Taking a pet on a long-haul flight is never easy. There’s indisputably more anxiety for dogs than humans when it comes to travel; therefore, the more you prepare your dog for air travel, the smoother the journey will be. Here’s 6 easy ways to make travelling with a pet easier.

#1 Ease Their Way In

Unless your dog is already highly experienced, chances are they need to be eased into air travel. Road trips and train rides are great ways to get dogs comfortable with the motion of being on a plane. Once your dog is comfortable on road trips or even train rides, they can advance to quick hour-long domestic flights to get acquainted with the airport, and of course, the plane itself. Gradually increase the flight duration until your dog is familiar and comfortable with the entire process.

#2 Choose The Right Dog Carrier

Choosing the right dog carrier is key. When shopping around for a dog carrier, bring your dog with you for a “test-sit.” You want to make sure there’s enough room for your dog to turn around completely, sit, and lay down in it. If your dog appears tense they are likely feeling uncomfortable. Having soft durable padding within the carrier is also important to help them feel comfortable. Keep in mind that airlines (especially if you have connecting flights) may differ in acceptable carrier size so always check the airline’s website for their required dimensions before purchasing your dog carrier. Some airlines also have a total weight limit (which normally includes the weight of your dog, too). It’s a matter of finding comfort and meeting the airlines’ requirements at the same time.

#3 Start Dog Carrier Training Early

Once you’ve found the carrier that is right for your dog you’ll want to start training your dog as early as possible to ensure that they are comfortable and feel familiar with the carrier. As soon as you bring the carrier home, place your dog’s favorite blanket, toy, and treats inside. Hiding treats inside the carrier at the beginning of each training session will entice your dog to go in to sniff around. After several sessions of uncovering yummy treasures they will eventually associate the carrier as a place worthy of their wet noses. Allow them to sniff around freely for treats during the first few days of training. Gradually, increase her time inside the carrier to about 3-5 minutes daily and work up to an hour or until she appears to feel comfortable and secure inside.

#4 Book An Evening Flight

The experience of air travel can easily cause stress as your dog is thrown out of her daily grind without certainty of the road ahead. One effortless way to help your dog through a long flight is to opt for an evening flight so that they can at least stay on their sleeping schedule. Booking a flight near or during bedtime will likely help your dog sleep through the flight.

#5 Exercise Before Your Flight Takes Off

As the saying goes, a tired dog is a happy dog. That being said, it’s probably fair to say that a tired traveling dog is also a happy traveling dog. Adding a couple extra minutes of exercise or playtime could help ease your dog’s way into air travel. Feeling tired during the flight normally equates to superb sleep. Again, the more sleep she gains, the shorter and smoother the flight will seem. If your dog is up for it, I recommend a good 40-60 minute walk right before heading to the airport to ease any restlessness your dog might have.

#6 Limit Water Intake Right Before & During Your Flight

After exercising your dog, offer her fresh clean water and food. Never deny a dog of fresh clean water, but do be strategic when providing water right before and during the flight since you cannot easily relieve your dog on the plane. I choose to limit my dog’s water intake as soon we arrive at the airport. Most airports have areas designed for dogs to relieve themselves outside (and sometimes even inside). Offer your dog water (and of course, food) right after her walk before heading to the airport, and then once every 4 hours or so until landing. My veterinarian advised me that healthy adult dogs shouldn’t have a problem holding their bladder for 10 hours, but I still exercise this practice with caution. One option is to place a pee pad in the carrier just in case your dog absolutely has to relieve herself.