How Do I Prepare for Cross-Country Dog Transport?

Paige Strickland Paige Strickland · Updated January 16, 2024

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A dog being transported cross country in the back of a van.

When you embark on an extended vacation or move to a new home across the country, you prepare as best as you can to minimize stress and ensure nothing gets forgotten. When you prepare for cross-country dog transport, it’s the same idea with a few more considerations. The following is a guide to ensure smooth travels!

How Can I Transport a Dog Cross-Country? 

The method of transport you choose for your pet will depend on some key factors:

  • The size, age, breed and health condition of your dog.
  • The amount of attention your dog requires.
  • The budget you have in mind.
  • The time frame you have in mind.

Here are the three main ways people transport a dog cross-country: 

On a Plane 

While traveling by plane is the fastest means of transport, it can also be dangerous due to how long your dog may be confined in a small space or left unattended in an unpredictable environment.

Most airlines will allow you to bring your dog as a carry-on, stowed below your seat for the duration of the flight if they meet the size and weight requirements. The general rule is that your dog must be 20 pounds or less.

Some airlines can ship your pet in the cargo hold area below the main cabin if your pup is larger. Cargo shipping your dog comes with its own unique risks

If you own a “snub-nosed” dog, such as an English or French bulldog, boxer or pug, they will not be allowed on a commercial flight. These breeds are at higher risk of oxygen deprivation or heat stroke.

In Your Own Car

If you’re able to drive your dog to your new destination yourself, this is an option. Because this is likely your first time being in the car for so long together, be sure to plan out your route and factor in extra time for pit stops, changes in weather, or vet visits. 

Be Sure to Budget For: 

  • Necessary car maintenance
  • Gas
  • Lodging (dog-friendly hotels)
  • Meals (dog-friendly restaurants)

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with pet seat belt laws because they vary from state to state. 

With a Pet Transport Company

Pet transporting companies will connect you with experts who have the experience to transport a dog cross country. Quality pet transport companies will offer customizable services to fit your needs and preferences. 

For example, CitizenShipper drivers offer the following:

  •  Door-to-door pickup, where your selected transporter will come to the departure and arrival sites of your choosing.
  • Options for your dog to ride as VIP (solo with the driver for extra attention), or on a “stacked” route with other pups for cost-effective travel without compromising safety. 
  • The ability to communicate with your dog’s transporter through instant messaging while on the trip (you may even receive fun photos along the way).

If you choose to ship your pet by plane, CitizenShipper also has options for air nannies — trusted professional pet chaperones that stay with your pet throughout the flight.

Pet transporters hired through CitizenShipper have thousands of miles under their belts and tons of experience handling animals — they love what they do!

First Stop, the Vet 

Taking your dog in for a checkup before cross-country transport is a must, no matter what type of transport you choose. When traveling across state lines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires a licensed veterinarian to issue a health certificate within 30 days of departure. The certification verifies that your pet is in good health, showing no signs of severe illness or disease. 

Each state also has its own set of health requirements for new pets entering their boundary lines. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website is an excellent resource for researching the health requirements for your destination state.

How To Get Ready for Cross-Country Dog Transport Via Car 

Home Away From Home 

Whether you choose air or ground cross-country dog transport, the crate you use is crucial. Your furry friend should feel safe and comfortable while spending an extended period of time inside it.

Your dog should have enough space in their crate to:

  • Lie down comfortably.
  • Sit upright without touching the top of the crate.
  • Have enough room to turn around completely while standing.

If you’re purchasing a new crate, acclimating your dog to it before traveling will make the trip more comfortable.

Map Out Your Route

Mapping out your route ahead of time will give you a better idea of how long the trip should take. Be sure to factor in frequent stops for leg stretches and bathroom breaks. Vets recommend stopping for at least 15 to 30 minutes every 2 to 4 hours.

You’ll want to prepare for the unexpected. If you choose to drive yourself, you may be traveling through terrain and weather conditions unfamiliar to you, which may delay the trip or cause accidents. 

How To Get Ready for Cross-Country Dog Transport Via Plane 

Research Airlines 

Some airlines are known for being dog friendly and have lower fees for bringing your pup aboard. Furthermore, you’ll want to read the fine print to know exactly what paperwork and equipment you need because each airline might be slightly different. 

Cargo Shipping 

Spots in the cargo hold of a plane fill up fast, so leave yourself with plenty of time to purchase tickets to your destination. Most airlines require you to arrive with your dog four hours before the flight departs. You’ll bring your dog to a cargo drop-off location, so if you’ve never been to that part of the airport, familiarizing yourself with an airport map beforehand will be helpful. 

Choosing a Crate

Similarly to ground transport, if you choose to airship your dog via a plane’s cargo hold, there are specific crate requirements. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a detailed guide to help you find the correct dimensions for an airline-compliant crate.

Equipment Recommendations for Cross Country Dog Transport

  1. Correct Crate

Whichever method of cross country dog transport you choose, their crate is the most crucial piece of equipment. As discussed above, be sure to have a crate that fits your pet’s current size and weight. 

  1. Medicines & First Aid Kit

When you’re at the vet for your dog’s pre-travel checkup, they may prescribe extra medications to make the trip smoother. Get an OK from your vet before incorporating any sedatives or new medications into your dog’s routine. 

If your dog requires consistent medical care, pack a doggie first aid kit of all needed medications and supplies. 

  1. Enough Food and Water to Last 

These are probably the first things on your packing list, but very essential to your dog’s well-being. Keeping your dog’s diet consistent will help avoid sickness and promote appetite. Collapsible bowls for food and water can save room and make the process more portable. 

  1. Familiar Bedding

Packing familiar bedding, blankets, or favorite toys will prevent your dog from feeling homesick. The reminder that home isn’t so far away could calm your furry pal’s nerves.

  1. Chew Toys & Treats

Just like you, your dog can get bored. By providing your pup with a variety of toys, they’ll have choices to keep busy throughout the trip. 

Some ideal toys for car or plane rides:

  • Good quality bones or chew toys: A bone is the best reward for some dogs! By purchasing a new and durable chew toy, your pup will have something lasting to gnaw on during their journey.
  • Interactive toys: Filling a Kong toy with treats or bringing a treat puzzle toy will stimulate your dog’s mind and keep them occupied for longer periods.
  • Plush toys: A plushie to snuggle or nibble might comfort your pup. 
  1. Puppy Pads & Doggie Bags

While 30,000 feet above the ground, taking your pup out for a potty break isn’t an option. On a plane, your dog’s crate or carrier must be lined with a puppy pad in case they need to “go” during their journey. Nerves can cause your dog’s bathroom schedule to be irregular, so having more than enough puppy pads will be better than under packing. 

When transporting your puppy by car, puppy pads will also prevent accidents along the way. Don’t forget to pack doggie bags for your pit stops!

  1. Cleaning Supplies

Mishaps happen occasionally, and being prepared will prevent extra stress for you and your dog. Towels and cleaners will be handy if your pup becomes sick due to nerves or motion sickness.

  1. Collar & Leash or Harness

Make sure your dog wears a collar with up-to-date ID tags (your name, current phone number, dog’s name and destination address) in the rare event they become lost. Additionally, having a leash or harness on-hand is essential for potty breaks and pit stops to stretch their legs.

  1. Extreme Weather Supplies 

You never quite know how the weather will change, especially when traveling across state borders in a car. Preparing for these extremes will keep your pooch safe and healthy if you are planning to travel during months with extreme weather, such as winter or summer. 

Some dogs are lucky to have a built-in winter coat, but bringing a sweater or coat will keep them nice and toasty for those with shorter hair. An extra towel to remove excess moisture from snow or rain will keep your dog from getting a chill and reduce mess. 

In contrast, some breeds are extra sensitive to heat and sun, so pack sunscreen for your pup — and yourself — if needed.

How CitizenShipper Makes Dog Transport Easier 

Finding a transporter on CitizenShipper’s marketplace is a safe and affordable way to transport your beloved pup. Here are some unique features of CitizenShipper that make cross-country dog transport as stress-free as possible.

Simple From the Start 

CitizenShipper does the research for you — all you have to do is choose your transporter! Through an auction-style marketplace, you can create a free listing detailing your dog’s transport needs. Within minutes you’ll receive quotes from qualified transporters who are happy to help!

This unique bidding system allows you to decide exactly who gets behind the wheel with your dog. Additionally, it keeps rates low because prospective transporters compete for a chance to take on another job they love.

Attention From an Expert

When choosing from a range of transporters, some things to consider are:

  • How many trips the transporter has completed and canceled.
  • Their ranking on a 5-star scale.
  • What past customers have to say in their reviews. 

These features are available for you to view on transporter profiles before booking.

Once you choose your dog’s transporter on CitizenShipper, you can rest easy knowing they’re in the hands of a trained expert. Most transporters are USDA-registered and all undergo a stringent background-check before getting behind the wheel. To them, your pet is not just cargo — they’re a family member!

Your dog’s transporter will know when to make pit stops for exercise and potty breaks or to give your puppy pal some extra attention.

Safety Guaranteed

All CitizenShipper transporters have access to FirstVet, a 24/7 Televet service connecting them with a licensed veterinarian anytime during the trip. Should your pet need medical attention, a veterinarian can provide advice, treatment recommendations and referrals to clinics nearby for your pup’s transporter.

CitizenShipper is also the only pet transport platform that provides a free pet protection plan. This short-term policy covers up to $1,000 in expenses related to unexpected pet illness or injury throughout their transport journey. 

CitizenShipper transporters have safely and successfully completed over 100,000 pet transport trips!

Here to Lend a Hand

CitizenShipper is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure an excellent experience.

Every time you book a transport service with CitizenShipper, you have the Booking Assurance Guarantee on your side:

  • Refund protection against fraudulent transactions.
  • Driver replacement assistance (in case of cancellation).

CitizenShipper’s customer support agents respond 324% faster than the industry average. Should you have any questions or concerns during the extent of your pup’s trip, a dedicated member of the team will be in touch with you.

Bon Voyage!

Cross-country dog transport can initially seem overwhelming, but preparing for your furry friend’s travels will eliminate overspending, underpacking, and added stress. 

Start your dog’s cross-country journey with CitizenShipper by creating your free listing today!

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