France are a part of that. They are all great with pets.

        My blog has a LOT of information. From how to choose a carrier for in cabin travel to tips to keep your pet calm and more. Feel free to ask my question just email me at

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  8. Could I keep my second collar in my checked luggage or would it be a problem.

  9. So helpful. I’m wanting to take my older dog with me on a plane but I’m a little nervous to. Thank you for posting this detailed information so ican have a better idea of what to expect.

    • There is a lot of information in this blog from tips on how to keep the dog calm … to what kind of carrier to get. You will be fine!!

  10. What about if you have a barking dog? My Yorkie is very protective as funny as that sounds.. she barks at people and I feel if tsa were to want to pat her down she would growl at them. Do you have any suggestions for that? She might not bark though from being very nervous as she has never been on an airplane before or around so many people at once. What do you think of taking a Velcro muzzle just for during the tsa security part?

    • you certainly could. I have barked. And snarled. No one seems to really care. Honestly … plus the owner is allowed to help keep the pet calm.

  11. Thanks for sharing such great post about dogs. The social adaptations of pets and humans are same enough that cats can live perfectly happy lives surrounded by humans and vice versa. Dogs are pampered with the best of food and medical care, frequently have a rest in their owners’ comfortable beds.

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