Breeder’s Guide to Puppy Shipping

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated February 23, 2024

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Two australian shepherd puppies sitting on the grass, ready for shipping.

When a pet owner purchases a puppy from a breeder, they usually drive to pick up their newest family member. However, there are times when this isn’t possible. In these cases, the breeder often uses a trustworthy pet transportation company for shipping the puppy. And you’re not alone, according to Forbes, in 2019, a total of 404,556 animals were transported by airlines.

As a breeder, it’s important to protect the safety of your puppies and maintain your professional reputation. Adding a puppy to the family is a momentous experience for both the breeder and the new owner, but getting it home can bring about many questions and concerns. Pet owners often have to get puppies shipped if they’re looking for a specific breed or using a breeder from out of state.

When you run into a situation that requires shipping a puppy, you may wonder, “What’s the safest, most efficient, and cost-effective way to ship a puppy and how can I give my clients much-needed peace of mind?” Read on for our step-by-step guide on how breeders can effectively and safely ship puppies to customers.

Ways to Ship a Puppy

Air travel and ground transportation are the two most common methods for shipping puppies from a breeder. The best option for your situation depends on distance, timing, and even the weather!

There are some steps you’ll always need to take whether you’re shipping a puppy via air or ground. As a reputable breeder, you know the veterinary requirements you need to follow before a sale is completed. If you need to ship the puppy, there are a few extra steps to take. These include:

  • A Certificate of Veterinary Inspection issued within 10 days of travel – rabies vaccinations for puppies under 14 weeks are waived in most states but check the USDA APHIS site to confirm.
  • Get the pup microchipped – animals are rarely lost in transit but microchips make it easier to find them if it happens.
  • Purchase and prepare a crate for travel.

Keep in mind the veterinary documentation could take up to six weeks to process. It’s important to take care of this well in advance of your shipping date.

An older couple receiving a shipped puppy in their driveway.

Shipping a Puppy with Airplane Travel

If your client is hundreds of miles away, airplane travel is the fastest way to pick up a new pet. They’ll purchase a round-trip ticket for themselves and a one-way pet ticket for the puppy. They should start planning as much as six months in advance if possible.

If your client can’t fly out and pick the puppy up in person, you can suggest an airplane nanny through a company such as CitizenShipper. The biggest difference for you is that you’ll hand off the puppy with the nanny instead of the client.

Most puppies are small enough to meet airlines’ size requirements for flying in-cabin. The weight limit is typically about 20 pounds (including the carrier!); some airlines simply require the carrier to fit under the seat in front of you.

The puppy will need to be checked as luggage and travel in the cargo area if it’s a larger breed that exceeds those requirements. There are only three airlines that allow pets in the cargo area: American, Alaska, and Hawaiian Airlines. Delta and United suspended this service in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most pet organizations discourage shipping a puppy in the cargo area.

Check the USDA APHIS website for information on interstate travel. They have a tool that directs you to each state’s requirements for pet shipping. The site recommends that if you have additional questions you reach out to the destination’s State Veterinarian.

Weather and Other Issues Can Make Airplane Shipping Difficult

Buying a puppy should excite your client — not stress them out. Unfortunately, pet transportation is a step in the process that gives many prospective owners a pause and can even prevent them from purchasing a new puppy altogether. Air shipping may be the fastest method of delivering a puppy to your client, but it comes with several major downsides.

Temperature restrictions are another roadblock to shipping a puppy through the air. In the summer when temperatures soar in much of the country, airlines will not allow pets in the cargo area (though in-cabin travel may still be possible). The winter months can present the same issue when the weather is too cold.

Pet transportation may be halted during the holiday season due to space restrictions. Airlines restrict brachycephalic breeds like pugs and French bulldogs from flying in the cargo area because they’re more likely to have breathing abnormalities in-flight.

Other Issues with Air Transport

  • Strange smells, sounds, and turbulence can be stressful or even traumatic.
  • Animals have injured themselves trying to scratch or claw out of their carrier.
  • There have been reported instances of cargo falling onto the carrier and injuring the animal.

Buying a puppy is an emotional experience for pet owners and they want the best care for their pet. Even if the owner can fly with the puppy in-cabin, it will spend hours alone in a crate. Keep in mind, the dog will have to remain crated not just for the duration of the flight but also for the boarding process, which can be several hours.

This length of uninterrupted crate time is stressful for the young animal and may even lead to permanent psychological damage. Fortunately, there’s another option for shipping puppies, which we’ll explore below.

A woman is hugging a young girl on a sidewalk while discussing how to ship animals to another state.

Ground Transportation Puppy Shipping

Ground transportation takes longer than flying but offers many benefits for you and your buyer. It’s optimal for the buyer to drive to you and pick up the puppy, but that’s not always possible. If the distance between you and the client is too great, consider a ground shipping company.

There are many benefits of ground shipping that air travel doesn’t provide. First, decide whether you or the buyer will select the driver and pay the shipping costs. If shipping is your responsibility, look for some qualities of a reliable driver. Using a reputable shipping company will alleviate many of the stressors of shipping the puppy via ground.

Why to Choose CitizenShipper

The communication tool on CitizenShipper makes it easy to communicate with drivers, review their work history, and select someone you can trust. These qualities include:

  • Reliability – You’ll feel less uncertainty when you hire a driver that’s completed many successful trips.
  • Courtesy – Choose a driver that is friendly and responsive during your communications.
  • Flexibility – The best drivers are flexible and willing to accommodate your needs as well as those of the puppy and your client.
  • Pricing – Of course, you want the best price, but consider that you get what you pay for. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for a well-reviewed and proven driver.
  • Experience – A driver with lots of experience and strong reviews reduces the stress of shipping a puppy.
  • Certification – It’s always reassuring when a driver has certification through organizations like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is registered with the International Pet Animal and Transportation Association (IPATA).
  • Insurance – It may cost you a bit more, but you should select a driver that’s well insured in case there’s an emergency that requires a vet visit en route.

Buying a new puppy is like adding a family member. Your client wants the best for their family; ground transportation allows for a deeper level of care and comfort for their newest family member.

dog, chewing, blue toy.

What Breeders Should Look for in a Driver

What To Confirm with the Driver

Confirm that the driver has a temperature-controlled vehicle and can remove the puppy easily from the car in case of emergency. The dog will need a secure and appropriately sized carrier for the trip. Check with the driver because some provide their own crates.

The driver should be properly licensed, insured, and registered with the USDA APHIS. Pet organizations like ASPCA and AKC advise dog buyers and breeders to work only with shippers that have these credentials.

For added peace of mind, seek out pet transport services that provide a pet protection plan. A pet protection plan is a short-term policy that covers expenses related to pet injuries, illnesses, and other unexpected issues during transportation. CitizenShipper is proud to be the first and only transport platform that provides a pet protection plan and 24/7 vet access for all pet moves.

For further peace of mind, CitizenShipper is pilot-testing a new program by offering select drivers 24/7 veterinary video consultation coverage through FirstVet. Using a mobile app, drivers can receive professional veterinary advice, treatment recommendations, and referrals to a local animal clinic. 65% of cases through FirstVet are resolved remotely and don’t require a vet visit. Knowing that the puppy has access to a licensed veterinarian during the trip will significantly reduce anxiety for you and your client.

Questions Breeders Should Ask the Driver

  • How long have you been transporting pets?
  • Have you shipped a puppy before and what was the experience like?
  • Have you shipped a dog from a breeder before?
  • Are you USDA registered and what’s your registration number? Are you bonded?
  • What kind of vehicle do you use to transport pets?
  • Will the puppy ever change vehicles during the trip?
  • Do you provide food and water for the dog?
  • Will you stop for food and water breaks or will they be fed while in motion?
  • Do you keep a log of bathroom breaks and food/water breaks?
  • How often will you let the puppy out for a walk/bathroom break?
  • How often will you stay in contact with me during the trip?
  • Will you send pictures of the animal during the trip?
  • What do you do with animals on overnight trips?
  • Do you have the trip mapped out ahead of time?

Prepare the Puppy for Shipping

Just like air travel, there are medical preparations you need to undertake before shipping the puppy. They’ll need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and general vaccinations should be given in the states that require them. Most states waive rabies and other vaccination requirements for puppies under 12 weeks of age.

You also need to get the puppy ready for a long car ride in a carrier. To get them ready, start with short car rides, gradually building up the length of the drives. This will prepare the dog for car travel, reducing stress when it’s time for the big trip.

Many pet transportation services provide a crate for the puppy. If they don’t, you’ll need to supply a crate that can be securely closed and is large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around.

Other Considerations for Breeders Shipping a Puppy

CitizenShipper’s unique bidding system allows you to negotiate with drivers and ensure your puppy will be shipped to your exact specifications. If you or your client need door-to-door service, that can be arranged with the driver.

The driver may have multiple pets to deliver and in that case, may request that your client meet them at a designated location. You can also arrange to have the dog shipped privately without other pets in the vehicle.

Purchasing a new puppy is a big deal for your client – after all, they’re adding a new family member. This process carries a lot of emotion and stress, especially when the pup needs to be shipped. Breeders that use CitizenShipper to find a trusted ground transport service for shipping a puppy ease their client’s stress and bring them peace of mind. Get a free quote for shipping a puppy to your client today!