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Call Your Airline -- Once you do book, call the airline in advance to confirm the presence of your pet (Image: Amanda Shapin)

10 tips for easy flying with your pup

Dogs are real members of our families. And would you leave a beloved family member behind when you’re going on vacation? Absolutely not (well, in most cases anyways). In recent years, airlines and airports have become more welcoming of pets. This makes it easier to bring your furry friends along on your next getaway. Rules vary airline to airline and there are a lot of things to consider before bringing Fido on board. If your dog matches the size requirements to come in the cabin there's a lot you can do to make it a positive experience for you and your pup.

Here are 10 tips for a smooth takeoff and landing with your best bud in the cabin:

Know Your Dog

As much as you may want to bring your dog on your trip, think about your dogs personality and if it’s going to be a smart and safe decision (for you AND your pup). Dogs with high stress levels or dogs that can be aggressive may not be right to bring on flights.

Research the Airline Rules

There are a number of regulations that you need to review to see if your pet can come on-board with you. Contact your desired airline for the requirements and restrictions before booking your tickets. Regulations depend on the airline, the weight of your pet and your destination (international vs. domestic). Regulations also vary if your dog is registered as a service animal or an ESA (Emotional Support Animal).

Call Your Airline

Once you do book, call the airline in advance to confirm the presence of your pet. Some airlines have a limited number of spots for dogs on each flight. If your dog is not a service animal or ESA, expect to pay a fee.

Prepare Your Paperwork

If you are traveling with a service animal or ESA, be sure to travel with all of the appropriate certificates.

Test Out Your Carrier

Get your pup comfortable in their carrier as many airports and airlines require your dog to be in their carrier at all times (Note, if your dog is a service animal or ESA, the rules are different). When at home, have your pup spend time in the carrier to get acclimated. To sweeten the deal, toss your dog lots of treats while in the carrier so they have a positive association with the space.

Pack the Essentials

As you pack your own luggage, don’t forget about your pups needs as well! To be safe, bring doggy wipes and paper towels should an accident occur. To keep your pup happy, pack their favorite toys and a high value treat should you need to calm your dog down during the flying process. If you have a treat that occupies your dog for long periods of time, that’s an ideal item to pack to keep your pup distracted.

Ease High Energy with Exercise

If you have an energetic or anxious dog, alleviate some of their energy and tire them out pre-flight. The day before the flight and the day of, go on extra long walks or runs. And once you’re in the airport, continue to walk your pup around, don't just sit at the gate and wait. Hopfeully by the time you board the plane, your pup is ready for a long nap.

Watch Food & Water Intake

While you want your dog to be well-fed and hydrated, aim to pull food and water at least 2 hours before flight time (some recommend as much as 4-5 hours prior). On-board, if you feel like your pup needs a treat or is getting dehydrated, don’t be afraid to give small snacks or water. It’s important to keep your pet's health top of mind during long flights. A little water or a few ice cubes won’t mean a potty break mid-flight (you know your dog best, so use your judgement on this one).

Potty Breaks in the Airport

Try and get your pup to do their business before entering the airport and going through security. If you have a lot of time after you’ve gone through security and before you board, visit a pet Relief Area, which many airports now feature. Here's where you can find those areas at Dulles, Reagen and BWI.

  • Dulles International Airport: Two Pet Relief Areas located outside the terminal (pre-security) and two located inside the concourses, post security (adjacent to Gate A32 and across from Gate D1). View details HERE.
  • Reagan National Airport: Only located outside the terminal, (Termainal A adjacent to door 1 and 5, Terminal B outside the doors opposite of the South Metrorail Station Entrance, Termical C across from the North Metrorail Station Entrance). View details HERE.
  • BWI: Two pet relief areas pre-security (Concourse E outside door #19 and in front of the Hourly Garage) and two pet relief areas post-secuirty (beginning of concourse C and the other in the connected between concourse D and E). View details HERE.

Get Your Pup Outside Quickly

Especially if you’re on a long flight, disembark quickly and give your pup some relief as soon as possible. If you’re traveling with someone, have one person manage the luggage while you bee-line it to the curb to allow your well-behaved pup to do their business

Now that you've made it to your destination, let your pup stretch their legs, sniff around and enjoy your vacation together!